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How To Politely Reject A Candidate After An Interview


Do you reject your job applicants professionally and appropriately during your recruitment process? From the feedback received from candidates, it seems as if few employers do professionally and properly provide feedback that they are not under consideration anymore.


Here are the steps recommended when you need to reject job applicants at each of the four steps in your recruitment process. It's important that you do this so that it doesn't negatively impact your reputation but also so that you act in a professional and caring way towards your industry peers. You never know when your paths will cross again.


When to Reject a Job Applicant

Applicants for any job spend considerable time updating their resumes and writing cover letters when approaching you about your job opening. However they applied, they deserve the consideration of a reply from you. You need to acknowledge that you have received their application materials. This process is easily automated in this online application world.


They also need to understand the next steps in your hiring process. An email to explain next steps should include who will be contacting them next to step up an interview or letting them know that they will not be moving forward in the hiring process.


The candidates deserve to know where they stand in your process even if you ultimately reject their candidacy.


Your rejection process starts with your first meeting with your job applicants. Whether this is on the phone screen or at the first interview, one of the goals of the meeting is to explain your selection process to each candidate. Important tip here is to reassure them that you employee the upmost confidentiality policy during the hiring process.


When employers provide this information, applicants feel less in the dark and more positive about your recruitment process. In this conversation, you should also let the applicant know the points at which you will communicate with them about the status of their application.

The benefit to this is that the candidate understands when to follow up with you. If you don't provide a timeline, they are more likely to follow up more which can make the process for the hiring manager a lot more busy.


When to Call and Reject a Job Applicant

Either the hiring manager or the HR staff should call the applicants you are rejecting just as you call the applicant to whom you want to make the job offer.


You want to leave each applicant with a positive view of your organization which simple, timely communication will achieve. This positive impression may affect your candidate's application to your organization in the future.

Or the impression he or she takes away may affect other potential candidates for your jobs. Candidates do talk and often, like birds, they flock together.


When to Time the Rejection of an Applicant

Many employers disagree, but it is recommended that you call each applicant as soon as you determine that he or she is not the right person for the job. Many employers wait until the end, even as long as it takes for a new employee to start the job before they notify unsuccessful candidates. In our opinion, we recommend telling the applicants right away unless there is a close second. In that case I would keep the candidate warm until your first choice accepts the offer and signs the agreement. Tell the applicant that you are still considering them for the position, but that you also have several other qualified candidates to interview.


Otherwise, candidates wait, fret, and feel as if their candidacy disappeared into a dark hole. Trust that their feelings about you as a potential employer did, too.

The Human Capital Institute reports the following statistics about what happens when a job searcher is treated poorly.


  • "60% of job seekers report a negative candidate experience with the employers they engage.

  • "72% of job seekers report sharing their negative candidate experiences online.

  • "55% of job seekers report avoiding certain companies after reading negative online reviews."


Welcome to the world of social media and sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.com where people comment on their experiences with your recruitment and employment.


How to Write the Rejection Letter

The first consideration when you reject a job candidate is that you are not rejecting the candidate as an individual human. So, you want to term the rejection in a more positive light. Don't use the word rejected.


Say instead, "The selection team has decided that they will not pursue your candidacy further. We will retain your application and consider it when additional openings come up." (If this is true, otherwise skip the second sentence.) Additional cautions include these.


  • You may reject applicants using an email up until they have come into your company for a job interview. After an interview, you must call the applicant. Never reject the candidate by email, text message, or voicemail. You owe the candidate the courtesy of a call even if you follow up the call with a rejection letter.

  • Make sure the applicant cannot misconstrue the words you use or find evidence of unlawful discrimination. For example, you may be tempted to tell the applicant that you have decided that you have candidates who are more qualified for the job. The candidate could well ask you to detail the differences. Why go there?

  • Take care that you are careful about any criticisms or advice that you offer even when the applicant requests feedback. This can bite you in the form of an argument or make you vulnerable to a lawsuit. (Know your candidate before responding to this request.)


Applicant Rejection by Employers

It is never appropriate for an employer to fail to respond to a candidate with whom the employer has had contact. It is not the candidate, employee, potential employee, or company image friendly to fail to let a candidate know his or her status. Say, yay, or say nay, but say something—in a timely manner, at each step of your hiring and selection process.

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