Employee Experience

Rejected Candidates: Nurturing the Candidate Experience through Communication

4 Mins read

Rejected candidates are an important part of the hiring process. Properly handling candidate rejection is crucial for shaping their future experiences. As HR professionals, how we reject candidates greatly impacts our company’s candidate experience.

A well-handled rejection leaves a positive impression on talent, contributing to a healthy talent community and positive employer brand image. On the other hand, mishandled rejections can lead to negative candidate experiences. According to the Human Capital Institute, 72% of job seekers share their negative experiences online, and 55% avoid companies with bad reviews.

Preserving a positive candidate experience is paramount in today’s digital landscape. Here’s how to kindly and effectively reject candidates, and ensure a proper candidate experience:

Promptly communicating the rejection

One crucial aspect of rejecting candidates is ensuring prompt communication. Demonstrating that you value the time of rejected candidates is essential. It is important to avoid unnecessary delays in sending rejection emails. Even though it involves delivering unfavorable news, candidates appreciate hearing from you in a timely manner. Procrastinating for weeks before reaching out with rejection notifications should be avoided. Instead, as soon as you make the decision to not move forward with a candidate’s candidacy, promptly inform them. To ensure this, consider scheduling a dedicated weekly time slot as a reminder to reach out to applicants who will not be advancing in the hiring process. By adhering to these practices, you can uphold a respectful and efficient rejection process.

Provide honest feedback

Providing honest and valuable feedback is an important aspect for rejected candidates. It is beneficial to offer specific and personalized feedback to help candidates gain insight into the reasons behind their rejection. However, it is crucial to exercise tact and adhere to job-related criteria to avoid any potential legal risks. For instance, when providing feedback, it is advisable to focus on aspects such as qualifications and job fit rather than making statements that may be perceived as discriminatory, such as implying a need for more energetic candidates, which could be seen as biased against older candidates.

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Using interview scorecards can be helpful in referring to specific facts and details when delivering interview feedback. This approach ensures that feedback is grounded in objective observations. Additionally, if applicable, you can suggest specific skills or areas of improvement that candidates can work on to enhance their competitiveness in future job applications or improve their overall job search strategies. By offering genuine advice and guidance, candidates will appreciate your assistance and remember the effort you put into helping them enhance their applications for other job opportunities.

Personalize your communication

Personalizing your communication is a key aspect for rejected candidates. For candidates who have reached the final stage of the hiring process, it is preferable to deliver the rejection over the phone. This allows you to express gratitude for their time and provide constructive feedback directly. However, for efficiency, you can utilize emails to inform candidates who reached the final stage of the hiring process but were not selected. In these emails, include a personal note to maintain a human touch, such as wishing them luck on their future endeavors or a specific project they mentioned during the process. Additionally, extend an invitation to connect with you on LinkedIn, fostering a professional network and potential future opportunities. By personalizing your communication, you demonstrate respect and genuine consideration for the candidates’ efforts and aspirations.

Be sensitive

Rejected candidates often struggle with the initial impulse to take rejection personally. While you understand that the rejection is specific to the particular position, it’s important to consider whether candidates perceive it that way. The choice of wording and tone significantly influences the clarity and empathy conveyed in the rejection process. Examples of role-focused rejections include phrases like “we have decided not to move forward to the next phase” or “we will not pursue your candidacy further.” If the candidate is being considered for the talent pipeline, it’s advisable to inform them that their application will be retained for future openings. Personalizing your communication, especially for candidates in the late stages of the process, is highly recommended. Adding a human touch can greatly contribute to a positive candidate experience. Sincerely thanking them for their time or incorporating personal notes, if a rapport has been established, demonstrates thoughtfulness and empathy.

Foster Open Lines of Communication

Creating an environment of open communication is vital when interacting with candidates throughout the hiring process. By being accessible and transparent, you establish trust and enhance the candidate experience. Here are some effective strategies to promote open lines of communication:

  • Firstly, provide candidates with comprehensive information about your hiring process. This includes sharing details about the timeline, such as the number of candidates progressing to the next phase and when they can expect updates. Transparency about the process helps candidates manage their expectations and reduces uncertainty.
  • Additionally, it’s important to proactively inform candidates if there are any changes to your hiring process or timeline. By promptly notifying them of any updates, you demonstrate professionalism and respect for their time and interest in the position.
  • To further encourage communication, ensure that candidates have easy access to your contact details. This enables them to reach out with any questions or concerns they may have. By actively inviting and welcoming their input, you create a more inclusive and collaborative hiring experience.

Cultivate Ongoing Candidate Experience

Maintaining strong relationships with candidates is crucial for sustained candidate engagement. Instead of relying solely on automated rejection emails, prioritize personalized notifications to foster a sense of connection. Building and nurturing these relationships contributes to a positive candidate experience. Here are some best practices for preserving candidate relationships:

  • Extend an invitation to connect on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Establishing professional connections through social media allows for continued engagement and networking opportunities. Interact with past candidates by congratulating them on new roles or engaging with their posts, showcasing your genuine interest in their career progression.
  • Participate in HR events such as career fairs. By attending these events and having an available talent pool to invite, you enhance your credibility as a recruiter and expand opportunities for candidates. It showcases your commitment to building lasting relationships beyond specific job openings.
  • Maintain a record of exceptional candidates for future positions. Keep a track record of candidates who demonstrated remarkable skills or fit well within your company culture. This enables you to reach out to them directly when suitable opportunities arise, further fostering candidate engagement and showing that you value their talents.


In conclusion, managing rejected candidates with care and attention is crucial for creating a positive candidate experience. By promptly communicating the rejection, providing honest and valuable feedback, personalizing the communication, fostering open lines of communication, and cultivating ongoing candidate relationships, HR professionals can ensure that candidates feel respected and valued throughout the hiring process.

Further Reading

Minimizing workplace distractions: 6 tips
The Company Culture at Amazon
Becoming a pet-friendly workplace

88 posts

About author
Fatjona Gërguri is the content writer for Employee Experience Magazine, covering the relevant topics about employee experience, organizational culture and general HR topics.
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