How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job (With Email, in Person and Over the Phone Scripts)

Telling someone they didn’t get the job can be difficult — it’s never fun.

However, there are ways to break this news gently and professionally without causing undue stress for either party involved in the conversation.

Here are some helpful tips and sample scripts, as shared by career experts.

Amy Feind Reeves

Amy Feind Reeves

Founder and CEO, JobCoachAmy

There’s no way to serve up a “Sorry. We’re going with another candidate.” conversation in a way that is going to make the person on the other end of the news feel good. But you can, and should, see it as an opportunity to make the exchange worthwhile for both parties.

For you, or a manager on your team, it’s an opportunity to practice giving the kind of constructive and helpful feedback that sets managers apart as leaders.

It’s also an opportunity to make the candidate better for their next opportunity. Build goodwill instead of leaving a negative impression and (let’s face it) leave you in a better place in case that candidate is ever interviewing you down the road — we all know it happens.

Give the candidate the next best thing: honest, direct feedback

In other words, if you can’t give the candidate a job, then give them the feedback they can use. As a job coach, I work with dozens of candidates every year who just never know why they were turned down for a job, and it discourages them more than even the harshest criticism.

Related: How to Ask for Feedback After a Job Rejection (With Examples)

Having been on the other side of the table even more often, I let them know that sometimes there is no useful reason — there may be another candidate with a personal connection to a team member or who connected better on a personal level.

Other times there is a reason articulated that no one wants to pass on, but that could really make a difference to the candidate:

“All of your interviewers commented that you did not look them in the eye. You may want to work on that in your next interview as it will make you appear more confident, and you should certainly feel confident with your background.”

How hard is that? And yet, constructive feedback is incredibly rare.

Why spend the time? You don’t want to become “Managers of Least Resistance.”

Giving feedback can be as difficult as receiving it. A common scenario I’ve seen over and over is the eager new MBA or BA who turns in a big project to a new manager who says “Great, thank you!” and fixes all the bugs or issues themselves without giving any feedback or providing any coaching that will improve the work for next time.

The new employee thinks (s)he did a great job, but after this happens a few more times, the manager gets frustrated. Twelve months later, reviews roll around, and (s)he is shocked to learn that (s)he is considered to have performance issues when she never heard a negative word.

This leads not only to low morale and lower effort but expensive attrition as well. Get ahead of it by adding this simple exercise to the new manager’s toolbox. The benefit of using this kind of conversation as practice for giving hard feedback is that it is shorter, lower stakes, and easier because you can set up an ideal.

Use examples of what the winning candidate did right, instead of focusing on what the losing candidate did wrong. In most cases, the feedback can, and should, be more nuanced.

Just like when you are giving feedback to an actual employee, make sure it is:

  • Honest
  • Detailed
  • Constructive
  • Actionable

Don’t focus on what the losing candidate did wrong — explain what the winning candidate did right

For example, an honest piece of feedback to a candidate could be:

“The candidates we choose generally have a solid, specific answer to the question why they want to join our firm over competitors and provide more detailed examples of their experience.”

And to move that into a very detailed place, add:

“In this role, we really need someone who can quickly learn our proprietary methodology for building algorithms that support foreign exchange, forecasting models.

The candidate we chose understood that we are known for our forecasting models, so it will be essential for her to get up to speed quickly.

She came with several examples of when and how she had trained on proprietary financial models and how specific math classes she had taken supported her ability to get up to speed quickly.”

To add a constructive comment:

“You have many of the same skills as the candidate we chose, and some of the same elements in your background.

In your next interview, you may want to focus on being able to speak more effectively about how you will apply your background in your new role.”

Spending a few minutes with the interview notes from each participant, or taking notes at a group review, will generally yield consensus along these lines.

It will make the candidate feel energized for their next set of interviews, make them feel great about your organization, and help them understand what professional feedback looks and feels like.

Vince Tuckwood

Vincent Tuckwood

Independent Talent & Organization Development Consultant, View Beyond LLC

Stage 1 – Rejection upon resume review with no interview (Method: Email)

It is better to be brief and impersonal here. Though this can make it feel generic, in truth, that’s exactly what it is.

“Dear (candidate name),

Thank you for your interest in (position) with (company/organization).

On this occasion, we will not be moving forward with your application.

(Company recruitment team title).”

Stage 2 – Rejection after initial/first-round interview (Method: Email or Phone)

Here, the candidate is likely to be one of roughly 10 interviewed, so it pays forward to be a little more personal. If the candidate is a possible fall-back or for future, then use the […] section(s).

“Dear (Candidate name),

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us about the role of (position).

[(I / interviewer’s name) enjoyed our conversation and hope that we were able to provide insight into (company/organization).]

I wanted to let you know that, unfortunately, on this occasion, we will not be moving forward with your application, as there are candidates whose skills and experiences better match the role.

[We hope that you will continue to consider applying for roles posted at (company recruitment website)]

Best wishes,
(recruiter name)”

Stage 3 – Rejection after an in-depth interview (Method: Phone or In-person)

I can’t stress enough that there isn’t a script for this step – and anyone looking for one should be asking whether they’re cut out to be a successful recruiter.

Bottom line, the candidate is emotionally invested in the process, and with the interviewer(s) they have met and being rejected by email is like being divorced by fax – not good.

Some pointers for the conversation:

  • Know factually how you made the decision – i.e., did the candidate fail (put themselves out of the running), or did another candidate succeed (better fit to role)?
  • Do not discuss other candidate performance at interview, background, or specific skills – focus on the rejected candidate.
  • Be prepared to talk about both strengths and shortfalls of the rejected candidate.

Your aim is to provide constructive feedback on how the candidate can strengthen their profile and performance at an interview next time (even if you never intend to interview them again). This conversation is never easy, particularly if the candidate is a fit but losing out only to a marginally better fit.

Related: How to Ask for Feedback After Interview (With Examples)

Turning it into a feedback interaction turns the loss into a partial win and builds a solid foundation should the candidate become a fall-back or potential future fit.

A side note here: Many recruiters act like salespeople, with a high focus on closing the deal. Savvy Talent Acquisition functions invest in the soft skills of recruiters to build relationships and develop others.

Dominique Kemps

Dominique Kemps

CEO and Founder, GlassExpertsFL

Telling someone they didn’t get a job is a form of rejection, you know. And quite frankly, people tend to deal with rejection differently. So the manner with which you pass that piece of information is essential.

Reasons being that you aren’t sure how long they must have been applying for that job, neither are you certain how many jobs they’ve applied for.

There are many ways you could tell someone they didn’t get the job. But, it’s all dependent on how they applied and how you can communicate with such an individual. The different templates you could use to tell a candidate they didn’t get the job are through phone, email, or in person.

As an employer, you must know how to tell a candidate they didn’t get a job at your firm. A few ways you could tell a candidate they didn’t get the job are:

Let them know why they didn’t get the job

It’s not okay to tell people “no” and not let them know why they are being rejected. If they didn’t perform well, as an employee, it’d be good for the reputation of your company to let them know why they’re not being employed.

If you think they didn’t perform well enough or didn’t reach the specific qualifications you need, you could let them know. This way, you’re building a good reputation for your company.

Encourage them to try again

After you’ve thanked them, and told them why they didn’t get the job, then you can encourage the strong candidates among them to try again. This way, you’re giving them hope. Remember, as I’ve said before, people tend to deal with rejection differently.

Here are a few templates that I find helpful.

Email template

Dear [candidate name],

Thank you for applying for the [job title] position at [company name]. It was nice meeting you and getting to learn about you. Unfortunately, we are emailing you to let you know that you didn’t get the job. Thank you for your time, but we are looking for other candidates with qualifications you don’t have at the moment. We appreciate your time and efforts. We wish you luck with your job search.

Best regards,
[Your name]

Through phone

“Hi, [candidate name]. This is [your name] from [company name]. Thank you for making time to attend the interview with us on [day of the interview] regarding the [job title] position. However, I’m sorry that for some reason [explain why briefly], we won’t be accepting you for the position. I wish you luck with your job search. Thanks again for applying.”

Michele Olivier

Michele Olivier

Principal Consultant, O&H Consulting

Be clear, specific, and factual

When handling rejection of a candidate, it’s best to approach it like any other conflict:

  • Be clear, specific, and factual.
  • If they were not great candidates and you would not like to see them apply to future roles, don’t tell them they are.
  • Be honest.

You don’t have to go on the offensive and list the ways that you decided they weren’t a good fit, but platitudes and empty promises of “we’ll consider you for future roles” are infuriating and poor customer service.


“Thank you for taking the time to meet with our team. We appreciate your time and interest. Having carefully considered your application we have decided that other candidates are stronger matches for the role.

Best of luck in your job search.”


The trick to this is to highlight an immutable fact that means that this person would be unsuitable. Present that first, and then close with the rejection.

“For this position, we really need someone who has used Java and Terraform in a highly regulated sector with little need for supervision.

While I appreciate that you have both Terraform and Java experience, you haven’t worked with the types of regulation we need and so would not be a good fit for a role of this seniority. I do wish you the best going forward.”

Over the phone:

Phone rejections are probably the trickiest because they have the highest probability or argument/pushback from the candidate. I have known many candidates to become abuse or enraged when unsuccessful – that’s part of why recruiters “ghost.”

“Hey [Name]. I promised you I would call as soon as I had news, and I’ve just been updated by the hiring manager.

I’m afraid they’ve decided to go with a different candidate at this time. I don’t have any more information than that to pass on. Best of luck in your job search.”

Jenny Morse, PhD.

Jenny Morse

Business Writing Senior Instructor, Colorado State University | CEO, Appendance, Inc

Be clear and sympathetic

Letting someone down is never easy, but there are strategies you can use to be both clear and sympathetic.

How to start: Start by saying something neutral or positive

Start by saying something neutral or positive. For example, you might say:

  • “Thank you for applying to x job.”
  • “I enjoyed talking with you about x during your interview.”

The middle: Provide a general explanation of why the person didn’t get the job

The goal here is to provide some general explanation of why the person didn’t get the job. If possible, be fact-based like “We received # applications and interviewed # people.”

This numbers approach can illustrate the competition. Or acknowledge the limitations of the circumstances: “There were many great candidates, but we only have one job opening.”

Then make sure to state clearly that the person didn’t get the job:

  • “We are unable to offer you the position.”
  • “Ultimately, we selected another candidate.”

These two sentences take the responsibility onto the “we” and avoid the use of no/not. Alternatively, you can use the passive voice to talk about what is happening to the candidate: “You have not been selected.”

The End: Optimism for the future

Try to show some sympathy for the candidate by saying something like “We know this is a disappointment” or “This is never a fun message to receive.” Then move on to the future.

If you think they might fit with the company in a different position, encourage them to reapply: “Please consider applying for future openings with us..” Or, if they aren’t a good fit for the organization, you can say something like, “We wish you the best in your job search.”

Keep in mind that what you choose to say will depend on how much you liked the candidate and how far they got in the process. So, if the person sent in an application but didn’t make it past the first round, your email might be simple:

Hi (Name),

Thank you for applying to x job. We received # applications, and unfortunately, you have not been selected for an interview. We wish you the best in your job search.

The further along they got, the more sympathy and encouragement you’ll want to include so that you show a genuine interest in the person:

I enjoyed talking with you about x during your interview! You were one of many great candidates we had to choose from for our one job opening. Ultimately, we selected another candidate.

While we know this is a disappointment, we hope you will consider applying for future openings with us.

Lauri Kinkar

Lauri Kinkar

CEO, Messente

Telling candidates that they didn’t get the job is a hard task, and it can be very uncomfortable, but it’s important to get the message across professionally. Doing this can maintain your company’s reputation, and it can give the candidate a positive experience in your company.

Here are the steps to tell someone they didn’t get the job:

Thank them

Thank them for their time in applying for the position. When sending out a rejection email, it’s best to include the candidate’s name to make it feel more personalized.

Get straight to the point and keep it brief

Get straight to the point and be honest. Don’t leave them hanging, and don’t make small talk. Respect their time.

Carefully explain that the company extended an offer to another candidate

Politely say that while you are happy meeting them for the interview, the company chose to go with another candidate.

Mention the strengths of the chosen candidate

Some candidates want to know why another individual got the job, and they didn’t. You can tell them the advantages of the hired candidate over them.

Remind them that many applicants applied for the job

For example, you can tell them, “Although we are impressed by your qualifications, there is stiff competition for this job opening. I’m sorry to inform you that you are not selected..”

Keep the door open for strong candidates

Keep your doors open for candidates who you think could bring value to the company. While one job did not fit the applicant, encourage them to apply again should there be a better job opportunity in the future.

Here are some examples of how to tell someone they weren’t selected for the job:

Through phone call

“Hello, [Candidate’s Name]. This is [Your Name] from [Company Name]. We enjoyed meeting you at the interview last week. We appreciate the time you invested in applying for a position with our company. We found your resume impressive; however, we’ve decided to extend the job offer to a different candidate as they are a greater fit to the team.”

Through email

Dear [Candidate’s Name],

Thank you very much for your interest in [Company Name.]

I am writing to inform you that we have offered our [Name of Job] role to a different candidate. Although your resume was very competitive, we’ve selected the candidate whom we believe matches the job requirements of the position.

We appreciate the time and effort you put in throughout our selection process and wish you all the best in your job search.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

Micheal Gilmore

Micheal Gilmore

Career Coach and HR Manager, TopCvWriters

It is more pleasant to communicate good news by phone, but it is better to refuse by letter

First, it makes it easier for the candidate to deal with emotions. He will calmly consider the refusal and, perhaps, send clarifying questions that will not come to mind in a minute of conversation.

Secondly, you will not tear the person out of the workflow: He will open the letter exactly when he realizes that he is ready to do it.

The secret to good writing is personal communication. Imagine that your friend should receive the letter and not a conventional person in a jacket.

  1. Thank them – Don’t just say, “Thank you for applying for the vacancy.” Instead, say:
    • “Thank you for choosing our company from hundreds of others.”
  2. Justify the refusal – Instead of “Unfortunately, we are not ready to make you this offer now,” write an individual answer for the vacancy. For example:
    • “Unfortunately, at the moment you are not suitable for us by experience. We are looking for a candidate who has worked for our competitors for at least three years and knows the market.”
  3. Don’t burn bridges
    • “We hope you don’t mind if we keep your feedback and contact you if we have any other suggestions.”
  4. Encourage the candidate – If the candidate was interviewed, add a few truthful words about their good qualities:
    • “The project manager was impressed with your commitment to learning. We are sure that after a year of practice, you will be able to apply for the manager’s chair.”
  5. Leave your signature – Be a human being for the candidate, not a messenger robot.
  6. Just do it – The worst refusal option is to inform the candidate, “We will call you back!” and not call back. Nobody wants to do this, and everyone has more important and interesting tasks.

But it’s important to refuse for three reasons:

  • Refusals are one of the constituent parts of a company’s image in the HR market
  • It is your image as a recruiter
  • It’s just your job

Jessica Glazer

Jessica Glazer

Top Canadian Recruiter | Founder and President, MindHR

Do not give them a total rejection until you are 1000% sure you won’t hire them

It depends on what phase the candidate is in regarding the interview process when it comes to informing someone they didn’t get the job. If it was never an interview, then a simple:

“Thank you for applying to X career. Know we have received your resume, and although your background does not match our current hiring needs, we will keep your resume on file for the future.”

If they had a phone, zoom, or face-to-face meeting, then the “rejection” should always be by phone, as although it’s nothing personal, it is more personal to have a voice to the rejection. Hiring managers do not love this approach as it means engagement, but it’s the most respectful way to let someone know they didn’t get the job.

Give them a few minutes to understand why and move on.

Explain they are welcome to connect with you on LinkedIn, but for the career at hand, you or the team or the CEO have decided to move on. Do not give them a total rejection until you are 1000% sure you won’t hire them.

More often than not, once they are rejected, they will not want to return to a hiring process because of ego unless this rejection was done with tact and an “open door” to other opportunities.

I prefer to call the process “keep in touch” rather than rejection. “No” doesn’t mean forever; it means just “not now,” and that is always what I tell candidates.

Another addition, it’s nice if you can refer someone to another company or career as then they feel you are truly out to help their best interest as remember you never know when you will work with someone again. Chances are you will, and chances are your reputation will always precede you, so when you come and go in kindness, it’s always remembered and appreciated.

As well if there is a clear reason, like the person is missing a designation or is too junior, you can also ask if they know someone.

They may not, but they might, and you will only have the opportunity to learn more and continue networking if you pick up the phone and engage with them.

If someone took the time to meet, you could take the time to speak.

Michael Trust, MPA, SPHR, PHRca, SHRM-SCP

Michael Trust

Human Resources Leader & Certified Mediator, Michael Trust Consulting

Less is often more when it comes to delivering bad news

While recruiting/Talent Acquisition is probably the most fun part of Human Resources, it can also be one of the toughest: delivering bad news is never easy, no matter how many times someone has done it.

Telling an enthusiastic candidate that they didn’t get a job they really wanted is tough. Telling an unemployed or underemployed candidate this is even tougher. If the candidate went through an arduous interview process, this is downright hard.

But of course, it has to be done, and it’s done every day.

In my work, if someone is interviewed – at any stage in the process – they get a phone call from me. They spent the time to interview; the least I can do is to call them. If I can’t reach them, they get an email. For anyone who simply applied and didn’t interview, they get an email.

All applicants and candidates get a response. They deserve that much – and – today, it’s not common. It shows class, grace, and that you care about people. It speaks volumes about the organization’s values.

Typically, the script will go something like this:

“Hello (name), this is (name), and I’m calling to update you on the search for (position title). I know that you invested a lot of time in this process, and I’m calling (or writing) to let you know that we’ve (hired or decided to proceed with other candidates).

I thank you for your time and hope that you will consider us in the future should we have another position available for which you’re qualified. We encourage you to apply again at that time.” (Unless, for some reason, you don’t want them to, in which case, just leave this out).

The same script can be used in person or by email. Less is often more in this case. The person will usually be disappointed, and they don’t really hear much beyond “you didn’t get the job,” or “you won’t be proceeding in the process.”

Some organizations give reasons; some don’t. Giving reasons can lead to liability, so generally, I err on the side of not giving them.

Vanessa Phan

Vanessa Phan

Managing Consultant for HR, Cardinal Education

Express gratitude for the interest in applying and always end on a positive note

Nobody wants to deliver bad news, so perhaps the most dreadful task of a hiring manager is to inform an applicant that he/she didn’t get the job. It is tempting to just let it be and not say anything about it.

However, apart from it being unprofessional, it could lead to bad reviews about the company and deter other qualified candidates from applying. Companies with good practices should actually include this as part of the hiring process cycle.

Take the time to reach out, either via email or a personal phone call to deliver the dreaded news. However unappealing it may sound, it is the best and kindest thing to do rather than keep the other person in the dark.

Above anything else, be honest, but not brutally so.

Express gratitude for the interest in applying and always end on a positive note to preserve the dignity of the applicant. Do not forget to put some encouraging and motivating words.

Whether you decide to deliver the news using email, phone, or video to communicate, remember to:

  • Deliver the information once you have made the final decision.
  • Express your gratitude.
  • Show empathy and be mindful of your language.
  • Provide closure.
  • If you feel that there could be opportunities for the applicant in the near future, then provide this feedback and encourage him/her to keep in touch.

Here is an example of an email when delivering the news:

“Hi, Alex,

I hope you are doing well.

This is Alicia of ABC Enterprises.

Thank you so much for applying as an Administrative Assistant. I appreciate all the time and effort that you put into the whole application process. I really enjoyed our conversation during the interview. Your resume is really impressive. We would have loved to have you work with us; however, now might not be the perfect time.

Good luck, and I wish you all the best in your career.”

Magda Zurawska

Magda Zurawska

HR Specialist, ResumeLab

It’s always appreciated when the bad news is delivered politely

Sometimes there can only be one winner. This certainly holds true for any role where many candidates apply, but only one can get the role.

In such cases, the HR department needs to inform the finalists that someone else was chosen.

While certainly not mandatory, it’s always appreciated when the bad news is delivered politely. At the same time, there is no need to be apologetic. It’s implicitly understood that only cause you made it far, there is no guarantee that you’ll land the gig.

With that in mind, here is a sample email to let an applicant know that they were not selected:

“Hello (first name of the applicant),

We’re reaching out to you to inform you that after careful consideration and much deliberation, the team decided to choose another candidate.

The decision was difficult, as your application and credentials were very impressive.

Ultimately, it came down to the other applicant having more relevant experience/technical know-how/being a better cultural fit (i.e., the top reason why the applicant was not chosen).

Still, we’re confident that with your accomplishments, it’s just a matter of time before you receive an offer. In the meantime, thank you very much for applying. Take care, and best of luck in your future endeavors.

Name of the HR representative”

Sue Andrews

Sue Andrews

HR & Business Consultant, KIS Finance

Don’t delay in letting the candidate know

No one likes telling a candidate that they’ve not got the job, but once you’ve made your hiring decision, it’s always best to get on with it and inform the other applicants.

There’s nothing more disheartening for candidates than being left waiting for a response and gives the impression that the company really doesn’t care about their welfare. And that’s not a reputation that you want.

Don’t just stick to the template

Whether you’re telling the candidate in person, by email, or over the phone, simply sticking to a set script can come across as cold and disinterested. This can be very disheartening, especially if they have had a number of rejections.

Although you’ll have a broad script to follow, do make sure you personalize what you say to the individual. Always try to have something positive to say about their application and have some relevant feedback that can help them improve their chances for future applications.

Always treat applicants as you would want to be treated

Even if they haven’t got the job, make sure your company stands out to them as one that actually cares about applicants. That way, they are more likely to be left with the impression of a company that values people.

They may also share their experience on online review sites and could easily put off future good candidates if they have had a negative experience.

Honesty really is the best policy

Always be honest as to why the successful candidate got the job. Maybe they had more experience, better qualifications, or simply performed better on the day. It’s always easier to take rejection if you’re presented with clear facts on why someone else was chosen over you, as there’s nothing worse than being left second-guessing why you weren’t successful.

It also helps the candidate know which areas they may be able to work on, such as upgrading their qualifications or taking additional courses to widen their resume.

Make sure you keep control of in-person or phone feedback

If telling the unsuccessful candidate in person or over the phone, have your feedback ready and be prepared to answer questions. But make it clear when the meeting is over as you want to avoid a situation when the candidate tries to argue that they are still right for the job.

Use clear phrases such as whilst there were many positive points to their application, you have chosen another candidate because of their experience/qualifications / stronger interview performance.

Make sure you bring the meeting or call to a clear close and don’t allow the candidate to take control of the discussion.

Don’t give the candidate false hope

It’s much better, to be honest in a supportive way than to encourage someone to think they are still in with a chance. However, if they were just beaten into second place by a stronger candidate but were otherwise a good applicant, then do leave the door open and encourage them to apply again.

Consider providing written feedback

If you’ve told them the outcome on the phone or in person, it’s still a good idea to follow up briefly in writing to clarify the key points of the discussion and your feedback.

That way, you have a clear record of your discussion, which can be important if there was ever a claim that the decision was made on discriminatory grounds.

Stuart McGill

Stuart McGill

Specialist IT Recruitment Consultant, Adria Solutions

It’s best to keep the conversation short, to the point, and avoid small talk

When telling an applicant they didn’t get the job, most recruiters will start by thanking them for applying to the role and for their time. Then, they will share the bad news, this is, that a decision has been made and another candidate has been successful.

Our team always takes the opportunity to give candidates some useful interview feedback.

  • Was there something they could have done better?
  • Did they do a perfect interview, but they don’t have enough experience or lack a particular skill that another candidate has?

It’s a good idea to finish the email or the conversation encouraging the candidate to stay positive and to continue applying for future vacancies and sending your best wishes.

Dependent on the candidate and their personality, I might look at the sandwich method of delivering bad news. It always seems to soften the blow, particularly when a candidate was really excited about a role.

An example would be as follow:

“You have some really desirable skills in the current market, XYZ Company has found a candidate that has more experience with the specific project they are working on, so I am afraid that they won’t be progressing your application on this occasion.

However, I’m working with a number of companies looking for candidates with your experience, so I’m sure that with one of the following opportunities, we can find something that will be a great fit for you.”

The process is very similar via email, in person, or over the phone and should happen as soon as the hiring decision has been made. When you are sharing the news that they didn’t get the job over the phone or in person, it’s best to keep the conversation short, to the point, and avoid small talk.

What happens when a candidate writes back with questions? Just avoid getting involved in a back and forth email exchange, which is time-consuming for candidates and recruiters, and try to answer any questions in a concise way.

Linda Pophal, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Linda Pophal

Owner and Consultant, Strategic Communications, LLC

“We are sorry to inform you that you were not selected for this position.”

Many organizations fail to realize and align their product/service and employer brands. Corporate brands are impacted by the entire range of touchpoints or interactions that consumers have with a brand, including the job application process.

Applicants that have a less than stellar experience during the application process will come away with a less than stellar impression of the brand. That can lead to negative word of mouth, which, over time, can erode the brand – even if the product/service is exceptional!

For this reason, it’s very important to ensure that the process of letting applicants know they have not been selected is handled in a positive, appropriate and respectful manner. However the information is delivered – by phone, via email, or letter, it’s important that the response is:

  • Prompt – let applicants know when they can expect to hear your decision and stick with the timeline you provided.
  • To the point“We are sorry to inform you that you were not selected for this position.”
  • Put into perspective“We received a number of very highly qualified applicants for this position.”
  • Honest. If you plan to keep the candidate’s application on hand for potential future roles, or you would like them to apply for future positions, by all means, tell them. If you don’t, though, don’t raise false expectations.

Jodi Brandstetter, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Jodi Brandstetter

Chief Talent Strategies, Lean Effective Talent Strategies

Declining a candidate can be one of the hardest pieces of a Recruiter’s role. Most of the time, the decision is made by someone else, and the Recruiter is the messenger.

When rejecting a candidate, there are five key points to focus on:

  1. Start with the rejection. Do not make the candidate wait to the end to hear that they are not moving forward or receiving an offer. Think of it as tearing a band-aid off.
  2. Provide feedback: If you have any feedback, please provide that to the candidate. If s/he asks for feedback and you do not have anything, let them know that. You can also provide interview tips if you do not have feedback from the hiring manager.
  3. Be personal: If you enjoyed meeting them, tell them. If you are open to helping them find another opportunity, tell them.
  4. Automate emails sucks: Most automated email content is horrible. Candidates can tell that it is automated and that you did not create it yourself. If you must use an automated message, have a copywriter write it.
  5. Ask for feedback: Getting feedback from a candidate who has been rejected will help you with the full interview experience.

Darren Nix

Darren Nix

Founder, Steadily Landlord Insurance

Working in the startup landscape has required me to search for talent across the United States. Apart from the talent acquisition process is letting people that they didn’t make the cut.

The interviewer should let them know

The best way to approach this is if you did the interview, then it’s your responsibility to tell them that they did not get the job. This shows the interviewee that you respect them and valued their time.

It may be that you end up hiring them down the road, so you want them to leave with a professional opinion of your company. They may not have been a good fit at that moment, but you may need their skillset in the future.

Choose an appropriate method of communication

Depending on the scale of interviews made, try to let the interviewee know in a face-to-face manner. Zoom is a great way to do this.

The “let go” should be more of a conversation than a formal letter in the mail or an automated email sent out to everybody that didn’t make the cut. Obviously, if your company had many interviews, you will have to adjust and find a more efficient way.

Calling by phone is the next best option to a Face to Face meeting. If you are just sending them an email, then personalize it.

Give a clear reason

When you let them know, give a clear and justified reason why they didn’t make the cut. Instead of saying, “You are not the right fit for our team,” try telling them:

  • What requirements they did not have
  • Why they are not a good fit

People are your greatest asset; giving them feedback will help them work on the right skills. You might end up hiring them down the road if they develop the appropriate skills.

Be diplomatic

This is perhaps one of the most important things to consider. Let them know that it is not a personal reason that they didn’t make it and that it is just business.

It isn’t an easy process for both sides, so it is up to you to control the situation professionally in order not to upset them.

Igor Avidon

Igor Avidon

Founder, Avidon Marketing Group

When telling someone they did not get the job, you need to keep a few things in mind. Firstly it is important to thank them. Whether it is on the phone or by email, thank the candidate for applying. Keep it short and to the point. You do not need to make small talk.

Mention the strengths of the candidate but also tell them about how another candidate had a higher-level skill that was required.

Lastly, encourage them to apply to other positions in the future. If the candidate was good, you could let them know that they will be kept in mind for any similar positions in the future.

How to tell on the phone:

  • Telling candidate on the phone that they did not get accepted for the job seems more professional. Call them during business hours and not at the time you think it will be inappropriate.
  • Do not drag the conversation or make small talk. Try to keep the conversation under 5 mins. Do not ask personal questions. Start by introducing yourself and the company for which they interviewed. Thank them for coming in for the interview.
  • Get to the point right away. Politely tell them that although the candidate had the level of experience, another candidate had a higher education level that they were looking for, and therefore, they have offered the position to him.
  • Encourage them to apply to other job positions for your company.

How to tell in-person:

  • Invite them during business hours.
  • Thank them for coming and meeting you.
  • Same as for phone, do not drag the conversation and make sure to keep it short and to the point.
  • Politely tell them that although the candidate had the level of experience, another candidate had a higher education level that they were looking for, and therefore, they have offered the position to him.
  • If they try to argue and ask for a second interview, don’t start a point-by-point discussion of what the candidate could have done right. Politely disengage by saying that you are sure you will find the right job.
  • Ask them to join your social media page and look out for more job openings.
  • Encourage them to apply to other job positions for your company.

How to tell in email:

  • Email the candidate as soon as you have hired someone else. This will stop the candidates from developing false hopes and will help them to look for another job.
  • Write an email that is no longer the 3 to 4 sentences. Make the message brief.
  • Start with the candidate’s name. Thank them for applying to the (position).
  • Again politely tell them that although the candidate had the level of experience, another candidate had a higher education level that they were looking for, and therefore, they have offered the position to him.
  • Wish them good luck in their career. Sign your name at the bottom of the email.

Davis Nguyen

Davis Nguyen

Founder, My Consulting Offer

We help them feel great and confident

Our goals when we decide not to hire someone are:

  • Leave them feeling great for having applied even if they didn’t get the job. We do this because we want people to have a good impression of us, and who knows if, in the future, we have a role that would fit them or they might refer someone who might be a good fit for a role. If they have a bad experience, then they aren’t likely to apply again or refer others.
  • We do it quickly. If someone is a good candidate, they likely are looking at other opportunities. We don’t want them to lose out because they are waiting for us.
  • Give them confidence. Being rejected is hard (especially in a job hunt), so we remind them that this rejection isn’t the end. If they were a great candidate, we also let them know that.

Here is a template we email out when someone doesn’t get the role:

Hi [name],

Thank you for taking the time to apply with us and getting to know us.

Our team decided to move on with other candidates, but we really enjoyed getting to know you and your work, so if you are interested, I’d like to keep your application so when another position opens that we think you would be a good fit for, we’d like to reach out and ask you if you are interested.

And if another lucky company has already stolen you from us by that time, we totally understand.

Thanks for getting to know us, and we hope to see you down the road if you are interested in staying in touch.

Davis Nguyen

Alina Clark

Alina Clark

Co-Founder & Marketing Director, CocoDoc

Contrary to popular opinion, sending a rejection letter isn’t an easy thing to do for any employer. The fact that you have to let go of great applicants due to a high number of applicants makes it even more difficult.

I certainly prefer telling people that they didn’t get the job through email. Compared to phone or in-person conversions, emails are easier to pull off. Besides, they also achieve the intended result without exerting too much pressure on my conscience.

How then do you craft a good email, for that matter?

Use a subject line that relates to the interview

I often go with a subject that reflects the interview rather than the job. A subject line like “Your Recent Interview For X Position” lets the recipient know what the email is about without letting go of the information contained in the email content.

Refer them by name

Referring to an applicant by their name shows that you considered their application. It also shows that you know them.

Thank them for the application

Attending an interview should be considered as a service. They helped you achieve the results you wanted. Thanking them should be the first thing on your mind when writing such an email

Tell them why their application couldn’t go through

More often, the large number of applicants means that the company can only go with the most qualified applicant. I often find it easy to inform them about the specific number of applications received, what the job wanted, and why we had to let them go.

Giving them some insights on their conduct during the interview or application process also helps them improve.

Invite them to apply in future

An end to an application or hiring process should not imply a severing of the relationship that the applicant and the company have developed. Usually, I always invite the applicants who didn’t get the job to follow our social media accounts for updates on future jobs.

Signing off with your company signature is the final thing

In general, such emails should be written with a lot of care and personalization. The generalized email template for rejection letters shouldn’t even be a thing.

Mark Whitfield

Mark Whitfield

Business Development Director, Wurkplace Limited

It is always best to phone the candidate directly to let them know the outcome

It is never easy letting people down, but on the other hand, you need to put your business first, and by doing that, you need to hire those best suited to the role. The way you tell someone they did not get the job is more important than you may initially think.

It is always best to phone the candidate directly to let them know the outcome. This can maintain the company’s reputation and ethos.

This is important as the candidate has put time and effort into their application and interview, and in some cases, they may have had to go through multiple stages, so by letting them know directly, it can maintain relationships as the candidate feels respected.

If possible, it is good practice to give the candidate a brief explanation as to why they did not get the role.

This can benefit the candidate in their search for a job and take the interview as a positive and not a waste of time as it can be a learning curve for them along with an interview experience. This will ease the process of letting them know the outcome, and it may also improve the company’s reputation as they are likely to tell friends or family.

Every candidate deserves a response. If it is not possible to phone every candidate personally, for example, there have been many interviews; then it is still necessary to email them or write to them in the post. However, take caution when adopting these methods as it can come across as impersonal.

Informing those who have been unsuccessful means that they are likely to reapply for a role. This can be beneficial as they may be more suited to a future role, and you don’t want to lose out on an opportunity to have that set of skills or knowledge.

Step by step guide:

  • Thank them for their time and acknowledge their strengths
  • Give them the outcome and address any improvements they can make
  • Ask if they would like their CV to be kept on file. If not, ensure them it will be deleted in relation to GDPR regulations
  • Wish them well for the future

Remember: Even when you are polite and professional, some people may still retaliate and become hostile.

It is important to keep a professional head and ensure that you are representing the company the way you should be. It is not uncommon to face this, so don’t take it personally.

Sai Blackbyrn

Sai Blackbyrn

CEO, Coach Foundation

The job market is tough, that’s not a secret, but as an organization, I feel that it’s our responsibility to inform candidates when they don’t get a job.

This has two major benefits:

  • It lets the candidate move on and pursue other job applications
  • It shows that your company actually cares enough to send out an email or make a phone call – after all, goodwill is priceless in this day and age.

Here’s how we let our unsuccessful candidates know that they didn’t get the job:

Thank them and let them know we’re moving in another direction

Telling someone that they’ve not been selected isn’t easy at all. After all, they spent hours prepping, researching, and applying. Therefore, you should, first of all, thank them for their time and consideration and then get to the point. Don’t beat around the bush and immediately let them know that you’re going in another direction. This saves your time as well as the candidate’s time.

Highlight the strong points of the candidate and what they could possibly work on improving

While interviewing, make a list of a candidate’s strong and weak points and then use that list to inform the unsuccessful candidates of what the company deemed worthy and what they should focus on more for the future.

For example, if you really liked the candidate’s confidence or previous experience, but think that they need a bit more technical expertise, then let them know about that. This makes the candidate feel that you took the time to research them and breed a positive reputation for you.

Inform them of any other job openings at the company

If the candidate wasn’t fit for a certain job role, but you think that they would be competitive for another one, let them know. This way, you’re diversifying your candidate pool with talent but also reassuring the individual that they can apply to other jobs.

Finally, here’s an example of an email that we sent out to an unsuccessful candidate:

Dear Alex,

We would like to thank you for taking out the time to apply and interview for the role of Regional Brand Manager. While we appreciated your experience relating to Social Media Marketing, unfortunately, we have chosen to go in another direction.

While we are pursuing other candidates, we would encourage you to take a look at the following job postings that we believe you might be a better fit for. We wish you the best of luck in your job search.

Best regards.

Catherine Cooke

Catherine Cooke

Founder, Upskillwise

If you’re going to use a script, you need to make sure it’s not too clinical

Setting up a rejection script can be very useful. People take rejection in many different ways, so it helps to have a standardized script to follow. Using a script can help keep you on point when talking to an applicant.

But if you are going to use a script, you need to make sure it’s not too clinical.

Getting told “no” hurts enough, to begin with, and if someone feels like they’re speaking with a calculator, they’re going to feel even worse. Rejection scripts should only be templates with placeholders. If you’re going to use one, make sure to include personal details in it.

Writing a script is easy; you can organize them in any way you want to make them fit with your company culture. But there are some pieces of information that need to be included in every script.

  • Begin by thanking the applicant. It takes courage to put yourself forward for an interview, and you want to make them feel appreciated.
  • Give them the reason. Once you’ve explained that they haven’t got the job, you should explain why. What were the strengths of the other candidate? What could this candidate do to improve their chances in the future?

If you provide an applicant with constructive advice, they’ll get more out of the interaction.

  • Lastly, try and keep it short. You’ve led by telling them that they’ve been unsuccessful, so they won’t want to hang on the line for long. Let the applicant down easy, and then let them get on with their day.

If you keep your interaction professional, sympathetic, and short, the blow of rejection will be much softer.

Alexander Sanchez de la Cerda

Alexander Sanchez de la Cerda

Founder and Director, Assist-o

Notifying a candidate over the phone

If you decide to notify a candidate that they didn’t get the job over the phone, make sure you’re calling during the week and normal business hours. This is important because you shouldn’t interfere with any personal events they have lined up for the day.

Once you get them on the phone, get straight to the point. There is no reason to make small talk and take up their free time.

You should make it clear that the company decided to give the job offer to another candidate and state the reasons why. Now, a good rule of thumb would be mentioning why the candidate was a better match and what tipped the scales in their favor, but don’t get into too much detail. Focusing on the skills that you thought were essential for the job will do the trick.

Since phone calls are a two-way street, be prepared that some candidates might want to make you change your mind and have another interview. If this happens, it’s crucial to stick to your decision and thank them for their application while emphasizing that a lot of qualified candidates applied.

This will prevent you from getting into a discussion and help you end the conversation on good terms.

To end the phone call, you can encourage strong candidates to apply again in the future and instruct them to the channels you usually use to announce job openings. Another option is to simply ask the candidate if they want you to keep their CV on file in case another position that suits their qualifications comes up.

That way, you can contact them and spare them the hassle of applying with you again.

Notifying a candidate over email

In case you interviewed a lot of candidates, notifying them via email might be a less time-consuming option. As with any email, you need to make sure your subject line is clear and summarizes the contents of the email.

Since you’re notifying multiple candidates at the same time, you can’t go into too much detail in your first email. This means that you should keep it short and to the point, stating that the company decided to offer the job to another candidate and that they can contact you if they would like specific feedback about their application or interviews.

If you want, you can notify them that their CV will be kept on file unless they state otherwise and that you may contact them for future opportunities. Don’t forget to thank them for their time and effort and wish them the best of luck in their future careers.

Nate Tsang

Nate Tsang

Founder and CEO, WallStreetZen

Use the sandwich approach

The best way to tell someone they didn’t get the job is by using the sandwich approach. Whether you want to send an email, tell it in person, or over the phone, it works really well and can help encourage them to try their luck again.

This is a simple approach.

  • First, open your statement with positive feedback—something that you like about them during the interview.
  • Next, inform them that you need to hire someone else for the position, and then close it with another encouraging feedback.

Below is an example script:

Hi (Name),

Thank you for taking the time to apply for the position. We interviewed many people for the position, and we find you as one of the most qualified ones for the position. We were impressed by your previous experiences and how well you manage your team. However, we have found another person who, at this time, was a more appropriate fit for our company. We believe that your expertise and experience will be a great fit for another company. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

All the best,

John Berry

John Berry

CEO and Managing Partner, Berry Law

We have to deal with letting prospects know they did not receive a position often. Working at a law firm can be a coveted position for many new law grads and other lawyers looking to find a new firm, whether as a paralegal or a junior or senior associate.

That said, we handle the process thoroughly and consider many factors, mainly depending on the level of their role.

With a candidate looking to be a paralegal, I believe a simple email response after the interview would be appropriate. The job is more abundant than the lawyer role, and the letdown is not as personal.

However, when it comes to practicing attorneys, I believe a phone call allowing for a genuine conversation is needed.

It’s good etiquette and shows compassion, consideration and can answer any follow-up questions the prospect may have. In the end, you should treat the other as you would want to be treated. People are not indispensable, and finding the right talent is crucial to success.

Mikaela Kiner

Mikaela Kiner

Founder and CEO, Reverb

Ask in advance whether they prefer an email or phone call

If a candidate has invested the time and energy to interview with your company live (or over Zoom), I’m a firm believer that you owe them a personal response. One best practice is to ask in advance whether they prefer an email or phone call. If they request an email, then honor their wishes.

In general, I find it much kinder to phone the person and tell them both the outcome and also the reason behind the decision.

Sometimes there’s nothing they could have done differently. Other times, maybe you can give them feedback or a tip that will help them land the next job they apply for.

Often there are several well-qualified candidates to choose from, which means you want to maintain a close relationship even with the candidates you’re turning down. They could easily be your next hire, peer, or customer.

Professional communities are small, so a candidate’s experience and opinion of your company carry weight beyond the immediate job opportunity. If you put yourself in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to be contacted with feedback if you weren’t chosen?

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson

CEO, Development Academy

Inform them through email

If you are using the medium of email to reject the candidates, you should use this kind of job rejection email to create and maintain a good relationship with applicants.

Email template for candidate rejection:

Email Subject Line: Your application to XYZ Organization

Mr. Carlton,

Thank you for your interest in working at XYZ Organization as a salesperson. I’m writing to inform you that we’ve decided to move forward with a different candidate at this time.

Your abilities and accomplishments, particularly your two Master’s degrees in law and business administration, wowed me. I believe you’d be a terrific fit for our organization in any future openings, and I’d be pleased to contact you again if necessary.

I wish you the best of luck in your job quest.

Best regards,
Ben Richardson
Director at Development Academy

Sturdy McKee

Sturdy McKee

Business Coach and Advisor, SturdyCoaching

Don’t ghost your applicants

This is a hugely important step that is so often skipped. Many times the people applying for jobs with your company are fans and live in your community. Ghosting them or not treating them with respect and consideration can harm your brand.

To tell someone they did not get the job, just think about how you would like to receive the news. You can send via email, call them, or even send via snail mail.

This is exactly what I sent to applicants for my Virtual Assistant position. I received thank you’s in response.

“Thank you very much for applying for my VA position.

I regret to inform you that you were not selected for this position. I have received over 200 applications for the position, so the competition was very steep.

Best of luck in your search and future endeavors.


Use your own voice. Modify the message to fit your circumstances. But whatever you do, don’t ghost your applicants.

Dorota Lysienia

Dorota Lysienia

Community Manager, LiveCareer

Provide valuable feedback

If a candidate has already gone through many stages of your recruitment process, it’s your job as an employer to provide feedback that brings value. It’s simply a fair thing to give applicants some information on their performance and help them improve their job-hunting skills.

Besides that, such behavior creates a positive association with your company.

It encourages candidates to apply for your future openings or recommend you as an employer to their family and friends. Of course, you can say, “we’ve chosen a more qualified candidate,” but that won’t bring much value.

If you want to set yourself apart from other employers, give specific examples of things that candidates performed well on and areas that could be improved to increase their chances when applying for similar positions in the future.

In your email, you can frame it in the following way:

Dear (candidate name),

Thank you for your interest in the [job title] position at [company name]. We appreciate your engagement during the whole recruitment process and would like to thank you for visiting our office and getting to know our team. Unfortunately, this time we’ve decided to choose another candidate with more digital marketing experience.

Our team was impressed by the level of your analytical skills shown during the interview. Your Excel knowledge sets you apart and is an asset that you can be proud of. However, as this role requires a deep understanding of SEO and content marketing tools, we’ve decided to hire a candidate with more experience in that field.

Please let us know if you have any questions or require additional feedback.

Thank you again, and good luck with your job search.

(Recruiter name)

This simple email shows respect towards your applicant and can help to establish meaningful relationships for the future.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What if the applicant becomes upset or angry during the rejection process?

It is not uncommon for applicants to feel disappointed, frustrated, or angry when they receive the news that they did not get the job. As a recruiter or representative of HR, it is crucial to remain calm and professional even if the applicant becomes emotional or angry.

Here are some tips for handling difficult situations:
– Acknowledge the applicant’s feelings and validate their experience.
– Listen actively and show empathy.
– Stay calm and avoid becoming defensive or argumentative.
– Focus on the key message that the candidate was not selected for the job but offer to provide feedback and support.
– If the situation becomes unmanageable, end the conversation and suggest the candidate contact HR for further assistance.

What happens if the applicant requests a second chance or a reevaluation of their application?

It is important that the hiring process be consistent and fair. Therefore, it may not be appropriate to reconsider an applicant who has already been rejected.

However, if the applicant has new information or qualifications that were not previously considered, it may be appropriate to reconsider their application. In such case, you can consider the following:

– Determine if there is new information that would warrant reconsideration.
– Communicate clearly and respectfully about the company’s hiring policies and procedures.
– Remain objective and consistent in the decision-making process.
– Consider providing feedback or suggestions to the applicant on improving their qualifications for future job opportunities.

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