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How To Write A Job Rejection Letter

Whether you are a small business owner or a large corporation, ensuring that every candidate gets a response within a few days of their interview is essential.

Rejection letters or emails are a necessary part of the recruitment process. They should be written professionally and courteously with, ideally, some personal detail and perhaps tips for the future. This article contains information on what to include and samples of short and detailed rejection emails or letters.

Example of a Short Rejection Email

Dear [ Applicant’s Name],
Thank you for your interest in the role of [Position Name].

Unfortunately, your application has been unsuccessful at this time.

We appreciate the time and effort you placed into your application and enjoyed meeting you.

[ Your Name ]

Above is the simplest form of a job rejection letter. But read on to improve your process:

Unfortunately, not everyone you interview during recruitment will be right for your business. For whatever reason, there will always be cases where the applicant just isn't right. Time is valuable in business, but there is a range of reasons why you should respond to candidates with a simple rejection letter. Here's our guide to rejecting applicants and a sample letter for you to use for your candidates.

Click the link to see an example of a Longer Rejection Letter 

Why is it worth writing a rejection letter?

Rejected applicants should still have a good opinion of your business:

Even if a candidate doesn't meet your requirements, it's important to treat them with respect to avoid them spreading negative comments about your company. In a similar vein of thought to customer service interactions, a bad experience is far more likely to be shared than a good one.

It can save you time:

Candidates who have invested time in a job vacancy will often reach out to employers who they have not heard back from. A simple interview rejection letter can save valuable time by letting candidates know where they stand.

Candidates may be right in the future:

Often when an applicant isn't suitable for a current position, they could be ideal for another role presently or in the future. This is particularly important in specialist fields, as these industries are small worlds where you will likely interact with the same person again.

Rejection letters are easy to write:

A simple response can be written and posted within minutes, and candidates are usually satisfied with one simple, constructive piece of feedback that they can take into the future.

View a full job rejection letter sample in your browser here.

Things to consider:

All applicants want from a rejection letter is a piece of constructive criticism that will help them in job applications for the future. When interviewing a candidate or reading through an application, it can be good practice to already think of that one piece of constructive criticism you can give if you have decided they are unsuitable for the position.

There will be occasions when you want to put more time and effort into writing a rejection letter, which is to be expected. Examples of these times can be:

  • An applicant where you have a personal relationship already – Often it can be worth going into a bit more detail why they are not suitable for a position with candidates who you deal with regularly. In these cases, a phone call can often be more appropriate.
  • Lengthy recruitment processes – For a vacancy with a series of rounds, e.g. first, second and third interviews, it is usually worth writing a more personal rejection letter. If a candidate has passed a series of rounds it will probably be someone you could consider in the future!
  • Someone who has obviously invested a lot of effort – Candidates who have travelled a long distance or have had to invest a lot of time into an application should deserve a more detailed rejection letter than someone who has failed on the first round due to a psychometric test. This is common sense but goes back to the idea that you want to give people who could talk about your business a good experience, even if they have been rejected.

Should a Rejection be a Letter, email, or phone call?

In this day and age, the majority of rejection letters are sent through email. After all, over 90% of job applications are sent through a website or email anyway! 

However, usually, in particularly formal cases, there can be occasions where a letter can be sent through post to an applicant's address. This can happen when an application has to be sent through a letter in the first place.
A phone call is most suitable for a candidate who has invested a lot of effort into the recruitment process. The same best practices apply to rejection phone calls, where it's important to have at least one piece of constructive criticism in mind and to thank the applicant for the time they have spent getting to know your business. Make sure to end the call positively and field any questions they might have about where they went wrong.

What's the best timing for sending a rejection letter?

A common misconception with sending rejection letters is that you must wait a given period after the application or interview to treat the candidate respectfully. Employers often think that if they send a rejection too quickly, candidates will feel down that they haven't had sufficient consideration. 

However, in most cases, you will know relatively quickly whether a candidate is a good fit or not for the position. During these times, you will have an immediate reason why they don't fit the job, e.g., failing a required skills test, not having a relevant qualification, or having too little or even too much experience. As long as you pass this reason over to the candidate, there's no reason why you can't send the rejection letter even the day after an interview or application. 
There will be cases where you need to discuss with your colleagues or deliberate over a candidate, and this process can be as long as it needs to be. For particularly long decision-making periods, it can be a good idea to send a simple response to candidates to thank them for their time and to ensure them you will get back to them after you have made a decision.

Rejecting an internal candidate

For many vacancies, the position will be advertised both internally and externally for applications. Rejecting a candidate who is already part of your business can be a special case, as it's important to treat them with as much respect as possible to make sure they are still happy in their current position. Often it can be worth following up a letter with a quick one-to-one meeting to ensure them they are still valued in your organisation. Tell them why they were unsuitable for the vacancy and how you will help them with their personal development in the future.

Rejecting a candidate based on 'cultural fit'

'Cultural fit' in recruitment can be a controversial area, as it often comes across as an employer just picking an excuse out of the bag if they can't put their finger on why someone isn't right. Despite this, recruiting someone who is going to fit into your organisation and get on with people is a crucial element of the job and shouldn't be underestimated. When rejecting a candidate based on a personal element, it's important to be careful in how you say or write it, as you can open yourself up to discrimination claims if you're not careful. 
When scrutinising candidates based on cultural fit, our best advice is to refer back to your organisation's values and think carefully about how you say why they wouldn't fit. Often there will be other reasons for rejection, and it might just be easier to state something other than 'cultural fit'.
Finally, if you are recruiting and you feel you are struggling to find the right fit for a vacancy, get in touch with Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment.

Example of a Longer Rejection Letter


Dear [candidate],

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to reach out to thank you for applying for the [position] at [company] and for taking the time to interview with us. Your enthusiasm and passion for the role were evident during the interview process, and we appreciate your effort in preparing for the interview.

Unfortunately, after careful consideration, we have decided to move forward with another candidate for the position. While we were impressed with your skills and experience, we ultimately felt that the other candidate was a better fit for the role and our team.

We understand that receiving a rejection can be disappointing, and we want to assure you that this decision was not made lightly. In addition to evaluating your skills and experience, we also considered your fit with the team and your potential for success in the role.

Although we will not be moving forward with your application now, we encourage you to continue applying for positions at [company] in the future. If you would like, we would be happy to provide feedback on your application to help you in your job search. 

Again, we appreciate your interest in [company] and your time and effort in applying for the position.

We wish you the best of luck in your job search.

Kind regards,

[Your name]


Date published: 24th November 2022

Rob Scott, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, Author Photo

About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.
Lucy Burrows, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment

About the author

Lucy Burrows

Lucy is a diligent and stealthily competitive recruiter passionate about delivering clients’ expectations and helping candidates perform their best in interviews.  She thrives on ensuring that the role is suitable for every candidate and hearing about the successes of her placements.  Her content is straightforward, easy-to-read advice focused on first interview tips.

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