How to Tell a Candidate They Didn't Get the Job

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Posted by: David Garcia January 05, 2022

Delivering bad news is never easy, but it is simply part of the job as an employer. Luckily, there are numerous strategies you can follow to make the process easier for everyone involved.

Letting someone down easy is an essential soft skill for anyone in management to master. While it can be intimidating, there are ways to make the conversation easier and pain-free.

Listed below are some of our top tips on how to tell someone they didn’t get the job, including a step-by-step guide and general advice.

Let’s get into it.

How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job

This will never be a comfortable conversation to have with someone, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be outright difficult.

There are various ways you can deliver the news so that the applicant won’t feel too disheartened. Listed below is a step-by-step on how to go about letting a candidate know they didn’t make the cut.

Open with the Rejection

The worst thing you can do is prolong this process, so provide the key information right out of the gate.

The candidate probably already feels anxious that you’re contacting them, and they will be hoping for a positive result. After greeting them by their name, explain that they were unfortunately unsuccessful.

Follow up with Gratitude

To swiftly move on from this bad news, thank them for their time to apply for the role. It takes confidence to put yourself out there, and they saw something valuable in the position you offered. Though they may not have achieved their aim, you should still thank them for making an effort to seek you out.

Express that it was a Tough Decision

The candidate will likely feel discouraged by this news, so don’t make it sound like it was an easy decision for you.

Express that there were many candidates, all with their unique strengths and that you had to put thought into who eventually got the role. This should hopefully take some of the sting out of the rejection.

Encourage them to Apply for Other Opportunities

If you particularly liked the applicant but just don’t feel like they were suited for this role, encourage them to apply for other available positions.

Even if you don’t have anything open right now, ending on a high is always a good idea, and this lets the candidate know that you did appreciate their application.

Examples of How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job

Thankfully, these conversations don’t need to happen face-to-face. Of course, there are benefits to face-to-face communication, but when telling someone that they haven’t got the job, it’s understandably nice to have some distance.

The two most common ways to do this are by phone or email. The choice is entirely up to you, but to help you decide, we’ve broken down both methods.

Via Phone

While this option may seem a little daunting for some, as you will hear the candidate’s immediate response, it is generally considered the most polite route if you have already met for an interview. However, there are still some guidelines you should stick to.

Don’t Make Small Talk

Talking about the weekend or the weather is not what the candidate wants from you.

They will likely be anxious about this call, so get it over with quickly. Tell them the bad news as tactfully as possible, and keep the conversation moving. Remember, this is likely the last correspondence you will have, so a personal conversation is entirely unnecessary.

Remain Positive with Feedback

Some candidates may simply hang up or end the call once they hear that they’ve been rejected. This is understandable; however, some applicants may wish to know why they haven’t got the job.

Try to stay positive. Inform them what went well during the interview, but emphasize how strong the competition was and how difficult of a decision this was to come to. Remember, as uncomfortable as this phone call is, it is even worse for the applicant.

Keep it Brief

This phone call should go on for no longer than five minutes. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs. Of course, don’t make it too short, as this can come across as dismissive or rude. If you think it could help, write a short script before the call to ensure you hit the key points. This should include:

  • The news that they have not been successful
  • Gratitude that they took the time to apply
  • Encouragement to apply for future positions

Don’t make the call too robotic or scripted, and respond to the applicant naturally. They may or may not have questions. In the rare event that they attempt to convince you that you’ve made the wrong decision, simply disengage. You must be firm but fair in your response.

Via Email

If you dread the thought of a phone call, then an email is perfectly suitable, especially in today’s digital age. However, there are still some pointers to adhere to, even if you aren’t speaking to the candidate directly.

Open with their Name

‘Dear sir/madam’ is a perfectly fine formality, but it isn’t appropriate in this case. It comes across as impersonal and will likely make the candidate feel like you didn’t even properly look at their application.

Address them by their name, as this will give your reply a sense of personalization. This may help to soften the blow of rejection.

Don’t Make it Too Wordy

Like a phone call, you don’t need to drag this process out. Informing the candidate that they haven’t been successful, that you are grateful that they applied, and that competition was fierce is more than enough.

Try to keep it to three to five lines. Any more than that is unnecessarily lengthy.

Proofread Everything

The last thing anyone wants from a rejection email is careless errors. It denotes a lack of respect and appears unprofessional. Proofread your entire email before sending it, just to make sure you present yourself and your company in the best light.

If you choose to use the same template for all of your rejection emails, double-check you have the correct name in place.

Tips for Telling Someone They Didn’t Get the Job

It is never easy to pass on bad news to someone. Luckily, it is a strictly professional affair in the case of job rejection.

There is no need for excessive emotion or personal involvement. That would be borderline inappropriate. However, that doesn’t mean you should be cold either. There is a delicate balance to strike, and it largely relies on two key elements.

Showing Empathy

Think back to when you were rejected for a position you really wanted. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes, and treat them the same way you would want to be treated should the roles be reversed.

You shouldn’t feel guilty for rejecting an applicant, it’s a part of the process, but you also should be mindful that you don’t come across as cold or rude.

Being Concise

Get to the point quickly. The applicant will be hoping for good news, and keeping them hanging on in anticipation is unfair.

Whether you choose to tell them via a phone call or an email, get the key information out of the way first. You can then proceed with the positive formalities, such as thanking them for their efforts and highlighting their strengths in the interview.

Contact ScoutLogic Today

The hiring process can be tough, and rejecting applicants is part of that. However before you decide which applicant is right for you, you need to know who you’re dealing with.

That’s where we come in. At ScoutLogic we offer background screening to verify both education and professional history.

If you want to know who is really applying for the role, contact us today.

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