HR articles

How To Write a Professional Rejection Letter (+ templates)

If you’re human (and we know you are, or HR wouldn’t be your calling), rejection letters are never easy. Here’s the good news. Handled well, a rejection letter can leave candidates feeling good about themselves and your brand. And that’s a win-win.
In recruitment, the final act in the interview process is often the most delicate: the rejection letter.

An employment rejection letter is a simple, often brief, document that carries the weight of finality, which is why writing a rejection letter is not just about delivering bad news. It’s an art form that, when executed with tact and empathy, can leave a lasting, positive impression on candidates.

What is a rejection letter?

A rejection letter is a formal communication, typically in writing, issued by an organization or HR professional to inform a candidate that their job application has been unsuccessful. The tone of a rejection letter is ideally polite and professional, and it may or may not provide feedback or reasons for the rejection. The purpose is to give closure to the recipient and allow them to move forward with other opportunities.

How to write a rejection letter

We will provide you with sample rejection letters and dos and don’ts later in this article. For now, just keep these four key points top of mind:
  1. Say thanks
  2. Deliver the news
  3. Give the main reason
  4. Offer hope.
Offering hope does not mean giving false hope. Hope is simply a good piece of advice that they can use going forward. It’s a way of subtly implying there are many opportunities out there.

3 types of rejection letters + free templates

1. Pre-screening rejection letter

This type of letter is sent when a candidate does not meet the basic qualifications or requirements for the position. Since there has been no personal interaction, the letter is usually standard and to the point, thanking the candidate for their interest and informing them that they will not be moving forward in the selection process.
Sample pre-screening rejection letter

Subject: Your application to [Company Name]

Dear [Candidate Name],

Thank you for your interest in the [Job Title] position at [Company Name]. We appreciate the time you have invested in your application.

After reviewing your qualifications, we have concluded that we will not be moving forward with your application at this time. We receive a large number of applications, and unfortunately, we cannot offer interviews to all applicants.

Please do not be discouraged, as this does not reflect on your skills and accomplishments. We encourage you to apply for future openings that match your qualifications and interests.

Thank you again for considering a career with [Company Name]. We wish you success in your job search and professional endeavors.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Job Title]

[Company Name]

2. Post-screening rejection letter

A more personalized post-screening rejection letter is sent after a preliminary online interview or phone screen if a candidate is not selected for further consideration. It acknowledges the time spent during the screening and may include brief feedback on why the candidate was not advanced to the next stage.
Sample post-screening rejection letter

Subject: [Position Name] at [Company Name] – Application Status

Dear [Candidate Name],

Thank you for taking the time to participate in the preliminary screening process for the [Position Name] at [Company Name]. We are grateful for the chance to learn about your skills and experiences.

We have completed our screening evaluations, and we regret to inform you that we will not be proceeding with your candidacy for this position. This decision was challenging due to the high caliber of candidates this year.

We are honored to have had the opportunity to consider you for our team and hope you will not be disheartened by this news. We invite you to apply for future positions with [Company Name] that fit your qualifications.

Again, thank you for your interest in [Company Name], and we wish you the best in all your future endeavors.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Job Title]

[Company Name]

3. Rejection letter after interview

When a candidate has undergone one or more in-depth interviews but is not chosen for the role, a rejection letter is sent to communicate the decision.
In this case, a phone call is a more respectful and direct method of delivering the news. It provides an opportunity for more personalized feedback and helps maintain a positive relationship. However, a carefully composed rejection letter is sent if attempts to reach the candidate via phone are unsuccessful. This letter should express appreciation for the candidate’s time and effort, provide feedback, and encourage them to apply for future positions matching their skills.
Sample rejection letter after interview

Subject: [Job Title] Position at [Company Name]

Dear [Candidate Name],

Thank you for the time and effort you dedicated to the interview process for the [Job Title] role with us at [Company Name]. It was a pleasure to discuss your background and aspirations.

After careful consideration, we have decided to move forward with another candidate for this position. This decision was not an easy one given the impressive set of candidates we interviewed.

We appreciate the opportunity to get to know you and are thankful for the interest you’ve shown in joining our team. We will keep your resume on file and if a suitable position arises that aligns with your skills and experience, we hope to consider you for future opportunities.

We wish you all the best in your career and hope you find a position that is a perfect fit for your talents.

Kind regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Job Title]

[Company Name]

Remember, the goal is to be respectful and professional, ensuring the candidate feels valued despite not getting the job.
A well-composed rejection letter ends the current recruitment interaction on a positive note and lays the groundwork for a continuing relationship with potential talent.

You can learn to the power of copywriting when engaging with candidates on the Recruitment sales & funnel course!
All in all, May the Force be with you!