Thanks, But No Thanks: 3 Tips for Politely Rejecting Job Applicants

You’ve spent countless hours poring over résumés and interviewing job candidates. You’ve finally found the perfect fit, so you offer that person the job. But now it’s time to let the other candidates know they were not accepted. Here comes the hardest part of the hiring process: rejection.

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Let’s face it: Rejection sucks, especially when you have to give bad news to job candidates who didn’t get the job they wanted. But rejecting candidates is part of the recruiting process. Do you reject your candidates politely and in an appropriate fashion throughout your recruiting process?

It seems like few employers do so professionally, and even more don’t even provide any feedback when a candidate is no longer being considered for a role. Let’s master the fear of rejection together and talk about how we can politely let them know they didn’t get the job. Here are my three tips:

Tip #1: Let Them Know

Simple. Call them. Tell them they did not get the job. And do it quickly! Don’t just assume that because your hiring team rejected them that they know. Some recruiters have this fear of calling candidates to let them know that they are rejected because they don’t have that “why” from the hiring manager.

Hiring teams go dark, and therefore, recruiters go dark. At that point, the candidate not only doesn’t know why he or she didn’t get the position but also, he or she walks away with a bad experience. Bottom line: If you were impressed enough to put a candidate through your interview process, you should be courteous enough to let him or her know he or she didn’t get the job and why.

Tip #2: Open Communication

Communicating with candidates is a crucial step in the recruiting process. How can you keep lines of communication open with candidates? For me, the worst part of my job is picking up the phone and saying, “Unfortunately, we have decided to go with somebody else.”

However, remember that this is still an opportunity for you to make sure that relationship you built with that candidate throughout the recruiting process is important, especially if you want him or her to walk away with a positive impression of your company.

It is important that the communication ends on a positive note. Making sure to let your candidates know that their application was appreciated is so important. Be yourself, be human, relate to them, and be sincere.

Tip #3: Be Personal

Nothing says that we really don’t care more than a standard rejection e-mail template from your applicant tracking system letting them know they didn’t get chosen for the job. The last thing you want your candidates to feel is that they’re just another number in the system. I know we are all busy and that sounds like the easier way out, but a phone call really is a better means of news in this situation.

Try to provide them with any feedback you can, and be honest. When I say honest, I don’t mean to tell them that they were terrible and that the hiring team didn’t like them, but perhaps let them know what they could do to improve for next time.

Remember: Bad news travels faster than good news. Happy candidates might tell a friend about their great experience even if they didn’t get the job, whereas unhappy candidates will probably tell many friends about how terrible their experience was.

So, how can you master the art of rejection? Perhaps going through that discomfort of actually being real and honest about rejection could potentially yield some referrals or just keep a great line of communication open with a candidate who could be the right fit for a job at your company 6 months or a year from now. Nobody likes rejection, right? Nobody likes to receive it, and nobody wants to deliver it, but that’s part of the job. If you can convey genuine appreciation, it can certainly go a long way.

Angie Verros and Elena Valentine, of SkillScout, offer more tips on how to properly reject a job candidate in the video: How to Send Job Candidate Rejections, click here to learn more.

Angie Verros is the founder of Vaia Talent. A passionate, strategic, and innovative talent acquisition leader, she has a unique combination of successful recruiting leadership coupled with talent brand and operations experience. She has an impeccable work ethic and proven track record of success in identifying, recruiting, and hiring outstanding talent. With experience in fast-paced entrepreneurial and start-up environments, she excels at designing and implementing recruiting programs to build social and brand awareness.

In her 13+-year career in the recruiting space, she has been responsible for managing and executing overall company talent acquisition strategy to meet firms’ high growth people needs and improve policies, procedures, and tools for effective and seamless candidate sourcing. She has also led employment branding and social recruiting efforts to create candidate awareness and engagement.