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How do you tell unsuccessful applicants they didn’t get the job?

Recruitment Advice

Communicating with unsuccessful applicants is a crucial part of the recruitment process. After all, they could be your customers or referees tomorrow

A disclaimer on an advert that “we have too many applicants to tell you if you are unsuccessful” is not what any candidate wants to, or should, hear in today’s technology driven recruitment world. If you’re struggling to manage the volume of applications, let Flat Fee Recruiter do this for you!

In order to understand how to tell an applicant they are unsuccessful, let’s first delve into the when, where and why of communication in the recruitment process.


When do we communicate in the recruitment process?

One simple email at each stage of the recruitment process will improve many aspects of your hiring efforts:

  • Keeping applicants warm and available
  • Reducing your recruitment administration
  • Improving internal hiring processes
  • Encouraging applicants to respond and engage
  • Protecting your company brand
  • Looking good as an employer
  • Increasing the number of referrals
  • Improving customer loyalty



Why should I communicate with unsuccessful applicants?

Communicating with applicants, even bad news/rejection to unsuccessful candidates, is very beneficial to your company. Not only will it stop job seekers chasing you, but it will also help your business and employer brand in all sorts of ways – great news if you recruit consistently.

Nothing is worse from an applicant’s point of view than putting time and effort into an application form or a job interview with a company that then ignores you.  In Human Resources, you are not necessarily there to deliver careers advice, but if you want to improve your employer brand then rejecting candidates should become part of your routine and the interview process.


How do I tell a candidate they are unsuccessful?

There are two main points in the recruitment process where a job candidate is likely to be rejected:

  1. At the initial CV or application form submission or
  2. After the interview stage.

Let’s take each of these in turn below.  Are you going to let them know by phone, email or letter?  Each method has its place and the type of communication you use will very much depend on the message you wish to convey and where the candidate is up to in the recruitment process.


  1. Rejection following the initial application

A simple email response along these lines will do wonders:

‘Thank you for your recent application for our XX role. Unfortunately, on this occasion, there were other more suitably matched candidates for the role and as such I regret to inform you that we will not be proceeding with your application. 

If you would like to discuss your feedback in more detail I am happy to have that conversation if you would like to contact me on XX. 

We really appreciate your interest in our company; please keep an eye on our career site for future job opportunities.’

This is a great way to thank an applicant for their time, whilst informing them that you have reviewed their application and that they have been unsuccessful on this occasion. The second line shows the candidate that their application was carefully considered, proved by your offer to discuss your decision with them i.e. not just fobbing them off.

Finally, you want to close with a relationship-builder, making it clear that a ‘no’ is not a ‘never’. You would also mention here that their application will be kept on record (if you operate a talent pool system) and to keep in touch on social media – again, positive brand interaction.


Building these templates into your Applicant Tracking System is simple, so you can email candidates really effectively.  At Flat Fee Recruiter, communicating with unsuccessful applicants is all part of the service we offer our customers.


  1. Rejection after interview

With post-interview rejections, you probably need to be a bit more personal – you’ve met this person; they have spent time attending their interview (which isn’t always easy when employed); and they have spent even more time prepping and researching.

You can do this via email or letter, or you can do a combination of phone call and email confirmation. Whichever method you choose, we’d recommend you cover the following:

  • Address the applicant by name
    ‘Dear Jo’ is more personal than ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ – again, you have met them and established a relationship, however brief. It is only fitting that you address them by name.
  • Thank them for their time
    Out of politeness, thank the candidate for their application and time attending the interview.
  • Explain what went well
    Starting with a positive gives them a confidence boost, softening their rejection and also lets them know that attending the interview wasn’t a waste of time. They had great skills or qualities that you were looking for and they presented themselves well.
  • Explain the reason for your decision
    Whilst they had traits suitable for the role, unfortunately…then cite your reasoning for rejecting them. Whether it was lack of experience, falling short on a particular skill, or simply that another candidate pipped them to the post.
  • End on a positive note
    Sign off your email on a positive note, wishing them well in their future job search and keeping the door open by directing them to your career site where they can apply for other positions.

Covering all the above will result in an informative, yet polite way of letting an applicant know that they didn’t get the job, whilst keeping their experience with your brand positive. It’s also worth training your Hiring Managers on how to provide feedback, and why it is important.


Recruitment Housekeeping

Let us take care of notifying unsuccessful candidates.

Flat Fee Recruiter offers a ‘Recruitment Housekeeping’ service, in which we contact candidates to let them know they have not been selected.

Nearly 80% of companies neglect to notify unsuccessful applicants at the end of their campaign. Separate yourself from the competition and ensure your brand maintains a positive impression by letting us contact candidates on your behalf.