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How HR Managers Can Write Good Rejection Letters

One difficult part of hiring for an open position is informing applicants that they didn’t get the job. This even gets harder when it’s a well-qualified candidate who just happens not to be a great fit for the company. As an HR manager, the ability to deliver direct but kind rejection letters will not only build a great image for the employer but also help you attract potential talent for future open positions.

This article takes you through the process of learning how to write professional and thoughtful rejection letters that will stand out. 

What Is a Rejection Letter? 

A rejection letter is a formal document sent by an employer to inform an applicant that they have not been selected for a particular job position or opportunity they applied for. Rejection letters are an essential part of the hiring process, as they help manage candidates’ expectations and maintain a positive employer image, even in cases where an applicant is not successful. 

Here are the key details typically contained in a rejection letter:

  • Candidate name
  • Company name 
  • Job position 
  • Contact information for the hiring staff
  • Date of interview or application 
  • Reason for rejection 

Rejection letters can be sent out at any point during the recruitment process. However, HR managers should try to inform unselected candidates as soon as possible. These letters vary in length, depending on the stage of the recruitment process at which the applicant was rejected, the reason for rejection, and the amount of information you’re willing to divulge. 

For instance, the type of letter that will be sent to an applicant who did not pass the application stage will be different from the kind of letter that will be sent to a candidate who made it up to the interview stage. Speaking further on types of rejection letters, here are some more details. 

Types of Rejection Letters 

As mentioned earlier, rejection letters can vary depending on the reason for the rejection. While the general structure and tone of the letter will remain professional and courteous, the content can be tailored to address specific circumstances. 

Here are some types of rejection letters based on different reasons for the rejection:

  • General Rejection Letter: These are sent when an applicant is not selected for a position without specifying a particular reason. They contain a polite acknowledgement of the application, a notification of the decision, and a message of gratitude for the applicant’s interest in the company.
  • Position Already Filled: This is sent when the job position has been filled by another candidate. It expresses appreciation for the applicant’s interest and qualifications but informs them that the position is no longer available.
  • Qualifications Mismatch: Sent when the applicant’s qualifications or skills are good but do not align with the job requirements. This letter may include another open position in the company that might fit the candidate’s skill set.  
  • Interview Performance: Sent when the rejection is based on the applicant’s performance during interviews or assessments. This letter may provide specific feedback on interview weaknesses or areas for improvement.
  • Reference Check Issues: Sent if issues arise during reference checks or background checks that disqualify the applicant. This letter may or may not disclose the specific issue, depending on company policy.
  • Internal Candidate Preferred: Sent when an internal candidate is selected over external applicants. Often includes encouragement for the external candidate to consider other open positions within the company.
  • Temporary Hiring Freeze: Sent when a company temporarily freezes hiring due to budget constraints or other factors. Letters like this typically include a message that the applicant’s application will be reconsidered once hiring resumes.

Two women sitting on chairs.
HR managers are responsible for conducting interviews and overseeing the hiring process.

Importance of Sending Rejection Letters 

Sending rejection letters is an often overlooked aspect of the hiring process, but this act offers several significant benefits for both employers and candidates. 

  • Maintaining a Positive Candidate Experience: Even though applicants may not have been selected for the position, a respectful and timely rejection letter can leave them with a favorable impression of the company. This positive experience can translate into goodwill and may encourage candidates to reapply in the future or recommend the company to others.
  • Building the Employer Brand: A company’s reputation in the job market is crucial for attracting top talent. Sending rejection letters in a timely and polite manner demonstrates that the organization values and respects candidates, even those who were not hired. This practice can lead to higher-quality applicants in the long run.
  • Providing Closure for Candidates: Job seekers invest time and effort into the application and interview process. A rejection letter provides closure by clearly communicating the outcome. It allows candidates to move on with their job search without lingering uncertainty about the status of their application.
  • Feedback and Improvement: Rejection letters provide an opportunity to offer constructive feedback to candidates, especially when their qualifications are close but not quite a match. While not every rejection letter will include feedback, doing so can help candidates understand where they can improve and enhance their chances in future job searches.
  • Tracking and Reporting: Sending rejection letters allows employers to track and report the hiring process accurately. This documentation can be valuable for auditing purposes, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and demonstrating fair and consistent hiring practices. It also helps the hiring team to improve the recruitment process to keep hiring the best talent.

Key Components of a Good Rejection Letter

Rejection letters can be written to contain various details, depending on the employer, the position, and the different stages of the recruitment process. Here are some key details that should typically be contained in any rejection letter:

  • Greeting: The letter usually begins with a polite greeting, addressing the applicant by name (e.g., “Dear [Applicant’s Name]”)
  • Gratitude: Express appreciation for the applicant’s interest in the position and for taking the time to apply. This sets a positive and respectful tone. (e.g., “Thank you for taking the time to apply for the sales coordinator position”)
  • Position Applied For: In some cases, applicants apply for different open positions in the same organization. It is, therefore, important to mention the position they’re getting rejected for to prevent any confusion
  • Notification of Decision: Clearly state the purpose of the letter, which is to inform the applicant that they have not been selected for the position they applied for. (e.g., “We regret to inform you that we are no longer considering you for this position.”)
  • Feedback (optional): Some rejection letters may include constructive feedback outlining specific reasons for the decision. This can be helpful for candidates who wish to improve their qualifications for future opportunities. (e.g., “Your current qualifications do not match those needed for this opening”)
  • Encouragement: Offer encouragement for the applicant’s future endeavors or job search. This can include expressing the hope that they will apply for other positions within the company or wishing them success in their career. (e.g., “We would welcome the chance to consider you for other positions that may align more closely with your background and aspirations”)
  • Closing: End the letter with a courteous closing, such as “Sincerely,” followed by the name and title of the person sending the letter, often the HR manager
  • Contact Information: Provide contact information for any follow-up questions or inquiries the applicant may have.

How to Write Good Rejection Letters

Here are some best practices for HR managers to enable them to write good rejection letters:

  • Be Timely: Rejection letters should be sent out as soon as the hiring decision is made. This timely communication will allow the candidate to move forward with their job search rather than waiting around for updates about a position that they’re already rejected for.
  • Keep it Concise: While providing necessary details, keep the letter concise and to the point. Avoid unnecessary fluff and explanations that can drag the letter on for too long. 
  • Personalize the Letter: Address the candidate by name, and if possible, mention specific details from their application or interview. Thank them for taking the time to send in an application or interview with you. Personalization demonstrates that you have duly considered their application, which they have most likely put a lot of effort into crafting.
  • Be Clear and Direct: Clearly state the purpose of the letter – to inform the candidate that they were not selected for the position. Avoid using vague language or euphemisms that could fail to convey the exact message. Also ensure that the letter contains a clear reason for the applicant’s rejection, such as a skill mismatch, or missing experience. 
  • Maintain a Positive Tone: Use a positive and empathetic tone throughout the letter. You can do this by acknowledging the applicant’s efforts and qualifications. You can also express your hope for their success in finding the right opportunity.
  • Provide Specific Feedback (if applicable): If you can offer constructive feedback, do so tactfully. Mention specific areas where the candidate excelled and where there might be room for improvement. This feedback can be invaluable for their future job searches.
  • Offer an Opportunity for Follow-Up: Provide contact information or a point of contact for candidates who may have questions or seek further clarification. This shows transparency and accessibility. If applicable, you can also encourage the candidate to consider applying for other positions within the organization. This can help retain talent for future opportunities.
  • Customize for Different Scenarios: Tailor rejection letters for different situations, such as internal vs. external candidates or candidates who made it to the final interview round. Customization demonstrates the employer’s attention to detail and professionalism. 
  • Maintain Professional Formatting: Ensure the rejection letter is well-structured, properly formatted, and free of errors. Professional appearance reflects positively on the organization.
  • Call Candidates that Reached the Interview Stage: Before sending out a rejection letter to applicants that reached the interview stage, put a call to them first. This shows the employer’s respect for their efforts.
  • Proofread and Review: Before sending, thoroughly proofread the rejection letter. Consider having a colleague review it as well to catch any errors or issues.
  • Maintain Records: Keep records of all rejection letters sent, including dates and recipients, for auditing and reporting purposes.

By following these tips, HR managers can write rejection letters that are respectful, empathetic, and professional. 

Example of Good Rejection Letters 

Here is a sample of a well-written rejection letter for an open job position. This example follows the tips mentioned above and conveys professionalism and empathy:

Dear [Applicant’s Name],

We want to extend our sincere gratitude to you for your interest in the [Job Title] position at [Company Name]. We appreciate the time and effort you invested in the application and interview process.

After careful consideration, we regret to inform you that we have selected another candidate for the position. Please know that this decision was not made lightly, as we were impressed with your qualifications and your enthusiasm for joining our team.

While you were not selected for this particular role, we believe your skills and experience are valuable. In the interview process, we observed that your [specific strength] and [specific strength] stood out. We encourage you to continue developing these strengths, as they will be an asset in your future endeavors.

We genuinely hope you find the perfect opportunity that aligns with your career goals. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like additional feedback on your application or interview performance. We are here to support your growth and success.

Thank you once again for considering [Company Name] as your potential employer. We wish you all the best in your job search and your future endeavors.


[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Company Name]

[Contact Information]

Sticky notes on a corkboard.
HR managers usually have to review several factors before accepting or rejecting an applicant.


In conclusion, writing good rejection letters is a practice that HR managers can master to leave a positive, lasting impression on candidates and uphold professionalism in the hiring process. By offering constructive feedback when possible and always treating candidates with respect and empathy, HR managers can ensure that every rejection letter contributes to a culture of transparency and goodwill, even when the answer is “no.”

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