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Handle with care: How to reject a candidate after an interview


Getting rejected after a job interview is an emotionally charged ordeal for a candidate. There’s no easy way to bring bad news and it certainly is not the most enjoyable thing to do as a manager. However, it is a crucial component of good leadership. Rejection is a big part of the recruitment package and should therefore be handled with care.



A bad rejection experience may lead to damage to your company’s brand or reputation. That’s why it’s important to think carefully about how you phrase and deliver someone’s rejection. You don’t want to leave the candidate with a bad aftertaste. They might tell their friends and family about the way you handled things, leading to a decrease in loyalty to your brand. Or they might never come back around for another job opening or function later on in life. Handle rejection with care to not burn any bridges between your business and its candidates. We bundled up some tips to make the rejection talk as smooth and professional as possible.

Don’t waste someone’s time


As soon as you know that you don’t have your perfect fit in front of you, let the candidate know. This may sound like an obvious step in the rejection process, but it’s a step that often gets postponed. The applicant may be putting other job openings on hold in anticipation of your answer. Nobody likes to be strung along or feel like a pushed-back item on the to-do list. An unnecessary long wait could also dent the candidate’s confidence. Make sure that you address the candidate by name and/or refer to subjects that were mentioned during the interview, to make the applicant feel heard.

Return the message in the way it was received 

Your company's application process may contain several ways of applications, each with its own communication platform. If you received someone’s application via mail, it’s not unusual to just reply via email as well. However, if you spoke to a potential candidate by phone or Zoom then it’s more polite to contact the applicant by phone. This also opens up the conversation, which gives the candidate the opportunity to ask for feedback on why they were rejected.

Be sure to thank the applicant for their interest in your job offer. Wish them the best for the future. A personal, yet professional approach to a rejection call heightens the chance that the applicant’s interest in your company might be reinvigorated in the future.


A personal, yet professional approach to a rejection call heightens the chance that the applicant’s interest in your company might be reinvigorated in the future.

Keep it concise

Although there should definitely be room to give the applicant some context on how the process went, it’s vital to stay to the point when you’re rejecting someone. From the candidate’s point of view, the rejection might come unexpected. Despite checking all the boxes on paper or meeting all the technical requirements, someone might just not be the best fit for your company. There’s no need to sugarcoat how things went, but there is also no point in dragging someone down completely. Find a balance between the two! Provide your applicant with some key takeaways to work on, instead of elaborating on the question of why they didn’t make it.


Despite checking all the boxes on paper or meeting all the technical requirements, someone might just not be the best fit for your company.

The rejection process actually starts when you’re meeting a candidate for the first time. You’re both looking for a mutual job match, which can involve high hopes, especially from the applicant’s side. Be clear and transparent about every step of the application process – as well as the rejection process. You can also write out a step-by-step rejection plan for your company to stay consistent and correct.


Above all, be true to yourself as an employer and be honest to every applicant.