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Tips for communicating with unsuccessful job applicants

The way you say no to a job applicant can impact on your business brand and reputation. Taking a few extra moments to provide a considered and where possible, personalised rejection to a job applicant can make a huge difference in the way they view your business.

The Undercover Recruiter suggests these 6 Steps to Reject a Candidate as Painlessly as Possible. 

We have summarised these six steps as follows:

1 – Let the candidate know ASAP

Be timely with communications throughout the recruitment process and respond to applicants you know will be unsuitable for the role shortly after you receive their application.  This allows them to move on to the next opportunity rather than waiting for your response.

2 – Pick up the phone

If you have spoken to a job applicant already, then if you can, call them to let them know they are not progressing.  If you have not spoken with them, an email is okay, but if you have engaged in a direct conversation then a quick call to let them know will be appreciated more than an email.

3 – Keep it brief

A simple response highlighting a key skill and experience a preferred job applicant has is constructive and much more valuable than a generic “skills and experience”. 

4 – Personalise, personalise, personalise

“Treat others as you want to be treated”. The job applicant has taken the time to personalise and tailor their cover letter and CV to the role, therefore at the very least, tailor a personalised rejection using their name and where possible, a specific reason as to why they have not been suitable for the position. 

5 – Be honest

If you can see opportunities in the future for the applicant, let them know, and do offer to stay in touch via social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Similarly stay away from giving the wrong impression, if you cannot see them being the right fit for your business do not give them false hope, politely wish them all the best. 

6 – Ask for feedback

Are your recruitment processes robust and sound?  Ask for feedback from both successful and unsuccessful applicants. It’s not necessary for every time you list a vacancy, but every now and question applicants as to how they have found your recruiting process and communications. There may be small changes you can make to your recruitment processes which can make a difference to the way applicants view your business.

See also this link from Career Addict for some examples of wording to let a job applicant down gently.

Christine Hanning

Christine Hanning

Constantly providing an exceptional level of service and professionalism in all aspects of her work, Christine takes a genuine interest in whom she works with and is committed to achieving success.

Give Christine a call to discuss options around what you want to achieve in your career and she will endeavour to achieve that 'win-win solution' that's right for you.


Phone 06 280 2400 Mobile 021 0269 3619 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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PO Box 594, Palmerston North 4440


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