What is a Rejection Letter?

A rejection letter is a letter sent from the employer to an applicant or candidate informing them that they will not be selected for the position they applied for. This letter brings an official end to the recruitment process for that particular candidate. Rejection letters can be sent at any time, but generally, those who will not move forward in the recruitment process should be informed of this as soon as possible.

Applicant rejection letters, which are sent to applicants who did not meet the minimum qualifications, will inevitably look different than candidate rejection letters, which are sent to qualified candidates who interviewed for the job. Candidates are also usually informed of the rejection over the phone before they receive the rejection letter.

Why Send a Rejection Letter at All?

Employment rejection letters are often thought of as merely an administrative duty, but they serve a greater purpose. It’s important for hiring teams to send a meaningful letter to end the recruitment process and leave a good impression of the company or organization. Even though a candidate was not the most qualified candidate for the position they applied for, they may be the perfect fit for a future opportunity with your organization.

A well-written employment rejection letter will also provide the recruitment team with valuable feedback about the recruitment process. An employer should always look to improve and streamline their hiring process to continue to attract the best talent. Feedback from an applicant or candidate may provide important insight into their experience, and possibly reveal struggles that can be eliminated for future recruitments.

What to Include in a Rejection Letter

Rejection letters will contain different information depending on the employer, the position, and the stage at which the applicant or candidate was rejected. Below are some key elements that every job rejection letter should include:

The Position They Applied For

List the position they applied for. In some cases, applicants will apply for multiple openings with a company, and they may still be in the running for another position.

A Genuine Thank You for Applying

Genuinely thank them for taking the time to apply to the position and let them know how competitive the applicant pool was.

The Applicant or Candidate’s Qualifications

Anyone who has been on a job search knows how frustrating it can be to spend hours putting together an application only to be rejected right away. The rejection letter that acknowledges their qualifications can help ease this frustration by showing that the hiring team closely reviewed their materials. If the applicant knows that the company put effort into reviewing the materials, they’re more likely to apply again in the future.

A Clear Statement About Why They Were Rejected

Be clear and transparent about why you did not choose to move the applicant or candidate forward. Ensuring transparency will at minimum help them feel that they have been treated fairly in the process.

Applicants and candidates can also be informed of what they could do in the future to increase their qualifications, such as seek more experience in a particular role or obtain a professional certification. Although this is recommended, employers should also be careful not to make any promises for future employment.

Positive Feedback for the Future

Although a particular applicant was not the most qualified, they may be a great fit for another position with the company. If appropriate, the rejection letter can include an invitation to keep in touch for future opportunities with the company.

Tips for Writing and Sending Applicant Rejection Letters

Rejection letters should be professional, transparent, empathic, and brief.

Tip 1: Be Clear and Transparent

When drafting a rejection letter, take your time to ensure you have provided a clear and objective reason for why they were not chosen. The letter should be professional and transparent so that the person receiving the letter understands what was lacking in their application materials, or in their interview.

Tip 2: Show Empathy and Stay Positive

Although the letter must be objective, it should also show empathy. Make sure you personally draft sections that speak to their qualifications and their efforts in the recruitment process.

Further, be sure to use positive language. Positive language will set an empathetic tone and help the candidate feel welcome to apply again.

Tip 3: Be Brief

Lastly, rejection letters should be brief and to the point. Make sure to disclose the company’s decision not to move them forward toward the top of the letter and keep the letter under one page. Leaving the company’s decision for the end may be confusing and more frustrating.

Tip 4: Call Candidates Interviewed Before Sending the Letter

Before sending the letter, the hiring team should call any rejected candidates who were interviewed to inform them directly that they have not been chosen for the position.

What If Applicants Get Angry?

“There will be times when the applicant doesn’t respond well. I’ve been yelled at more than I can count because they feel we’re “discriminating” or “bias” because we chose to not offer them the position. Those are never fun but don’t take them personally. You never know what their situation is, and they may be in really bad shape. Keep your cool, be kind, and don’t drag the call on longer than needed.” – Heather Anderson SHRM-CP

Get Started with a Free Rejection Letter Template

Many sites provide free employment rejection letter templates. Below are a few articles with templates selected from well-reputed sites:

  • Harvard Business Review’s Seven Rejection Letter Templates: The Harvard Business Review is a scholarly magazine and subsidiary of Harvard University. It reports directly to the Harvard Business School. This article provides seven job rejection letter templates of varying lengths, each with different considerations in mind.

How To Use a Rejection Letter Template Correctly

HR professionals must be careful when using a letter template, particularly for a rejection letter. First, be sure to choose a template that matches the stage in the recruitment process where the rejection took place. Templates used for applicant rejection letters should be different from a candidate rejection letter.

Second, although templates are helpful, it is extremely important that the person writing the letter makes personalizing changes so that the letter addresses the applicant or candidate as an individual. Rejection letters that look like templates when they are sent out can feel dehumanizing and leave the applicant or candidate with a negative impression of the employer.