Rejecting Candidates : Best Practices to Follow

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How to Reject a Job Applicant Politely

Rejecting job applicants is never an easy task, but it’s a necessary part of the hiring process, especially when there are a lot of candidates to choose from. To do it politely and professionally, it’s important to have a plan in place. This guide offers some tips and advice on how to handle rejecting candidates with respect, providing constructive feedback, and implementing an effective applicant-tracking process. By following these strategies, you can ensure that candidates are treated with dignity and that your organization maintains a positive reputation in the job market.

4 Phases and Procedures of Rejecting Candidates

Rejecting candidates is more challenging than simply writing an email. It is essential to know how to reject candidates kindly and respectfully in each phase of the recruitment process. These four best practices can help in rejecting a job candidate.

Rejecting Candidates in the Application Phase

Many companies do not notify candidates that their application is not moving forward. However, if you decide to do this, it’s essential to be clear in your rejection email:

  1.   Let the candidate know that their application was not accepted. But also thank them for applying and remind them that they are welcome to apply for roles in the future.
  2.   Avoid same-day rejections. Wait 2-3 days before sending a rejection email to avoid any concern that you did not spend time vetting the candidate.
  3.   If you use an Application Tracking System (ATS), make sure you input the correct criteria and audit your system regularly to avoid accidentally rejecting candidates.
  4.   Automate your email writing process to avoid duplicate or repeat emails.

Learn more on how an Applicant Tracking System can help the hiring process here: AI-Enabled Candidate Matching.

Rejecting Candidates after the Phone Screen

If you have decided that the candidate is not a good fit after a phone screen, it’s best to reject them in writing or via phone call within 1-2 days. Be clear about what disqualified them and express appreciation for their time. If the candidate has questions, be sure to answer them.

When sending your email, make sure to provide actionable feedback. Transparency benefits your employer’s brand and will aid in the professional development of your rejected candidates.

Rejecting Candidates after the In-Person Interview

You have already developed a special relationship with the candidate at the interview stage, and they have interacted with your company several times. Rejecting candidates at this stage requires extra consideration.

It is best to proceed with a templated email that thanks the candidate for their time and reiterates that they were not selected. Refrain from giving them vague commentary that does not explain why they are not moving forward. Instead, focus on constructive feedback that will help them improve their candidacy for future roles.

Rejecting Candidates after an Offer

It is always challenging to reject a candidate after you have offered them a job. But it occasionally needs to be done, i.e., after a background check failure. The best way to do this is to let the candidate know via phone. Calling the candidate will allow them to ask questions and understand the decision made.

When rejecting a candidate after an offer, remember that the company’s reputation is also on the line. Therefore, you should justify why you did not select the candidate and how their profile did not meet the job qualifications to receive closure. Rejecting candidates takes work. But it is something you will have to do throughout your career.

By following these best practices and being transparent with candidates, you can ensure candidates will not be discouraged from applying for future roles within your company.

Factors To Keep In Mind When Rejecting Candidates

Providing Feedback

If you’re wondering how to reject a job applicant politely, it’s important to remember to provide feedback to those candidates who were not selected. Although it can be difficult to give specific feedback on why a candidate was not chosen, offering general feedback on areas where the candidate could improve can be valuable for both the candidate and the employer.

Being Consistent

It is essential to be consistent in how you reject candidates. This means that all candidates who are not selected should be notified promptly and in the same way (i.e., via email or phone call). This can help ensure that all candidates are treated fairly and that the recruitment process is as efficient as possible.

Considering the Candidate’s Experience

Finally, it is crucial to consider the candidate’s experience during the recruitment process. This means that the process should be easy to navigate, communication should be timely and responsive, and all candidates should be treated with respect and professionalism.


It is crucial to notify candidates of their status on time. All candidates should be notified of their status as soon as possible after making a decision and no later than a specified date. This can help ensure that all candidates are treated fairly and that the recruitment process is as efficient as possible.

Ask for the Candidate’s Feedback

Another way to reject a job applicant politely is by asking for their feedback. Although it may seem counterintuitive, this approach can help build positive relationships and leave candidates with a positive impression of the company.

To ask for feedback, recruiters can include a simple question in the rejection email, such as “Would you be willing to provide us with feedback on your experience with our recruitment process?” This shows that the company values the candidate’s opinions and is committed to improving their recruitment process.

Asking for feedback can also provide valuable insights into the recruitment process, helping recruiters identify areas for improvement and better understand the candidate’s perspective.


While rejecting candidates, recruiters must be available to answer any questions and concerns the candidate may have and provide additional information as needed. This ensures fair treatment and an efficient recruitment process. It’s important to follow best practices, such as providing personalized rejection letters, communicating respectfully and tactfully, having a well-defined applicant tracking process, providing feedback, being consistent, considering the candidate’s experience, being timely, and following up with personalized rejection letters. This approach creates a professional, respectful, and efficient recruitment process.

Staying in Touch with Rejected Candidates

Staying in touch with rejected candidates is a valuable practice that can benefit both the candidates and the organization. It shows that the organization values the time and effort the candidate invested in the application process and helps build a positive employer brand. 

To stay in touch with rejected candidates, it’s important first to reject them politely and professionally. After sending the rejection letter, consider offering candidates the option to stay connected. This could include adding them to a talent pool or a mailing list for future job openings, inviting them to follow the company’s social media pages, or suggesting they connect with you on professional networking sites like LinkedIn. 

Staying in touch with rejected candidates can also help to improve the candidate experience and build a positive employer brand. By maintaining a respectful and transparent relationship with candidates throughout the recruitment process, even when rejecting them, the organization can create a positive reputation and attract top talent in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you politely reject a candidate?

  • Begin with empathy
  • Gratitude is owed for their time
  • Make your response special
  • Tell them you’re still looking for other candidates
  • Give a constructive critique

What are the most common reasons for rejecting candidates?

The common reasons for rejecting candidates are standard resume templates, impersonal applications, Overqualified or Insufficient, Social Media Behavior, Absence of Effective Communication Skills, Nonspecific Responses, and Question Avoidance.

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