5 Things to Remember When Sending Out Rejections

A recruiter recently asked me an interesting question after a webinar I presented on conducting interviews.  She wanted to know the preferred medium for sending a rejection letter.  Should it be done by email, or with an old fashioned letter through the post?  It’s certainly a great question to consider, as it’s a sensitive subject.  What is the best way to deliver the bad news? 


The most important thing to remember here is the people you interview are human, and regardless of how you choose to let them know, it needs to be done, and done in a timely fashion.  One of the top complaints we hear from job hunters is the lack of common courtesy in letting them know if they’re still in the running for the job they’ve spent all kinds of time, money and nervous energy interviewing for.  Whether you’re an entry level recent graduate, or a seasoned executive, trying to land a great job is stressful.  The last thing anyone wants is to be kept on pins and needles, waiting for some kind of response that, in many cases, never even comes. 


Email is a perfectly acceptable method by which to let someone down, and will save you time and expense.  Regardless of how you send the letter, keep a few things in mind:


1)      Commit to timely follow up by letting your candidates know when you will give them a decision, and stick to it.  Don’t leave them hanging for weeks on end, but also make sure it doesn’t seem like you didn’t take the proper time to evaluate them.  You probably don’t want a courier waiting on their doorstep to drop the bad news when they pull into their driveway.  Whether you mail out rejections or email them, a week or 2 is a good rule of thumb. 

2)      Thank your applicants for coming in.  Interviewing is stressful.  Candidates miss work, spend money on transportation and use up their spare time prepping for your questions.  Let them know you appreciate the effort, and their interest in your company.

3)      Tell them why they didn’t get the position.  A simple “the position has been filled” is plenty. 

4)      Feel free to tell them to apply to future openings, but only if you have a genuine interest.  “We’ll keep your resume on file” sounds great, but no one believes you’ll be frantically searching for their resume next time you have an opening.  If you have a position that will be coming available in the near future, let them know you think they might be a fit, and tell them to keep an eye out for it on your site.

5)      Wish them luck in their search.  A little courtesy goes a long way.  Remember, if they’re interviewing for positions in your industry, you might end up working with them in the future!       


Views: 160

Comment by Valentino Martinez on March 21, 2011 at 12:39pm



Great points about respecting the human element in essentially a bad news sharing situation. 


Another problem is the process of "regretting" and "inviting" in the same time period.  We're so automated these days that I recall hearing about a candidate receiving a rejection email just prior to receiving an invite to come down for an interview.  How does this happen?  Well, resumes in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) are regularly accessed by company recruiters and hiring managers.  The probability that one will regret a candidate just as the other is ramping-up an interview process for the same candidate happens--and the candidate will be appreciative but also confused in the process.


ATS systems allow for "notes" like this candidate was rejected on this date to be seen by other recruiters/hiring managers who come by the same resume, but all too often the "notes" are not read.

Comment by Helena Smith on March 21, 2011 at 1:39pm

Many ATS systems will automatically provide a thank you for applying to this position upon initial receipt.  As the candidate moves on the process (if that is the case), they will get a follow regarding an interview.  The problem comes after the interview, how does the status change in the ATS change?  Sometimes a "Pending Decision" is the status and that may or may not generate an email to the candiate.  Again, depending on the sophistication of the system.

Comment by Michael Stoyanoff on March 21, 2011 at 2:06pm
Don't forget you also have the option of a phone call. I did an article on this subject a few months back (http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/is-common-courtesy-a-...) and the candidates I talked to said that a phone call is the most genuine and preferred method of contact, regardless of if it is good or bad news. I know a lot of companies/recruiters don't always have the time to do so, but if they can, it's a great method as well.

Nice read :)
Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on March 22, 2011 at 9:50am

I like the phone call. Some may not since they may fear to be attacked of why did I not get the job. But if you set it up on your first contact.


1. I will get you feed back fast

2. The feed back may be : good, bad or I need more info

3. If you do not get this job I will see what else we have.


this way they know how you work and they may still be mad but you can ref your first call and the rule you set up..


It goes alot easier

Comment by Mat von Kroeker on March 22, 2011 at 4:32pm
I've found, in IT and Technical recruiting, a candidate is more than times "selected" than they're "rejected".  Each position, department, hiring manager and projects are so diverse--- and can change the reason's why they've chosen a candidate on a dime, aside from the general job description--- I preemptively prepare my candidates for rejection from the very first phone call.   Regardless of how others' procedure is, or "industry standard" there might be when it comes to communicating rejection to candidates--- I adamantly refuse to "sell" a position to a person as if they're the only candidate in the universe suited for the job, and coddle them back to earth when their highness wasn't selected.  We're all adults here-- and I feel candidates appreciate an initial reality check more than being strung along as if the position is already in hand.
Comment by Tim Keene on March 22, 2011 at 4:37pm
I like the idea of a phone call as well, but I know a lot of recruiters prefer not to because of the above reasons.  That said, and again, I think the most important thing to remember is people are human.  For me, its more important that it is done in a timely fashion, and done professionally.  Its a shame that with all the technology we have today to screen people out and siphon them through various hiring systems, we miss the important part of what is essentially a relationship business.


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