Respectful Rejection

Hi, Anita:

I have finally hired a new employee for an open position at my company with the best candidate out of the bunch. It was a tough decision as we had a lot of great applicants but I think I have made the best choice possible. How should I politely and professionally let the other candidates know that the position has been filled?


Dear, Respectful Rejection:

Filling an open position is a great accomplishment. Congratulations on nailing down the leader of the pack! The downside is that you are now charged with breaking the bad news to the other candidates. EnvelopesIt’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

I am always hearing from job seekers that it is often more discouraging being left in the dark on whether a position is still available than not getting the job at all. As a common courtesy, it is important to be open and honest with the status of the opening and send the candidates you didn’t select on their way. They can move on past this opportunity and discover another that lies ahead.

Below are some tips that I suggest you try out when crafting your candidate rejection letter. Once you have the structure written, you will have a template to use in the future.

  • Always type your rejection letter on company letterhead. Never handwrite the letter as it can become more personal than it should be. Alternately, if the candidate applied via email, you may send an email response with the letter content.
  • Address the letter to the candidate. Do not use something generic like “Dear,
    Applicant.” Rejection is painful enough. No need to twist the knife by not acknowledging the person’s name.
  • Thank the candidate for their interest in working with you and for the time and energy they spent during the application/interview process.
  • State that the position has been filled. You can expand on this if you wish, but I believe it is best to cut to the chase.
  • If you want to lessen the sting, a compliment or two may be included.
  • Wish your candidate the best of luck in their future endeavors.
  • Let the candidate know you’ll keep their information on file should your needs change.
  • Sign the document or insert your signature.

Be sure to send the rejection letter in a timely manner — neither immediately after the interview nor four weeks after the position is filled. Think of Goldilocks and find just the right balance. You want the candidates to believe that you thought long and hard before selecting your new hire. At the same time, you do not want to leave them hanging.

Best wishes,


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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