Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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When you're a hiring manager, sending a job rejection letter probably feels awkward. You may be tempted to ghost the candidate completely, especially if she's obviously not a good fit for the position. Don't do it! Ignoring a candidate who took the time to apply and interview for the opening—probably putting aside other commitments, such as her current job, to come to your company or speak to you on the phone—is a career faux pas that will make you seem unprofessional and frankly pretty rude.

It's important to extend the courtesy of informing candidates that you're offering the position to someone else or moving forward in the hiring process with other candidates. That way, applicants know where they stand and can move forward with their job search.

Even applicants who are clearly unqualified and aren't going to be part of your interview process deserve a polite rejection email letting them know that they aren't a good fit.

Sending a rejection email or letter isn't just important for the job applicants; it's also an opportunity for you as a hiring manager. You're demonstrating that your company exercises professionalism and positive employment practices. Plus, you never know when you might encounter that candidate or someone she knows in the future. It's very possible you might encounter her when you're both in different positions in the future, particularly if you work in a small, tight-knit industry. Even if she wasn't a good fit for this particular role, you still want her to have positive associations with her interview process and you as a professional. She could also have friends or colleagues whom you might encounter, too, and you never know what she might discuss with them.

So, how do you go about writing a rejection letter?

Here are three types of applicants with whom you will likely work during the hiring process and tips for crafting rejection letters to each.

Three Job Applicants to Send Rejection Letters

1. The applicant you're not selecting for an interview

Applicants who aren't receiving an interview don't require personal emails notifying them of your decision. They probably aren't qualified for the role, and you're unlikely to speak to them—at least in this capacity—in the future. Still, it's important to extend them the courtesy of letting them know that you won't be giving them an interview opportunity. You can use a form letter thanking them for applying for the position and wishing them luck on their job search.

Example:

Dear [candidate]:

Thank you for applying for [position]. We appreciate your interest in [company].

We received a number of impressive applications for this position. After reviewing your application, we will not be moving forward with your candidacy. 

We wish you luck in your job search and encourage you to apply for positions for which you are qualified in the future.

Sincerely,

[Name of hiring manager or department]

2. The applicant who made it relatively far in the hiring process

Someone who came in for at least one interview deserves a more personal rejection letter. Along with stating that you'll be moving forward with other candidates, mention her strong qualifications. If appropriate, you might encourage her to apply for another position now or in the future.

Make sure this candidate doesn't receive a form rejection notice along with the more personal letter. This will undo the effort you've made to build bridges. (This happened to me once: I received the form rejection notice a week after the initial, slightly more personal one, and it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.)

Example:

Dear [candidate]:

Thank you for taking the time to interview for [position]. We truly appreciate your enthusiasm for [company] and were impressed by your credentials and commitment to [company mission].

We've met with a number of impressive applicants and have decided to move forward with other candidates at this time. We did not make this decision lightly and value the time and effort you have invested in the hiring process.

We will keep your resume on file and alert you of any openings for which you qualify in the future.

We wish you luck in your job search.

Sincerely,

[Hiring manager]

3. Your second or third choice

As with any candidate who interviewed for the role, this candidate deserves something more personal than a form letter. If she was one of your top choices, she probably knows it and will be disappointed by the news. Along with an email, you might also call to offer feedback and thank her for her time. Encourage her to stay in touch in case other opportunities arise later on.

Example:

Dear [candidate]:

Thank you for the time you have invested in the interview process for [position]. We were truly impressed by your credentials and qualifications. This letter is to inform you that we have decided to offer the position to another candidate and will not be moving forward with your candidacy at this time.

Please know that we did not make this decision lightly. We enjoyed meeting you and appreciate having the opportunity to learn about your skills and experience.

We do believe you would be a valuable addition to our company and will keep your resume on file and alert you of any openings for which you qualify in the future. We encourage you to reach out as well. Feel free to call me at [xxx-xxx-xxxx] should you have any questions now or in the future.

We wish you much personal and professional success.

Sincerely,

[Name of hiring manager]

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