A job rejection email is a formal email used by a hiring manager or recruiter to notify an individual who has applied to fill a vacant or new position at your company who will not be moving to the next phase of your recruitment process.

It can be difficult for anyone to reject applicants for a job vacancy, even for an employer with plenty of prior experience in the highs and lows of hiring. Almost everyone who has taken on a job search has also been on the receiving end of a rejection letter or email and knows how tough it can be, especially if the way it’s written comes across as impersonal, rushed, or worded without any genuine consideration for the time and effort that was put into the hiring process on the unsuccessful candidates end. A poorly written rejection email can cause damage to a company’s reputation and image, so we have taken the time to explore what we think should be part of your template when you send a rejection.

The presence of a rejection email in the first place can be highly valuable. Research shows that 56% of applicants who are screened out never receive a rejection email or letter. Leaving someone unsure and having to slowly realise they were probably unsuccessful over the coming weeks never leaves a high-quality impression of your company.

Communication is a two-way street when it comes to both hiring and applying for a job role. Ensuring there is consistent engagement from the start of the hiring process not only leaves a more positive impression of your company with unsuccessful applicants, but also prevents you losing talent during any long bouts of silence. To learn more about how to improve interview attendance, so you have the best possible pool of talent to recruit the top applicant from, click here.

Recognize the effort and time put into a job search

Offering genuine thanks from the hiring manager for the person’s time is a must do when mocking up your rejection email template. While trying to recruit for an open role is challenging, a job search can also be a time consuming, stressful process, especially if you are trying to fit multiple interviews and applications into your pre-existing schedule. Making it clear you are appreciative of the time the individual put into your interview process, especially if they had to prepare any presentations or ideas, can leave a lasting favourable impression of yourself as an individual, as well as the company.

Extend your compliments, from employer to applicant

Acknowledging the strengths of the applicant you have rejected for a role will not be forgotten. In the competitive job market we see today, it can be difficult to face a rejection email so totally lacking in personalisation that you know it has to have been a generic template, sent out to multiple other people. While detailed, individual feedback isn’t always realistic to give to every single unsuccessful applicant from the very start of the recruitment process, offering a point or two of praise for their skill could mean a lot, especially if someone made it to an interview stage before they were rejected.

Learn more about providing feedback to an unsuccessful applicant here.

Be as transparent as possible about why they were rejected

Often hiring managers will leave applicants in the dark as to what held them back from being the right fit for a role or was the dealbreaker which led to their rejection. So, offering a polite and considerate yet true reason for the job rejection can go a long way. If someone taking a couple online courses to hone their skill or having another year of experience under their belt would’ve helped them stand out more to the hiring manager, they’ll only be grateful to have the advice and insight!

Only reject for now, not forever

Keep the door open for future opportunities. Even with people you were thoroughly unimpressed or disappointed by post-interview, you can never truly know where they might be in the future. Especially if you take the extra time to offer constructive feedback, for all you know they might really take it on and excel in the next few years.

Particularly with candidates who were runners up, making it clear in your rejection email template that you’d like to stay in contact about other potential job openings, whether that’s through email or LinkedIn, could save you a lot of time, cost and regret going through the recruiting process again. Just because someone is not a good fit right now, doesn’t mean this will always be the case.

Perfect your subject line and sign-off

Making sure the first and last thing the recipient reads on your rejection letter or email leaves a good impression of you as an employer is key. We would advise making sure the subject line is formal and clear. A simple ‘Follow up Re: ‘insert role here’ application at ‘insert company name here” should suffice. Well wishes of good luck in their job search as a sign off at the end of your template is also a good idea.

Consider if a rejection email vs call would be best

Delivering the news over a phone call could be even better. It adds a personal touch, and allows you to fully convey your tone, leaving little room for the candidate to interpret any rudeness in your rejection. This could be especially appropriate if you’ve built up a notably good repertoire with a candidate or met them face to face during an interview process, but for one reason or another they just didn’t quite make the cut and faced rejection.

How ATS can help you:

An applicant tracking system (ATS) can allow you to automate your rejection emails so that they can all go out at the right time for you.

Use an ATS to manage your pool of candidates from the get-go. Building out a talent pipeline is beneficial in that allows you to make sure that you’re only including the best in the interview stages, and build talent pools tailored to specific aspects such as skill, location, and experience.

An ATS allows you to set up a bespoke careers site, making it even easier for rejected runner up candidates to keep an eye on other future job vacancies at your company, as well as get to know the culture better if you choose to share employee stories and company values on the page as well.

It can also help you keep an easy to access record of runner up applicants who could be strong (and familiar!) contenders for another position in the future.

To understand more about how Hireserve ATS can improve your hiring processes, request a demo today.

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.