How to Reject a Candidate Professionally

When deciding on how to reject a candidate, your first question may be

Why should I even care?

Going about rejecting candidates the right way plays a huge role in your candidate experience, as well as your future recruiting and sourcing efforts. Being nonchalant or insensitive can sever relationships with candidates – even the ones you don’t want to lose a connection with. Reasons you should strive to those relationships alive are:

  • Relationships are the backbone of building strong candidate pipelines
  • A great candidate experience attracts more applicants
  • Being sympathetic when rejecting candidates helps build a positive brand reputation
how to reject a candidate- rejected in bold letters on a white background

5 Tips and 5 Samples on How to Reject Candidates Professionally

Deliver the News ASAP

Constant communication with candidates during the hiring process is one of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of prioritizing candidate experience. As recruiters and employers, it’s important to remember that you aren’t the only one who has the candidate’s attention. Because candidates are engaging in multiple opportunities, it is in your best interest to notify candidates as soon as you have made a decision.

While you understand how quick decisions allow candidates to move on in their job search without wasting time, you may wonder how prompt communication benefits you. The benefit isn’t direct. Nevertheless, early communication enhances candidate experience. It also encourages candidates to reapply to your jobs in the future AND recommend your open positions to people in their network.

Don’t Sugar Coat It

You never know what the candidate knows, especially if they are an internal candidate. So be straightforward and honest about them not getting the job and why. Doing this reflects well on your brand and prevents candidates from jumping to conclusions about why they got rejected.

On top of that, you should aim to provide feedback. Yes, this can aid candidates in their job search. It also allows you to analyze how well they take criticism and instruction if they were to apply to another one of your open positions.

Offer to Help in Their Job Search

You can’t hire everyone, even if they are magnificent candidates. So, there are two ways you can offer to help with their job search. The first is to recommend another position within the company. Connecting them to another role is a great way to retain talented candidates and not lose them to your competition.

The second way is to offer to act as a reference. While you don’t obtain immediate gain, you’ll likely benefit in the long run. Showing you care about the candidate’s job search and future helps build a relationship. If there is ever a time when you want to recruit that candidate again (even if they have a job), they will be inclined to hear you out and consider your offer.

Invite Them to Stay Connected

This is one method to build a strong candidate pipeline. Once you’ve rejected a candidate, you must invite them to stay connected. You could ask them to subscribe to email alerts regarding new openings on your career page, prompt them to follow you on social media, or even request that they apply for a different position in your company. In any case, keeping previous candidates active and engaged lightens the load on future sourcing efforts.

Thank Them and Ask for Feedback

Lastly, you should thank them for their time and efforts. Job searching, applying for jobs, and performing in countless interviews are not easy, and there was something about your company that was attractive. So, the least you can do after rejecting them is to say thank you, especially if you plan on keeping them close.

Additionally, you should ask for feedback on their experience. As rejected candidates, they are likely to be more honest and open about how the process was. Their feedback will shed light on your hiring process by uncovering what’s successful and what needs tweaking.

Rejection Email Letter Samples

Unqualified Applicant Rejection Letter

Dear [Applicant],

We are emailing to inform you that you have not been selected for the position of [insert role at company]. While you boast many skills that could be beneficial in this role, we are aiming to hire a candidate with more hands-on experience.

The hiring team appreciates your time and cooperation during this process. We enjoyed getting to know you and hearing your ideas. We wish you success with your continuing job search and encourage you to stay connected with us through [insert social media/email/careers page/etc].


Sending Rejection Before the Interview

Dear Applicant,

Thank you so much for your time and consideration; however, we are emailing to inform you that you have not been selected to continue through this process with us. We appreciate your interest in this role, and we encourage you to stay connected with us through [insert social media/email/careers page/etc]. It would be a pleasure to receive your application for a different position in the future.

We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.


Sending Rejection After the Interview

Dear Applicant Name,

Thank you for taking the time to go through the interview process with us. However, we are emailing to inform you that you have not been selected for the position.

After interviewing a number of candidates, we decided to proceed with the candidates who have more skills that are better suited to the role’s day-to-day tasks. Even though you were not selected to proceed in this process, we would love to see you apply to positions that are better suited to your skill set and experience level. Because of your excellent interviewing skills and potential culture fit, our hiring team would love to act as a reference should you decide to apply to a different position within our company.

Thank you again for your time and good luck in your future endeavors.


Rejection Due to Bad Culture Fit

Dear Applicant,

Thank you for your interest in our company. We appreciate the time and effort put forth to apply for [insert role]; however, we regret to inform you that

While your skills and level of experience are commendable, we have decided to move forward with candidates who are a better fit for our company’s culture, as well as our overall mission, values, and goals.

Culture fit is a crucial factor for this role because it requires frequent collaboration, teamwork, and communication. From past experiences, we have noticed that when an employee does not fit in culturally, it can lead to unhappiness and we value employee satisfaction.

Thank you again for your application, and we wish you luck in finding your dream career.


Right Candidate, Wrong Position

Dear Applicant,

We interviewed a number of candidates for [insert role], and we’ve decided to move forward with another candidate.

Though you showcased your credentials, skills, and experience very well, we decided that the other candidate was better suited for the role because [insert reason]. However, we would love to offer the opportunity to interview for a different position as a [insert role]. Please click on the link to view the job description for more information.

If interested, please reach out to our hiring team at [insert contact information] with your name, contact information, and resume. Please remember to mention that I referred you to the position, and request to schedule an interview.

Thank you again for your time and consideration. Good luck in your future endeavors. We hope to see you again soon.


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