You may be a Boolean search master, or perhaps you simply have some secret superpower that allows you to quickly and efficiently search LinkedIn to find brilliant prospects for your job openings. But the truth of the matter is that even if you’re the greatest sourcer on Earth, if you can’t write an engaging LinkedIn InMail, you’re not going to be as successful a recruiter or hiring leader as you could be.
Sending a letter of refusal to every unsuccessful applicant holds value because it communicates that your company recognizes and respects the time and effort that candidates put into the process, which positions you as a desirable employer. Feedback also alerts the jobseeker to areas they can work on in order to improve their chances of employment in the future. In addition, such a letter gives the candidate closure, prevents them from waiting unnecessarily, and allows them to move forward with other prospects.
When you write a letter of refusal, it’s customary to start by thanking the applicant for their interest and time. You would then deliver the news in a professional manner and offer a clear, objective reason for rejection before finishing by wishing them well for the future.
Tips on How to Write a Letter of Refusal
1) Always address the letter to the candidate personally so that it doesn’t appear generic and unfeeling.
2) The exact language you use when you write a letter of refusal will depend on your brand identity, but aim to keep the tone professional, polite and genuine – don’t be overly friendly or too aloof.
3) Start off by indicating that you recognize that they have invested energy and emotion into the application – thank them for choosing your company, taking the time to send their resume, and preparing for the interview.
4) When delivering the news, don’t be overly apologetic as this can come across as disingenuous.
5) If the letter is being sent in the early stages of the hiring process and you haven’t had much interaction with the applicant, you can keep the communication short and succinct. It’s acceptable to simply say that you received multiple applications, and some better matched the selection criteria.
6) On the other hand, if the applicant has already been through multiple rounds of interviews and invested lots of effort, it’s advisable to write a letter of refusal that’s longer with a more detailed and specific reason for rejection. Highlight their strong points and outline where they fell short graciously.
7) If you do offer further explanation for the rejection, choose your words carefully and don’t say anything that could be interpreted as discrimination or invite legal action (for example, “We were concerned you wouldn’t be able to relate to the other team members”).
8) While feedback should be constructive, beware of giving advice that is uninvited – don’t take it upon yourself to teach the candidate correct grammar and spelling, for example.
9) Be careful that your wording doesn’t imply that there was any conflict or lack of agreement within the company regarding the decision, even if there was, as this could cast the business in a bad light.
10) Avoid divulging any personal information about the candidate that was chosen for the job.
11) Don’t be vague or ambiguous in an effort to prevent the applicant from feeling disappointed or offended. The reason you’d write a letter of refusal is to give the applicant closure so that they can move forward with their job search, so don’t say anything that encourages them to keep trying and waste their time. Be honest, clear, and firm.
12) The above said, if the applicant was genuinely one of the top candidates and came close to being selected, you can say so. Similarly, if you’d honestly be willing to consider them for another position, invite them to apply or ask them if they’d be interested in hearing about other opportunities.
13) Don’t make empty promises or say anything that you can’t support if legal action is taken. For example, don’t say that you’ll keep their resume on file if you don’t intend to do so, and don’t invite them to apply for other positions if you don’t think they’re qualified.
14) If you’re eager to work with the applicant in future, ask them to send you any documentation you might need to keep on file or ask permission to contact them if an appropriate vacancy arises.
15) In the case of candidates who reached the interviewing stage, consider including your contact details and inviting them to get in touch if they want more feedback or have any questions.
16) End the letter of refusal off by wishing the candidate success in their job search.
17) Sign off with your name and signature, not just your job title or department name, so that the applicant can see the letter has been compiled by a person.
18) Double-check the spelling and grammar in the letter – mistakes look sloppy and discourteous.
19) If a manager or hiring leader needs to look over the letter before you send it on to the unsuccessful candidate, remember to facilitate this process.