How to write a rejection letter (with template and example)

Elizabeth Openshaw

Let job seekers down gently with the professional approach to rejection

“Rejection doesn't mean you aren't good enough; it means the other person failed to notice what you have to offer.” So said American writer, Mark Amend.

While this might be true in other walks of life, in an interview scenario it means you didn't project your  key strengths  forcefully enough to secure the position you required.

It's never easy telling someone they're not wanted. And it's never easy being told you're not wanted. Whichever side you're coming from, it's a necessity in the recruitment process. You can't give everyone a job!

But what's the best way to go about it?

How to write a rejection letter

A stony silence from recruiters or employers is probably more painful for jobseekers than a rejection letter, especially when they've put their heart and soul into the interview. At least with a job applicant  rejection letter, they know where they stand and can move on to apply for other roles.

It's also important to keep candidates on your good side. Remember that you meet colleagues climbing up the career ladder as well as coming down!

As with any correspondence from your company or business, a rejection letter should be thoughtful, professional, and articulate. After all, it's a reflection of your organisation and therefore should present your high standards in the best possible way. That means rejection letters should be thoroughly checked and proofread for any errors before being sent out.

Below are some hints to take on board when compiling a rejection letter.

While no one relishes being rejected, it's vital to tell candidates as soon as you can that their application has been unsuccessful. This shows that you respect their time and effort in attending an interview and showing an interest in your company.

There's no need to go into a long spiel within the rejection letter itself. While you can take a sentence or two to provide some feedback, it's generally better to keep the letter to just a few paragraphs, such as in the example below.

Be forthright

Let candidates know they haven't made it any further in the recruitment process early on in the rejection letter. That way they don't have to spend time reading through the entire epistle before finding out right at the end that they've been unsuccessful.

Be positive

If possible, maintain a positive tone, explaining why you liked their application or any positives that came out of their interview. This can lift spirits, despite the bad news, and might mean they don't become too despondent as they move on.

Be aware of internal candidates

For internal positions, you might have to send a rejection letter to those you already work with, or have dealings with, in an organisation. Focus on giving more detailed reasons as to why they didn't succeed this time. Maybe organise a meeting where you can discuss what happened in more detail, but at the same time ensure that they're still happy in their current position.

The importance of writing a rejection letter

For closure.

If you tell applicants quickly that they haven't been successful this time in securing the job, they can move on and seek other roles without being left hanging.

For a positive company image

With many people relying on reviews online or checking out a  company's culture , it's worth taking that small amount of time and effort. By sending a polite rejection letter, the rejected candidate just might leave a positive note.

For the maintenance of continuing good relations

There are always going to be other roles available at your organisation. By being courteous, this leaves the door open for potential opportunities in the future.

What is a good example of a rejection letter?

Rejection letters can come in all shapes and sizes - from the one liner to a more in-depth review of a job application and - hopefully - some constructive feedback.

Follow the below steps when constructing a rejection letter, as well as checking out our example and template:

Thank the applicant

Start the rejection letter with thanking the applicant for taking the time to apply for the role. Not only does this give a positive image of your company, it also sends out the message that you appreciate what they did.

Example: “It was a pleasure meeting with you and I would like to thank you for taking the time to attend the interview / complete the tests / send in your application.”

Tell them why you're getting in touch

It's important to state straight off why you're writing to them, with a short statement telling them that they haven't been successful this time. You can be courteous by apologising, but make sure there's no ambiguity by clearly stating that this is where their journey comes to an end.

Example: “Unfortunately, in this instance, we have decided not to proceed any further with your application.”

Give a valid explanation

Giving an honest reason as to why you've chosen someone else over them can help in future job searches, as it points candidates towards something to build on or improve. While they're still being rejected, it gives them something to work with.

Example: “We interviewed a lot of candidates for the position of Sales Assistant and our chosen candidate had more experience in dealing with customers face-to-face.”

Offer a positive slant

Highlighting some good points from their application will hopefully encourage the job seeker to move forward in a positive way when they apply for other roles.

Example: “Your knowledge of the industry was excellent and you answered the strength and weaknesses questions to a very high standard.”

Keep the door open for future opportunities

Only include this if you think the candidate might fit well within the company in another role. This is a great way of keeping a working relationship going and also sends out a more positive message.

Example: “We would be keen to keep your details on file for any future roles, if that is of interest to you.”

Encourage them to apply for other roles

Again, this is only if you're sure the candidate you've rejected has assets that can be used in other areas of the business. This reassures the applicant that you're still interested in them as a professional, even though they didn't fit the spec of this particular job.

Example: “We would like to encourage you to apply for other roles in the business development department if they fit with your experience and skills.”

Close on a positive note

Make that last impression count by finishing off the rejection letter with a positive slant. The aim is to make the candidate feel good towards your company, even though they haven't been successful in this instance.

Example: “Again, thank you for considering the role at our company and we wish you the best of luck with your continuing job search.”

cv application rejection letter

Rejection email or rejection letter?

cv application rejection letter

If you've recently received a rejection letter, it's probably time to spruce up your CV and  interview techniques . Taking a look at TopCV's free CV review is certainly a good start. With clear and concise advice from the experts, you'll surely be on your way to job success very soon!

Recommended reading:

How to practice inspirational leadership (and its benefits)

Mastering the first impression: how to make a lasting impact in job interviews

Learning from CV failure: how to improve your CV and get hired

Related Articles:

The 8 essential questioning techniques you need to know

Supervisor vs manager: What's the difference?

What is an accountability partner? Definition and benefits

See how your CV stacks up.

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    A rejection letter is an official document sent to candidates who weren’t considered the best fit for an open position after applying or interviewing. However, it can also be sent in response to applications that weren’t selected for any reason—the employer’s discretion is final. Rejection letters typically contain the following basic details:

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    Hi [ first name ], Thank you for your interest in joining the [ company name] team. We wanted to let you know that although your resume and cover letter were very competitive, our hiring team reviewed your application and did not select it for further consideration.

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