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Imagine a candidate applies to your company and never hears back. Getting rejected is already disappointing. But if an applicant doesn’t get a response, they’ll remember you as an unresponsive employer with a poor approach to candidate rejection, and may feel extra hurt that their time wasn’t valued.

Now, fast forward two years. That same candidate has gained experience and become the perfect fit for one of your open positions. You reach out, but they remember you as an employer who didn’t respect their time—when in reality, you were just swamped with hiring tasks.

How could you have handled this situation differently while still preserving your time? Personalized rejections can eat up your day, but they don’t have to. Here’s how to reject candidates without burning bridges—or burning yourself out.

Why Is It Important to Reject Candidates With Care?

Candidates Grow and Change

Just because you reject a candidate once doesn’t mean that they’ll never be the right fit. You may reject someone who couldn’t work the hours you needed, only to find that their availability has changed the next time you reach out.

In addition, their qualifications may have changed. Over time, a candidate may gain more experience, or become certified in additional skills. A candidate who wasn’t a good fit the first time around may be perfect for a role right now.

You Have a Headstart on Hiring

You already have your rejected candidates’ contact information. This means that you can get in touch with them quickly when you need to fill an open position. They’re also candidates who you know have previously been interested in your company. You don’t have to foster awareness from scratch.

Boost Your Reputation as an Employer

Kind and timely rejections can boost your standing as an employer. As more candidates apply to your open roles and have an excellent candidate experience, you’ll develop a reputation as a communicative employer.

How to Reject Candidates Without Burning Bridges

How can you reject candidates while still establishing a solid rapport? Here are five strategies.

1. Reject Promptly (and Kindly)

It can be extremely frustrating for candidates to wait to hear from a company for ages, only to be met with a form rejection. That being said, sending a rejection email at all can put you ahead of other companies that simply ghost their candidates. Sending warm and personable emails is even better.

You can completely change how candidates view your organization by sending timely responses. Approximately 34% of job seekers say that their application experience would be improved with more and better communication. But far too few companies stay in touch. In fact, Indeed reports that 77% of job seekers were ghosted by a prospective employer over the course of a year.

Sending personalized rejection emails is important, but it can be taxing and time-consuming. Look for an applicant tracking system that offers easily tailored communication templates to get the best of both worlds.

2. Personalize Emails When Applicable

A personalized email can go a long way, priming a candidate for future communications and letting them know that you actually reviewed their materials. If you get back in contact, then these candidates will remember that you took the time to give their emails that personal touch.

It’s especially important to send personalized emails to candidates that you interviewed, all of whom put a lot of time and effort into their applications. Apploi offers message templates that you can easily customize, so you can offer a personalized rejection without a huge investment of time.

3. Request Feedback on the Candidate Experience

There’s a difference between being rejected and feeling disposable. Simply offering your applicants a feedback form or a place to share their thoughts can show them that you care about improving their experience—even if they didn’t get the job.

Candidate surveys can give you crucial feedback on the candidate experience. Maybe your response times aren’t short enough, or your application is confusing. Without a survey, you may never know.

Keep in mind that these surveys should be fairly controlled and brief. A candidate who has been rejected might appreciate that they have the option to provide carte blanche feedback. But they probably won’t want to spend a large chunk of time offering feedback to a company where they won’t be working. You may get disgruntled responses if you ask too much of your rejected candidates.

4. Consider a Phone Call For Late-Stage Candidates

A phone call is much more personal than an email, and can be particularly meaningful to someone who has spent a lot of time getting to know your company. Because phone calls take more time and effort than an email, they are best saved for candidates who you want to encourage to reapply.

Keep in mind that candidate rejection phone calls can be delicate affairs—a candidate may be emotional, and might expect that a call means they’re about to receive a job offer. In order to have the best outcome for a rejection phone call, try the following:

  • Get to the point quickly. Don’t string your candidate along. Let them know right away, after you identify yourself, that they didn’t get the job.
  • Be personal. Reading from a script can be the easiest way to make sure the conversation doesn’t get off track, but avoid sounding like a robot. Use the candidate’s name, pause for questions, and generally try to make the conversation as personable as possible.
  • Be prepared to offer feedback. If this candidate was considered closely enough to receive a phone rejection, then they may also feel comfortable asking for feedback. Be prepared with specific feedback about why they weren’t the right fit for the job—and mention anything that you particularly appreciated about their application.

5. Notify Promising Candidates About Future Job Openings

Keep rejected candidates in the loop about future job openings. Don’t over-contact them, or send them information about jobs that don’t fit their interests. Make it easy for candidates to opt-in for (or opt-out of) communications with you—you don’t want to feel like a nuisance. You’ll be surprised at how many candidates come back to new open roles with more experience than when they applied the first time.

Sample Candidate Rejection Email Template

Dear [NAME],

Thank you for applying to the [POSITION NAME] at [COMPANY]. After careful consideration, we regret to inform you that we will not be moving forward with your application.

While we were impressed with your qualifications, skills, and experience, we received a large number of applications from exceptionally qualified candidates. After a thorough review, we have selected another candidate whose background closely aligns with the requirements of the position. We would like to keep your resume on file in case we find a position that matches your skills and interest in the future.

Thank you for considering [COMPANY] as a potential employer. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.


Candidate Rejection Call Script

[Your Name]: Hello, is this [Candidate’s Name]?

Candidate: [Candidate response] [Your Name]: Hi, [Candidate’s Name]. This is [Your Name] from [Company Name]. I’m reaching out regarding your application for the [Job Position]. We have reviewed your application thoroughly, and while your qualifications and experience are impressive, we have decided to move forward with another candidate who closely aligns with the specific requirements of the role.

Candidate: [Candidate response] [Your Name]: I know that this may be disappointing news, but please know that this decision was not a reflection of your abilities or potential. I enjoyed our conversation and believe you have a lot to bring to the table. However, we received a large number of highly qualified candidates, and the selection process was incredibly competitive.

Candidate: [Candidate response] [Your Name]: We will keep your application on file, and if any suitable positions arise in the future, we would be happy to reconsider your candidacy. I also recommend keeping an eye on our company’s career page, where we may post new opportunities over time. Thank you again for considering [COMPANY]. We truly appreciate your time and wish you all the best.

Better Hiring With Apploi

Apploi helps you customize communications quickly, so you can respond to each individual candidate without losing sight of the big picture. Automate workflows to send out rejection emails, interview requests, and more. This way, your candidates always receive immediate information on where they are in the recruitment process. Schedule a demo today.

Melanie Boroosan

Over her six years in healthcare administration, Melanie has managed human resources, legal, compliance, payroll, and recruitment efforts at a corporate level. This oversight granted her a deep appreciation for the unique needs of healthcare managers, and for the direct ways that business operations affect the wellbeing of each employee. As Apploi’s Director of Healthcare Innovation, Melanie draws from her experience in healthcare HR and ancillary long-term care to pursue a vision of holistic healthcare staffing. Her work is rooted in the knowledge that great care begins with improving quality of life for all healthcare workers.