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Human resources
How to reject a job application politely

How to reject a job application politely – benefits & best practices

Human resources
How to reject a job application politely

Providing applicants with recruitment feedback – either positive or negative – is a crucial part of the candidate experience. In fact, according to Talentegy, 69% of candidates would rarely reapply for a job at a company if their rejection hadn’t come in a graceful or timely manner.

In the following article, we’re going to take a look at not only how to reject a job application politely, but also the benefits of keeping your rejected candidates happy.

When should you reject a candidate?

Let’s begin by taking a look at how to spot unfit candidates.

An outdated (or untidy) job application

First impressions count. While there might be exceptions to the rule, if the candidate submits an outdated CV it means they didn’t take the time to make the absolute best impression on you as their potential employer. In fact, according to CareerBuilder, as many as 77% of hiring managers reject candidates due to typos and bad grammar.

With developers, CVs can often be misleading. The best candidates often don’t pay much attention to their CVs as they’re focused on their projects. That said, assessing their GitHub, Stack Overflow, and LinkedIn profiles may shed additional light on their level of expertise.

How to reject a job application politely

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Poor skills assessment test results

Automated skills assessment tests are one of the most effective competency evaluation methods used in IT recruitment. In fact, screening tech candidates provides a much better insight into their skills than CV screening. By asking your prospective hires to take a work sample coding test, you get a glimpse of how well they know the languages and frameworks required for the job. The best part is that you don’t have to check their assignments manually. With a solution like TalentScore, you can automatically score the tests and filter out the applicants with the poorest results. This way, you will know which candidates need to be excluded from the recruitment process.

Skills assessment test results

Source: DevSkiller

Poor soft skills evaluation

While a candidate might tick all the right boxes as far as tech competencies are concerned, they will still need to be checked for soft skills like communication, collaboration, or assertiveness. Your HR and/or the direct manager should evaluate whether the candidate seems like a good fit for the team.

The candidate’s career path doesn’t align with your organization’s long-term goals

Sometimes, whether a prospective hire will be the right fit comes down to career path alignment. Assuming your candidate has the desired soft and hard skills, before you extend a job offer to them, discuss where they see their careers several years from now. Is their professional development cohesive with your company’s strategic plans? Candidates who want to specialize in an area your company isn’t focused on have an extremely high attrition risk. Therefore, you should consider this when making your decision.

Source: Unsplash

Benefits of keeping rejected candidates informed

You can benefit significantly from keeping your rejected candidates up to date regarding the progress of their application.

Maintaining good candidate experience standards

Rejecting a candidate in a timely and professional manner is important if you want to maintain a high level of candidate experience. According to CareerArc research, when asked about which part of the job process needed improvement, 69% of respondents pointed to recruiters’ response time.

What’s more, to keep your candidate experience standards high, you should also make sure to provide them with actionable feedback (which we discuss further in this article).

Keeping your options open for the future

If the candidate lacks the skills now, but you clearly communicate that they can reapply in the future if their skills improve, you might be motivating them to keep working on their competencies.

Important for employer branding

Even if the candidate is rejected, if you do it in a professional manner, they could be a source of good PR among the tech community. This means getting invaluable, word-of-mouth employee referrals. The best part? According to Talentlyft, referred candidates have 45% longer retention rates.

The risks of not delivering feedback on time

There are two main risks associated with not delivering feedback on time or not providing it at all.

Hurting your brand reputation which might inhibit your future recruitment efforts

The world is small, and candidates like to share their recruitment experiences with friends and family. Some might even go a step further and write you a negative review online, which will damage your brand reputation and further damage your recruitment efforts. In fact,  55% of job seekers who read a negative company review decide to not apply for a job at the company.

The candidate will be discouraged from applying in the future

Imagine a situation where a rejected candidate that lacked the necessary skills improves, however, because they’ve never heard from you, they decide to never apply for a job at your company again. This would be a shame, especially considering how hard it is to get highly qualified employees.

How to reject a job application politely

It’s perfectly understandable that you’ll have to reject the majority of candidates that apply for the job. However, it’s important to do it in a professional manner.

  1. Timing is everything. This also applies to recruitment. Let the candidate know as soon as possible that they didn’t make it to the next stage of the recruitment process. According to TalentBoard, candidates who receive feedback on the same day as their interview are 52% more likely to increase their relationship with a prospective employer. How can you provide applicants with rejections in a timely manner? Use a tool like TalentScore to easily filter out a list of candidates with poor skills assessment test scores and give them the necessary feedback as soon as you discover they’re not fit for the job.
  2. Select the right medium. You can tell someone they didn’t get the job in a couple of ways: via phone or email. However, if you are rejecting a candidate at the final stage of the recruitment process, it’s good practice to provide them with feedback on the phone as emails might seem cold and impersonal. It’s easier to show empathy during job rejection phone calls, which might be difficult to communicate in writing.
  3. Keep it brief. Informing someone they didn’t get the job isn’t a pleasant conversation so it’s better to keep it short. To make the rejection less upsetting it’s worth mentioning a few positive qualities of the candidate.
  4. Be personal. Part of rejecting a job application politely is keeping the communication personal, irrespective of whether you decide to tell them via phone or email. Don’t follow the same script, remember to use their name, and mention a few nice things you’ve talked about during the interview.
  5. Ask them for feedback. Recruitment is a two-way street, making it a great opportunity to ask for feedback and improve your hiring process.
  6. Be honest. Honesty pays off – don’t tell the candidate you’re going to keep in touch with them if you’re not planning to do so. Putting their hopes up and not delivering on your promises will bring them down. Managing candidate expectations at every part of the recruitment process is crucial to maintaining good candidate experience.
How to respectfully turn someone down for a job

Source: Unsplash

Sample rejection letters – How to tell a candidate they were not selected

If you’re still wondering how to tell a candidate they were not selected, then take a look at this sample rejection letter from LinkedIn.

As you can see, it begins with thanking the candidate for applying, followed by the decision to not go forward with their application. Next, the template mentions “the team being impressed with the candidate’s skills and background”, which seems a bit too generic. Instead, personalize it by including more specifics. For instance, if you evaluated your candidate with a skills assessment test, mention that they scored 60%, with the threshold for the role at 80%. It’s quite simple – if the applicant doesn’t know how to improve in the future, you might demotivate them or even make them feel offended.

How to reject a job application politely

Source: Unsplash

What about phone calls?

While you can find job rejection phone call scripts online, our advice for turning down a candidate on the phone would be to keep the conversation personal and natural. Make sure to provide them with the reasons for your decision and any feedback they can act upon to improve their skills. If you follow a script word-for-word, the candidates will be able to tell. As a result, you might make them feel insignificant – an emotion you certainly don’t want to evoke!


Telling someone they didn’t get the job is hardly enjoyable. Nevertheless, rejecting candidates politely is vital if you want to maintain the reputation of a dream employer.

Firstly, it’s important to reject applicants in a timely manner. Poor work sample coding test results, a lack of the desired soft skills, or concern about career path alignment are some of the telltale signs. That being said, it is also important to provide rejected candidates with actionable feedback that relates strictly to their case. As a result, you’ll make sure they feel comfortable with reapplying in the future, point out how they can enhance their skills, and make them a source of good PR within the tech community.

Image credit: Unsplash

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