How to Reject Job Candidates Without Burning Bridges

The landscape of human resources is changing rapidly. With the explosion of social media and sites like Glassdoor, people can comment on their experiences with your recruitment and employment process. Try to think of candidates that you interview as customers: if they had a negative experience, would they likely do business with you? Would they reapply? Their opinion will matter. Throughout the whole recruitment process, from the initial phone screen to the interview stage, recruiters should inform candidates of what they should expect next in the recruitment process. Now, it’s time to inform the candidate that they did not get the job. What do you do?

Helpful Resource: Read ‘10 Interview Tips to Ensure a Smooth Hiring Process.

Knowing How and When to Reject a Candidate

Act Quickly Following the Interview.

It’s a courtesy to candidates. If a phone screen or in-person interview did not go well, and your hiring manager knows that they would like to move forward with other candidates, reject the candidate quickly. Even though rejecting a candidate can be difficult, the candidate will be grateful that they received a response from the company. Now they can use their time and effort elsewhere when job-searching. If an interview did go well and this candidate was a top contender for a position but the hiring manager selected a different candidate, notify them immediately after you receive an accepted offer from the other candidate.

Talk to Them.

When notifying a candidate that they did not get the job, hold a phone conversation with them. If you’re unable to get ahold of them within two days, then feel free to leave a voicemail or send an email. Keep the conversation short and sweet; there is no need for a long explanation as to why they did not get the position.

If the candidate asks for reasons why they did not receive the job, stick to job-related criteria to avoid legal issues. When speaking with the candidate, add personal touches to remind them that your company sees them as a person and not just an applicant – use their name when speaking to them, mention the position they applied for, and consider mentioning something that they shared with you during their interview. Have the interview notes handy when making the call. 

Provide Words of Encouragement.

If you can picture this candidate being a strong fit for another position for your organization down the road, encourage them to regularly check your careers page to see if any other job opportunities would interest them. Just because a candidate didn’t come out at the top for this position, does not mean that they couldn’t be ideal for another position.

If you cannot see the candidate as a great fit overall, do not encourage them to reapply. Do not say anything you don’t mean. If you did encourage them and they applied for a different position in the future, it will only cause frustration when they don’t hear back from you the second time around. 

Thank Them!

Always remember to thank your candidates. Thank them for expressing interest in your company and for taking the time to interview with you. In addition, make sure to wish them the best as they move forward in their job search.

Timing and Communication is Everything

It is never appropriate for an employer to fail to respond to a candidate. Respect each candidate and show common courtesy by informing the person that he or she did not move on in the hiring process. It is equally important to notify the person in a timely manner. Remember, disgruntled individuals have a platform for all to see and your business’s integrity is on the line. As a business owner or human resources professional, it should always be your goal to build a healthy talent pipeline.

Interested in learning more tips of the trade from our HR department? Check out our HR Blog Series for additional industry insights and best practices. Or contact your local independent agent to ask how Society can make a big difference for your business.


We strive to ensure each new hire will make a contribution to help keep Society moving forward. Beyond the necessary skills required for the job, we look to hire those with additional attributes to create a cohesive environment within our company. Join us and maximize your potential here at Society Insurance by applying at

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