How to Reject Job Candidates

Most job applicants put a lot of effort into applying for jobs: reading up on the company, crafting a tailored cover letter, practicing answers to likely questions, and thinking about how they could best offer something of value. They may even take a day off work and spend time and money traveling to the interview. But all too often, they never hear back from employers, even after face-to-face interviews, and instead are left waiting and wondering what happened.

As an interviewer, be sure that you don’t do this to your candidates. Take measures to ensure that everyone who applies for a job with you hears some kind of response back. These candidates could be your future customers, after all, or they might be perfect for another opening down the road, and how you handle rejections will give them an impression, good or bad, of your organization.

If you don’t use an automated system that will send rejections for you, the fastest way to handle rejections is to have two standard email templates – one for people you haven’t interviewed and one for people you have. You can always tailor them if you want to add anything for a particular candidate.

For instance:

“Thank you for applying for a position with XYZ Company. Although we won’t be able to move your application forward, we really appreciate your interest in working with us and wish you the best in your search.”

“Thanks so much for talking with me last week. I really enjoyed speaking with you. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to move you forward in our hiring process. However, I greatly appreciate your interest in working with us and wish you the best of luck in your search.”

Should you provide feedback?

Some interviewers are willing to provide feedback to rejected candidates and others aren’t. And many employers have policies against giving feedback out of fear of inadvertently creating legal risk. But if your employer does not prohibit it, offering feedback is a kind thing to do, especially if the reason is easily articulable, such as that you were looking for someone with more experience in a certain area, or stronger writing skills. (That said, you probably don’t want to explain to a candidate that she came to the interview dressed like a stripper or that he just seemed a little crazy, nor are you obligated to.)

What about internal candidates?

Internal candidates who are already working for your company deserve more. If you’re rejecting an internal candidate, don’t simply send a form rejection notice, or you risk demoralizing good employees. Instead, consider doing it in person, and try to provide feedback about what the person could do to be a stronger candidate in the future.













Alison Green

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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