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How to Reject Irrelevant Candidates Without Creating a Bad Candidate Experience

With employer branding on the rise and competition in the employment market constantly growing, ensuring a good candidate experience has become a critical factor in engaging and hiring candidates. Your employer brand image often determines whether or not you will get a chance to speak with a candidate you wish to attract. Research has found that candidates who had a bad candidate experience are more likely to tell others not to apply to work at your company. Moreover, 37% of candidates said they had left a negative review online after having a bad candidate experience, which is why your company needs to put enough effort into making a good impression to help build a strong employer brand image. However, what about providing a positive candidate experience when it comes to rejecting irrelevant candidates?

A well-thought-out approach to rejecting candidates is essential to creating a positive candidate experience. It helps you fill your talent pipeline with top talent and improve your employer brand. Candidates who leave your hiring pipeline on a positive note are more likely to consider your future job openings and invite people they know to apply for future positions at your company. Therefore, let’s explore the steps recommended when you need to reject job applicants without creating a bad candidate experience.

Rejecting Candidates Professionally

When writing a job rejection letter, it is important to choose your words carefully. While the candidates may not welcome the bad news, being kind and considerate will ensure that they still have a positive opinion about your company. There are no real rules on rejecting candidates, but you should definitely consider these tips for writing a graceful rejection letter:

  • Get straight to the point
  • Explain the reasons
  • Give them feedback
  • Keep it personal
  • Leave the door open — encourage candidates to apply again
  • Thank candidates
  • Write different rejection letters for each stage in the hiring process

Rejecting Candidates via Email - What to Include

An Informative Subject Line

When rejecting candidates by email, write a simple subject line that stands out in the candidate’s inbox. The subject line should include the name of the company and the position title so the candidates can easily understand the purpose of the email.

A “Thank You”

At the very beginning of the rejection email, make sure to appreciate the candidates’ interest in your company and the time they spent completing their application and interviewing with your staff. This message will also show that your company values others’ time and effort, which will have a positive impact on your employer brand.


Make sure to always use the candidate’s first name and the title of the position. The candidate probably took a lot of time and effort to apply for your position, so receiving a cold and templated rejection letter will not leave a positive impression. Also, if possible, include a note from the conversation about a specific attribute you appreciated.


Applicants often value feedback from employers after interviews because it provides insights into areas of improvement and may help them perform better next time. According to the Indeed survey, 86% of candidates want to get constructive feedback about their interview performance. So, it is important to take your time and briefly describe what you are looking for in a candidate that the applicant lacked. To leave a good impression, mention the qualities you liked about the candidate. The positive aspects will help the candidate understand which qualities to highlight when applying for a job next time.

Invitation to Apply Again

If you believe the candidate could be a good fit for your company’s culture, explain that you would like them to apply for future opportunities at your company. Telling them that you will be considering their candidacy in the future is a good way to maintain a connection with them and keep the tone of the rejection email positive.

Rejecting Candidates Through Different Hiring Stages

The best practice is to reject candidates and give them thoughtful feedback as soon as you are absolutely sure they do not fit the role. One of the main causes of a bad candidate experience is the lack of response from employers. The new Greenhouse survey discovered that around 75% of applicants never hear back from potential employers. Candidates put a lot of time and effort into researching your company and filling the job application, so keeping them in the dark for a long time will negatively affect their perception of you and your company. Don’t wait until you fill the position to notify unsuccessful candidates if you are sure they are not right for the role.

There are different ways of structuring candidate rejection letters based on where they are in the candidate journey. The further the candidate gets, the more personalized the rejection letter should be. Let’s look at how you can gently reject candidates at any stage of the hiring process.

Rejecting Candidates Immediately After Applications

The most common reason to reject candidates immediately after application is the lack of skills listed in the job ad, such as not being able to commute to work, not being authorized to work in the country, or simply not having enough experience to perform their duties. If an applicant is missing some of the must-have requirements, you can simply thank them for taking their time to apply and send them an automatic rejection email. 

Often employers use AI-powered technology to automate their communication with candidates and save time on sourcing and disqualifying candidates. For instance, Employa helps recruiters engage in human-like communication with applicants, asking them to clarify any red flags, soliciting additional information about their skills, and rejecting irrelevant candidates.

Rejecting Candidates After Phone Screening

You can reject candidates by phone or email after phone screening. You already get a chance to know a candidate at this stage of the hiring process, so simply sending an automated disqualification email is not enough. Consider sending them a rejection email saying that you would like to speak with them over the phone if they have any questions. If they express interest in speaking with you over the phone, gently provide them with feedback and encourage them to apply to future positions at your company.

Rejecting Candidates After The Interview Process

If candidates have taken the time to come to an interview, they deserve more than just an automated disqualification email. It is better to reject candidates who reached the final hiring stage over the phone. Start with something positive by mentioning their strong qualities and genuinely thanking them for their time. Give candidates constructive feedback and explain why they didn’t meet the criteria. By telling them the skills they can improve on, you give them valuable advice to improve their interview performance.

Katriina Tahka, CEO of A Human Agency, believes the hiring process is about building relationships with people that one day may represent your organization. Therefore, it is crucial to pay special attention to creating a positive candidate experience and maintaining good relationships with all candidates, whether they get hired or not.

“There is a still an old-fashioned arrogance among some employers that they are in the seat of power because they are the ones with the job and the salary,” she says. “However, the balance of power has shifted. Candidate care is something that the best hiring managers are discussing because they know that if they don’t communicate with them in a respectful and timely way, candidates have so many options that they may lose them. A good candidate experience creates a brand advocate.”

Katriina Tahka, CEO of A Human Agency

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