How to Write Rejection Letters: Keep it Short but Human

In our most recent Candidates on HR post, we asked a job candidate what is the one thing they wish HR could give back to them from the interview process (besides a job offer, of course). The applicant told us that companies often just ghost job seekers after the interview – never to be heard from again. However, when they do receive specific feedback for why they are rejected for a job, applicants tend to feel more respected and appreciated by the company.

By taking the time to write a personalized rejection letter, this lets the applicant know your company really does value their team and employees – making it more likely for them to apply again in the future if given the chance. Here are some quick tips and tricks on how to write a good rejection letter!

Categorize the Main Reasons for Rejection

Usually, it’s very tempting to list every single possible skill and trait for the position on the job posting. However, there are often only a few key skills that are absolutely necessary as opposed to just being preferred. When one or more of these necessary skills are missing, it is a pretty clear indicator that this candidate will not be the one for your company today – try creating categories with these skills as reasons for rejection! By categorizing rejected candidates, you can speed up the process of writing rejection letters while also providing valuable feedback. This categorization is not limited to only those you interview, but can even be applied to when you are screening resumes. For example, some categories could include:

  • Not having the technical skills required –  An example would be the candidate not having the coding skills required for the technical job.
  • Not meeting the language requirement – Some job functions require a certain level of language proficiency. The candidate may have knowledge in the language but not at the level you need them to be.
  • Not having the required credentials –  For example, a truck driver needs a higher-grade driver’s license than standard drivers. If the candidate does not have such a license, they would not be able to perform the job.

By categorizing these main reasons, it is also a good opportunity for your department to reflect on the real reasons a candidate is rejected. Are there any implicit biases that you did not consciously recognize that may end up discriminating certain candidates? This allows another chance for you to make sure why you want to reject this candidate.

Keep it Short

After separating the rejected candidates into categories, you can then write a “template” for each category. Start with the formalities that lets the applicant know that they are rejected at this round of the application. Then, outline in a sentence or two why this requirement is essential for the job and at what level of proficiency you needed the candidate to be at. If possible, also mention whether this level of skill is typically required or if this application cycle was just more competitive than usual. The whole letter does not need to be paragraphs long. A few sentences of targeted feedback for the candidate can be more helpful to them than you imagine.

Detailed Letters for Specific Applicants

Every now and then, you may come across an applicant that is very close to your ideal employee. However, there may be some other external factors that stop you from hiring this person. It may be worthwhile then to take the time and write a personalized rejection letter to them. By doing so, you can build a personal connection with this candidate. This will make it easier to reach out to them again in the future when circumstances are better.

Give Thanks and Give Hope

The average length of the job interview process is estimated to take about 27.5 days, which brings nearly a month of evaluation and uncertainty.

  • Thank your applicants sincerely to let them know you appreciate their time and effort.
  • Give hope and leave a door open for these candidates by encouraging them to apply for future positions.
  • Ask if the candidates would mind your company reaching out to them in the future.

By making your rejection letter more human, it is more likely to leave a good impression on the job applicants. Let the application process be an opportunity to not only find the person you need for the position now but also showcase your company culture and build connections with individuals that you may cross paths with again in the future. You never know who you might want to work with again in the future!