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How to Address Rejected Candidates

Female employer greeting male candidate

When hiring employees, before you decide on who is making the final cut, you must clearly define and respond to the applicants who are better suited for a position at a different company. Few employers are familiar with the proper etiquette of this part of the recruiting and interviewing process. In order to ensure you and your hiring managers or recruiting team are communicating effectively and accurately, it is important to keep these tips in mind when denying a candidate’s continuation in the hiring process.  We have identified a set of best practices that you can incorporate to bring a better balance to your next round of interviews.

“Different Strokes for Different Folks”

To be fair, you don’t want to spend valuable time to call every candidate who applied to a position. The stage of the recruitment process that a candidate reaches ultimately determines the caliber of deserved response. [1] For instance, after a candidate has attended an in-person, video call, or over the phone interview, it is recommended to reach out and make a personal phone call to the candidate who will not be continuing in the hiring process. This is an important step as the candidate has had the opportunity to experience some of your workplace culture and has thus become a potential part in your business flywheel. Better to have a brief call than to “filter” them out through a seemingly generic rejection letter or email after them having their first physical impression of your workplace culture.

In the event the candidate failed to warrant an interview, an e-mail should suffice. Even though communication post-rejection is not actually required, it allows applicants the peace of mind knowing where they currently stand in their career endeavors with your organization.

Be Honest, Be Thankful, Be Personal.[2]

The criterion listed above are good markers for what the overall message of a candidate rejection should sound like regardless of the medium used to relay the news. In an honest response, you can let the candidate know the reason passing on their application or resume. This kind of feedback opens the opportunity for the candidate to learn from this experience and potentially further their business career elsewhere, or eventually return to your company with more knowledge gained since the last encounter. This simple gesture also leaves a lasting impression about how you interact with job candidates, prospects, and clients, which is always good for growing your reputation in the industry.

The addition of an appreciative statement can go a long way in a response. A simple “thank you” in all responses shows that you value the time and effort the applicant took to approach your business. While some may pass it off as simply being polite, this inclusion can help soften the blow to the candidate who was not selected to move forward in the hiring process.

Lastly, taking a personal approach to all communications may seem trivial but these minute efforts can go a long way. For example, using the applicant’s name in each communication, especially a denial letter or email will avoid any feelings of serialization by your company. Treat applicants like they are human and that their time and effort matter even if their work experience or skills weren’t a good match for the role.

See the rejection letter/email example below for how we recommend incorporating each tip.


Hi Kirsten,

Thank you so much for your interest in the Regional Sales Manager position with A+ Business. We appreciate you taking the time to visit our office and interview with our team.

While we were impressed with your skill set and work history, we have chosen to proceed with another candidate who possesses a lengthier leadership experience in this role.

Again, we appreciate your time, and we wish you the best of luck in your career endeavors.


John Doe
Recruitment Manager

When a role or opportunity becomes available at any level of the business, it is important to evaluate the role responsibilities, how these tie into the organizational needs, and define the type of person who will be best suited to manage the work and blend into the existing culture framework. Human Capital can help businesses of any size and length of operation in overcoming a variety of recruiting or hiring challenges, including crafting or reworking job descriptions, employment law compliance, and identifying ideal candidates to support the culture and role. We are able to offer value in products and services to help your business stay competitive in any industry by attracting and retaining top talent. Contact us today for an HR diagnostic and review of your current recruiting and hiring processes.



[1] SHRM

[2] Indeed

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