How to write a job rejection email

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.

And if it’s feasible, let the candidates know if they can ask you questions about the hiring process. Being transparent and accessible about your hiring process is a great way to build a solid employer brand. Also, to make sending these job rejection emails at scale easier, invest in a good ATS.


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