How To Write A Killer Candidate Rejection Email

We all know how important it is to make a good first impression. But what about your last impression? A bad candidate rejection email, or even worse, no email at all, can result in irretrievable damage to your employer brand. Negative reviews on Glassdoor are just the start…

When you send off a rejection email to a candidate, you’re making an impression on behalf of your brand. While turning people down is part of the hiring process, it doesn’t always have to be uncomfortable. If you do it well, you can build relationships with candidates that could be considered for future roles, or provide valuable feedback.

To help ensure you’re making the best impression possible, here are some tips to make your candidate experience the envy of others. Let’s dive in …

Applicant rejection email (no interview)

It’s unlikely you’ll have the time to personalise each rejection email to applicants who didn’t make it past the CV screen stage. However, these tips will make you stand out and deliver a better-than-most candidate experience.

Respond quickly

Nothing frustrates candidates more than waiting for weeks for a response about their job application. We aim to respond within a week of any application. Any longer and they’ll think you don’t care. If you’re dealing with big volumes, autoresponders can help explain if it’s going to take longer to get back to them than this.

Be positive

It’s never easy to deliver bad news, just ask any doctor, but there’s a skill to delivering negative messages in a positive way. Remaining positive and giving encouragement is generally a good thing. Take this example from a recent candidate rejection email which landed us a really nice response.

Candidate rejection email

Pro tip: If someone’s written a really great cover letter but they still need rejecting ahead of an interview then adding a little P.S. to the bottom of your email like I did below. It can go a long way to making the candidate feel good.

Candidate rejection email response

Download our free candidate rejection email template

Candidate rejection email (post-interview)

Candidates that get to interview stage have invested their time, energy, and hope into your company. They deserve more than a mere platitude.

Give proper feedback

A standard email may be acceptable for candidates rejected prior to the interview process, but more detailed feedback is important for interviewees. If this person has gone through a few rounds of interviews, add a personal context on how nice it was to meet, and that it was a tough decision, and suggest areas where they fell down and what they could do to improve.

Be honest and specific

Candidates who have turned up for an interview expect and deserve a clear reason for their rejection. Avoid the cliched “we have other candidates who better matched our requirements” or “we didn’t feel it was a good fit” and give them something specific that they can work on for future interviews.

Be crystal clear

You won’t want to leave room for the feedback to start a debate. By stating exactly why you have chosen not to progress it will save you time in the long run. If the role has changed from the original brief then say so. If another candidate has more relevant experience then also explain this in detail.

Be helpful

The best rejection emails include actionable tips about how they can interview better in the future and even links to other jobs or websites that the candidate may find useful.

Pro tip: If you think the candidate might be a fit for a future opening, send that person a LinkedIn request or, better still, invite them to follow your company on TalentRocket and they’ll get automatically notified when there’s another position available in their field. If you already have an established relationship, adding them to your talent pool will make your next hiring process a whole lot easier.


Candidates will always feel disappointed when they get a rejection email, but what they shouldn’t feel is devalued. Sometimes it’s better to call them rather than email, especially if they’ve invested a large amount of time and effort in the interview process.

It’s best not to go overboard and send a condescending 3000 word rejection email to your applicants. But it’s also best not to leave things too vague as you’ll leave yourself open to criticism and challenge. Stay positive, be constructive, and respond quickly and you’ll quickly build a great candidate experience. And if you get a response from a candidate like this, then take it with a pinch of salt.

Download our free candidate rejection email template

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