Writing A Rejection Email? How To Break The Bad News

Rejection emails are difficult to receive—and they're also difficult to send. Unfortunately, they are an inevitable part of every hiring process.

For hiring managers and recruiters, it's important to recognize that what you say is just as important as how you say it. Many job seekers start to lose confidence after about five rejections. But when a rejection is written with a sense of empathy and respect, it can actually create valuable connections that last beyond the application or interview stage.

While you cannot offer every candidate a job, it’s important to recognize the time and effort that candidates put into each application—not to mention the emotional attachment they may have to the outcome.

Read on to discover what you need to know to turn a professional rejection into a future opportunity for both the company and the candidate.

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How Rejected Candidates Impact Your Employer Brand

For better or worse, how you reject candidates is part of your employer brand. If candidates feel that you are harsh in your rejection—or if you leave them hanging with no response—they’ll spread the word. This may make other qualified candidates hesitate to apply with your company in the future.

The process of writing a job rejection email should be handled with care. It’s respectful to candidates to offer them a sense of closure in their job search instead of leaving them wondering. This is one way to show that you care about a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

Additionally, the right rejection email can help you maintain relationships with prospects. Keeping resumes on file keeps your pipeline full for future opportunities, and letting candidates know that you’re doing so can make a rejection email feel less discouraging. This is a smart move, especially when labor shortages arise and the talent landscape becomes more competitive.

What Should You Include in a Rejection Email?

Every employment rejection email will be a reflection of the company’s individual philosophy about how to handle candidates. However, there are some common elements that every hiring manager should strive to include.

The first is a personalized greeting. Personalizing a rejection email projects warmth and makes the candidate feel individually considered and valued. It’s even better if you can add information about the role they applied for and speak to their individual strengths and weaknesses.

You should also make sure your letter is succinct and uses clear, upfront language. Don’t confuse the candidate about where they stand in the application process or about whether you want them to apply for alternative or future roles.

When possible, seek to provide the candidate with specific feedback about their application or interview. Know that 46% of Gen Z applicants care about receiving feedback from the direct hiring manager.

Though these personalized responses may not be possible for every applicant, it’s important to send them to the few who have made it to the interview, especially if you want them to be prepared for future opportunities with your company. If you believe the candidate is a great cultural fit, invite them to apply for future roles or tell them you’ll contact them if an appropriate position arises.

Always seek to keep the lines of communication open by inviting the candidate to ask more questions or provide feedback. This enhances your employer brand and highlights how personable your company and team are.

Email Rejection Examples

Example 1: Rejection Email After Application

Dear [Candidate Name],

I hope this message finds you well. First, thank you for taking the time to apply for the security analyst position at Pembroke Hospital. We appreciate the care you put into this application and your efforts to tell us about yourself and your skills.

After careful consideration of your background and experience, we regret to inform you that we will not be moving forward with your application for this role at this time. We received many applications from highly qualified individuals. Our decision is a reflection of the overall qualifications of a very competitive applicant pool, not of your individual skills.

We are not able to provide individual feedback to every candidate because of the high volume of applications we received. However, please know that we will keep your application on file and contact you should another position become available that closely aligns with your skill set.

If you have any further questions or feedback for our recruitment team, please feel free to reply to this email and share it with us. We wish you all the best moving forward with your career.

Sincerely,

[Hiring Manager Name and Title]

Example 2: Rejection Email After Interview

Dear [Candidate Name],

Thank you for your interest in the tech sales role at Wyatt Innovations. We enjoyed getting to know you better during the interview and appreciate the care and thought you have put into the process from the start.

While your knowledge, experience, and skill set are impressive, we have decided to hire another candidate with more experience closing high-value deals. This skill will be necessary to help Wyatt achieve its growth targets over the next five years.

Though we fully understand any disappointment you may feel in this decision, we would like to offer some constructive feedback to help you strengthen your skill set for your next application.

We recommend obtaining a certification in Sales Development from a hands-on program or boot camp. This will provide you with the skills you need to close deals with high-dollar clients.

Please know that we believe in your potential as someone looking to further their career in sales. Your personable demeanor and go-getter attitude make you a great fit for this path. We would love to keep in touch with you in case any future opportunities arise that align with your qualifications and professional goals.

Please feel free to share any feedback or questions you have for our team. We wish you continued success and hope to cross paths in the future.

Sincerely,

[Hiring Manager Name and Title]

How to Keep Rejected Candidates Engaged for Future Outreach

Keeping candidates engaged for future outreach is a critical part of a good talent acquisition strategy. In a competitive talent landscape, it can help you maintain relationships with qualified people who may be able to fill alternative or future roles at your company.

Strike a Positive Tone

The first thing you need to do to make the process successful is to be cordial and encouraging in your candidate rejection email. If you don’t make a good impression on the candidate in the letter, it may sour them on wanting to pursue future opportunities with your company.

You’ll also want to maintain a hopeful tone throughout your rejection message. If the candidate is truly a good fit for your organization and you're serious about staying in touch, explicitly let the candidate know that you welcome their application for future roles.

Provide Feedback

Be responsive to candidates who contact you with questions or to provide feedback. This is yet another way to leave a good impression and remind them that you care about them.

Provide candidates with specific feedback on how they can enhance their skills for the future. This will help them understand exactly what they need to work on, and it will build their confidence in their ability to be successful in applying for future roles.

Follow Through

Finally, be true to your word about reaching out for future opportunities. If you tell a candidate that you’ll contact them in the future and you follow through, they’ll likely be much more enthusiastic about the possibility of working with you.

Remember that a rejection doesn’t have to be the end of the road for either party. When done right, it can actually build a bridge to a bright future for both the candidate and the employer.

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