Letting a job candidate officially know that he or she didn’t get the job is an extra step in the hiring process that few companies bother to take, but it’s one that makes sound business sense. Sending a letter enhances the company’s reputation as an efficient and professional organization, and you never know when you might have an opening down the road that this particular candidate could fit perfectly.

Here is a sample rejection letter that you can download and tailor to your needs. Check out the following tips and suggestions for making your rejection letter as effective and simple as possible.

General rejection-letter tips
Put your thanks-but-no-thanks notification in the form of a business letter and print it on company letterhead just as you would any other important written correspondence. Putting the news in such a format, instead of a phone call or an e-mail, helps make it official and gives you the opportunity to make statements without inviting discussion.

You should also take the time to personalize the letter with the person’s name and a few details about what you learned about the candidate during the interview process. You can cut down on the time the letter takes to personalize by having your own boilerplate text that you tailor a little each time (download TechRepublic’s boilerplate letter here).

Here are a couple of pointers for when and how to write such a letter:

  • Write the letter as soon as you have decided the candidate is not the right person for the job and as soon as possible after the interview. Don’t wait until you have hired someone for the position. It could be months before you hire someone, so it’s kinder to let someone know right away so he or she can turn to other job possibilities.
  • Personalize the letter using the candidate’s name, date of last interview, and a few other personal touches as demonstrated in TechRepublic’s sample letter. The personal touch is much more impressive than a form letter addressed to “Dear Candidate.” If you don’t have the time to personalize (a minute or two is all that is required), then you might as well not send a rejection letter at all.
  • Add your name and signature or the name and signature of whomever the candidate would have reported to if hired. Do not use the name of someone in human resources that the candidate did not meet. Putting the hiring manager’s name on the letter makes the letter seem more personal. It is also more professional than putting down the name of someone who is faceless to the candidate.
  • Be kind, but clear, about the purpose of the letter; you want the candidate to get the message that this particular job opportunity is now closed to them. Do not say anything that would make them think there is a possibility that they could get the job if they get in touch with you.
  • Talk about how the candidate and the job are not a good fit. Talking about the fit, and not about the person, allows you a graceful way to talk about any deficiencies you may have found in the candidate.
  • Be specific about why the fit wasn’t there if you can do so cleanly and gently. If the candidate managed to irritate everyone he or she met with, you could say something about personalities not meshing. If the candidate clearly did not live up to his or her resume, you can mention that you had unmet expectations based upon what you read in the resume. If the candidate exaggerated his or her experience on the resume just to get the interview, he or she will understand what you’ve said.
  • Don’t make commitments you can’t (or won’t) keep. It’s hard to say no to people, but don’t promise things that you can’t deliver in an attempt to soften the blow. Eliminate phrases such as “we’ll keep your resume on file” or “I will forward your resume on to another manager.”

No means no!
Be prepared to deal with a candidate who won’t take no for an answer. Most job candidates who receive such a letter will be grateful that the company is professional enough to let them know their status in a timely manner. They might even write you a letter in reply to thank you and to ask you to keep them in mind for another, more suitable opportunity.

Occasionally, though, you might get a letter or a call from a candidate who has taken your letter as a sign that he or she should get in touch with you. They may want to point out some wonderful aspect of their experience or skills that was obviously missed in the interviews. Or, they may want to argue with you about something you said in the letter.

It’s a tough job market these days, and some people have been out of work for weeks or months. You can’t blame them for trying to go the extra mile, as they see it, especially if they really want the job. Your response to them needs to be brief, firm, but respectful. “No” really does mean “no” in this case.

It’s a sad fact that a manager will interview and reject more people than he or she hires. Sending out a thoughtful, personalized rejection letter helps soften the blow while it helps maintain the company’s professional image.