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Why you should always write a post-interview rejection letter

Nikoletta Bika
Nikoletta Bika

Nikoletta holds an MSc in HR management and has written extensively about all things HR and recruiting.

Writing a post-interview rejection letter is not a task anyone enjoys. It’s an easy one to fumble but it’s much worse to avoid it altogether. Long after a candidate has forgotten a clumsy but well-meaning rejection, they will remember the company that couldn’t be bothered to get back to them. In short, there’s a real opportunity for the employer who is prepared to invest a little thought into how to let someone down respectfully.

The rejection letter after the interview is an integral part of what is now known as the candidate experience. This describes the whole process of interacting with a job applicant, from the job description to the nervous wait after an interview. More than 80% of people agree that a bad candidate experience can sabotage their overall impression of a company. A botched job rejection letter — or worse no post-interview rejection letter at all — can turn someone who wanted to work for your company, into someone determined to bad-mouth it.

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Why you should write a rejection letter to candidates?

Here are 5 reasons why you should get the interview rejection letter right (and some tips on how to write it):

You’ll maintain a candidate pool for tomorrow

It’s often true that today’s rejected job candidate turns out to be the best candidate tomorrow. You may have rejected someone for a particular position, but that doesn’t mean you should sever all ties with them. Maybe a year from now, they’ll have more relevant experience, they’ll be better trained and a perfect fit for another position. Don’t lose the chance to leave them with a good impression of your company. Build a bridge you may want to cross later.

You’ll preserve your employer brand

Customers who are dissatisfied with a product spread their indignation faster and to more people than those who have good things to say. The same goes for candidates. Six out of ten will share their negative experience with friends and family, according to a recent survey. Some 30 percent of them will actively discourage others from applying to your job openings. With social media and websites like Glassdoor, resentful candidates can do even greater damage by posting negative reviews of your hiring process. Qualified people who are researching your company (as they should) may be influenced by these. This can mean they either won’t apply in the first place, or will be reluctant to really perform in an interview.

Related: How to post a job on Glassdoor

You’ll keep candidates as customers

We explained how the candidate experience can decide their opinion of your company. This can also extend to their attitude towards your products or services. If a candidate was also a customer, they may not want to keep buying from you after feeling that they were treated unfairly. At least, not with the same frequency or volume. The damage could be great since for one job alone, you may end up engaging with dozens of candidates.

You’ll give candidates what they want (at least in part)

Nine out of ten candidates expect to hear back after an interview. Considering you have rejected those people for the position, you can at least communicate that to them. Nobody wants to be told they were rejected, but being ignored is even worse. It’s common courtesy not to leave candidates in the dark, especially when they’re people you have met with and talked to. It’ll show you respect the effort they put into interviewing at your company.

It’s not as hard as it looks

There’s no doubt you should be careful when writing a job rejection email. Getting it right can be tricky but it’s certainly not impossible.

How to write a rejection letter

  • There are good templates online that can be modified to meet the needs of your company.
  • The general rules are simple: avoid rudeness, don’t tell the candidate they aren’t good enough and, where possible, explain why they weren’t selected (without exposing yourself to litigation).
  • Be brief, gracious and honest. Say your thanks and wish them well.
  • If you want to “go the extra mile” and stand out as an employer, you can ask candidates whether they’d like individual feedback after the interview. Most of them will say yes so be prepared to talk truthfully yet cautiously about their interview performance.
  • By using structured interviews and scorecards, you’ll have lots of job-related notes at your fingertips.  You can include this information in your post-interview rejection letter.

If you want to explore the nuts and bolts of structured interviews, download our complete guide for free.

Tip: The right software can make this painless 

Applicant tracking systems like Workable can help you manage your entire hiring process. This includes the option to send bulk rejection e-mails to candidates who weren’t successful in securing an interview. For the candidates you interviewed a more personalized option is offered. You can choose from templates and customize them to provide your feedback without starting from scratch.

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