How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job

Last Updated on July 31, 2022 by Harry Urschel

As human beings, one of the most challenging tasks we face is delivering bad news. As a hiring manager, one of the more tricky messages is telling a candidate they did not get the job.

Communication with the candidate pool forms the backbone of effective hiring practice among all the actions part of the hiring process. It also plays a vital role in maintaining its brand and ensuring the candidate does not hold on to false hope.

Delivering good news and conveying terrible information is a part of the process that should be respected and paid accordingly.

Why Is It Important to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job?


Communicating job rejection is paramount to ensure that the job candidates know their application status. Many roles and job applications demand a relatively massive investment of time and effort on the candidate’s part.

It involves filling in education details, writing a cover letter, mentioning detailed work experience, etc. It can take a few hours to a few days, depending on the type of role.

When their job application is finally submitted, they await an update from the hiring team on whether their application is being considered for the interview or rejected.

There is no clarity without any update from the hiring team, and the candidate’s anxiety keeps building up.

This anxiety is directly proportional to how the candidate views the company. If they are made to wait weeks or months for an update, they will most likely develop a negative outlook toward the employer brand and propagate that to their other prospective applicants in their circle.

Whereas if their application submission is acknowledged via a simple E-mail, and then another E-mail with updated application status arrives within a week, they are most likely to positively view the company’s reputation, even if they are rejected.

How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job?


Delivering any rejection is not easy, but it is a learnable skill unique to the situation. Thankfully, our situation here is quite clear- A qualified candidate applied for a job title but did not make the cut and now needs to be updated. Here are a few things to keep in mind while breaking the bad news:

1. Thank them for their time and interest in the position

Being kind and courteous is the best way to start things off positively. This message establishes gratitude and acknowledges the amount of time and effort invested in the rejected candidates’ applications.

2. Let them know that someone else was more qualified for the job

Being honest is one of the most important aspects of any professional communication scenario. Don’t beat around the bush trying to hide the reason behind rejection.

The talent pool applying to any job position knows the other candidates vouching for the same role. Clearly stating that you, as the employer, have decided to move forward with other qualified candidates will be best.

If there are any other reasons behind the rejection of a particular candidate, it needs to be communicated politely to the rejected candidate.

3. Offer to provide feedback if they would like it

Not every applicant who is part of the job search will get the job. However, they can all learn from the process if they are open to it.

You can offer to provide constructive feedback on the candidate’s application so that they may better themselves for the job search and end up bagging a role, even if it’s not with you.

This would go a long way in painting a positive note and outlook for your employer’s brand. It will indirectly ensure that the next job openings you post will receive strong candidates who don’t mind investing their time and effort into the application, as they know they will receive feedback.

4. Mention the strengths of the other candidate

All unsuccessful candidates will feel dejected while going through their rejection emails. It is therefore critical to offer a silver lining within the bad news.

You can mention the strengths of the other candidates so that the rejected candidate can have a generic idea of where they might have been lacking and come out as one of the strong candidates next time.

However, this one is a hit-or-miss as not everyone appreciates constructive feedback, so please tailor this to the kind of job role a candidate is applying for. For example, you can give input for junior positions but avoid it for V.P or Executive level applicants.

5. Wish them luck in their future endeavors

Greetings and Goodbyes are essential pillars in any medium of communication. A rejection letter or rejection email would also be helped in a big way by including a polite and well-meaning farewell message, wishing the job applicants the best for the future job openings they apply to.

6. Encourage them to apply again

If an applicant is rejected once, it does not mean they can not clear the recruitment process again. There are also many cases where a candidate is not fit for one role but perfectly qualified for another one.

Keeping such cases in mind, it is always advisable to encourage the rejected candidates to apply again to provide them with a semblance of hope and faith in their abilities despite their failure in clearing the current job opening.

Templates or Examples for How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job:


Delivering the rejection can happen at the beginning of the hiring process or somewhere in the middle. If it is in the beginning, sending a rejection email makes sense.

However, suppose the applicant has already cleared a few rounds but is rejected in the later rounds. In that case, it makes sense to personalize the experience and have a phone call with the rejected candidate to convey the message.

Here are some go-to examples of what a typical rejection email or phone call should look and sound like:

Brief Rejection Email

These templates serve as the briefest and most directed examples of how to tell someone they didn’t get the job. It thanks the candidates for their interest in the position title, informs them of the rejection, and appreciates their investment. It leaves no scope for developing false hopes.

Hi <Candidate Name>,

We have enjoyed getting to know you and appreciate your interest in a career at Microsoft. Unfortunately, we will not be moving forward with your candidacy for the position of Senior Talent Sourcer (Sales Hiring) <Job code> at this time. However, we’d like to encourage you to continue to explore other career opportunities on Microsoft Careers as we continually update openings on a daily basis. We look forward to considering you for different positions at Microsoft!

Thank you,

Microsoft Recruiting

Detailed Acknowledgement Email

This template is one of the best examples of how to acknowledge a successful application. This is typically sent out when a candidate hits the “Submit” button on the job portal.

It mentions the company’s values to the job candidate, clarifies the resume screening stage of the selection process, plugs the company’s social media, and motivates the applicants to explore other positions and stay open for future jobs.

Most importantly, it transitions between all these stages in a careful manner and ensures the candidates do not take the job rejection personally.

Dear <Candidate Name>,

Thank you for your interest in joining FireEye Security, where we combine technology with expertise to continuously improve solutions at a speed and sophistication unmatched in the industry. We have received your application for our Security Researcher opening. A member of our team will review your information and reach out to you if there is interest in moving forward. You may also view the status of your application at any time by clicking the “Access my SmartRecruiters Profile” button below.  

While we are processing your application, we invite you to connect with us on social media to get an inside look at what it’s like to work at FireEye Security and stay informed about opportunities to join our team. Additionally, feel free to download free FireEye software that empowers the security community to fight evil together. 

To view more open positions, sign up for job alerts and more, please return to our careers website. 

Sincerely,

FireEye Security Talent Acquisition

Rejection phone-call

As a recruiter who may have to handle tens or hundreds of applicants per day, it may not always be possible to call up every candidate and have a point-by-point discussion to inform them of their rejection; however, for the ones you do call; It always helps to avoid small talk and speak a bit on the positive remarks while interviewing and screening the non-successful candidate.

Below is an example:

Hi, How are you doing?

Although the panel found your resume impressive, they did not select you for the next round, and we will have to conclude your candidature at this juncture and move forward with other applicants. Please feel free to apply again after <specific time period> so we can entertain your application again.

Since you were one of the good candidates to apply for this role, I would also advise you to check out some other relevant job openings for similar positions and keep an eye on our careers page for future opportunities.

Thank you, and I wish you the best for your future!

Bonus Tips


The information above should prove to be helpful to anyone who has to convey job rejection; here are some bonus tips for hiring managers that should leave a good taste for those who don’t get the job and also help preserve the company’s reputation:

Be Timely

As with any professional setting, punctual communication is appreciated. Whether it comes to delivering rejection letters or informing about a new job opportunity, it always helps to communicate it to the candidates. One should also make sure to send e-mails during normal business hours only.

Any scenario where a candidate writes back to the company asking for an update on their application status is bad for the company’s name and reputation.

Get to the point

Whether it is an acknowledgment email to a hired candidate or a broadcast sent out to multiple job seekers, beating around the bush is a waste of time for both parties.

Candidates expect crisp and clear communication from the company’s talent acquisition teams and company posts. This would encourage strong candidates to bring their best in the interview process and understand that this company prefers getting to business instead of wasting time on small talk.

Keep it brief

As William Shakespeare said – “Brevity is the soul of wit”

This is one of the golden rules of any professional communication practice.

Candidates do not have time to read through five-page e-mails or a job opening with fifty-five bullet points during their job search, so keep it short, sweet, and simple enough to catch their attention and get the message across. Brevity will get the job done quicker than detail-oriented messaging.

Avoid contact outside professional forums

This one is a no-brainer, but many hiring managers fall prey to this as the number of job seekers after job openings keep increasing;

There are bound to be surfers who apply for fun and make it their life’s mission to hassle the talent acquisition team for referrals, questions for the interview process, and much more to get a job offer.

Hence, it becomes critical to establish professional boundaries at such times to preserve your peace of mind and the sanctity of the hiring process.

Conclusion


As the hiring manager of any job openings, the focus on candidate experience is more important with each passing day. Companies worldwide have realized the power of influencing any candidate positively, which holds in their greater employer brand and image.

Therefore it is critical for everyone to know exactly how to tell someone they didn’t get the job and to convey this message by communicating with each candidate politely and leaving them with a positive note.

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