How to Write a Rejection Letter (and What to Do if You Receive One)

Should you send a job rejection letter? Notifying an applicant that they didn’t get a job isn’t easy, but it’s an essential part of the interviewing process.

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Not everyone you interview will be right for your business. So how do you let an applicant know they didn't get the job?

Congratulations! You made it to the end of a long hiring process, you’ve found the candidate that meets the requirements of the job description, you sent an offer letter and they’ve accepted — case closed, task completed.

Not quite. Presumably, there are still candidates waiting to hear whether they were selected or not. Now you have the task of informing them that they did not get the job. This is where the rejection letter comes in to play.

How to write a rejection letter

A rejection letter should follow a general format that starts by:

  • Thanking candidates for their time and interest
  • Informs them that they’ve not been selected for the position
  • Offers a brief reason why they were not selected
  • Ends with good wishes for future success

For candidates who you have no interest in ever hiring, that’s all the letter needs to say.

If, however, you’re interested in keeping the lines of communication open to consider the person for other positions down the road, you might want to add more another line or two.

There are several ways you can approach this. One way is to ask if you can keep the candidate’s information on file for future positions. Another option is to ask that the person keep an eye on your website for future positions because you’d like them to apply again.

Finally, you can request the candidate follow up with the hiring manager or HR after a certain amount of time to inquire about positions that might have become available.

It’s important to add these caveats only for candidates you seriously want to consider again. For everyone else short, sweet, and to-the-point is the way to go to avoid an endless stream of inquiries from hopeful people who you have no real interest in hiring.

How to respond to a rejection letter from a candidate

When roles are reversed and the dream candidate rejects the offer, the same principles come into play, just in a different form.

The key, across the board, is to handle the news graciously. It’s a good idea to figure out why the candidate is passing on the offer and if there’s something that needs to be addressed at your company to avoid turning off candidates. Don’t pass up this chance to gather critical feedback about your organization.

If you have the ability to do so, consider providing the candidate with a counteroffer, especially if they passed initially due to salary concerns. Be prepared for negotiations and document the conversations. It’s important that the resulting terms of the new offer are clearly stated for all parties in order to avoid trouble later on.

If, at the end of negotiations, the candidate is still not interested, don’t write the person off. Ask if you can keep their information on file and stay in touch with them in the future. You never know how circumstances might change. In the meantime, move on to the second choice candidate and fill the vacancy to keep the business running smoothly.

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