How to write the perfect candidate rejection email

GARY TOWERS • 13 Jun 2022

1 - Treat candidates like customers
2 - Let the candidate know quickly
3 - Make it personal and include a reason
4 - Consider staying in touch
5 - Seek their feedback

Often a company will dismiss the importance of rejecting candidates. Time is precious and their priority is the candidates they're interested in hiring.

In the candidate-driven market of 2022 those companies do so at their peril. So here's our top tips for sending rejection e-mails!

Treat candidates like customers

Perhaps realising the link between applicants and revenue might force a rethink. Each applicant is a consumer of goods and services – clothes, food, vehicles, holidays, legal and banking services etc. What are the odds they are one of your customers, or potentially a customer, or a friend or relative of a customer?  

According to the Human Capital Institute, 72% of job seekers report sharing their negative candidate experiences online, with one of the main causes being a lack of response. 55% of job seekers report avoiding certain companies after reading negative online reviews.

Woman sitting at a table with a laptopIs that simply avoiding ‘applying’ to those companies, or avoiding them altogether? Given the time and money spent on branding and marketing can you really afford not to treat applicants like customers? 

Let the candidate know quickly

Would you leave a customer waiting? No – as it would negatively affect your business. This is where your Applicant Tracking System earns its money. Minimise the workload for busy line managers and recruiters by linking pass/fail decisions with automated communications to the applicants.  

‘’But what if the Managers are slow to review applications?” you might say. Your Applicant Tracking System should also be able to also automate the pass/fail decision if you have set our essential eligibility criteria as part of the online application and screening process. And if a manual screen is required, set alerts and prompts linked to preset timescales within the system to give them reminders.  

Make it personal and include a reason

According to Career Builder applicants spend 11 hours a week searching for jobs. Jobtrain surveyed 7000 applicants and found that completing the application itself ranged from  15 minutes to over 60 minutes for some organisations. Applicants are investing their time to research your organisation and choose to apply to work for you, a major life decision that affects their livelihood and potentially their family.

Post (4)Your Applicant Tracking System should be configured to merge personal details into the rejection emails! As a minimum, this should include addressing them by name, and ideally signing off the communication with the name of the decision-maker.

Include a short comment about what they liked. Again, this can be automatically merged into the communication by recording within the Applicant Tracking System when screening. With trust and training, you could go a step further and ask them to record where the applicant fell short, be it against the criteria or the other applicants. Keep it short and objective, with no long commentaries that could be patronising or discriminatory.  

Consider staying in touch

According to the ONS in the last 12 months vacancies have reached almost 1.5 million in the UK, and Jobtrain processed 80% more applications than the year prior! 

Our applicant survey found 78% are job hunting out of choice, not necessity.  Recruiting organisations are seeing lower applications per vacancy and longer hiring times, so if you must reject an applicant but you think they could be good for something else, tell them, and offer to keep in touch.

This could save a lot of time and money for your future recruitment. This might be using a talent pool feature within your Applicant Tracking System or connecting on LinkedIn.  They will likely appreciate the honesty and the potential opportunity. They won’t appreciate being strung along, so make sure expectations are clear and honest for both sides.

To Your application for the Chief Operating Officer position Dear Isabella, Thank you for applying for the Chief Operating Officer position at Primity. On this occasion, weve decided

Seek their feedback

How often as a customer are you surveyed about your experience? Does it make you feel valued? For the organisation asking the questions, customer feedback is essential to evolving their product or service. 

Do you ask your rejected applicants for feedback? You may be pleasantly surprised how many will be willing to complete an online survey if a link to one is embedded within the rejection email! You could learn a lot about their job-seeking motivations, how they found your application process, and how you compare to rival employers.  

We have extensive experience of optimising our clients' recruitment through applicant tracking system technology and extensive data analysis from our talent intelligence unit. Reach out to us here for a free consultation to discuss your current recruiting strategy. 

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