Writing a rejection email is one of the most helpful things you can do for a job candidate. Why? Because silent, passive rejection is far more frustrating than a direct, clear decision. Too many employers fail to ever communicate with the candidates they pass on, and because of this, hundreds of job seekers are left without any direction. They don’t know if they’re still being considered or if the company has already moved on. This is a bad place to be, and candidates who are left in this state will often have negative feelings towards the company. Don’t be this type of company. Instead, use this guide on how to write a rejection email to a job candidate that is professional, friendly, and clear.
How to Write a Rejection Email
There are a few key components to a rejection email that you should include when crafting one for your company. The following four elements are consistently used by some of the world’s best companies when rejecting job applicants:
Let’s dive into each of these and see how they play a role in a rejection email.
When writing a rejection email to a job candidate, it’s important that the job candidate feels like you wrote the email specifically for them. Even if you leverage technology that can automatically create custom email templates for you, it’s still important that the rejection email feels personal.
To start, address the job applicant by their first name. Then, in the body of the email, specifically mention the position that the applicant applied for. You may also call out something impressive from the applicant’s resume, application, or interview.
These little touches of personalization will ensure that the job candidate, despite being rejected, feels cared for. While you can’t hire every candidate who applies, you can do your best to ensure that each candidate has a pleasant experience. Small customizations to a rejection email add to this experience.
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We have read some rejection emails that come across as uncertain. It’s almost as if the person writing the email was afraid of being too harsh, and instead, they come across as undecided. For example, someone once wrote, “We were impressed with your interview, but are unsure that you’ll be a good fit for this role.” As a candidate, you might read that as an opportunity to prove that you are a good fit, or you might see this as a sign that you’ll have another interview to make a better impression. Ambiguous language like this does nothing but confuse the candidate and makes it even more difficult for the company who will eventually be forced to be more firm in their rejection.
When writing a rejection email, it’s best to be firm and direct from the beginning. There is no need to be rude, unkind, or hurtful, but there is also no need to be ambiguous.
Try using a phrase such as, “We regret to inform you that we have moved forward with other candidates and will no longer be considering your application,” or “We’re sorry to say that we will not be moving forward with your candidacy.”
Make it clear that this is a rejection. Be direct.
It is important to recognize that this job candidate took this time to complete your application, submit a resume, and possibly even interview with your company. Be grateful for their interest. Express this gratitude in the rejection email. Point out your appreciation for the time they took in pursuit of this job opening.
You never know when a job candidate you rejected for one position will be the perfect candidate for a different job. If (and when) this happens, it’s important that the candidate has a good impression of you and your company. Expressing gratitude and recognizing the small sacrifices each candidate has made to apply is one way to ensure a good candidate experience.
It’s always a good idea to end your rejection email with a little bit of encouragement. Now, we’ll admit that some companies take this a little too far and may engender feelings of false hope. If you do not intend to seriously consider the candidate again in the future, then don’t tell them that you will. If you do not think the candidate will ever be able to work in your company, do not tell them to keep applying. Encouragement should not get in the way of honesty.
However, if the candidate was legitimately considered, then there’s nothing wrong with telling them that you’d be happy to see them apply in the future. Or, if the candidate may be a better fit for a different job, send them a link to that job posting and have them apply again.
When the job candidate was clearly unqualified and you do not wish to have them apply for other positions, you can still end the rejection email on an encouraging note. Wish them luck in their job search. Tell them you’re rooting for them to succeed. Encourage them to not give up, even though you know it’s hard to receive a rejection letter.
Remember, there’s a human being on the other side of the rejection email. That person will likely feel some emotion when they read the words on the screen. A little encouragement at the end of the message will soften the blow.
One Thing You Don’t Need to Include
One question we hear all the time is whether or not you should provide specific feedback for each candidate that you reject. Of course, job candidates love feedback because it not only gives them insight into why they were rejected, but it also opens a potential door of opportunity to argue their case.
Despite the pressure from job seekers, as a company, you should not feel any pressure to provide specific feedback or feel pressure to explain the reasoning behind your decision. The candidate does not need to know exactly what went into the decision, and they should not be privy to all the details of your hiring process.
We generally recommend leaving specific feedback or reasoning out of your rejection letter. Including it typically does more harm than good. We find it best to leave specifics out of the rejection email and leave the reasons for rejection generic.
If you do decide to state a reason for rejection, we find it most appropriate to say something along the lines of: “We are pursuing other, more qualified candidates.”
This reason places the emphasis on the candidates you’re pursuing rather than diving into the details and faults of the candidate you are rejecting.
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Example Rejection Emails
We scoured the web for example rejection emails sent by companies who do it right. We also included Eddy’s default rejection email so you can see how we manage these situations in our own company.
Notice as you read each of these examples how each rejection email incorporates the four key elements: customization, direct rejection, gratitude, and encouragement.
You’ll also notice that each of these examples leaves specific feedback or rejection reasons out of the message entirely.
These are good templates that you can use as you craft the right email for your business.
Dear [First Name],
Thank you for applying for the position of [job title] at EddyHR. We sincerely appreciate your interest in our company.
We wanted to let you know that we have chosen to move forward with other candidates for this position.
We wish you all the best in your job search,
[Hiring Manager Name]
Hi [First Name],
Thanks for taking the time to interview with us last week, we greatly appreciate your time and consideration. Unfortunately, the team has decided to move forward with other candidates at this time. I wish I had better news to share, but sometimes our managers are forced to make these difficult decisions.
Thanks again for considering Apple and best of luck to you in your job search!
Boston Consulting Group:
Dear [First Name],
Thank you very much for your application and for your interest in career opportunities with BCG.
After a long and thorough examination, however, we feel that we are not in a position to further pursue your application. We are sure that your excellent knowledge and qualifications will help you find a position that will fully match your interests and objectives.
We wish you all the best for your future.
BCG Recruiting Committee
Hi [First Name],
Thank you so much for your interest in Envoy – we know there are a lot of great companies out there and we appreciate the time you took to apply. At this time, we have decided not to proceed with your candidacy for the [job title] role.
We are scaling fast and hope to keep in touch with you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out again if you see another opportunity that you are interested in.
Thanks again for your interest in Envoy and we wish you luck in your search.
Envoy Talent Team
Hi [First Name],
Thank you so much for taking the time to interview for the [job title] role at Facebook. I received feedback from your interview and unfortunately, we will not be able to move you forward in the interview process.
I wish I had better news, but that being said, I really enjoyed chatting with you. We have lots of people in our office who have applied and interviewed multiple times, so definitely let’s stay in touch. Please feel free to send me an invitation on LinkedIn as another means of keeping in touch for future opportunities.
In the meantime though, we wish you the best of luck in your other interviews and a great rest of your week,
All the best,
Dear [First Name],
Thank you for applying for the [job title] role and for your interest in employment with NPR. We have been fortunate to receive resumes from many excellent candidates, so making our selection was quite challenging.
We have reviewed your resume and have carefully considered your qualifications. Upon reviewing and considering the full group of applicants, we regret to inform you that we have decided to pursue other candidates for this position.
We appreciate your interest in the work we’re doing at NPR and encourage you to continue to pursue other openings as they become available. We’ll also maintain your records and should a position open that matches your qualifications, we may contact you directly.
Our current employment opportunities are updated on our website here [link to careers website].