How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job: Examples & Tips

Looking for advice on how to tell someone they didn’t get the job? While this conversation is never easy, there are ways to handle it politely and professionally. Sticking to a few guidelines—and having a couple of well-written scripts on hand—can help to soften the blow on your unsuccessful candidates and maintain the reputation of your business.

But what does this involve? How do you properly prepare for this conversation? Are there useful examples and tips and tricks?

Let’s dive in.

What do you say to someone who didn’t get the job?

Ok, let’s look at a few useful examples for how to tell an applicant they’re not hired. Your HR department might like to have the following templates on hand:

1. Email template for early rejection

If your candidate didn’t make it past the first scan of resumes you did, you might consider sending them something like this.

2. Email template after the first interview

If your candidate has already come in for an interview, it’s worth writing a slightly longer letter that gives them a bit of feedback.

3. Email after in-depth interview

If your candidate has gone through several rounds of interviews, or a long and in-depth interview, the following email might work.

4. Phone call script

Sometimes, it’s appropriate to call your candidates to let them know that their application wasn’t successful. This is especially the case if you’ve formed a bit of a relationship with them during the course of the interview process.

Even if you call your candidates, it’s worth having a script in place for you to follow while you talk. This can help you to remember key things about their qualifications or interview, and not veer off course.

How do you politely reject a candidate? 10 tips

You might notice that there are a few common characteristics among these scripts and rejection letters. As you go about composing yours, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Be quick. Try and get back to your unsuccessful candidates as soon as you can. This helps them to continue in their search for another job and gives them a positive impression of your company.
  1. Be human. Don’t send out a letter that sounds like it has been written by a robot. Be empathetic, be human, and say or write your response warmly and kindly.
  1. Personalize your response. Some parts of rejection scripts or letters can be reproduced from one candidate to another (Magical can help with this!), but always make sure that you use their name and refer to the specific position that they applied for (in fact, Magical can help with this, too).
  1. Thank them. Putting a resume and cover letter together takes time, often ages longer than we think. Thank your applicant for their interest in your company and for the time they took to apply.
  1. Get to the point. Don’t take too long in giving your answer. Your candidate is likely anxious to hear the outcome of their application one way or another.
  1. Let them know that other qualified applicants applied. Sometimes, knowing that other people didn’t get the job can help to make your candidate feel better. You could tell them that, while you were impressed by their qualifications or their enthusiasm for the job, there was a lot of tough competition.
  1. Offer an explanation. The level of detail you go into here often depends on the point that the applicant got to in the selection process. If they don’t make it through the resume screening, it’s alright to be fairly brief, but if they proceeded to an advanced stage, and especially if you interviewed them, take a moment to tell them why they were unsuccessful.
  1. Provide feedback. Again, this often applies to candidates who got quite far into the process, and who might be wondering where they fell short. Be kind and considerate in how you phrase this feedback—now isn’t the time to be harsh or critical—but a useful bit of advice may help them to be successful in their next application.
  1. Keep it brief. Even if you’re giving an explanation and some feedback, don’t go into too much detail. Keep your response short and to the point.
  1. Invite them to apply again. If you see potential in a certain applicant, encourage them to apply again to similar jobs in the future. Invite them to join your mailing list or to connect with you on social media.

Why should you tell a candidate they didn’t get the job?

Putting a disclaimer at the end of every job opening simply saying, “If you don’t hear back from us, please consider your application unsuccessful”, might feel like the easiest approach.

But there are a few reasons why taking the time to respond to applicants using the templates above is worth your while:

  • It’s the polite thing to do. Acknowledging someone who has taken the time and effort to apply for a job is just common courtesy, even if they aren’t the right fit.
  • It gives the candidate closure. Limbo can be a very uncomfortable and frustrating place to be: the not-knowing is awful. Be considerate of your candidates’ investment in the job and let them know your answer as soon as possible.
  • It builds your future talent pool. Responding to unsuccessful applicants helps to maintain ties with them for future positions they might be better suited to. Maybe they just need a bit more experience—before too long, you might be giving them an acceptance letter instead.
  • It affects your company’s reputation. Potential candidates who don’t hear from you at all, or who feel that you’re rude to them in your response, are likely to have a negative opinion of your brand—something they could share with others, on review websites, or on social media. This could have an impact on other potential candidates who may choose not to apply for your vacancies.

Turning people down isn’t nice and it can be time-consuming (automating this process through the examples above can help), but responding to your candidates can be beneficial for both of you.

Simplify telling a candidate they didn’t get the job—use Magical

While personalizing your responses to unsuccessful applicants is important, having a few standard responses in your arsenal will help to streamline the process—especially when you’re working through lots of candidates. Fortunately, Magical will help you with both.

With Magical, you can save perfectly-crafted messages as easy shortcuts. With just two keystrokes, you can insert your message template and fill it with your candidate's details.

Using Magical, recruiters have saved over 8 years of time. 😲

“Magical has made my job significantly easier. As a recruiter, I use it daily in communications with candidates, hiring teams, and even within our ATS. Seriously, this is a MUST HAVE for any recruiter's toolkit.” — Stefanie Ramsey, Senior Corporate Recruiter at Salesforce

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