How to Write Personalized Job Rejection Emails

Posted on August 9, 2022

Job Rejection Header Image

In the current struggle to attract top talent, employers must rethink their recruitment communication strategies. With 60% of candidates never hearing back after a job interview and 75% never receiving a reply to their application, most job seekers report a negative experience with potential employers.

Negative feedback from unhappy candidates on sites like Glassdoor discourages potential A-Players. They’ll get the impression your company puts profit before its people and won’t send an application.

Get your hiring communications right—especially when rejecting job seekers—and you’ll maintain an excellent employer reputation (also growing in importance to consumers), receive positive reviews, and build a pool of high-quality future candidates.

Crafting a respectful, effective job rejection email requires a range of skills, including emotional intelligence. It can be such a challenge to get right that many companies don't bother sending them.

In this article, we’ll provide job rejection email examples that you can use to get it right. You'll also learn how to go the extra mile, stand out from other employers, and give candidates personalized feedback.

Table of contents

What is a job rejection email?

A job rejection email is a courteous response to job applicants who don’t pass your initial screening and interview processes. It informs the applicant about their progress in your recruitment process and tells them they weren't successful.

The email is an important line of communication as it recognizes the applicant’s efforts in applying for your role. It also helps mitigate any negative feelings an applicant may have towards your company for choosing not to hire them.

Sending job rejection emails isn’t compulsory, but it’s a respectful way to communicate with people. It also encourages unsuccessful candidates to return later on; they may not have been successful this round for this role, but they may fit better elsewhere or after acquiring more experience. (We’ll talk more about this in a moment.)

Furthermore, a well-worded job rejection email can also protect the company from bad employer reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Reddit—or on social media.

As an example of what not to do, here’s a post that went viral on Twitter for all the wrong reasons:

Screenshot of a viral tweet on job rejection email
Source: Newsweek

When is the best time to send a job rejection email?

You should send the email as soon as you decide not to hire the candidate. That way, you won't waste their time, and they can move on with their job search.

If you receive an application but are not interested in interviewing the candidate, let them know immediately. The same goes for after the interview; if you immediately know someone is not a fit for your company, tell them.

Sometimes, you will have a few candidates to choose from after the interview. In this scenario, send a message to let them know you are in the process of making a decision. Keep the potential candidates engaged and show them you respect their time.

Why should you write a job rejection email?

Writing a job rejection email is a crucial part of the hiring process, so don’t skip it.

Treating potential team members with respect must be part of your recruitment strategy. Doing so will reflect positively on your brand and highlight your company as a desirable workplace. Great candidates won’t wait long to hear from you; they’ll have plenty of other opportunities. To keep A-players engaged with your brand, communicate often with them.

With the average U.S. job applicant sending as many as six applicationsbefore getting an interview, people dedicate a lot of time to finding a new role. If you want your company to stand out, acknowledge the time and effort people put into their job search.

Here are three more reasons why you should write a candidate rejection email.

1. Align hiring with your core values

Your recruitment process should intertwine with your core values. Two commonly cited values amongst the world's most recognizable brands are integrity and respect. If you strive to treat customers and employees respectfully and with integrity, extend these values to your candidates.

Respectfully rejecting job applicants shows professionalism and compassion for the candidates and their time researching your company.

2. Build a talent pool for future roles

Creating a positive rapport with applicants can help build a talent pool that fits future opportunities. Staying in touch with great potential employees can help you reduce recruitment costs, avoid understaffing, and reduce the time spent screening a new cohort of applicants for the next open role.

Keep communication open by connecting on LinkedIn, inviting potential employees to events, and sharing company news.

3. Protect your bottom line

Graeme Johnson, Virgin Media's Head of Resourcing, discovered a lousy candidate experience cost the business $5 million annually in lost revenue.

Out of rejected candidates, 18% were also customers, and two-thirds of those applicants were detractors. Within a month, 6% of rejected candidates canceled their subscriptions with Virgin Media.

Johnson discovered that a poor candidate experience directly impacted the company’s bottom line. He prioritized candidate experience and overhauled the company’s approach to rejection, significantly improving the net promoter score.

Why are companies failing to send rejection emails?

There’s not always a negative intention behind failing to send rejection letters. Rejection letters and providing constructive feedback are not at the top of recruiter to-do lists.

Hiring managers often don't send rejection letters because they are too busy and understaffed. They don’t have the time to send feedback to potentially hundreds of people applying for a role at the company. It’s also possible they forgot or didn't have an organized system to keep track of applications and interviewees.

Another common reason for not sending rejection emails is they don't know what to say. Sending a message opens up a line of communication that they don't have time or resources to manage. Employers may also avoid communicating with candidates due to fear of legal action based on discrimination.

Internal hiring and change in the scope of a role are also common reasons hopeful applicants don’t hear back.

Most of the problems mentioned above are easily avoidable. All you need is a system to screen, track and communicate with potential new hires.

Message templates and team collaboration take the hassle out of communication with candidates. With Polymer, you can automate these processes to save time and admin. Check out how candidate management works here.

Screenshot of Polymer Candidate Message Template

What to include in a job rejection email

When writing your message, thank the person for taking the time to go through the process.

Tell them that in this instance, they haven't got the job. Mention that you interviewed numerous candidates. Knowing there was stiff competition can help them feel better about the rejection.

Next, go into detail with as much specific feedback as you can provide. Nobody enjoys receiving a rejection letter, so it's important to acknowledge the person's strengths to boost their confidence.

Provide ways they can stay in touch and if you want them to apply to future roles, tell them where you will post them.

How to write a job rejection email

Breaking the bad news to a candidate isn't such a struggle if you know what to include in your message.

Follow these pointers for writing a well-crafted, effective candidate rejection email.

Be honest

You can be honest and provide actionable feedback without hurting someone's feelings. Cut to the chase and tell the candidate why they didn't get the job. This is much more effective than giving them a generic excuse that misses the point.

Be polite

You can deliver feedback without being rude or condescending. Be aware of your tone and try to come across as friendly. If unsure about your tone, use the Grammarly app to detect it.

Screenshot of Grammarly Website
Source: Grammarly

Avoid cliches

There's nothing worse than receiving a rejection letter riddled with cliches. Avoid saying things like "best of luck in your future endeavors" or "after careful consideration." Phrases like this make you sound stuffy, insincere, and out of date.

Use your brand's language to communicate with those in your application pipeline. Authentic-sounding messages will resonate and won't sound like a hiring manager firing off dozens of rejection messages.

Maintain professionalism

Think through what you want to say. Candidates will notice a carefully crafted response over a generic message. Put yourself in the candidate's shoes and think about what you'd like to know if you received this message. This will help you craft a more empathetic message.

Don't forget to proofread the email before sending it; sounds obvious, but many hiring managers have fallen victim to a typo! Sending messages riddled with errors shows you were in a rush and gives a careless impression.

Be aware of bias

When writing your rejection email, be aware of your internal bias. Did you make assumptions about the person when you interviewed them? Are you basing your decision on these assumptions or concrete evidence?

For example, someone may perform well in an interview, but you notice they never got promoted at their last company where they worked for several years. You make the assumption they weren't good enough for promotion. You assume the candidate isn't ambitious when, in fact, their previous company didn't offer opportunities for promotion.

Be aware of these biases when you provide feedback to the candidate to help craft a more helpful message.

Provide personalized feedback

Feedback is one of the most valuable things you can provide in your job rejection letter; it helps applicants understand their strengths and what they can do better. Tell them the specifics of why someone else better fits the role instead of generic fluff.

For example, in an interview for a sales job, perhaps one candidate presented better communication skills than another. Make this clear in your rejection letter and suggest how this person could improve their communication.

Providing valuable feedback helps people deal better with rejection and understand how to boost their skill set for future success.

Be optimistic

End your message on a positive note. You want to support candidates in their future job searches. Tell them you know they'll be successful in their future role, and connect them with other opportunities.

How to structure your interview process to provide personal feedback

The points mentioned above make writing your rejection email sound like a lot of work.

Different team members will be present at each stage of the hiring process. To ease the burden of providing feedback, systemize your interview process. A standardized process will enable collaboration among team members.

A structured interview process will also avoid asking the candidate the same questions in all the rounds of interviews. Varying the questions will allow your team to better understand the potential hire.

Use a scoring system to analyze answers

To collaborate with colleagues on feedback, create an interview matrix and scorecard for the skills you want to assess. Ideally, use a five-point scale to evaluate how well someone meets the requirements.

At Polymer, we’ve created this template interview scoring matrix:

Screenshot of Polymer interview scoring matrix template

Make a copy of this template and tailor it to your interview process. Using an interview matrix and scorecard will help keep your interview process structured and consistent. It will also make it easier to write your rejection email if it comes to it.

Examples of honest interview feedback

When writing your personalized feedback, be careful about the language you use, for example:

❌ “You're not a good fit for this position.”

✅ “You have strong technical skills, but you need more experience with X program to thrive in this role.”

❌ “This position is above your level of experience.”

✅ “To achieve your future career goals, we feel you would benefit from a role with more opportunities for training. Right now, we don't have the resources to provide that support.”

❌ “We don't think you will gel with the rest of the team.”

✅ “You have admirable career ambitions, but these could make it difficult for you to stay motivated in this position for a long time.”

❌ “You couldn't provide examples of when you'd managed a stressful situation.”

✅ “We were impressed with your ability to share your past achievements; however, we were missing concrete examples. We recommend reflecting on how you can demonstrate your skills using specific examples.”

How Intel carefully crafts a job rejection email

Shira Ben-Cohen, a Talent Experience Researcher at Intel, wasn’t happy with the job rejection emails her company sent out. After interviewing ex-candidates about their rejection process, she learned that it was too informal.

On this, Shira said:

“Candidates are people, not flat pieces of data captured on a resume…. Unfortunately in the Talent Aquisition space, we spend more time telling people no than getting to tell them yes.

I think it's fair to say the industry has worked hard to improve the application process experience, the interview experience, and the onboarding experience; however, we have not done much to advance the experience at the most painful stages of the hiring process, candidate disposition [the rejection process].”

After an extensive research period, Shira led a full-day workshop to rewrite this generic email (citing rejection email crimes like lacking empathy and containing broken links):

Screenshot of Intel Rejection Email

Her team came together and crafted this new and improved job rejection email:

Screenshot of Intel Rejection Email with description

Shira’s team focused on making the job rejection email more human. To do this, they replaced cases of third-person “we” with “I,” including the recruiter’s name instead of a generic department name, and by requesting direct feedback.

The team also used the “no for now” technique to soften the blow and encourage future applications.

Not everyone has the resources to put a team behind their job rejection email overhaul, but you can draw inspiration from Shira’s excellent work here. For more inspiration, let’s explore four ready-to-go templates for use in different rejection scenarios.

4 rejection email templates

Letting people down is never easy. There are also likely to be several situations across the hiring process that may lead to that rejection.

Here we’ve selected the top four reasons you may need to issue a job rejection email and give you a template to personalize for your candidates.

Someone who applied but didn’t qualify for an interview

Subject line: Your application to [job role, company name]

Dear [Name],

Thank you for taking the time to apply to [job title, company name]. We appreciate the time and effort you put into applying. We received a vast number of applications for this role. It was a difficult decision, but we won't take your application further at this stage.

Your skillset is impressive; we particularly like your involvement in [project name]. However, for this role, we require someone with specific experience in [skill required].

Keep an eye out for our future vacancies on LinkedIn [wherever you advertise]. Your valuable skills will be sure to land you a role very soon. Thanks again for your time, and best of luck with your job search.


[Hiring manager]

Someone who interviewed but didn’t have the right experience

Subject line: Interview feedback from [company name]

Dear [Name],We enjoyed our interview with you last week and appreciate you taking the time to speak to us about [role name]. It was a difficult decision, but we won't take you through to the next round of interviews.

You interviewed very well, and we loved your answer to the question about [e.g., product-market fit].

However, to truly thrive in this role, we need someone with more [e.g., technical experience]. If you spend some time upskilling in [skill required] and gaining project-based expertise, you will excel in a role like this.

Please stay in touch and connect with us on LinkedIn, where we post new job openings. Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us, and good luck with your job search.

Best regards,

[Hiring manager]

Someone who completed a trial task but didn't make the cut

Subject line: Your application to [job role, company name]

Dear [Name],

Thank you so much for completing the trial task for the [job role, company name]. We appreciate how much thought and effort you put into it. However, I’m sorry to say we won't progress further with your application at this stage.

While you demonstrated strong capabilities in this task, we would like to see a deeper understanding of [what they got wrong].

Please don't take this rejection personally. We know you will thrive in a role like this if you learn more about [skill they need to improve].

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. Thanks again for your interest in working at [company name]. Get in touch if you see any other job roles you think may be relevant to you.

Best regards,

[Hiring manager]

Someone with great experience who didn't come across well in the interview

Subject line: Interview follow-up

Dear [Name]

We appreciate you taking the time to chat with us last week. It was a tough decision to make between all our qualified candidates. We're sorry to let you know that we won't be taking your application further.

While your skillset is impressive, and your enthusiasm for the role is evident, we would like to see a little more interest and understanding of [your industry] in your answers. In-depth knowledge of the industry is essential for this position.

For future interviews, consider how your skills and experience are specifically relevant to the industry you are applying to work in.

Thanks again for your interest in [company name] and for taking the time to talk to us. We wish you every success in securing your next role.


[Hiring manager]

Use your rejection emails to create a talent pool

The hiring process is a potential employee's first touch point with your business. If you aren't getting it right, you won't be able to attract top talent.

Engaging with people who took the time to apply to work at your company opens a rapport and saves you time, money, and admin in the future.

If you write a job rejection email that makes the person feel appreciated and valued, they will be more likely to apply for future roles. This will help you with your succession planning and help prevent long-term vacancies.

Polymer enables you to set up automated responses to job applicants, streamlining the process for you and providing communication to them. Take a look at how Polymer can help and start simplifying your hiring.

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