Candidate rejection email: How to get it right

Published by:
Joe Caccavale
August 26, 2020
min read

Rejecting a candidate: why feedback matters

First things first - congratulations!

If you’re reading this, we can only assume it’s because you’re going to be sending candidates a rejection email.

Many employers don’t bother getting back to candidates at all. 

The reality is: 99% of candidates will be rejected.

You can only hire one person.

But not all rejections have to be traumatising.

In fact, you can even turn rejected candidates into advocates…


Simply by giving feedback.

Use skill-based testing to give useful, objective feedback

By testing candidates on the relevant skills for the job (and nothing else) you can keep your assessment purely objective and data-driven… which makes giving feedback a piece of cake!

At Applied, we use work samples instead of CVs - job-specific questions designed to assess the exact skills needed for the job. 

We made a free resource on the science behind work samples and how to create them.

If you’re not quite ready to give up the CV yet, you can still use a more objective assessment method at the interview stage.

Try doing structured interviews - asking all candidates the same questions in the same order and focusing on hypothetical questions and case studies over background-based questions.

The more closely your questions/ tasks simulate the actual job, the more predictive of real-life ability they’ll be.

Depending on the role, you could get candidates to give a product demo/ presentation, prioritisation/ planning task, or analyse and suggest improvements to an existing system or process.

Each question/ task should be testing at least one specific skill.

You’ll want to make sure you’re scoring each question individually according to predetermined criteria.

We tend to use a 1-5 star scale.

Then, when it comes to giving feedback, you can tell candidates which skills they were strong in, and which could use improvement.

Candidate rejection email template

There’s pretty much zero chance your competitors are taking the time to give useful, personalised feedback.

So do something different to get the edge and boost your employer brand.

Give candidates something useful to take away from their experience.

You can’t give them the job, but you can give them genuinely helpful feedback...

Stay away from any language that suggests personality had anything to do with decision making ('we thought' or 'we felt'). 

Feedback should be fair, objective, and based on skills alone, which you should make clear in your email.

Thank you for applying

Make sure you thank candidates for taking the time to go through your process.

Remember: your competitors are unlikely to be giving any feedback, so this is your chance to be transparent, genuine, and helpful.

How your skills compared

Areas you performed strongly in: Which parts did the candidate score best in?

Skills to improve: Where did they score below average?

Interview feedback:

For each interview question, simply list which skill was being tested and the candidate’s score out of 5.

Q1. [Summary of question/ skill(s) tested]

Q2. [Summary of question/ skill(s) tested]

Q3. [Summary of question/ skill(s) tested]

Q4. [Summary of question/ skill(s) tested]

Q5. [Summary of question/ skill(s) tested]

Can you refer the candidates to another open role?

If a candidate wasn't the right fit for a given job but has strong skills, you could consider referring them to another open role they would be better suited to. 

Here at Applied, we've successfully hired team members who applied for another role.

Ask for their feedback

In order to continue refining your employer brand, you might want to ask candidates how they found the process, this can be as simple as a score out of 5 and a sentence summarising their candidate experience.

Plus, it’s always a good idea to show that feedback is a two-way street and that candidates aren’t entirely powerless and at your mercy.

We built Applied to test candidates only on what matters - their ability. We designed our recruitment platform with candidate experience in mind so that even unsuccessful candidates will sing your praises and recommend your organisation. Find out more by reading our resources or booking a demo of the platform.