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How to Write a Letter Telling Someone They Didn't Get the Job

by Rick Leander, studioD

Hiring a new employee can take quite a bit of time and effort. From the day a job gets posted until the new employee comes on board can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. Before filing away all of those resumes and notes, take a few minutes to send letters to those who were not hired. It may not be as pleasant as writing the offer letter, but they deserve to know the outcome of their efforts too.

Contact HR

Before you start, contact your human resources department to find out if they already have stock letters for this purpose. If so, use these templates. Even if they do not have the templates, there may be specific requirements or language you must include in any rejection letter. Follow their guidelines to avoid any problems from applicants.

Compose a Single Letter

Create one letter that can be used for all applicants. Start with a brief thank you for their interest in the job, then state that someone else was chosen for the position. If appropriate, compliment the group as a whole for their skills and qualifications with something like “All of the candidates were highly qualified and any of you would have been a great addition to our team.” Add a second paragraph with some procedural notes stating that resumes will be kept on file, that they can call if they have questions or that you hope they apply for future positions. If HR requires specific language, add this as a third paragraph. Finish the letter by thanking them again for their time and interest.

Keep it Simple

Keep the letter short and simple. Convey the message that they did not get the job, but they should apply again. While the news may be negative, the overall tone of the letter stays positive and encouraging. Limit the letter body to two or three paragraphs, with no more than six or seven sentences. Use a traditional business letter format with formal but friendly language.

Make it Personal

Once the template has been built, create a separate letter for each applicant. Add their name and address to the top of the letter and change the salutation to address them by name. Print the letter on company letterhead, then sign each letter and send it by mail. Email may also be appropriate, but a printed, personalized letter lets them know that you took their time and effort seriously. An applicant may not be the best candidate for this position, but if treated with respect, may fit well in a future job or become one of your best customers.

About the Author

Rick Leander lives in the Denver area and has written about software development since 1998. He is the author of “Building Application Servers” and is co-author of “Professional J2EE EAI." Leander is a professional software developer and has a Masters of Arts in computer information systems from Webster University.