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How to write a job rejection email (templates included)

A corporate job typically gets 250 applications. Of these applicants, about 2% to 6% are called in for an interview. Of course, the offer is made to just one. This means that there are about 249 candidates who get rejected each time you post an ad. Chances are you’re going to have to write a  job rejection email or two.

Now, no HR professional wants to break the bad news of rejection their candidates. But informing them about their application status is important. It helps them to track their application to closure. Otherwise, they might end up investing more time on your job listing with follow up emails or calls – only to learn that they aren’t being considered anymore. Bad candidate experiences like these can negatively impact your employer branding.

Here’s where well-written and thought-out job rejection emails come in handy. Job rejection emails are great tools to update your candidates’ on their application status. Let’s now look at the job rejection email templates you can send to your applicants. You’ll need a different kind of rejection based on the different hiring stages where they end their application.

1. Post-application job rejection email template

The application stage is quite an early stage in the hiring process. At this point, all that the candidates have done is sent you their resume along with any other preliminary information you might have asked for.

Generally speaking, candidates aren’t very invested at this stage. They’re not expecting to be hired on the spot and they haven’t spent too much time in the application. This means that a rejection at this point is usually not as discouraging as getting rejected in the more advanced hiring stages.

For these candidates, send a brief job rejection email such as:

Hello [first name],

Thank you for applying to be an [role] at [company name].

While we were really impressed by your resume and you clearly show the potential of doing some great [job core responsibility like customer service, writing, testing, etc.], we sadly can’t move forward with your application at this point.

But please feel free to re-apply when you see another relevant listing at [company name].

Thank you for applying. We appreciate your effort.

[your name]

Always use the candidate’s name when delivering the rejection news as this little trick personalizes the email and it doesn’t read like a robotic mass mail.  A simple response, closing out the process is all it takes to provide a polite rejection letter at this stage.

2. Post-screening job rejection email template

The screening stage is an intermediate stage in the hiring process. Usually, at this point, you would have engaged the shortlisted candidates to work on some sample specs, had a phone call with them or got them to undertake a few pre-hiring assessment tests. Candidates at this point feel that they’re in that zone where they have a good chance at landing the job. So they’re somewhat hopeful and have also typically invested reasonable time and effort into getting closer to getting the job. This means that rejection at this point means more than what it does at the application stage.

Send a more thoughtful job rejection email to these candidates, such as:

Hi [first name],

Thanks so much for [sending over the trial specs or taking up the assessments tests or for participating in the screening call] to be our next [role] at [company name].

We really enjoyed reviewing your performance, and while you certainly have the skills to make it big in a [marketing or writing or customer service] role and also carry a right attitude, we sadly can’t move forward with you at this point.

But please do re-apply when you see another relevant listing at [company name].

Thank you for applying. We really appreciate your effort.

[your name]

Consider including personalized feedback where possible. This will help you author a polite rejection letter that candidates respond well to.

3. Post-interview job rejection email template

The interviewing stage is the most advanced stage in the hiring process. The candidate rejection email after an interview is one of the most important, especially if you’ve had them participate in a job trial day. Usually, at this point, your candidates have already invested a lot of time and effort to get the job and will feel much more confident and closer to getting the job. This means getting rejected after the interview can be disheartening. Candidates don’t just lose all their time and effort, but they also experience discouragement of making it so far and still not getting hired.

To these candidates, it’s important to send a detailed job rejection email like:

Hey [first-name],

Thanks so much for interviewing to be our next [role] at [company name]. We thoroughly enjoyed talking to you about your skills, experience, and job expectations.

What really stood out was your [one quality about the candidate or a complex project they might have handled or any constructive feedback they can use]. We can already tell that you have a great career ahead, but unfortunately, we can’t move forward with you this time.

We went with the candidate who [explain the criteria on which the candidate lost out, for example, going with a candidate who had more experience, an additional skill, or better cultural fit].

But we’d love to have you re-apply when you see another relevant listing at [company name].

Thank you for applying at [company name]. We really appreciate your effort.

[your name]

Notice that this email offers specific feedback to the candidate. Often, this is the only way to compensate these candidates for making it this far and to give them some value in return for the time and effort they invested throughout the hiring process. Besides, this also helps them with their future interviews.

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3 principles to write polite rejection letters

Generally speaking, better job rejection emails create a better candidate experience. Every candidate will respond differently to rejection. However, there are some general best practices to abide by when writing your own job rejection letters and emails. When using these job rejection emails samples to write yours, remember:

  1. Convey empathy: Show the candidates that you know how it feels to be getting such an email. A little empathy goes a long way when improving the candidate experience.
  2. Show gratitude: Thank the candidates for applying. You may not always be able to compensate candidates for their time, so demonstrating your gratitude for their time and effort is important.
  3. Be personal: Customize your emails, so they feel like one-on-one conversations rather than a bulk update.

Why you should send unsuccessful candidates rejection emails

First, it is helpful to understand why you should send rejection emails at all. Research suggests that more than half of job candidates have to wait weeks or more to get a response from prospective employers. Some never hear anything. This makes them feel disrespected and as if their time has been wasted.

Sending a rejection email is a nice way to recognize unsuccessful candidates and all the effort they put into applying. It also prevents them from having to wait around while wondering what will happen next. Your rejection email can also be a chance to encourage them to apply again if you want them to.

In short, sending unsuccessful candidates rejection emails makes the experience more positive for them. Not only is this the kind thing to do, but it is also suitable for your business. 

Candidates who have a positive relationship with employers are more likely to apply to future open positions, refer friends, and write positive reviews on websites such as Glassdoor. In other words, you are expanding your future hiring pool by sending rejection emails.

Tips for sending better rejections emails

Sending a rejection email is always a good thing. However, sending the well-written email is even better. Many recruiters make the mistake of sending cold and mechanical emails. These are some tips for making your emails warmer and more human:

  • Thank them: It is common courtesy to thank unsuccessful candidates for their applications. Consider expanding on this by thanking them for considering you (hiring is a two-way street). Also, acknowledge the time and effort they put in.
  • Make it personal: Whenever possible, make the email a little personal. Consider including a brief note referencing the conversation and highlighting a strength the person demonstrated.
  • Provide feedback: Offer some helpful feedback on why the person was not accepted. Ideally, this should be specific, constructive, and actionable. Providing even basic explanations can make the rejections more satisfying than merely telling unsuccessful candidates that they didn’t get the job.
  • Encourage future applications: If the person was the right candidate, encourage him or her to apply again. Consider making this more positive by writing something such as, “we hope you will be open to us reaching out about other opportunities.” This is a great way to make the email more positive.

Examples of great emails to unsuccessful candidates

Following the above tips will help to make your rejection emails more effective. Below are some examples of well-written rejection emails to unsuccessful candidates that you can use as inspirations.

Rejection email to a candidate who was a good fit

Hi Jane,

We really appreciate you applying to the Marketing Manager position at ABC Corporation. We know that many companies are hiring, and thank you for taking the time to visit us and interview with our team.

At this time, we have chosen to move forward with a different candidate whose experience more closely matches our needs. We were very impressed by your in-depth knowledge of our product line and believe you would have made a great fit with our culture. Ultimately, the decision came down to the other candidate having a little more leadership experience.

We expect to have other positions open soon in our marketing department. We hope that you will not mind us reaching out about any openings that we feel you would be a good fit for. Additionally, we encourage you to apply to any positions you are interested in.

The best of luck with your search. We know that you will make a great team member wherever you end up.

Warm regards,

John Doe

Marketing Director

Rejection email to a candidate who was not a good fit

Hi Jane,

We appreciate you applying to the Marketing Manager position at ABC Corporation. We know that many companies are hiring, and thank you for taking the time to visit us and interview with our team.

Although you have some great skills and experience, we have decided to move forward with a different candidate whose experience more closely matches our needs.

Again, we really appreciate your time and effort. If you would appreciate additional feedback, please don’t hesitate to ask.

The best of luck with your search.

Warm Regards,

John Doe

Marketing Director

Key takeaways from these examples

The above two rejection email examples apply some of the aforementioned tips. While unsuccessful candidates will always be disappointed, that doesn’t mean that the rejection email needs to be devastating.

In the example for a good candidate, the hiring manager highlighted a specific strength (that she had done significant research into the product line). He also made clear that the reason for selecting another candidate was because of the other applicant’s leadership experience.

Following this by encouraging future applications also helps keep the door open. Since she was a good candidate, the hiring manager indicates that he is considering reaching out about other openings. This is more positive than merely asking the person to check back for other opportunities. However, you should only include this type of language if you mean it.

He also concludes with a positive note that she will make a good fit somewhere. While this isn’t going to salve the wound from rejection completely, it does help.

The example for the poorly fit candidate is shorter and more to the point. As with any other type of communication, it is best to say less when you don’t have positive things to say. There is no reason to kick the candidate when he or she is already down.

The hiring manager thanked the candidate in the same language as the first example. Regardless of whether someone was a good candidate or not, he or she put time and effort into applying, and that deserves gratitude. Conversely, the explanation is much shorter because the hiring manager has less to say.

Additionally, the hiring manager offers a chance to get some additional feedback. This is not necessary and should only be offered if you genuinely want to be helpful. 

However, this can be a best practice when hiring. Providing feedback gives a good image of your company.

By offering a chance for feedback rather than just giving it, the hiring manager puts the control in the candidate’s hands. If he or she does not need to hear why the interview went poorly, he or she doesn’t have to.

The value of better recruitment

Talent is one of the most valuable resources for any organization. After all, it is the people working on your team that make it successful. Improving your recruitment processes can help you to accelerate your business’s success.

Sending well-written and construction emails to unsuccessful candidates is a good way to enhance your recruitment efforts. Another way is to use Recruitee. This talent acquisition platform will help you organize and streamline your recruitment process. Learn more about how Recruitee can help your team today.

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