Only one person can get the job at the end of the hiring process. That’s the reality. If you are an employer, a recruiter, or an HR manager, or if you run a recruitment agency, you shouldn’t feel bad about rejecting someone’s job application.

Experiencing rejection is also a good lesson, and most job seekers are used to getting rejected. That’s just how the game works–sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. At the same time, however, you should try to reject them in a polite way. You should do it to ensure that they won’t spread a bad word about you, or about your company.  What is more, a polite rejection will keep the door open for a possible cooperation with them in the future.

You never know whether the candidate you originally chose for a job–your first pick, won’t leave the company in two months time. If they leave, you may actually need (or want) to hire one of the candidates you originally rejected. It is easier to hire the second best person than to start the recruitment process all over again…


How do good employers reject job applicants?

  • They call them, thanking them for their time, and telling them their final decision.
  • They send a rejection letter, and they mention a clear reason why they chose someone else, or why they rejected the applicant.

We typically try to be nice in the interviews (no reason to do otherwise), and many job candidates have a good impression after meeting us, believing in their chances. Sadly, they are wrong. The fact that the interviewers were nice to someone does not tell anything about the chances of the person to get hired. We are nice, simply because it is the interview etiquette, and it is human. People should be nice to each other, every time they meet (though it doesn’t work that way in a real world).


Feedback will help them

One way or another, we should give the job applicants some feedback. Telling them why they failed will help them to improve on their interviewing skills, and to do better next time.

When I am not sure what to write, or tell them, I will use one of the following formulations:

  • You made a good impression on us, and you would be a good match for this job. However, one other candidate did even better, demonstrating their skills and right personality for the job. We may still contact you in the future, if the position opens again. Thank you a lot for applying with us.
  • We were deciding between several shortlisted candidates, including you, for quite a long time. However, just one person can get a job at the end of the day, and we eventually decided for one of the other job candidates.

Of course, if I have a clear reason why we rejected them, such as that they failed in the case study, personality test, IQ test, or that they didn’t prove their readiness for the job with their interview answers, I will mention the reason in the letter. Let’s have a look at a sample letter below.


Rejection letter sample

Dear Mr. XYZ,

Thank you for interviewing with us for the position of Customer Assistant.

You made a good impression in an interview. However, just one person can get the job, and we eventually decided for one of the other applicants.

We do appreciate your time and effort, and want to encourage you to apply for other openings in our company, if you find them interesting.



Special tip: Download the rejection letter in a simple, PDF document, for further reference (or use it anytime you need to send one to the job applicant:

interview rejection letter sample, PDF

Learn more about interviewing people for the job, and do it in a right way:

  • Interviewing techniques – for employers – Four basic techniques to interview job candidates. Pick the one that suits your situation and recruitment needs.
  • How to conduct an interview – A simple three step guide on conducting an interview, suitable mostly for small business.
  • Funny interview questions – You can use a funny question to ease the pressure in the interview room, to help job seekers to relax, or oppositely, to surprise them with an unexpected question.
Matthew Chulaw
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