Any hiring process can be an exciting and stressful time. Exciting because of the prospects of finding a candidate that will fit perfectly into your team and make it stronger, but also stressful because you’ll need to reject a number of unsuccessful candidates in the process. And dishing out the decline pie isn’t fun at all!
While many employers don’t bother informing unsuccessful candidates about their decision, it’s usually good practice to let them know you won’t be taking their application any further. Not only will this put interviewees’ mind at rest (and in the process decrease the volume of desperate follow-up emails), but it will also do good to your reputation.
Luckily, we’re here to help – here’s how to let them down gently in a professionally written rejection letter.
The Structure of a Rejection Letter/Email
As with any professional document, you should stick to some sort of structure. This will help you deliver your message as clearly and professionally as possible, whether that’s via email or in an old-fashioned letter.
So, how do you go about formatting your letter?
- Sender’s address: Begin your letter with your company’s full official postal address in the top right-hand corner of the page. Don’t include this if you’re not sending a physical letter.
- Date: Add the send date a few lines under the letterhead. Skip this step if you’re an email.
- Inside address: The candidate’s address should appear a few lines beneath the date – again, if you’re rejecting them via email, skip this step.
- Subject: Keep the subject of your email short and sweet with something simple like: ‘John Smith – Job Application’.
- Salutation: As you mostly likely have previously met the applicant, you can openly address them by their first name, for example: ‘Dear Jennifer’.
- Opening paragraph: In the first paragraph, you should express your appreciation for the candidate taking the time to attend the interview.
- Body: This is where you need to inform the interviewee that they were unsuccessful. You could choose to give an explanation or simply advise that other candidates better matched the job description or that they were more experienced in the field.
- Final paragraph: Some hiring managers choose to avoid providing too much information and simply offer more feedback if the candidates asks for it, while others tend to provide detailed advice that will help them in their job search.
- Closing: Your closing line should be short and sweet, and used to thank candidates for their time and wish them every success in all their future endeavours.
- Your name and signature: A letter or professional email isn’t complete without your name and signature. Be sure to include the appropriate contact information, in case the candidate needs to contact you for any reason. (Make sure you add a handwritten signature if sending a physical letter.)
Tips to Follow
- Don’t wait around: As soon as you know someone isn’t right for the role (sometimes this can be as early as the first 30 seconds into an interview), don’t hang about and send them that email straight away. There’s no need to complete all your scheduled interviews and leave them hanging for weeks on end before you deliver the bad news to them. Carefully review all your notes and let them move on as soon as possible!
- Soften the blow: Whenever you give constructive criticism, it’s always a good idea to start off with something positive. For example, you could begin your letter with how impressive their professional skills and qualifications were or how much you liked their personality, and then proceed to explain how they lacked the level and type of experience you are looking for. You should also try to finish on a positive note and avoid knocking their confidence in the process.
- Be honest: As you’ve probably heard 1,000 times before, honesty is the best policy (unless, of course, you thought the candidate was unprofessional or a slob, in which case it’s best to keep it to yourself). If you have some constructive feedback to offer that will help them improve their job search game, though, do let them know. They’ll appreciate all the tips and advice they can get!
The samples below are meant to help and guide you write a rejection letter after a job interview for a variety of common scenarios.
After a Phone Interview
After a Second Interview
General Rejection Letter
Feedback Rejection Letter
Things to Remember
- Don’t give your company a bad rep: By not contacting unsuccessful candidates post-interview, you could be damaging your company’s reputation and turning followers against you without even realising. They could be sharing their bad experiences with friends and family – and as you already know, word travels fast! So, in other words, always try to send a rejection letter!
- Leave the door open: If you genuinely liked the interviewee and feel they could be a good match for a future position, be sure to leave the door open. You can let them know that you will keep their details on file, but also encourage them to keep an eye out for suitable vacancies on your job board.
- Personalise the letter: Too many recruiters and HR managers send out generic templates to unsuccessful candidates that sound and feel robotic and untruthful. When you’re sending out your own letter, do take a few extra minutes to make it sound more personal. You can do this by simply mentioning something that you connected on during the interview or by highlighting their specific skills.
Rejection letters can be tricky and long-winded, especially when you need to form a polite and tailored response to each candidate. Hopefully, this guide will help you structure your letter as effectively and professionally as possible, as well let candidates down gently.
How do you go about writing rejection letters after an interview? Join the conversation below and let us know.