How to Tell Someone He Didn't Get the Job

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How to Tell Someone He Didn't Get the Job
How to Tell Someone He Didn't Get the Job

It's never easy to tell a well-qualified candidate that he or she hasn't been chosen to fill a vacancy. If he passed the interview, the best thing to do is to call and give the result over the phone. If the interview did not take place, you can inform the candidate by email. The best strategy, whether over the phone or by email, is to be polite and direct about the decision that was made.


Method 1 of 2: Informing the Candidate by Phone

Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 1

Step 1. Call the candidate

Even though sending an email seems easier, because it eliminates the chance of having an awkward and difficult conversation, it's more polite and professional to talk to the candidate over the phone. Do this with all candidates who were interviewed.

Call during business hours so as not to disturb the person in a moment of rest or leisure

Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 2

Step 2. Don't be chatting or making small talk

Ideally, keep the conversation brief, under five minutes if possible. Say who you are and then give the information you need directly to show the person that you respect their time and don't want to occupy it more than necessary. Don't ask personal questions, talk about the weather, or make jokes.

For example, it would be inappropriate to say: “Hi Ricardo! This is Susana from Mundo Vitamina. I wanted to say it was great talking to you in the interview last Tuesday. Is it raining there too? It doesn't stop here since eight in the morning.”

Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 3

Step 3. Explain that the company offered the position to another candidate

Politely say that you enjoyed meeting the candidate on the day of the interview and that they were considered for the position, but that the company chose to offer it to someone else. It's best to get this over with, so pass this information on immediately after the two of you say hi.

Say something like, “Hi Ruth, how are you? Here is Murilo from Tech Agora. I wanted to thank you again for attending the interview last week. We like to meet you and love your resume, but we ended up offering the job to another candidate.”

Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 4

Step 4. Mention some skills the hired candidate has

Many candidates really want to know what the chosen person has that they don't have. Even though it's not practical to make a list of the candidate's résumé and performance, you can mention some points he has that differentiated him from the candidate you're talking to.

  • Say, for example: "Even if you have several years of experience in the field, the candidate we hired has a graduate degree, which is important for this position."
  • "The person we hired already works in the same position at another company, which facilitates the transition and minimizes training time."
Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 5

Step 5. Explain that many qualified people have applied for the position

Qualified candidates may feel that they have not had the same chance as others when they are not chosen for a position, or they may feel that they have failed as a professional. Because of this, reminding the candidate that he was competing with several qualified people is important.

Say something like: “You are a strong candidate, but the competition was pretty fierce. I am sorry to report that you were not chosen at the time.”

Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 6

Step 6. Invite the candidate to make a connection with the company on social media

This conversation can be difficult for the rejected candidate. Make things lighter by inviting you to connect with the company professionally over the internet. It also makes it clear that this situation is not personal.

  • Say, for example: “We would like to keep in touch with you in case any vacancies open up in the future. Could you please send an invitation to connect to our company's LinkedIn?"
  • Or say, “We'd like to keep in touch with you. The company is closing new deals and may need freelancers, for example. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.”
Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 7

Step 7. Try to end the conversation if the candidate starts to argue that he should be the one chosen to fill the position

In some cases, candidates may say things like "Let's set up a second interview and I'll make you change your mind!" or “You are making a mistake. I know I'm the best candidate for the job." If that happens, don't start arguing or describing the mistakes he made in the interview or what's missing from his resume.

End the conversation politely using phrases like this: “Even if we opted for another candidate, don't feel like you've made a mistake in something. I'm sure you'll find the right job for you soon.”

Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 8

Step 8. Encourage strong candidates to re-apply in the future

It's not just because a candidate wasn't the best fit for the job that needed to be filled that there won't be a place for him in the company in the future. Don't waste someone you already know. Tell applicants that they did well that even if it didn't work for this position, you would like them to keep in touch with the company. Explain that a better opportunity may arise for them at the company in time.

Say something like: “Don't hesitate to apply for new jobs in the future! You were almost selected for this position and we would like you to apply again to work here.”

Method 2 of 2: Writing a Negative Response Email

Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 9

Step 1. Send the email as soon as you have hired the other candidate

Once you or the head of HR has selected the candidate who will fill the position, send an email with a negative response to the candidates who were not interviewed as soon as possible. Thus, they will not have false hopes and will be able to focus on other selective processes.

The ideal is to send the email with the negative response on the business day following the decision

Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 10

Step 2. Make an email outline that doesn't exceed three or four sentences

Since the candidate has never made an interview, the message may be brief. Start by entering the candidate's full name. Then put something like: “Thank you for your candidacy for the position of Creative Director here at ABC Propaganda. Even though we were impressed with your résumé, we decided to offer the position to another candidate. We wish you luck in your career and appreciate your interest in working with us.”

Sign the email at the end and send it after reading it and making sure there are no errors

Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 11

Step 3. Don't apologize for not hiring the candidate when writing the email

Finding out that you have not been selected for the position can be difficult for applicants. However, value your professionalism and do not apologize or act as if you do not agree with the decision the company has made. Never let on that there was any difference of opinion about hiring or not hiring a particular candidate.

For example, don't write, "I would love to hire you, but the head of HR opted for something different."

Tell Someone They Didn't Get the Job Step 12

Step 4. Respond briefly if the candidate writes back with a question

If the candidate responds to your email wanting to know what requirements the chosen person had to offer, respond with three or four sentences. Be succinct and objective so that this interaction doesn't turn into a conversation.

For example, write something like: “Even though we found your résumé interesting, the work history ended up weighing us down. You didn't work for a few years between one job and another and that made us choose another candidate.”


  • If you're on the phone, don't delay the conversation too long. Remind the candidate that he was running for the position with several other people and that he may apply again in the future. Keep the conversation brief, polite, and finish it within five minutes.
  • Whenever you're hiring someone to fill a vacancy, aim to interview no more than five or six people. That way you'll only have four or five calls to make later.
  • Never lie about why a candidate has not been hired. Even if he did poorly in the interview and was not even considered for the position after that, find a polite and kind way to convey this information.

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