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Jason AzocarJun 13, 20233 min read

How to Reject Candidates the RIGHT Way (Plus a Free Rejection Note Template!)

We've all experienced it - an interview process where you come across someone amazing, but they're just not the right fit for the role. And now comes the dreaded task of sending that rejection email. It's not easy, but with these steps, you can ensure that the candidate walks away on a positive note. 

The ultimate goal of these best practices is to provide candidates with an exceptional experience, regardless of the outcome. You want them to speak highly about your company and refer others to apply. Rejecting candidates with grace and professionalism can actually drive referrals and keep the door open for future opportunities. When done properly, rejected candidates will leave with a positive impression, thinking, "Dang! I really wanted that position, what a cool company to work for. Maybe I can try again next time they have an opening."


1. Make a personal connection by picking up the phone

Rather than relying solely on email, consider picking up the phone to deliver the news. While it may take a few extra minutes, a phone call is the most personal and impactful way to convey the message. It shows that you value the candidate and appreciate their time and effort. In today's digital world, a phone call can be a lost art that leaves a lasting impression.


2. Express gratitude and provide positive feedback

Approach the communication with genuine gratitude, whether it's a phone call or an email. Acknowledge that candidates lead busy lives and that interviewing is tough, so express appreciation for the time and effort they invested in the process. Highlight the aspects they excelled in during the interview and make them feel valued. Even if the interview didn't go as well as expected, focus on the positive and leave them with a sense of appreciation.


3. Avoid specific reasons for rejection

While it may be tempting to provide detailed feedback on why the candidate wasn't selected, it's best to avoid doing so. You never know what might unintentionally offend someone or cross a line. Words can be interpreted differently, and what you intended as constructive feedback might be taken negatively. Furthermore, engaging in a debate over someone's skills is unlikely to yield a positive outcome. Instead, keep the message concise and respectful.

Your go-to rejection note

Here's a go-to rejection note that captures the core message while maintaining a positive tone:

"Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with our team. We feel fortunate to have met you and appreciate the effort you put into our process. It has been a pleasure getting to know you. Unfortunately, we won't be making an offer at this time. While you have a lot to offer, we have found other candidates who align more closely with our team's current needs. We hope you're open to staying in touch, and perhaps there will be an opportunity to work together in the future. Thank you!"

If you choose to make a phone call to the candidate, you can use the above as a guideline, where each of the sentences is a talking point. Otherwise, you can customize it to fit your company's tone and use it as an email template.

Remember, the key is to ensure your candidates have an incredible experience, whether they get the job or not. By following these best practices, you'll leave candidates feeling appreciated, increase the likelihood of positive referrals, and enhance your overall inbound recruiting strategy.


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Jason Azocar

Jason is a former HubSpot Recruiting Manager, a leader and a start-up veteran. A passionate team builder and an expert in recruiting and talent acquisition program design.