How to Write a Letter Rejecting a Job Applicant

by Dan Ketchum

Rejection letters are not only tough, they're a two-way street -- as hard as it is to receive one, it can be equally difficult to craft an appropriate, sensitive letter to a job applicant that just isn't right for your business. Because each company and each applicant is different, there's no magic letter that beautifully fits the bill in every case. However, you can keep a few simple tips in mind to ease the blow, no matter what field you're in.

Include the applicant's name, the position she applied for and a positive remark about her, such as something she did well at the interview or an impressive bullet point on her resume. This helps personalize the letter from the get-go; it shows that you didn't just print out a boilerplate letter, but actually took the time to consider the applicant.

Give an honest, but brief and considerate, reason for the applicant's rejection. Let the applicant know if you chose a more qualified person or if her skill-set just wasn't right for the position in question. This isn't absolutely required, but having this knowledge is bound to help the applicant in her future job search. If you choose to let the applicant know why she was rejected, be completely honest and accurate to protect yourself in the rare case of legal action against you.

Extend your honesty to the subject of future opportunities. If you feel that the applicant may truly have a place at your company in the future, say so. If you don't feel that way, don't lead her on with the hope of future employment at your business. Instead, wish her luck with other opportunities.

Write with a respectful, gentle and formal tone. Keep it positive throughout. After typing the letter up, re-read it not only for typos, but to put yourself in the applicant's shoes. Ask yourself if anything in the letter would come across as harsh or disrespectful if it were addressed to you. If so, revise the letter with that in mind.

Send the letter a couple of days after you've made the decision. Promptness allows the applicant to move on with her search, but taking just a little time shows that you gave her due consideration.


  • Always send a rejection letter to applicants you don't plan on hiring -- it's simply good business form. Silence may be interpreted as rude on the applicant's end. Even if the letter doesn't contain good news, your honesty and willingness to communicate helps your company maintain a positive reputation in the eyes of the applicant, and a positive reputation leads to potential new business.


  • Never provide any information about the applicant that actually did receive the job.
  • Don't promise to keep the resume on file. In some cases, this can actually be interpreted as a binding promise and used against you by a disgruntled former applicant, according to George Lenard of Harris, Dowell, Fisher and Harris, L.C.

About the Author

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.

Photo Credits

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