Running Your Business

5 Steps for Crafting a Polite Rejection Letter for Every Applicant


  • No one wants to receive a cold, impersonal company rejection letter or be ghosted after the interview

  • Insensitive, harsh or curt candidate rejection letters reflect poorly on your business

  • With these five steps, you can create personalized, thorough and polite rejection letters every time

Posted by July 18, 2019

Have you ever interviewed for a job and received a formulaic rejection email? Or worse, heard nothing at all? A whopping 75% of respondents in a Career Builder survey who applied for jobs in the previous year said they never heard back from the employer. How rude!

Rejection stinks. But letting an applicant know they didn’t get the job is much better than leaving them in the dark. Your rejection letter doesn’t need to be cold and unfeeling. In fact, an insensitive, harsh or curt reply reflects poorly on your company. Meanwhile, a polite rejection letter is a courtesy to the candidate.

By following a template with each rejection letter, you’ll ensure each correspondence is cordial, sincere and delivers the news in a way applicants will appreciate and respect.

How to Format a Polite Rejection Letter

Writing rejection letters can be tedious, but it’s an important part of the hiring process. Take time to make each one as personalized as possible. The best way to do that is to plan each one, step by step.

Step 1: Thank the Candidate for Interviewing

Rather than simply writing a boilerplate, “Thank you for applying for the position,” infuse your letter with warmth and a human touch. Try something like this: “Thank you so much for applying for the position. We enjoyed learning a little about you and are honored that you considered our company.”

Step 2: Deliver the Rejection

Avoid being overly vague. Sentiments like, “Unfortunately, you don’t fit our requirements at this time,” will just confuse applicants or give them false hope. Instead, humanize the negative: “Unfortunately, we’ve decided to hire someone with more leadership experience for this position.”

Step 3: Give a Concise, Satisfying Reason for the Rejection

Don’t just tell them they didn’t get the job—briefly explain why: “Though your resume is impressive, we’re looking for a candidate with a few more years of experience with X.” If it was a close decision, say so: “This was a difficult choice; we had a hard time selecting from so many great candidates.”

Step 4: Emphasize Positive Characteristics

Along with providing the candidate with a specific reason for the rejection, personalizing the communication to call out any strengths can make them feel positive about their interview experience. Something like, “Your portfolio of work is very impressive,” or, “Your personality really came through,” can help them build confidence to accentuate these traits in their next interview.

Step 5: Encourage, or Leave the Door Open If Appropriate

Sometimes it makes sense to close the letter by suggesting other opportunities within your company that may be a better fit. Or, to simply leave the lines of communication open and make yourself an available resource for future inquiries. And don’t just say that you’ll keep their resume on file. Instead, say something like, “We hope to reach out to you in the future about other opportunities!” If that’s not the case, simply close by thanking them again for their time and wish them good luck in their job search.

With a little forethought and imagination, you can create a polite rejection letter that’s a testament to the kind of company you want to be known as.

Looking for more tools and resources for your employees? Check out the Employer Toolkit on United Concordia Dental’s website.

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