How to Reject Job Candidates

Now that you and your hiring team have identified 4 ideal candidates from among the 90 applications you received, it’s time to move on to interviews. But before you do, remember: the other 86 candidates who didn’t make the cut may play a role in filling your next opening.

The way you reject job applicants can lead to future referrals, and foster brand champions.

How You Reject Job Candidates Matters

These days, the line between a company’s consumer and employer brand is thinner than ever. Many job seekers want as much of your story as they can get: from your mission and values, to how you embody diversity, to the ways you showcase your culture. From there they may form an idea of what it’s like to work at your company, including how they’d help support your products and services.

Everyone has the potential to be a brand influencer—for better or for worse.

As their relationship with your recruitment brand becomes intertwined with the way they feel about your consumer brand, there’s no telling how they might respond if they feel skipped over for a job.

Years ago, unhappy job applicants might have just vented to friends and family. Now, with social media a few taps away on their smartphone, nearly everyone has a voice. And some voices reach lots of ears.

• Some candidates may go to social media and share their disappointment with a few hundred or thousand followers and friends.
• Others may post a negative review on an employer rating site, job board, or the wall of your company’s Facebook page.

Whether it’s a Twitter feed that’s turned into a bullhorn, or a jobsite lighting up with reviews, more and more job seekers tune in before they apply for a job. And what they find when they do can be a mixed bag.

Consider the results from the 2015 “The Future of Recruiting” report by Future Workplace and CareerArc. Among those surveyed:

• 33% have shared at least one negative review of a past or prospective employer.
• 55% claim that after reading a negative review, they would consider not applying for a job.
• 66% of those who post negative reviews say they are more likely to spread their opinions on social media, rather than only share with close friends or colleagues.


Engaging with previous applicants can play a key role in helping you fill future openings. Our latest Spotlight report, “What Are Candidates Thinking When They Look at Your Job Application?” provides insight into how you can keep connections going with people who weren’t quite the right fit this time.

Download the Report


Imagine you’re a job seeker. You’ve applied for a position at a company you’ve been watching for a while. Other than the generic sounding “confirmation” message you received after you applied, you haven’t heard anything in nearly three weeks. By now, the opening no longer appears on the jobsite where you found it, or on the company’s careers page. When you visit the website, you reread their careers FAQs. Your eyes stop on the note that says they “seriously consider and follow up with all applicants.”

So where is your follow-up message?

It’s no wonder that some candidates are choosing to skip HR altogether. And why not, especially if they’ve come to believe that they’ll never get anywhere by applying anonymously through job boards. Wouldn’t they be better off making a personalized connection, rather than falling down the black hole of HR?

• They start calling old colleagues and friends to talk about other possibilities
• They spend more time on LinkedIn to build new connections
• They meet with a recruiter and attend industry focused networking event

No matter how a job applicant internalizes a perceived slight, connecting with them early on can be a highly strategic decision.

Not only will it keep you plugged in with talent that could very well support your future hiring efforts, but these positive, professional interactions can help create a buffer around negative brand perception. And engagement is the key factor in building and maintaining these connections.

Reject Job Candidates Strategically

Here are five tips to consider that can help you keep the applicants you turned down engaged with your company:

1. Candidates appreciate when employers follow up with them. Once you choose to pursue another candidate, send job applicants a genuine note that expresses the fact that you appreciate their time and effort, and wish them luck.
2. Tone matters. Be warm, even when sending out a templated message. A conversational tone in a rejection letter can soften the blow of a “no,” and make it seem like real people work for your company.
3. Leave the door open for future connections. Shutting a candidate out does nothing for your company’s reputation. Invite job seekers to apply again.
4. Be personal where possible. There’s nothing like mentioning something about a candidate’s application to show that your company took them seriously. If something stood out from an application, don’t hesitate to mention it, or to call out particular strength. as long as doing so is within compliance.
5. Be honest. Telling a candidate that you were looking for a different skill set or more experience is an acceptable—and honest—explanation that can do wonders for your employer brand.
Within the larger scope of your recruiting, everything you do has the possibility of affecting candidate perception. Creating a level of engagement early on can be an important step in building the kind of trust that pays dividends for your company later.


No matter what changes in the country’s hiring environment, personalized communication goes a long way in creating brand advocates and fans. With myStaffingPro you can send email updates and alerts to candidates at every phase of the hiring process. Contact myStaffingPro, and find out how we can support your recruiting and hiring efforts today and tomorrow.

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