You’re under a lot of pressure to find the perfect candidate. And sometimes that ideal person is already employed. To reach these elusive individuals, you need to write a strong new job opportunity email to a passive candidate to entice them to learn more about your company and your opening. It’s not about pressuring them to agree to a new job on the spot; rather, your goal is to start a conversation about the opportunities you can offer.
Begin a candidate rejection letter by personalizing it. Include the candidate’s name in the opening greeting and note the name of the position they applied for in the first sentence. From there, let the candidate know that you enjoyed meeting them and discussing their interests and qualifications, and that you appreciated their time and patience during the application or interview process. You should then state, clearly yet respectfully, that the candidate did not get the job.
To soften the rejection, consider noting that there were many other candidates in the running, and that the decision to go with someone else (or to continue searching for someone else) was a tough one. Close the letter by thanking the candidate for their interest, wish them the best of luck in their future, and then sign off with your name and title.
How to write a candidate rejection letter:
1. Write and send the rejection letter ASAP
You should write a candidate rejection letter to any applicants still on your shortlist soon after arriving at a hiring decision. Don’t wait more than one to two days to write the letter. You don’t want to keep the rejected candidate in anticipation or hold up their job search. Writing the rejection letter sooner than later could also save you from the very real possibility of being bombarded with pesky emails and phone calls from candidates about whether the company has reached a decision.
2. Get right down to business
Always get straight to the point when you write a candidate rejection letter—keep it short but sweet. This should be emphasized. Don’t beat around the bush, or shower the candidate with an excessive amount of compliments—there’s no need for that. Just aim to be sensitive and polite but be sure to stay on point. Your primary goal with this letter is to provide the candidate with firm closure so they can continue their search for a new job—nothing more, nothing less.
3. Don’t reveal information about other candidates
When you write a candidate rejection letter, never say anything specific about the other candidates in the running for the job. Never mention their qualifications or how they fared in their interviews. Most importantly, never mention other candidates’ names.
4. Don’t reveal who got the job
On a related note, if a hiring decision has been made, do not mention who did get the job. This information is irrelevant to the goal of writing a candidate rejection letter.
5. Avoid giving false hope
You’ve delivered your final decision to a candidate, and surely there will be disappointment that they didn’t get the job. Don’t give in to the temptation to soften or temper the blow by promising that you’ll keep their resume on file for consideration, or by directing them to another open position on the company job board. If there are no appropriate positions available — or if you’re not completely sure the candidate would be a great fit for a role you do have open — resist the urge. It will only create a sense of false hope for the rejected candidate. Also, adding unnecessary information will make the rejection letter longer than it has to be. Remember that when writing a candidate rejection letter brevity is key.
6. Get approval from your legal team
If you’re feeling unsure about any of the wording of your candidate rejection letter, take it to your legal department and have them vet the language. They can help you to ensure that the message is free of any language that a candidate could interpret as offensive or discriminatory. An obvious example would be mentioning something in the letter about the candidate’s age, race, or gender but those aren’t the only things to avoid. As the adage goes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and having your legal team do a review of your candidate rejection letter is a great way to cover your bases. Always err on the side of caution when you write a candidate rejection letter to ensure you leave a positive and professional impression on the candidate. Disappointment is normal when a candidate is rejected but they should walk away feeling that they’ve been treated with dignity and respect. Always err on the side of caution when you write a candidate rejection letter to ensure you make a positive and professional impression on the candidate.