Getting a rejection letter for a job you really wanted is never an easy experience. Also, writing a rejection letter can be stressful, even for the best of us. This is truer than ever nowadays when the pandemic forces candidates to be extremely competitive.
How you as a company handle this rejection is a critical aspect of your candidates’ experience, and can make or break your employer brand. Even if you don’t hire a certain candidate, you want them to think highly of you as an employer.
Here’s how to write a rejection letter that feels more like building a relationship than burning a bridge.
The importance of the rejection letter
A rejection letter (which is usually an email these days) is a formal notification from an employer to a job candidate that they will not be progressing to the next stages of the selection process.
Rejection letters are important for a few reasons. First, they are highly professional and can show your company in great light. They demonstrate appreciation for candidates’ time and effort, which can go a long way in building a relationship and even a talent pool for future roles.
Secondly, they work to improve your candidate experience and employer brand. A candidate that receives a thoughtful rejection letter will think highly of you as an employer, even if they don’t get the job. They will be more likely to recommend you to other candidates and be more likely to consider re-applying or taking an offer down the line from a company that rejects them in a sensitive and optimistic way.
Finally, they give the employer a chance to give candidates valuable feedback on why they were unsuccessful, and how they can improve in the future.
Overall, rejection letters are a superb opportunity to build great relationships with your candidates. The hiring process does not end when you hire or disqualify someone. If you want to keep candidates in your hiring pool and do something great for your employer branding, read on for more on how to write a great rejection letter.
How to write a great rejection letter
Here are a few tips to make writing your rejection letters easier and more enjoyable.
1. Get straight to the point
Your candidate knows that you’re emailing them about their application. You shouldn’t make them read five paragraphs before you get to the point. Immediately tell them what you need to tell them in a gentle and compassionate way.
2. Give them feedback
A lot of companies don’t give feedback as a policy to prevent themselves from possible lawsuits. However, a little goes a long way, and you don’t have to be incredibly specific to give the candidate something of value. However, if you want to go the extra mile, tell them why you chose someone else and why they were not a good fit for the role. Good candidates will appreciate the opportunity to better themselves professionally. Plus, reading an “it’s not you, it’s us” type rejection letter can help soothe the ego hit of getting rejection after rejection. You never know, it could be the very thing that pushes them in a totally new career direction!
3. Let the candidate know that there may still be a chance
Perhaps it didn’t work out with this specific role, but you want to keep the candidate interested in your other roles or similar roles that might pop up in the future. If applicable, tell the disqualified candidate that you have other open positions or that you will have more openings in the future to encourage them to apply again.
4. Wish them good luck
Always make sure to include this part. It’s just good manners.
5. Send it as soon as possible
The average hiring process takes much longer than companies or candidates would like. According to research, 44% of candidates get feedback from the employer within a few weeks from applying, while 37% get it within one week. Just 4% get it the same day, meaning speeding up your response time can give you a BIG advantage over the competition in terms of candidate experience.
If you’re sending a rejection letter, send it as soon as possible. Candidates appreciate knowing that they’re not a good fit so that they can move on. This way, you’re saving and respecting everyone’s time.
6. Write different rejection letters for each stage in the hiring process
You wouldn’t break up with someone you date for 2 months the same way you would with a partner of several years. So don’t send the same rejection letter in every stage of your hiring funnel. The further the candidate gets, the more personalized the letter should be.
7. Keep it personal
Your candidate probably took more than an hour to apply for your role and they won’t be happy to see a templated rejection letter that hundreds of other candidates also get. Depending on which stage the candidate gets rejected, you can personalize the template just for them.
The least that you can do is use their name, the position that they applied for, and the date of their interview. With the right talent management system, this can be pretty easy to set up.
If your candidate made it further in the hiring process and they’re one of the few that you interviewed and considered to hire, they deserve a more personalized, hand-written rejection letter. Tell them specifically why they weren’t a good fit, what they could improve on in the future, and say you’ll keep them in mind for similar roles. A little goes a long way, and your effort will pay dividends in the future if, as your company grows, you already have a talent pool to reach out to when hiring for similar roles again.
An example of an impersonal rejection letter
8. Thank the candidate
At the very beginning of the rejection letter, make sure to thank the candidate for applying. After all, they’re spending their valuable time applying for your job opening.
No matter what you write, it is inevitable for the candidate to be a little disheartened at the sight of a rejection letter. However, the way you write it can make all the difference. Use this opportunity to build a better relationship with your candidates, invite them to apply again, and boost your employer branding. After all, that same candidate could apply again later on and become a stellar addition to your team. Sometimes it is just a case of right place, wrong time. But neither you nor they will know unless they try again.