How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job

Nobody likes doing it, but knowing how to tell someone they didn’t get the job is a useful skill. This is particularly true for hiring managers, recruiters and HR teams, but also for anybody in a leadership position who may be required to interview candidates for a role.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, turning someone down for a position should be as positive an experience as possible for several reasons.

1. Why is it important to tell someone/candidates they didn’t get the job? 

Mishandling the candidate rejection process can impact your company in a couple of key ways. First, it can affect the perception of the business. In an age where websites like Glassdoor allow potential employees to examine the reputation of a brand, bad word of mouth or critical comments about a company’s hiring process could negatively affect your ability to attract candidates. 

Secondly, job seekers who have a poor experience of the recruiting procedures at a particular company might be put off from interviewing for a different role. In some cases, a person may create a great impression at an interview, but not be quite the right fit for the position you’re currently looking to fill. Ensuring a pleasant interaction means that if a more suitable opening comes up, you can reach out to them with confidence.

2. How do you politely tell someone they didn’t get the job? 

So, how do you reject an interviewee? Finding the right words for how to tell someone they didn’t get the job can be tricky, so it helps to make sure you’re properly prepared.

2.1 Start with an empathetic tone 

Being turned down for a job can be a stressful and disheartening experience. Bear that in mind when telling somewhere they didn’t get the role and ensure you are being as compassionate as possible.

2.2 Thank them for their time 

Any serious applicant for a role will have spent a good deal of time writing their cover letter and preparing for an interview. Acknowledging that is not only polite but also shows you appreciate the effort they’ve made.

2.3 Provide constructive feedback on their interview 

As most of us know, one of the most frustrating things about being turned down for a job is not being given any reasons why. While it may not be feasible to give feedback to every candidate, those that make it to the interview stage deserve to receive a couple of constructive notes centering on why they were ultimately not selected.

2.4 Explain that you’re pursuing other applicants 

Whether you’ve found someone better qualified or simply don’t feel a person is particularly well suited for a role, there’s no point in beating about the bush. Be direct in telling them that you’re pursuing other applicants.

2.5 Mention the strengths of the other candidate 

Part of the feedback you give might include why another individual was more appropriate for the advertised position. Explaining that you’re pursuing other people because they have specific skills or experience lets a candidate know that you have cogent reasons for going in a different direction.

2.6 Let them know that many qualified candidates applied 

This might initially seem like a milquetoast thing to say, but letting someone know that many qualified candidates applied is a strategic part of how to tell someone they didn’t get the job. It reminds them that they’re not the only one who was unsuccessful and highlights that even though they lost out, it was at least partly because of the high caliber of other applicants.

2.7 Encourage strong candidates to apply again 

As mentioned above, sometimes an individual can be the wrong fit for the role you’re currently hiring for but the right fit for another role down the line. If a candidate performed well in the application process but was just pipped to the post, tell them so and make sure to ask them if it would be all right to contact them about other positions.

2.8 Give acknowledgement and closure 

Even if someone fails at the first stage of your hiring process, it’s better to inform them rather than leave them hanging. This doesn’t have to be a personalized email. It’s enough to acknowledge individuals who are discounted early with a standard template. Applicants who progressed further should be given individual feedback.

3. Template for How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job via Email 

Template for How to Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job via Email

Creating a standard format for how to tell someone they didn’t get an interview is useful to have on file. For those job seekers who didn’t progress past the initial phases, there’s no need to go into any great detail, just keep it succinct and courteous.

Dear [Insert Candidate Name],  

Thank you for taking the time to apply for the position of [Insert Job Title] at [Insert Company Name]. Unfortunately, we won’t be inviting you to proceed further with your application at this time. There has been a lot of interest in this role, and we are only able to invite a small handful of people for an interview. We hope you will apply for other roles at [Insert Company Name] in the future.

Best regards, 

[Insert Your Name]

If an applicant came for an interview but was ultimately unsuccessful, you may wish to make the rejection email more personalized and detailed.

Dear [Insert Candidate Name],  

Thank you for taking the time to apply for the position of [Insert Job Title] at [Insert Company Name]. We’re glad we had the opportunity to meet and discuss your experience and qualifications in greater detail. Unfortunately, we won’t be extending a job offer to you at this time.

You were one of several strong candidates that applied for the [Insert Job Title] role. While we were impressed by your knowledge of [Insert Specific Pro], we feel that the job requires someone with greater experience in [Insert Specific Con]. Additionally, we’re really looking for someone that already knows how to use [Insert Specific Software].

We would like to keep your CV on file, as there may be future opportunities that arise suited to your skill set. We would also encourage you to apply for other roles at [Insert Company Name] going forward.

Best regards, 

[Insert Your Name]

4. How to Tell Someone They Didn’t Get the Job Phone Script 

How to Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Phone Script 

Preparing for how to tell someone they didn’t get the job by phone is often more daunting than doing so by email, but it also adds a more personal touch that most people will appreciate. Usually, you’ll only phone applicants who made it to the final stages of the hiring process. 

Hi [Insert Candidate Name],

This is [Insert Your Name] from [Insert Company Name]. How are you? 

First of all, I just want to say thank you so much for coming in the other day, it was a real pleasure to meet you. I really enjoyed our chat and it was great to get to know a bit better. 

I’m calling to let you know that, unfortunately, we won’t be offering you the role of [Insert Job Title]. [Insert Colleague Name] and I both thought you were a strong candidate, but one of the other candidates just has more experience with [Insert Specific Reason] and that’s going to be key for the [Insert Job Title] role. However, I’m sure there will be other similar roles at [Insert Company Name] coming up in the near future and I’d encourage you to apply for those because we really think you’d fit in well with our corporate culture.

Thank you again for applying and I hope we get the opportunity to work together in the future. 

Take care.

5. Tips to Keep in Mind While Telling Someone They Didn’t Get the Job 

5.1 Keep it brief 

Taking the time to tell someone they didn’t get the job is a positive move, but neither you nor the candidate will want to drag out the rejection. Bear in mind the point above about being empathetic and don’t make the person feel like you’re eager to get it over and done with – give them an opportunity to raise any questions they may have about the application. On the other hand, having a template for how to tell someone they didn’t get the job will prevent you waffling unnecessarily.

5.2 Personalize the message 

Again, you might not want to do this for every single candidate, but those that were particularly strong or left a good impression may well be ideal for a future job posting. Sending a personalized message establishes a rapport with the would-be employee and will make it easier to reach out to them if and when another appropriate position arises.

5.3 Deliver the message on time 

If you know someone isn’t suitable right away, let them know. Although rejecting an individual may be a difficult prospect, keeping someone on the hook for days or weeks leaves a bad impression. Even if a prospective member of staff is your second choice for a role and you don’t want to turn them down until you hear back from the top candidate, let them know that you haven’t yet reached a decision.

6. FAQs 

  • How to tell an internal candidate they didn’t get the job?

Internal candidates who unsuccessfully apply for a job are twice as likely to leave as staff who are successful or don’t apply for a position at all. Rather than hiring one person just to lose another, take the time to sit down with the internal applicant face to face and explain that they are a valued member of the company. Provide clear, constructive reasons why they weren’t selected and let them know of any training sessions the company offers that might benefit their prospects in the future. 

You can consider the above mentioned, how do you tell a candidate they were not selected examples or customize them to convey the message politely and effectively.