How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job (Templates Included)

Telling someone they didn't get the job is hard, but doing it well can be the difference between a good candidate experience and a bad one. Read this article to learn how to do it well.

Abi Tyas Tunggal

Jan 17, 2022 • 10 min read

How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job (Templates Included)

In this article

Hiring managers and recruiters play a crucial role in the recruitment process by filtering through tens, hundreds, or even thousands of potential applicants. Finding the perfect fit is a time-consuming process.

This is why many companies no longer send rejection letters to unsuccessful applicants. Telling someone they didn't get the job is hard and not doing it is the easy way out.

However, not rejecting candidates can damage your company's reputation and employer brands, limiting your talent pool and making it harder to hire good candidates in the future.

In contrast, investing the time into rejecting candidates well can improve candidate experience and your recruitment process. Candidates who don't check all the boxes for a specific role can be great hires in the future. By maintaining the relationship, you can reduce time to hire and cost per hire by inviting them to apply to future job openings.

Always follow-up with each candidate as there is a good chance they'll relay their experience to peers and increasingly social media.

In this article, we'll outline the importance of communicating job rejection well, outline how to do it, and provide you with templates, examples, and tips.

Remote worker

Why is it important to tell someone they didn't get the job?

It's important to tell people they didn't get the job because each candidate can make or break your employer brand. Most candidates expect a reply after investing time in your recruitment process. If you don't reply, you create a lasting negative sentiment and damage your company's reputation.

This can manifest as negative Glassdoor reviews, blog posts, or social media posts.

Maintaining the relationship with unsuccessful candidates helps keep them in the candidate pool for future job openings. Unsuccessful candidates are often well-suited for a different role or team at the company, or even the same role once they have more experience.

It also ensures they have a good last impression of your company.

Rejecting candidates is hard, but it shows you respect the time and effort they invested in the selection process. At the same time, it provides closure so they're not waiting for an offer and can focus on other opportunities.

This is particularly important if you had good rapport and they did well in the interview. Instead of leading them on, send a rejection letter fast to show you value their time.

Dragging good candidates on damagers your employer brand, creates a poor candidate experience, and makes it harder to attract other qualified candidates.

Finally, a good rejection can keep candidates as customers. A negative experience during the hiring process can cause them to not only not want to work with you, but to not want to purchase from you.

This is particularly important if you provide a consumer good or service, as applicants were likely already supporters of your company.

Man on phone

How to tell someone they didn't get the job

Rejecting a candidate isn't as hard as you think. The most important thing is to be respectful of each candidate's time. If you do this well rejection can even have a positive impact on your employer brand.

Here are some points you can (and should) include:

Office worker

1. Start with empathy

It takes empathy to convey bad news. The good news is most of us have been rejected by a company we've applied to, so we know what it feels like. Even if you applied to a role you didn't really want, not getting an offer can be upsetting, so keep it professional and kind.

Job interview

2. Thank them for their time

This is the most important part of any rejection. Applicants invest considerable time and effort into updating their resume, writing their cover letter, and working on test projects or tasks.

Thanking unsuccessful candidates shows you appreciate their interest in the company, effort they've put into their application, and time they've spent with you.

Remote job interview

3. Personalize your response

You can thank unsuccessful applicants by phone or email, but always personalize your response. Include the applicant's name and the title of the position, as well as anything you liked that they did during the interview process.

Even if they were rejected in the resume screening stage, you can sell send a rejection email.

Remote worker

4. Explain that you're pursuing other applicants

Get to the bad news right way and politely let the candidate know they won't be getting a job offer.

You can say that while you enjoyed meeting them for the interview, you'll be pursuing other candidates or extending a job offer to someone else.

Let them know you seriously considered their job application, but have found a better fit. Let them know of any positive remarks the hiring team had about their resume or performance in the job interview too.

Job interview

5. Provide constructive feedback

You may also want to include constructive feedback, such as how they could improve based on the interview, or what skills or experience they were lacking. This helps end the job interview process on a positive note as your feedback will be helpful in future interviews. Always ensure that you phrase the feedback in a kind and careful manner so it doesn't come across as criticism or insulting.

If you really want to stand out, offer to answer any follow-up questions they have. From my experience, the best hiring managers even offer to hop on a quick call and take the time to explain why I wasn't offered the role and what areas of the job description I was lacking in.

Job interview

6. Mention the strengths of the other candidates

If you already know that you'll be offering the position to another job candidate, consider mentioning why they were the perfect fit.

For example, you might say that while you were impressed by their enthusiasm for the company, another candidate performed better during your selection process because they had more experience. You could also say that other job seekers had more relevant experience which made them a good fit.

Job interview

7. Let them know that many qualified candidates applied

An easy way to reduce the risk of a candidate taking the job rejection personally is to let them know that they're not alone. Remind them that you interviewed many qualified job seekers.

For example, you can tell them that while they did well in the interview process, there was a lot of competition for the job opening and then wish them well on their job search.

Remote worker

8. Encourage strong candidates to apply again

While a candidate may not be the best fit for the job they applied for, you may want to hire them in the future. Let strong candidates know that you'd like to keep them in mind for future positions if they arise.

For example, you can tell them to apply if your company posts a similar job in the future. Particularly if you would have selected them if not for another candidate.

Also, let them know that your company posts new job openings to social media.

Remote worker

Templates for how to tell someone they didn't get the job

Now that you know how to communicate a job rejection to a candidate, here are are specific templates you can use as a base.

Phone

Here's a template you can use to tell someone they didn't get the job via phone:

Hi [candidate name], this is [your name] from [your company name]. How are you doing today?

I wanted to thank you for taking the time to interview with us for the [job title] position on [day of interview]. We enjoyed meeting with you and thought that you did [short explanation of a positive from their resume or interview].

However, we've decided to go with another candidate because [reason for rejection]. There was a lot of competition for this role and even though we won't be extending a job offer, I'd really encourage you to apply for similar positions in the future. We typically post new job openings to LinkedIn, so keep an eye out there if you're interested.

I'm happy to answer any questions you have too!

Email

Here's a template you can use to tell someone they didn't get the job via email:

Dear [candidate name],

I wanted to thank you for taking the time to interview with us for the [job title] position on [day of interview]. It was a pleasure to meet you and learn more about your background and passion.

Unfortunately, I'm emailing you to let you know we won't be extending a job offer to you. We were impressed by [short explanation of a positive from their resume or interview] but we're pursuing other candidates for [reason for rejection].

I really appreciate you taking the time to apply and interview with us, and I wish you the best of luck in your job search.

There was a lot of competition for this role and even though we won't be extending a job offer, I'd really encourage you to apply for similar positions in the future. We typically post new job openings to LinkedIn, so keep an eye out there if you're interested.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Thanks,
[Your name]
Job interview

Examples of how to tell someone they didn't get the job

Before rejecting a candidate, think about what you want to say to them. Regardless of whether you use phone or email, you need to be professional and end your communication on a positive note.

Phone

If you opt to reject a candidate on the phone, consider the following example:

Hi Jian Yang, this is Richard Hendricks from Pied Piper. How are you doing today?

I wanted to thank you for taking the time to interview with us for the Software Engineer position on Friday. We enjoyed meeting with you and thought that you did a great job on our culture fit and technical interviews.

However, we've decided to go with another candidate because they had more relevant experience in data compression. There was a lot of competition for this role and even though we won't be extending a job offer, I'd really encourage you to apply for similar positions in the future. We typically post new job openings to LinkedIn, so keep an eye out there if you're interested.

I'm happy to answer any questions you have too!

Email

Dear Jian Yang,

I wanted to thank you for taking the time to interview with us for the Software Engineer position on Friday. It was a pleasure to meet you and learn more about your background and passion for startups and software engineering.

Unfortunately, I'm emailing you to let you know we won't be extending a job offer to you. We were impressed by your ability to easily solve our technical interview questions but we're pursuing other candidates for the position that have more relevant experience, particularly with data compression.

I really appreciate you taking the time to apply and interview with us, and I wish you the best of luck in your job search.

There was a lot of competition for this role and even though we won't be extending a job offer, I'd really encourage you to apply for similar positions in the future. We typically post new job openings to LinkedIn, so keep an eye out there if you're interested.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Thanks,
Richard Hendricks
CEO and founder of Pied Piper
Remote worker

Tips for telling someone they didn't get the job

Follow these tips when telling someone they didn't get the job:

  • Be responsive: Once you know you won't be hiring a candidate, reject them as soon as possible. A quick response shows that you value their time. Keep in mind that job seekers learn a lot from the interview process and often talk about it on social media. Therefore, showing consideration for their time will maintain your company's reputation and increase the likelihood that they'll apply to other jobs at your company in the future.
  • Get to the point: Let the candidate know you won't be extending an offer right away in your phone call or email. Let them know why you aren't extending the offer to help reduce the impact of the rejection too.
  • Keep it brief: Rejecting candidates can take a lot of time, so try to keep your conversations brief to respect your own and their time. Likewise if you're writing a rejection email, keep it succinct.
  • Personalize and provide feedback: If you really want to stand out in the market, provide personalized feedback to each candidate. It'll take longer but it will differentiate your company from the market.
  • Invite them to apply again: If you see potential in a particular candidate, let them know to apply for similar opportunities in the future or keep in touch and contact them when you see an opening they might be interested in.

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