How To Turn Down Candidates

Rejection is hard. It’s hard for you and it’s hard for the candidate. Nobody likes to hear a no. Yet, a majority of candidates will get just that: a no.

How you deal with rejections goes a long way in building your employer brand. It’s important to put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and do what you think is courteous and empathetic.

There’s no one right way to do this. Depending on the job, the company, and the situation, you will want to write different emails. Having said that, here are some tips on how to turn down candidates the right way:

Thank them when they apply

When a candidate applies, send them an e-mail acknowledging their application. Tell them what the next steps are, what they can do, and how they can prepare.

Some of the things you could mention in this e-mail are:

  • An idea of what the job looks like
  • What the next steps are
  • How to prepare for an interview
  • What time they can expect a response

Why is this important? A candidate often spends a lot of time crafting an application only to then never get any communication from the company they are applying to. Just sending a warm thank you email will go a long way.

Let them know

When a candidate has been turned down, it’s important to let them know. It might be difficult to do this for every application manually, but that’s where you can use an applicant tracking system. Far too many companies don’t do this, and that results in a job hunting experience that’s less than ideal.

It’s not enough to just send a robot-like rejection letter. You’re talking to a human on the other end; even when you have to deliver bad news, it’s important to be empathetic. Crafting a good rejection e-mail is important. Here are some tips:

  • Personalize; don’t send a mass mail
  • Mention that they haven’t made it early on
  • Thank them for their application, again
  • Offer them feedback, if possible
  • Tell them when, if at all, they can reapply
  • Show empathy

Offer them feedback

Feedback can be difficult to provide. It makes your interview pipeline a lot more time consuming and it creates more work for you. Why do it then?

When you reject candidates, you may be rejecting a lot of really good people as well due to a multitude of reasons. Being transparent about the reason and offering them feedback will help keep them interested in your company.

It may not be possible to offer personal feedback to everyone who applies. However, you must try to do so for those who were interviewed, either by phone or in person.

Answer their questions

Encourage people to ask questions. They may not be a great fit right now, but keeping the conversation going is a good idea. An year down the road, you may have a fit.


Rejecting candidates the right way will not only help you build a great brand for your company, it will also drive much better results.

It may not be feasible for you to do it manually, especially when you receive 100s of applications for every job. That’s where a hiring software like enlist can help you. enlist can automate sending these rejection e-mails for you.