How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job: A Sensitive Approach

Learn how to deliver job rejection with clarity and compassion to candidates.

Key takeaways:

  • Thank candidates for their time and express empathy.
  • Provide constructive feedback and explain why another candidate was chosen.
  • Encourage strong candidates to apply again in the future.
  • Offer email templates and phone call scripts for rejections.
  • Maintain politeness and professionalism throughout the communication.

Start With Empathy and Thank Them for Their Time

Acknowledging the effort and time invested by candidates in the application process is crucial. Expressing gratitude sets a respectful tone for the rejection. Candidates appreciate when potential employers recognize their aspirations and the work they’ve put into applying. By leading with a sincere “thank you,” you soften the blow and pave the way for a more receptive conversation.

Feedback should be akin to a two-way street, offering an opening for growth. Candidness, combined with a compassionate approach, can transform a difficult conversation into a constructive one. While being transparent, avoid overly detailed critiques that may come off as personal or harsh.

Uplifting future prospects, inviting candidates to explore upcoming opportunities, reinforces a positive message. It suggests the door remains open, fostering goodwill and maintaining a connection that could be beneficial for both parties in the long run.

Explain the Decision to Pursue Other Applicants and Provide Constructive Feedback

Being forthright about why another candidate was chosen benefits everyone. Firstly, clarify that the decision was based on finding the best match for the specific role requirements. Highlight the strengths the applicant demonstrated during the interview process to soften the blow.

Secondly, provide actionable feedback. Pinpoint a couple of areas for improvement, such as gaining experience with certain tools or developing specific skills relevant to the job. This demonstrates that you value their effort and shows you’ve paid attention to their potential.

Finally, keep the door open for future opportunities. If their skills impressed you or if their passion shined through, mention that. It suggests that while they weren’t the right fit for this role, they may be for another. Encourage them to keep in touch, fostering a positive and ongoing professional relationship.

Encourage Strong Candidates to Apply Again in the Future

Sometimes a highly competent individual just isn’t the right fit for a particular role at a given moment, but that’s not a firm ‘no’ forever. Here’s why encouraging future applications matters:

  • Keeping doors open for stellar talent can be crucial for long-term staffing success. A ‘not this time’ could evolve into the perfect match down the line.
  • The job market is dynamic. Today’s no-match could be tomorrow’s star as roles and business needs shift.
  • Feedback thrives in a full circle. When you engage with applicants post-interview, you create a feedback loop. This helps candidates fine-tune their skills, making them better fits for potential roles.

Reassure candidates of their worth and encourage them to consider future postings with phrases like, “We believe your skills are impressive, and we’d welcome a future opportunity to work together.” This fosters positive relationships and keeps your talent pool vibrant and engaged.

Offer an Email Template and a Phone Call Script for Rejections At Different Interview Stages

Sending a rejection email or making a call can be a tricky balancing act. Aim for clarity and kindness. Your script should cover these key concepts:

For emails:

  • Begin with a personal touch: Address the candidate by name to give the rejection a respectful tone.
  • Be prompt: Send the email soon after making the decision to avoid leaving the candidate in the dark.
  • Express gratitude: Thank them for investing time and energy in the application and interview process.
  • Keep it brief: While detailed feedback can be helpful, avoid lengthy explanations which can be overwhelming.
  • Avoid clichés: Phrases like “We regret to inform you” can come off as cold. Instead, opt for genuine language.
  • Mention positives: Highlight aspects they excelled at during the interview process to soften the blow.

For phone calls:

  • Prepare and practice: Know what you want to say beforehand to reduce anxiety and ensure clarity.
  • Provide immediate feedback: Offer brief, constructive comments on their interview performance.
  • Listen: Give them space to ask questions or respond to your feedback.
  • Be honest but considerate: Sugarcoating rejection doesn’t serve anyone, but being too blunt can be hurtful.

Remember, every candidate is a potential future advocate or customer for the company, so parting ways on good terms is paramount.

Maintain Politeness and Professionalism Throughout the Communication

Delivering rejection with dignity shows respect for the effort candidates have put into the application process. Remember, today’s applicant could be tomorrow’s client or colleague, so leaving a positive impression is key.

– Use clear, straightforward language that leaves no room for ambiguity. Be concise but not curt; this ensures the message is understood without coming across as insensitive.

– Even if the news is disappointing, the tone of your communication must remain warm and considerate. A touch of personalization shows you value their individual contribution and have not reduced them to just another number in the process.

– Acknowledge the strengths they brought to the table. This can help soften the blow and provide them with a sense of value despite the job rejection.

– Be as timely as possible in your communication. Delaying bad news can add stress for the candidate and may damage your organization’s reputation. Speedy communication demonstrates respect for their time and career search.

– Remain discreet and maintain the privacy of the recruitment process. Discussing specifics about other candidates or internal deliberations is unprofessional and unnecessary.

– Sign off on a positive note, where appropriate, by wishing the candidate success in their job search and suggesting possible future interactions in different capacities.

Related Reading