Handling Candidate Rejection with Class

candidate and recruiter sitting at a table

While sending rejection news is never a pleasant task, a well worded and professional letter can be positive for the company’s reputation and will help provide a good candidate experience. Concluding the recruitment process well, will likely result in fewer negative reviews.  It’s also the professional thing to do. The letter should be thoughtful, kind, polite and should convey empathy.

Don’t wait until after you have found the perfect fit and filled the role as this can take time especially in today’s challenging job market.  If you are certain the candidate is not going to be hired, then reach out to them by email or phone and let them know.  Remember to include in your job posting that only candidates selected for interviews will be contacted.  The HR team member should set up screening calls before bringing the candidate in for an in-person interview.  All candidates that have been screened or gone through at least one or more interviews deserve to know the hiring decision.  It shows that the company appreciates their time and interest even when they get disappointed by the news. In addition to leaving a positive impression on your candidate, there are several other benefits gained by sending a professional and thankful rejection letter:

It’s Professional

It is poor form to interview an applicant and then not bother to follow-up on the results of the discussions. It’s polite to acknowledge the candidate’s time and interest and thank them for their application. The rejection letter is part of the candidate’s experience, and it helps maintain the company’s professionalism.  You may have a candidate that doesn’t meet the hiring criteria at this stage of their career but later down the road they may be the perfect fit so your rejection letter should be respectful and kind.

It Preserves the Company’s Reputation

A negative candidate experience can certainly harm your employer branding if the candidate decides to express themselves on social media and share their experience.  Negative reviews can travel fast and there is nothing stopping the applicant to leave a few nasty comments on Indeed or Glassdoor.  This can deter top talent from pursuing opportunities with your company and can even damage overall growth and revenue as partners and customers potentially become aware of poor practices. Make it a goal to consistently communicate with your candidates to avoid these negative outcomes.

It’s the Ethical Thing to Do

It is professionally rude and inconsiderate to not get back to candidates you aren’t interested in and to subsequently leave them hanging.  Prompt feedback is critical to the applicant and if you are still undecided it doesn’t take much to simply let them know you haven’t moved forward with a hiring decision but that you will get back to them as soon as you can.  Receiving a rejection letter is not easy but a well-crafted letter that is honest but also acknowledges their strengths can help the candidate feel valued and appreciated. Treating candidates with kindness and respect will leave a lasting impression and will also make you feel good about how you have presented yourself and the company.

Prepare Rejection Letter Templates That Can Easily Be Formatted

There are some basic steps to follow in your rejection letter and if you prepare a few templates, it can save you a great deal of time.  If you haven’t spent too much time interviewing the candidate, then a simple regret letter that acknowledges their application and thanks them for their time is a good start.  You certainly don’t need to go into much detail as to why you are not considering them.  It’s more straightforward to explain the rejection of a candidate who doesn’t have the exact qualification or years of experience that was advertised in the job posting.  It’s harder when they are either mismatched in terms of their goals and aspirations or just not the right fit for the company.  You may choose to not specify the exact reason for the rejection but respectfully let them know you will not be moving forward with their application at this time.

Key Tips When Writing a Rejection Letter:
  1. Personalize your message template so that your rejection letter doesn’t look like they are just a number to you. The individual may have spent several hours from the start of the hiring process and has invested time and energy.  The least you can do is put in some effort into making it sound gracious and sincere with some personalization where appropriate.
  2. Be honest, straightforward and to the point, but also ensure you are expressing your appreciation of their interest in the role.
  3. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver. You certainly don’t want to encourage the candidate to continue to apply for other suitable vacancies.  They might do so anyway, but at least you haven’t encouraged them to apply again.
  4. Always keep your company brand in mind so be polite and respectful so that you leave a good impression with the candidate.
  5. Make sure you use constructive feedback and always remember to end on a positive note. Tactful feedback will help keep the news professional and not lower the candidate’s self esteem.
  6. If you have interviewed a high potential candidate that is not the right fit for the vacant role but could possibly be considered for an opportunity in the future, then put in extra effort to make the employee feel they are valued and that you would like to reach out to them for future suitable vacancies. If you encounter yourself in these situations, it is the best position to be in because you are building a pipeline of talent for future opportunities so protect that.
Example of a Reject Letter Template: 
                                                    Regret Letter Template

Candidate Name:


Subject: Application for (Position Title)

Dear (Applicant Name)

Thank you for your recent application for the (Position Title) role at (Company Name). I (we) enjoyed speaking with you and learning more about your skills and experience.

(Customize using the following options):

While you have an impressive background, we ultimately decided to move forward with another candidate that better matches and meets the needs of this role.


We had a great deal of qualified candidates that applied for the role, and after careful consideration, we regrettably must inform you that you were not selected to move forward at this time.  We felt that another candidate’s experience and skills were a better match for the position.

Thank you again for your interest and I (we) wish you all the best in your career search.

Warm regards,

(Your Name)

(Company Name)

(Your contact details)


The candidate’s experience matters and will determine how the individual feels about not only the hiring process but about the company. Poor candidate experience may negatively affect your ability to attract and retain top talent. Constructive feedback deserves to be shared and it’s the right thing to do! 

We offer comprehensive HR Services at Bridge Legal and HR Solutions and will customize our HR services to suit your needs.  For more information contact us at (647) 794-5442 or at admin@bridgelegalhr.ca

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