How to Respectfully Turn Down Job Applications


When you’re hiring for an open position, the most important thing is to find the right person for the job. But there are other things you have to keep in mind, too. For example: how can you reject the applicants that aren’t a fit while still being respectful and not burning any bridges?


Turning down job applications can be awkward, which is why it’s good to keep a few key principles in mind that will help you navigate this tricky situation.


Be honest from the beginning.

Open and honest communication will make the entire hiring process easier. Be honest early on about all the qualifications you’re looking for in an applicant. Be upfront about how long you expect the hiring process to take, and what each step will look like. Once you’re further along in the process, it’s okay to let applicants know if you are considering other candidates as well. This openness and honesty will help ensure that a rejection doesn’t come out of the blue. 


Respect their time.

Respond to your applicants in a timely manner—ideally, as soon as you know that a candidate is no longer in the running. This will allow them to move on and apply at other places without spending too much time waiting on you. It will also help you avoid excessive follow-ups from the candidate, who might be worried that their application was misplaced.


Tell them why you’re not hiring them.

A generic rejection gets the job done, but if you take the time to let a candidate know why their application is being turned down, they’ll probably have more respect (and appreciation) for you. The feedback you give might help them succeed in landing the next job they apply for. 


Have the conversation over the phone.

If an applicant is already farther along in the interview process, it’s much more respectful to have this conversation over the phone than through email. Be polite and courteous; tell them you appreciate their application and you enjoyed meeting them. Wish them luck on their continued job hunt. 


Offer other options.

If you have to turn down a well-qualified candidate, try offering them other options if possible, whether it’s another position in your company or an open position you’re aware of at another company. This can help soften the blow.


Ask for feedback on your hiring process.

Show rejected applicants that you care about what they think by asking them for feedback on your hiring process. What went well, and what could you have done better? This could offer you some valuable insight, and it will give the rejected candidate a chance to speak their mind. 


Showing respect to applicants is important throughout the hiring process, but perhaps never more so than when an applicant is rejected. Follow these guidelines to make a difficult situation just a little easier on both you and the applicant.

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