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The Right Way to Reject a Job Candidate
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Business Insights for Women
PNC INSIGHTS Magazine Spring/Summer 2014 Issue
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How to leave them with a positive view of your organization.

How you say "no" to a job applicant says a lot about your company and its values, and can either help or hinder your ability to recruit top talent. After all, only one person can get the job, which means you'll likely be turning away strong candidates you'd gladly consider in the future. These potential future employees (as well as those who didn't meet your standards) will communicate their perceptions of your company to others. Here are a few tips for rejecting a job candidate while still leaving her with a positive view of your organization:

Time Your Response

There's an open debate among HR professionals regarding when to let a candidate know that he or she is no longer in the running. Many prefer to wait until a candidate has been chosen or has accepted an offer. But others feel that you should alert applicants as soon as they've been removed from consideration, thereby freeing them up to look for a position elsewhere. By the same token, you may want to occasionally reach out to the contenders to let them know they're still in the running. That way, you avoid the possibility that they'll accept another offer without letting you know.

Select the Proper Means of Reaching Out

How you approach rejected candidates largely depends on how seriously they were considered. If their application indicated that they weren't properly qualified for the position, a brief letter or email is sufficient. But if they interviewed with you, a phone call, followed up by a letter, is warranted. When calling, it is particularly important to make it clear that the candidate is no longer under consideration. Sugarcoating or attempting to cushion the blow can often cause confusion.

Choose the Appropriate Wording

A rejection letter (or email or phone call) should be gracious, businesslike and to the point, without offering more elaboration than necessary. Begin by thanking candidates for taking the time to apply, and conclude by wishing them well in their career. Beyond that, say only what you mean. For example, don't encourage an applicant to reapply if you've determined they're a poor fit. Rather, tailor the response to the situation:

  • For the underqualified: Wording should simply make it clear that their application was not selected for further consideration, so they're not left in the lurch.
  • For a poor cultural fit: If you've determined the candidate doesnt share your company's values or behavioral norms, keep language neutral, without encouraging reapplication.
  • For someone you'd like to hire: Suggest that the candidate reapply for future positions, as long as they meet qualifications.
  • If you feel they're a good candidate for another position: Enclose the job description and encourage them to contact the appropriate person to apply.

By taking the time to appropriately let rejected candidates know your decision, you reaffirm your company's reputation as an employer of choice.


The article you read was prepared for general information purposes by McMurry. These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.These articles may provide reference to Internet sites as a convenience to our readers. While PNC endeavors to provide resources that are reputable and safe, we cannot be held responsible for the information, products, or services obtained on such sites and will not be liable for any damages arising from your access to such sites. The content, accuracy, opinions expressed, and links provided by these resources are not investigated, verified, monitored or endorsed by PNC.