In the dynamic world of talent acquisition, one often overlooked aspect is the process of rejecting candidates. Companies and recruiters can benefit from expanding and optimizing the rejection feedback process. It significantly shapes the candidate’s experience and the employer’s reputation. Moreover, it’s an opportunity for growth, learning, and relationship building. It all depends on the communication and how the rejection is handled.

The word rejection carries a negative connotation; it evokes disappointment and frustration. Neither candidates nor recruiters enjoy the experience. A study done by Joblist showed that after rejection, applicants become demotivated. They stop their job search, seek therapy or return to school to reskill themselves.

How the candidate experiences the hiring process is crucial. Every interaction, from the application to the final decision, regardless of the outcome, contributes to the organization’s image. The hiring process should be handled with empathy, transparency, and feedback. A mishandled hiring process, especially one that ends in rejection, can harm the reputation a company has built.

In this article, we will dive more into the challenges related to rejection in the hiring process. We’ll look at strategies recruiters can use to deliver rejection feedback effectively. By analyzing and adapting how we communicate rejection, we can turn what might seem like a negative experience into an opportunity for growth that can help both the company and the candidate.

Challenges in Rejection

The rejection of candidates is undoubtedly a delicate aspect of the talent acquisition process. The task should be handled with transparency and empathy. This process doesn’t go by without its sets of challenges.

Recognizing the discomfort associated with rejection

Handling the rejection process as effectively as possible starts with recognizing and acknowledging the experience with all its feelings. It’s a process where others might feel uncomfortable, sad, frustrated or even angry, and that’s okay. Recruiters and hiring managers should understand the emotional rollercoaster and adopt the best strategy. Candidates put significant time and energy into the application and interview process, but we shouldn’t forget about the emotional investment.

Addressing potential biases and discrimination

The rejection process is already delicate as it is. Implicit biases can make it even more complicated. The challenge lies in ensuring rejection decisions are based solely on the candidate’s qualifications, skills, and suitability. Recruiters and hiring managers should examine and address the presence of bias related to age, gender, race or other factors.

Balancing transparency and empathy

It requires excellent communication to handle the rejection process with the right balance of transparency and empathy. Providing the candidate with reasons for the rejection can help the candidate grow and better understand the company’s position. On the other hand, oversharing or giving overly vague feedback can backfire and create negative emotions for the candidate.

By understanding the challenges present in the rejection process, recruiters and hiring managers can explore areas for improvement. The end goal is to create a more positive experience on both ends.

Benefits of Constructive Rejection Feedback

Proving constructive rejection feedback benefits both the recruiter and the applicant. Some of these benefits include:

  • Promoting understanding between the candidate and the company. Candidates who experienced a positive hiring process are more likely to recommend the company or even reapply in the future. On the other hand, companies can elevate their reputation as a company that treats their candidates and employees well.
  • Offering feedback for self-improvement. Candidates value specific and actionable feedback on how they can improve themselves. More specifically, 94% of candidates value feedback, but less than 45% are reported to have received feedback. Receiving feedback will give candidates a clearer understanding of where they stand and what they need to work on. These candidates can then reapply and become a valuable asset to the company.
  • Building a talent pool of candidates for future roles. Just because a candidate is not an excellent fit for the job right away does not mean they cannot be a fit in the future, even for other positions within the organization. Recruiters can foster this positive relationship by handling the rejection process with care. Additionally, this proactive approach can reduce recruitment costs and time as you can tap into a pool of candidates who are already familiar with the organization.

As you can see, the rejection process doesn’t have to be dreadful. Constructive feedback that is delivered with transparency and empathy nurtures a positive relationship between the candidate and the organization, bringing benefits to both parties.

Key Strategies for Delivering Rejection Feedback

Let’s look at 5 key strategies recruiters and hiring managers can apply to deliver constructive rejection feedback.

  1. Timeliness: Since candidates invest significant time and effort into the application and interview process, recruiters should consider and appreciate this effort. They can do so by providing feedback promptly. This allows the candidate to move forward in their job search with clarity. Too many organizations don’t give the candidates formal rejection feedback.
  2. Personalization: Generic rejections lack respect and compassion. Besides, it can negatively impact the company’s reputation if a candidate decides to leave a negative review. Recruiters should take time to personalize the feedback by addressing specific areas for improvement.
  3. Clarity: Frustration generated during the hiring process is often caused by a lack of clarity. Help candidates better understand the reason for the decision.
  4. Empathy: Good recruiters score high on emotional intelligence. Candidates will have negative feelings about being rejected. It’s important to express sympathy for their feelings.
  5. Appreciation: Gratitude is a power tool. Always thank candidates for their interest and the effort they have invested in the process.

The rejection feedback process becomes much more positive by incorporating these 5 strategies. Don’t see it as a quick bandage that needs to be ripped, but, rather, as a moment for growth and connection.

Sample Rejection Feedback Scenarios

Let’s look at a few scenarios on how to handle rejection. Each scenario also includes an example of how it should not be.

Scenario 1: Lack of Experience

Non-constructive response:

“Unfortunately, your experience does not match our requirements. We’ve selected another candidate for the position.”

  • Lacks empathy
  • Lacks specific feed or insights

The consequence of this response is that the candidate will leave with a sense of disappointment and uncertainty.

Constructive response:

“Hello [Candidate’s name]

Thank you for your interest in the [Job Title] role at [Company Name]. We were impressed by your [specific skill or experience]. Still, after careful consideration, we have decided to move forward with a candidate whose experience closely aligns with the demands of the role. We genuinely appreciate the time you invested in our process and encourage you to explore future opportunities with us.”

  • Shows gratitude and acknowledgment of the candidate’s interest
  • Provides more context
  • Fosters a positive relationship by encouraging the candidate to consider future opportunities

Scenario 2: Cultural Fit

Non-constructive response:

“We don’t think you’re the right cultural fit for the company.”

  • Too brief and direct
  • Overly vague

This response doesn’t provide any feedback to the candidate that they could use for future applications.

Constructive response:

“Thank you for your time and effort in pursuing the [Job Title] role at [Company Name]. We appreciate the insights you shared during our interactions. After careful consideration, we’ve determined that while your skills are impressive, there is a unique blend of values and team dynamics that contribute to our company’s culture. We encourage you to keep exploring opportunities that align with your talents and aspirations.”

  • Shows appreciation
  • Explains the exact reason for the rejection
  • Shows empathy
  • Leaving the door open for future opportunities

When delivering feedback, the candidate should be treated with respect. It’s important to recognize their effort and qualities. The goal is to foster a positive relationship between the candidate and your organization.

Collecting Feedback From Candidates

The hiring process is also a chance for recruiters to improve and grow. Candidates’ insights are valuable. Ask them to provide feedback on their experience—what worked well, what could be enhanced and any pain points they encountered. Recruiters and hiring managers can take this feedback to improve the process for other candidates. It also shows your organization’s commitment to continuous improvement.

For this stage to be successful, pay attention to the following:

  • Gather feedback shortly after the process
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Offer anonymity
  • Segment feedback
  • Act on feedback

Collecting and implementing feedback is a data-driven, proactive strategy to help your organization grow.

Luckily, there are many productivity tools available for recruiters and hiring managers. They can leverage tools like Google Forms to streamline the process of collecting feedback. These tools are relatively easy to use and can be customized depending on the needs. Some tools also offer advanced analytics to analyze the data.


Rejection is an opportunity for personal and professional development. It all depends on how the process is being handled. Regardless of the industry you’re hiring in, or the type of role, recruiters and hiring managers should show respect, care, and intent for growth. Every candidate interaction has the potential to identify areas for improvement and develop the hiring process further.

Key considerations to remember are to deliver the rejection feedback with clarity, empathy and appreciation. Personalize the feedback and deliver it in a timely manner. While hiring an employee is gaining a valuable asset, we should not forget the benefits and moments we can build with other candidates.

Ismirelda Forst

Ismirelda works for the content marketing team at Porch. In the past years, she has written various content pieces for the site. Her favorite topics to write about are wellness, remote work and business. Her goal is to create content that can inspire others and get them started with a new project. The biggest takeaways from her job at Porch are to maintain creativity, conduct research and have an eye for details but to continue looking at the bigger picture. When she is not writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, and listening to music.