How To Tell A Candidate They Didn't Get The Job - The Full Guide


If you’re reading this page you’ve probably drawn the short straw and you’ve been given the task of letting a candidate know that they didn’t get the role they wanted. This is a dreaded job that nobody wants. Telling someone that they haven’t been successful in an interview is very difficult. However, there are lots of ways that you can tell someone that they didn’t get the role, without causing too much unnecessary stress and upset. 

You have to engage your professional side in order to achieve this, and this can be difficult. Read on for some great tips and tricks to help you break this news in the best way possible.

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Breaking The News - Via Phone Or In Person

Delivering any bad news is difficult, but telling someone they haven’t got the job they so desperately wanted is very hard. Unfortunately, this responsibility may end up falling to you, and, if it does, there are plenty of things you can do to make the situation as stress free as possible. 

Let’s dive into the step by step guide on how to break this news to someone without them leaving feeling too disheartened or set back. 

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  1. Tell Them Right Away 

The most grueling thing for someone who is waiting to hear back from a job interview is the waiting itself. Chances are they’ve already been waiting for a little while, and you really don’t want to keep them waiting any longer. Open with the rejection. Obviously, greet them first, but after that explain that they have been unsuccessful at this time. Don’t ask how they are, or find out whether they feed their cat wet or dry food before you tell them that.

  1. Thank Them 

Next, you need to thank them for their time and let them know that it was nice to meet them. We’ve all been in their shoes, so think about what you would like to hear. Let them know that they had many positive attributes, but that the role just doesn’t fit them at this time. Remember to say thank-you to the candidate for taking the time to apply. 

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  1. Let Them Know It Wasn’t An Easy Decision 

You want the news to set back the candidate as little as possible. In order to do this, it helps to let them know that the decision was a difficult one to make, and that all the candidates had many strengths that meant they were all in the running. This places the other candidate as the winner, rather than the one you are rejecting as the loser. While it still isn’t positive for them, at least they won’t feel like they were the worst candidate.

  1. Tell Them To Keep Applying 

Encourage the candidate to apply for other roles within the organization if you like them and think they have something to bring to the table. Let them know that you will keep them in mind if any other positions open up in the future.

Tips And Tricks 

Be Honest 

Being honest with your candidate is the best way to encourage them to move forward. Perhaps they were lacking on the qualifications required for the position, or they simply hadn’t shown evidence of an essential skill required. Let them know this.

No Small Talk

Don’t ask your candidate about their day or what their plans are for the Christmas break. It might seem like a good way to ease the tension, but the candidate is likely very anxious to hear what you have to say, and lengthening this process for no reason is not going to help the situation for them. 

Also read: Employee Motivation Strategies

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Keep It Short And Sweet

Stick to the steps we have listed above, and don’t deviate from them. You don’t want the process to be longer than it needs to be. If they have questions, answer them within reason but ensure you are clear that they have been unsuccessful.

Let Them Know As Soon As Possible 

As soon as you know that your candidate has been unsuccessful, let them know. You don’t want to make them wait for the verdict when it is not necessary. This proves that you are grateful for their time and application. If the process is smooth and quick, the candidate is much more likely to apply again in the future. 

Breaking The News Via Email 

While a phone call is easier to show empathy and explain the situation, if this is not possible, an email can work just as well. When you are letting them know in an email, you should ensure you are clear and concise. Follow these steps: 

  1. Address Them By Name 

Address the candidate by name to make sure it seems formal and professional while also being personal. 

  1. Make It Concise 

Make sure you don’t overcomplicate the process. Simply let them know they have been unsuccessful and thank them for their time. You can also let them know that if they would like some more specific feedback they can get in touch with you.

Tips For Emailing Rejections 

Double and triple check all of the personalized information in the email. The last thing you want is to put the wrong name on the email to confuse matters and make it seem unprofessional.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Why Is It Important?

There are two reasons as to why it is important to tell someone in the right way that they haven’t been successful in an application. Firstly, it can damage the reputation of the company if you don’t manage to let them down easily. This may mean that they won’t want to apply for jobs in the future, or they may not recommend the company to a friend.The second reason is that you don’t want to leave a candidate feeling disheartened. It is a grueling process to apply for jobs, and you want morale to remain relatively high.

What Questions Might The Rejected Candidate Ask?

Commonly, rejected candidates will be wondering what made the person who got the job more successful than them. When you are asked this question, try to mention a couple of things that the other candidate has that they don’t. For instance, if they are going for a job in the hospitality industry, perhaps the successful candidate has more experience in this environment. Don’t list all the reasons they were worse than the other candidate, though.

Why Might Someone Not Get The Role?

There are many reasons why someone may not be successful in a job interview. Some common reasons are being late to the interview, showing poor communication skills and email etiquette and not showing enough knowledge of the role or the company. Another reason could be lack of qualifications or qualifications in the wrong industry for the role.


Final Thoughts 

It’s never a fun experience when you draw the short straw and have to let the unsuccessful applicants know that they will not be hired at this time. However, there are many things that you can do to improve the experience for yourself and the candidates. 

After reading this article, you should now have a better understanding of how to tell an applicant they didn’t get the job in the best possible way.

Using our paystub generator software you are making sure that you are not neglecting such an important business process, while trying to improve other sides of the business.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, if you believe the candidate has potential for a different role within your company, you can recommend they apply for other positions.

Be empathetic, honest, and professional when communicating the decision, and give them an opportunity to ask questions or seek feedback.

Be respectful during the rejection process, provide valuable feedback, and keep the door open for future opportunities. This will help maintain a positive relationship.

It's best to inform candidates as soon as the decision is made, typically within a week or two after the interview process.

Yes, it is essential to inform candidates of their application status out of courtesy and professionalism.

There could be potential legal risks if feedback is discriminatory or inappropriate. Ensure that the feedback is constructive and based on the candidate's performance and qualifications.

Yes, it is good practice to document the rejection process, including the reasons for the decision and any feedback provided, for potential future reference.

Providing constructive feedback is helpful for the candidate's future job search, but it's not mandatory. Offer feedback if you feel it's appropriate and you have specific points to share.

The best way is to communicate with the candidate via phone or email, being honest, respectful, and providing constructive feedback.

Be professional, express gratitude for their effort and interest, explain why they were not selected, and offer constructive feedback if possible.
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How To Tell A Candidate They Didn't Get The Job - The Full Guide
James Wilson

After graduating from McCombs School of Business in Texas, James joined ThePayStubs as a CPA to make sure the numbers we provide our clients are correct. Read More

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