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Breaking the News: 3 Ways to Write a Job Rejection Email

When you post a job and applications start pouring in, you probably can’t help but think you’re going to send a job rejection email to most of them.

Nothing personal—It’s just business. You’ve got one spot to fill, while an estimated 250 qualified candidates apply when there’s an opening for a corporate job.

After you’ve done your part to screen, review, interview the top candidates, and then hire someone, you’ll need to send a job rejection email to the rest of the candidates.

Why? It’s good business to let candidates know if they made the cut as soon as possible. In fact, the sooner in the process, the better. 

Communicating with candidates in a thoughtful and timely way can help you build your brand. And who knows, you may end up hiring someone who was turned down for a different job with your organization down the road.

When do you send a job rejection email and what should you say?

There are three main stages in the hiring process where it makes sense to send a job rejection email. Here’s what you need to know (templates included):

1. Rejection After Application Review

You post a job and get inundated with applications. Next comes the initial screening (manually or automated), and a bunch of applications that don’t make the cut for various reasons.

Usually, they’ve got potential, but they’re missing a minimum requirement that other candidates have. When you pull these people out of the pile, it’s time to send a job rejection email.

Here’s how to break the news:

Hi [First Name],

Thanks for applying for the [position] at [company].

You’ve got solid skills and experience for this type of work, but you weren’t selected for an interview.

We’ll keep your application on file and let you know when we have other positions open that match your skillset. Reapply if you see something that looks like a good fit.

All the best in your job search efforts,

[Your name]

2. Rejection After Initial Screening

When candidates make the first cut, there’s usually a secondary screening process that happens before in-depth interviews.

This usually looks like a: Brief phone call, mini project, skills assessment, or some other vetting process to help you narrow down the list of candidates.

When someone doesn’t make the cut following the initial screening, it’s time to send a job rejection email.

You’ll typically have fewer candidates to notify at this point. If you have the time, offer some personal feedback and encouragement, like this:

Hi [First Name],

Thanks for your time [to chat, submit a sample, complete a skills test, do a presentation, etc.] for the [position] at [company].

You’ve got a great mix of skills and experience for a [type of role], but you weren’t selected for the next step in the hiring process.

[Consider adding some personal feedback here to help them improve their resume, portfolio, skills, presentation, etc. What went well? Where to improve?]

We’ll keep your application on file and let you know when we have other positions open that match your skillset. Reapply if you see something that looks like a good fit, too.

All the best in your job search efforts,

[Your name]

3. Rejection After Interview

The third group of candidates you’ll need to send a job rejection email to are the ones who make it almost all the way to the finish line.

You bring in a handful of candidates for in-depth interviews with you, a manager, or other members of your team. Just one makes the cut and receives an offer, and you’ll need to let the others know.

These candidates have invested a lot of time to apply, go through the screening process, and take time to meet for an interview. (You may even consider making a phone call to chat about the decision.) Here’s what to say in the job rejection email to your finalists:

Hi [First Name],

Thanks for meeting to interview for the [position] at [company].

We enjoyed talking with you about this role and learning more about you.

[Mention 1-2 things that made this person a top candidate]

Unfortunately, we made an offer to another candidate, because [give a reason].

Here’s a suggestion [offer a suggestion to help them improve level up, stand out for their next job interview]

We’ll keep your application on file and let you know when we have other positions open that match your skillset. Reapply if you see something that looks like a good fit, too.

All the best in your job search,

[Your name]

Break the News with a Job Rejection Email

Nobody really likes to break the news about getting rejected, but it’s part of your job. Let people know as soon as possible when they’re out of the hiring process. You’ll build relationships this way and help create positive vibes for your brand/organization. And who knows, you might hire some of these people when you have another opening.

Looking to find top talent? See Jumpstart in action or contact our team at [email protected]

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