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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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shalynne Barr
    Apr 25, 2013 @ 00:44:43

    Hi Anita! I think our link isn’t working to send you a question but here’s mine: I had a interview just about a week ago. I haven’t heard back from the interviewer. Is it customary to call to ask for updates? I even sent an email the next day after the interview, thanking them for the interview. I didn’t get a response to that either. Please advise.


  2. smiliey
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 23:03:47

    I need a job Sent from my MetroPCS Android Device


  3. Jacob Ochoa
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 17:59:57

    3935252458 Im a hard worker


  4. Jeffrey Castel De Oro
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 15:13:42

    I say kudos to any HR person even contemplating sending rejection letters. It’s a courtesy that I thought was long gone.


  5. Mike Bledsoe
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 14:34:23

    what company


  6. dannfpr
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 11:07:30

    Truth is she may have hired the wrong person. HR people need to get frequent ego checks. An abrasive, under-qualified, unkempt applicant could be your next CEO, or the next CEO that puts your job on the chopping block. HR people need to possess the skills of a psychic–or at least the ability to think outside the box. In my experience HR departments are frustrated hall monitors eschewing any who resemble the BMOC–good luck to all HRs, you have effectively dummied-down a nation.


  7. single mom trying to return to work
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 09:34:30

    Hi Anita! I have been unemployed since 2008 and I am having problems getting a job .I don’t have a problem with getting a interview but, I never get the job .I have been told that because I have been out of work so long I can no be hired. If this is the problem what would you suggest I do


    • Andrew John Cheadle
      Apr 24, 2013 @ 10:35:50

      OMG another person unemployed since 2008 (my last day was May 30 08). I hope we’re not unemployable and that things will get better. I’ve been taking odd-jobs and volunteering to put something on my resume. Perhaps if you reflect on the past five years you’ll find some work which may be resume worthy. Good luck.


    • anitaclew
      Apr 25, 2013 @ 16:22:09

      Hi, Single Mom! Thank you for your question. Being unemployed for a few years can make your job search more difficult but doesn’t make you unhirable. I suggest that you take a look at my post, Finding a Job Without Recent Work References. This post has some tips to getting around your lack of recent experience. Remember to keep your chin up :)

      Thanks again,


  8. Binod Turismo
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 09:31:36

    Hi Anita

    Sent via my LG Marquee from Boost Mobile


  9. Elizabeth Davila
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 09:02:27

    That’z fine Ms.Anita,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,maybe theires others,jobz up ahead for me…………………and sorry,,,, if ive been any-rude on line of commentz on your chat line ,with your temp-c/o,reason of attitude,is that i’am stress-out since my laid-off……………………………………………thank-you for writting me bavk of the job postion of front desk,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and forgive me from being angry from the chat-line,again i’m stress from laid-off………………………………………………………………Elizabeth D.Salazar 11111111111111111111111p/s111111111111111111111111111111 new 2 the chat temp-line………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2013 15:01:29 +0000 To:


    • anitaclew
      May 02, 2013 @ 08:15:28

      Hi, Elizabeth:

      Thank you for your comment. I am not really sure what you are referring to in your comment. I personally do not have an position available as I am not an employer.

      Good luck with your job search and if you need job seeking advice, please let me know.



  10. Mary Efferson
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 08:16:21

    Hi Anita! Just Wanted to THANK YOU for ALL the GOOD INFORMATION that you send to all of us!


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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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