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Learn how to gracefully reject candidates through each stage of the hiring process

Application

Send an email 2 to 3 days after
an applicant’s submission

Phone screen

Call, email, or do both after
2 to 3 days

Onsite interview

Email within 48 hours after interview

First things first: every applicant should receive an email confirmation of their application, even if it’s automated.

Even at this early stage, organizations set the tone for what job seekers can expect to experience through the rest of the hiring process. Avoid sending same-day rejections, as this can raise the concern that little time was spent vetting applications. As with application confirmation emails, applicant rejection emails can be automated and standardized.

Woman sitting at a desk operating a desktop computer

 


 

From: [your name]
To: [candidate name]
Subject: Your application to [company name]

 

Hi [first name],

    
Thank you for taking the time to apply for the [role name] role at [company name]. We appreciate your interest in joining the company! At this time, we will not be moving forward with your application.

The team was impressed with your skills and background, and we encourage you to check back on our careers page for future openings. In the meantime, we will hold on to your resume and will reach out again if anything changes on our end.

We wish you all the best in your job search and future professional endeavors.

Best,
[your name]

 


 

MAINTAINING ENGAGEMENT

Did you find an applicant you’re interested in, but isn’t fit for anything you’re currently hiring for? Create a separate email template for them. Companies are growing all the time and adding new positions - you’ll never know who you’ll end up revisiting in the future.

"If there’s an applicant I want to stay engaged with, I’ll connect with them on LinkedIn, and mail them a bag of coffee (assuming their address is in their resume) along with a handwritten note thanking them for their time. I do this as a warm way to let certain applicants know that I’m interested in staying connected for any future roles where they’ll be a better fit."

Ben Martinez

Principal Founder/Recruiter, Ramp Talent and Founder of Sumato Coffee Company

Depending on the nature of the phone screen, and your preferred communication method, rejecting a candidate at this stage can be done over email or with a phone call. Consider first rejecting a candidate by email, but be open to discussing feedback over the phone, especially if there was a virtual skills-screening test. Whatever you decide, the key in this stage is transparency.

Woman looking at her mobile phone

 


 

From: [your name]
To: [candidate name]
Subject: [company name] follow-up

 

Hi [first name],

Thank you for your time last week. I enjoyed speaking to you over the phone.

We’ve had a lot of interest in this role, which means we’ve had to make difficult decisions when selecting who to move forward with in the process. Unfortunately, after [reviewing your relevant experience/technical interviews/ etc.], we will not be moving forward with your application at this time.

Although this position did not work out, our networks are very important to us. We encourage you to keep an eye out for any roles you feel are a good match with your skills and experience. If there's a new position that's a good fit, reach out to us! And, of course, we'll keep your information on file in case there's ever a new role that fits your experience or expertise.

Best,
[your name]

 


 

GIVING FEEDBACK

Share actionable feedback with specificity and relevance. Lead with areas where the candidate did well, before transitioning into areas for improvement. Always provide tangible, skills-based commentary. Never share critiques that may be perceived as personal or subjective.

“As a general rule of thumb, if I ever hop on a call with a candidate I always update them about their candidacy by phone. Don’t just jump in and start giving feedback - not everyone wants to hear it. Be sure to give tangible comments on how they can improve and prepare for their next interview.”

Michael Garcia

Design Recruiter, LinkedIn

Rejecting candidates at this stage requires extra care. Be compassionate and offer actionable feedback to support a candidate’s job search.

Aim to share rejection news within 48 hours of an interview. Start with an email, and then offer to discuss further feedback over the phone. Try to avoid sending a vague email, as this sends false hope. Use your discretion based on your relationship with the candidate and the company’s preferred means of communicating rejection.

Woman sitting at a desk talking on a phone

 


 

From: [your name]
To: [candidate name]
Subject: [company name] interview update | [candidate name]

 

Hi [first name],

Thank you again for taking the time to speak with me [time frame]. I really appreciated having the opportunity to hear more about you and the work that you’ve accomplished.

After meeting with the team, we’ve decided to move forward with other candidates who have skill sets and experience more aligned with what we’re looking for in the role. We appreciate all the time you spent with our team, and we plan to keep your resume on file in case another similar position opens up in the future.  

[Add this line at your discretion] If you’d like, I’d be happy to hop on a call with you to share additional feedback. Let me know when you’re available.

Best,
[your name]

 


 

DID YOU KNOW?

While sharing feedback is not legally required, candidates are entitled to ask. Our research shows that 94% of candidates want to hear feedback after an interview – and they’re four times more likely to consider a future opportunity with your company if offered constructive feedback.

Example: Giving constructive feedback

“Whenever I reject candidates, I communicate that I’m invested in their success by sharing resources to help with their job search. I offer to connect on LinkedIn and let them know that I’d be happy to introduce them to anyone in my network. That extra, thoughtful step makes a big difference in how they perceive your company, and it can even influence them to boomerang back to you, or to extend their network of friends and colleagues who may be a better fit for the role.”

Cody Winters

Manager of Global Talent Acquisition, 3Pillar Global

Tips for rejecting candidates with grace