Hiring 101

How to Write Rejection Letters That Boost Reapplication Rates (+ Free Template)

Candidate rejection letters are an important part of the hiring process.

When you treat an applicant with courtesy and respect in their rejection letter, they’re more likely to perceive the experience with your company as positive, and share positive feedback and reviews on job sites.

Rejection is also a chance to help the candidate improve. A letter with thoughtful and honest feedback can help a rejected applicant become a better fit for future openings at your company.

You can make the most of rejection letters by carefully crafting each one. We've broken down six steps for writing rejection letters that strengthen your employer brand and candidate experience, and help applicants improve and reapply. Because it's easier to model your rejection emails off sample rejection letters, we’ve created a free template you can use to further simplify the process.

Click here to get your free rejection letter template.

6 Steps for Writing a Job Rejection Letter

Rejection letters should be brief yet thoughtful. A concise letter clearly lets the applicant know that your answer is no, so they can move on with their job search. At the same time, offering feedback in a warm and constructive way can help rejected applicants improve and motivate them to reapply.

Keep your message short yet substantial by sticking to a formula. We've put together a simple format with these six steps to help you write a succinct, helpful rejection letter.

Step 1: Address the candidate by name

The easiest way to respond to lots of job candidates is to send a nameless stock letter and BCC all of the applicants.

This move might save time, but it also makes job candidates feel unappreciated, leaving a negative impression. If you want job applicants to reapply, contact them personally to maintain the relationship and ensure they feel acknowledged.

Send the rejection letter to the candidate's email address, greeting the candidate by name. This level of personalization may seem basic, but it's often overlooked when recruiters or hiring managers get busy. It’s an important step in showing the candidate that you respect them.

Step 2: Thank the candidate

All too many rejection letters start with “We regret to inform you.” When you begin the letter with the rejection itself, you risk discouraging the applicant too quickly. Job candidates may even stop reading and close the email after confirming the rejection.

Instead, start the letter on a positive note—thank the candidate. They've spent hours of their time researching your company, responding to emails, and attending interviews. If the applicant understands that you appreciate their effort and involvement in the hiring process, they’re more likely to maintain a positive view of your company, and walk away with positive things to say and a willingness to reapply in the future.

A simple formula for this thank you statement is, “Thank you for your interest in [insert role] and for taking the time to complete the interview process.”

After seeing the thank you, the applicant will be more willing to read the rest of your letter and accept the rejection that follows.

Step 3: Deliver the bad news

After thanking the candidate, it's important to quickly get to the rejection itself. Applicants will want to know why you've sent the email, so it's best to promptly state the rejection instead of drawing out the message.

Soften the blow with gentle phrases, such as “unfortunately” or “I'm sorry to say.” These phrases show the candidate that the rejection decision wasn't easy to make.

Formal language also adds an air of politeness that takes the edge off of the rejection. For example, your letter might say, “We will not move forward with your application,” or, “Your candidacy did not make it to the next round,” instead of plainly stating the rejection.

If you had a large number of applicants, you might also mention the competitiveness of the candidate pool. Adding this extra explanation (“It was a difficult choice due to the large number of applicants”) makes the rejection feel less personal—the “no” seems like a product of circumstance to the candidate, not just a result of their skills and experience.

Click here to get your free rejection letter template.

Step 4: Give specific feedback

Candidates appreciate when recruiters and hiring managers offer specific feedback about why they didn’t get the job. Many companies are vague and mysterious when they deliver rejections—they provide no explanation of why the applicant was declined or how they can improve for next time. By taking the time to add feedback on their specific application, you will help your company stand out as a people-first organization, leaving a more positive impression than competitors who don’t take the time.

More importantly, the candidate can't improve without knowing where they fell short. If you offer actionable feedback, the applicant has a better chance of successfully reapplying to your company in the future.

Your feedback doesn't need to be extensive, but it should be honest and thoughtful. If the candidate went far in the process, consider adding more details about areas for improvement.

You might mention particular tools they could brush up on or specific skills they were lacking. These late-stage applicants are the most likely to become a better fit in the future, so offering more feedback is especially valuable.

Step 5: Offer hope about future openings

Knowing that candidates can improve or may already be a great fit for other more suitable roles, if a candidate showed promise, you can suggest the possibility of applying to future openings in your letter to encourage reapplications.

How you phrase your suggestion depends on your level of interest in the candidate. For an applicant who didn't go very far in the hiring process, you may want to talk about future openings in a more general way. For example, you might say, “We hope that you stay connected with [Company name] through our Jobs page and consider future openings.”

For a candidate who went further in the interview process, you can encourage them to reapply in a more direct way. You might say, for example, “I think you would be a great addition to [Company name] in the right role and hope that you will consider future openings at our company.” You may even want to extend an offer to connect on LinkedIn.

Step 6: Wish them good luck

Ending your rejection letter on a positive note is critical. You want to leave a good impression on applicants during this final step so they're more likely to reconnect in the future.

Closing with a brief, general “good luck” note is a kind, positive close for your letter. A simple formula for this final sentence is wishing the applicant good luck with their job search, their future endeavors, or both.

By ending with well wishes, you seal the rejection on a pleasant note. Your relationship with the candidate stays positive, so the applicant feels comfortable with reapplying in the future.

Download Your Free Rejection Letter Template

A rejection letter is a critical step in the hiring process. It has the potential to strengthen your brand, help candidates improve, and encourage future applications. You can craft an effective message in no time with our free rejection letter sample and template, complete with all of the essential elements that we covered in this guide.

Click here to get your free rejection letter template.

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