When you start a business, you get to hire the people you want. It's a great feeling. But you also have to reject a lot of candidates. While ghosting candidates has been popular over the years, it's the wrong way to do it. You may not want to hire a candidate today, but that person might be the right person in a year. If you treat the candidate poorly, you damage the relationship altogether.

Lots of companies use a form of a "thanks, but no thanks" letter. That's fine, as it gives candidates the information they need. But there is a better way.

A job seeker named Tammi Whitcomb received a rejection email that she kindly shared with me. I think it's a great example of how to reject an applicant.

Hi Tammi,

We want you to know that a human being (me) has evaluated your information and that we greatly appreciate you spending your valuable time taking an interest in this role.

To set expectations with you and not leave you feeling like you are in a black hole of disrespect, the response to our position has been strong and we may not circle back around with you if we continue to see the current volume of highly-accomplished executives from the technology industry; even though technology industry experience is not required.

Thanks again, and if we don't have another touch then I wish you luck in your career.

This is a thing of beauty because the recruiter/hiring manager did the following;

  • Thanked her for her time. So many hiring managers expect thank-you notes from candidates, but don't bother to thank candidates for using their time.
  • Set expectations. It's not a hard rejection--there's a possibility they will get back with her again, but it doesn't look like it. They explain that there have been a lot of highly qualified candidates so Tammi knows that they aren't rejecting her lightly.
  • Kept the interaction positive. There is no sense of "thanks, but no thanks," rather, I'm happy to have met you and I wish you luck. Tammi said she felt very positive about the whole interaction.

You never know how life will go after you interview someone. You may want to hire this person in the future, or you may need a job one day where the former candidate is the hiring manager. And, of course, any former candidate can also be a future client. You want every candidate to leave with positive feelings.

Now, in reality, this could have been a form letter with only a few things tweaked for each group of applicants. You don't have to spend hours writing each rejection email. But doing a nice one will benefit you and your company later on.