How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job


If you want your company to thrive then it’s essential that you recruit talent that is motivated, skilled, and experienced. The interview process can be a great way to find the best candidates for your company. And while it can be exciting to inform people that they aced the interview and that they’re going to be the newest members of your team, it can be difficult to tell people they didn’t get the position.


This leaves many HR teams to wonder how they should break the news. Not only do you want to avoid offending the applicant, but you also want to ensure that your company does not get a bad reputation when it comes to the candidate experience. The last thing you want is for qualified candidates to avoid applying for one of your postings due to your handling of the rejection process.


The good news is that it’s entirely possible to turn the rejection process into an art. In fact, when done well, you’ll find that those who have been rejected actually recommend others who are more qualified for the position. And this can be a huge benefit if your company is hiring in large volumes. It’s also possible that the individual may be better suited for another position in your company and could apply to that later on. Let’s take a moment to discuss a few ways to let someone know that they didn’t get the job.


Give an Official Response
When it comes to rejecting a candidate, one of the biggest mistakes a company can make is failing to tell them that they won’t be hired. In this instance, the company may interview the individual by phone, video, and in-person, but they never follow up once the process is complete and they’ve chosen their ideal candidate. They simply assume that the candidate will take their silence as the official rejection. This is especially the case if the company is hiring in large volumes.


The problem with not telling someone that they’re not getting the job is that it can cause a significant amount of frustration and resentment. If a candidate is particularly interested in the position they may turn down other offers in hopes of getting the one that they really want. This is particularly true if they’ve undergone a long and rigorous interview process. And the more encounters they have with your company, the more likely they are to believe that they’re closer to becoming an official employee.


Sure, you may be short on time and you may have many people to interview, but you should never skip this part of the process. Never let your silence do the speaking for you. Always contact the individuals with an official response.


Respond ASAP
Not only should you make sure that you officially respond to your candidates, but you should also do it in a timely manner. As disappointed as the individual may be if they don’t get the job, it can be even more frustrating if they’re told weeks later. The problem is that many companies choose to handle their rejections at the very end of the hiring process. Some may even wait until the new candidate has started.


As a result, the company may miss out on a future candidate because the individual is unlikely to ever bother applying to any of their other postings. So make sure that you let the applicant know that they weren’t a good fit for the position–and do it as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the candidate may have other jobs that they would like to apply for. And by responding right away, they’ll be free to pursue other endeavors. Responding weeks later makes your company seem unprofessional and could make the applicant feel as if you have no respect for their time.


Offer an Explanation
In many cases, the biggest question that most rejected applicants have is “why?” The company may offer an official response and it may be given in a timely manner, but the rejection may be generic. It may be an automated message that they send out to every applicant who wasn’t suited for the position. And this is usually what makes the rejection difficult to handle. If you want to make things a little easier and personalize the experience, it’s a good idea to explain why they didn’t get the job.


Instead of sending out an automated message, personalize the response to the applicant. Thank them for participating in your hiring process and let them know that you appreciate their time. You can then highlight your criteria and how their application measured up. Let them know which of these criteria you find to be the most important and inform them about which they were missing or could use more of.


Your applicant may be skilled in one area but show weaknesses in the areas in which your company needs the most help. Perhaps their application didn’t provide enough information about their experiences and background. Maybe their references weren’t strong enough or you weren’t able to get in touch with any of them. Perhaps it seemed as if they weren’t very outgoing and wouldn’t fit within the culture of your company. There’s even a chance that the department that you were hiring for has closed.


The benefit of letting the applicant know exactly why they weren’t a good fit for the position is that it helps to give them a sense of closure. Also, it can ensure that they do better with future applications–whether it’s with your company or they are applying somewhere else. This feedback can be invaluable because they’ll have a better understanding of what they need to improve on. By offering quality feedback, you also boost the reputation of your company.


Be Brief
If you’re delivering the rejection by phone, then you’ll get a real-time reaction from the candidate. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s no guarantee of how the applicant will respond. Everyone reacts differently.


While most will politely thank you for your time, there are others who may prolong the process. If they’re particularly frustrated they may become rude or somewhat confrontational about your decision. There are also individuals who may inquire about other positions within the company. And this could take up more time than you have. The solution to avoiding responses like these is to make sure that the rejection is as brief as possible.


Sure, you can give them an idea of why they weren’t the best fit for the position, but you need to take the lead of the conversation and make sure that you hit each of your points swiftly. There’s no need to draw things out. Ideally, your explanation should be no longer than a short paragraph. It should also start with a positive statement.


For instance, you may say something like, “We were extremely impressed with your portfolio, however, we’ve decided to choose an applicant who has more hands-on experience with Photoshop.” By addressing their positive points first, they’ll likely be more receptive to why you chose to work with someone else.


Keep in Touch. No Really
Just because you’ve turned down a candidate for a specific job doesn’t mean that they aren’t qualified for other positions within your company. You may even be aware of the perfect position that will be opening soon.


In this instance, it’s okay to let the individual know that you plan to keep their application on file. You may even offer to give them a call when the position comes up. However, it’s very important that you follow through with your promises.


Many companies are in the habit of telling the applicant that they’ll keep them on file but they never end up getting in touch with the person. And this can reflect badly on the company. If you’re interested in working with this person and want to make sure that your reputation remains stellar, you need to follow-through.


For example, you could invite them to a networking event so that they can meet people within your organization. This can help them to establish relationships until the position becomes available. Add them to one of your social media platforms such as Linkedin. This way, you can stay engaged.


Get feedback
Believe it or not, your company can learn a lot from the rejection process. This is especially the case when you can get feedback from these applicants. When you contact the candidate, consider asking them about their experience with your company.


How did your hiring process compare to that of other companies? Was your staff helpful and welcoming? Would they consider applying to your company again? Would they recommend your company to their peers? Were there miscommunications during t process? Was there anything they would have changed?


This is a great way to find out what improvements you should make within your hiring process. However, getting feedback from your candidates can also be a great way to nurture your relationship with them. By asking their opinions, it shows them that you value their thoughts and ideas. And this is a great way to build trust. Invite them to take a survey or even leave a review.


The Takeaway
If you work in HR, then you know that there are a lot of perks. You get a chance to create a team that keeps your company running efficiently. You get the opportunity to network with a diverse group of people. And you also learn more about the improvements that you could potentially make to your own resume. However, there are certain downsides. This is particularly true when it comes to rejecting applicants.


Unfortunately, rejection is apart of the hiring process. It ensures that every position is filled with someone who has the proper skills and experience. The key to letting people know that they won’t be working with your company is to treat them with dignity and respect. Ideally, your response should be prompt, brief, and offer a clear explanation. You should also ask for feedback and follow through on your promises to keep in touch.