How to Reject Candidates Right, and Why You Should Care

Feel like you’re too overwhelmed with hiring duties to write good rejection letters? Here’s why it’s important that you take the time, and how to do it quickly and well.
Almost every day I talk to people who are hiring, and they often complain about being flooded with too many applicants.

The hiring process is using up a lot of their valuable time, and they’re trying to find ways of trimming the fat wherever possible. Already they feel like they spent too much time screening job applications, especially the ones from applicants that weren’t even remotely qualified and obviously didn’t read the job description.

I don’t blame these employers for not wanting to take the time to respond to all those applicants, but they should, and there are ways to do it that save you time and leave a good impression.

Why a Good Response Now Helps You Hire Later

The very best thing you can do for a job applicant that you’re not going to hire is send them a nice message letting them know. In fact, it’s probably the only thing you can do for them.

If they really thought they had a chance and were holding up their job search for your position, it frees them to continue their looking for a job.
For the rest, it just shows them that you actually value the time they took applying (even if they didn’t take that much time applying).

Here’s the thing about that:
Today’s mediocre applicant might be a star you’d love to hire a few years from now. They may also be the friend of your ideal candidate who, at the very least, doesn’t have anything bad to say about your company.

If you handle the rejection well, you’ll keep the door open for the future and at the least avoid having your company bad mouthed by the many candidates that you don’t hire.
How to Do it Well, Without Wasting Time

Ok, so nobody has the time to sit around writing dozens, perhaps hundreds, of personalized rejection letters to applicants. How can you do it without making it feel impersonal?

Here’s a way of writing a rejection letter that makes it feel personal by providing useful information, and shifting the focus off their flaws as a candidate.

Instead of sending an email that tells them why they didn’t get the job, send one that explains why the person that got it did.

Say how many applications you received, tell them it was really difficult to make a final decision, but ultimately you went with the candidate you did because… and then list the things that really stood out about that candidate. Relating the qualifications of the candidate you chose back to a solid job description will definitely bolster your decision.

This gives rejected candidates information they can use next time they apply for a job, in a way that doesn’t make them feel bad about themselves. It also lets you write a single email that you send to every single applicant that still feels more personal than the typical, “We ended up moving forward with another applicant, but we’d like to thank you for talking to us blah blah blah” because it gives them real information.

Last thing. Don’t use the word “rejected” in the email. “Declined” gets the same meaning across without the negative connotations that rejected has.

Of course, no one likes rejection or being “declined” for that matter. They’re probably not going to thank you for this email, but when they compare it in retrospect to the generic emails and non-responses they got from other companies, you’ll come out better.

And maybe at some point down the road that declined candidate will become a valuable member of your team or the person who encourages a great candidate to apply. At the very least, they’ll be less likely to damage your employer brand.

Not bad for the price of a single email.
Need some more useful letters for hiring? Check out this employment verification letter sample.

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