Candidate management - When to notify unsuccessful candidates (2023)

Finding the perfect candidate, offering them the job, and taking them through the onboarding process are highlights of a recruiter’s work. There’s a feeling of success, achievement, and progress.

Notifying unsuccessful candidates doesn’t have the same feel-good factor. It can be uncomfortable, stressful, and unpleasant. It is, however, a key part of candidate management and can be essential to your next hire.

Candidate management is about building relationships with job applicants. You can show good candidate management in the design of your application process, how you handle information, your policies, and especially how you communicate.

Candidate management should be at the heart of your recruitment strategy.

The last few years have been anything but boring in recruitment, and the turbulent times seem set to continue. One trend that doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere is the understanding that companies have to actively market themselves to attract candidates.

Once a candidate has applied for a role within your company, you have the opportunity to start to build a personal relationship with them. Handle this well, and unsuccessful candidates for this job are your first wave of applicants for the next role you advertise.

(Video) Tips on Rejecting Candidates | Talent on Tap

So, how and when should you notify unsuccessful candidates to build the best relationship with them for the future?

Candidate management for unsuccessful candidates

Why should you notify unsuccessful candidates?

There are many reasons a candidate might not be successful in their application for a particular role. They might not have the experience you’re looking for, they might not have represented their skills well in the application or interview, or you might have simply been inundated with outstanding candidates.

Importantly, they might be the perfect fit for the next role you advertise. Or the one after that.

Notifying unsuccessful candidates demonstrates that you recognise and appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a job application. A short message telling a candidate they have been unsuccessful is a comparatively easy step to demonstrate this respect.

The Great Resignation has been fuelled partly by workers feeling taken for granted by their employers. They’re quick to notice the same trend in prospective employers. If you don’t notify them that they’re unsuccessful, don’t be surprised if they don’t apply for other positions.

Failing to notify unsuccessful applicants is hugely frustrating for candidates who may be considering other offers. The combined uncertainty, frustration, and disrespect is something they’re likely to share with friends and colleagues, damaging your employer brand.

(Video) The Right Way To Tell Candidates They Didn't Get The Job - RecruitHUB

Notifying unsuccessful candidates is a simple, polite, and effective way to build your employer brand. There’s no reason not to do it.

When should you notify unsuccessful candidates?

Simply put, you should tell a candidate that they are unsuccessful as soon as you’re sure you’re not going to offer them the position.

This usually happens at two main points in the recruitment process. Either after the initial application when you know you don’t plan to invite them to interview, or after they have attended an interview and have not been successful.

Obviously, there is a degree of caution to be exercised in this. For example, you may wish to wait until your first choice candidate has accepted the job before notifying your second choice that they were unsuccessful.

But don’t wait too long, no matter which stage a candidate reaches. Those who fail at the application stage shouldn’t be kept waiting until you’ve selected your ideal new hire. Try to empathise with their uncertainty and keep them as informed as you can.

How should you inform a candidate that they have been unsuccessful?

The effort you put into notifying a candidate that they have been unsuccessful should be proportionate to the amount of effort they’ve had to put into the process and how close they were to being successful.

(Video) How to simply inform unsuccessful applicants

A candidate who has attended multiple interviews and completed at-home tests deserve a more personalised response than candidates who just submitted a CV and covering letter, for example.

You may also want to give candidates who would have been your second or third choice (especially if it was a close decision) a more personalised notification. Building a relationship with such high-quality candidates will likely pay off in the future.

A short, polite email is sufficient if a candidate doesn’t progress beyond the application stage. Remember that these may well be candidates you would like to consider for other roles, so be grateful for their application and ask them to keep an eye out for future openings.

If a candidate has attended an interview either a phone call or an email is appropriate. In either case, they have invested time and effort into trying to impress you. It’s important to honour that.

If you are writing an email, make sure that you are writing to them personally. There’s nothing more dismissive than receiving an email that starts “Dear applicant” from someone whose hand you shook last week.

Thank them for their time, and talk about the interview they attended. Being rejected after an interview can feel like a personal rejection, so try to soften the blow a little. Mention things that they did well in the interview and how they stood out as a great candidate.

(Video) Why Giving Feedback To Unsuccessful Candidates Is Important

Let them know why you made your decision, and try to be honest about it. If you can offer some constructive ideas, this can be really helpful to the candidate and, as an additional benefit, helps them become a better candidate for any future roles you have available.

For example, you could mention skills you would have liked to see or certifications that would have made them irresistible. Be sure to offer these constructively and compassionately.

End your message on a positive note. If you have another role coming up that you would be interested in having them apply for, this is a great time to mention it!

Rejecting candidates is never easy, but it’s important for building relationships with great talent. In the long run, it’s worth it.

For more advice on building a great relationship with your successful candidate, why not check out our post on how to onboard a successful candidate. And if you’ve recently been hiring graduates for remote work, we have some great ideas for how to make them feel part of the team.

Get in touch with us for personalised help with candidate management or any other part of the recruitment process! The crooton experts are waiting to help you ace candidate management!


At what point in the selection process should you inform the unsuccessful candidates? ›

Wait until the selected candidate has accepted the job offer before contacting unsuccessful candidates. If your top-ranked candidate does not accept the position, you can then offer the job to the next-ranked candidate on your list.

Why should you send timely responses out to all unsuccessful candidates at the conclusion of the recruitment process? ›

The key reason to keep in touch with candidates about their application is closure. Many candidates stated that they didn't want to keep their hopes up if they didn't have a chance of attaining the position.

How do you let a candidate know they were unsuccessful? ›

We regret to inform you that (organization) will not be pursuing your candidacy for this position. Though your qualifications are impressive, the selection process was highly competitive and we have decided to move forward with a candidate whose qualifications better meet our needs at this time.

How do you inform an unsuccessful candidate after an interview? ›

Thank you for expressing interest in [Company] and the [Job Title] position you applied for. While we were impressed with your qualifications, unfortunately, we've decided to move forward with other applicants whose skills and experience better meet our needs at this time.

Do you tell unsuccessful candidates first? ›

When should you notify unsuccessful candidates? Simply put, you should tell a candidate that they are unsuccessful as soon as you're sure you're not going to offer them the position. This usually happens at two main points in the recruitment process.

Why is it important to properly communicate candidates when they are rejected from the offer? ›

The way you turn down candidates might shape their lasting impressions of your company. Effective communication during your rejection process improves your employer brand and will help you hire qualified candidates faster in the future.

How long should you keep interview notes for unsuccessful candidates? ›

You collect a lot of information from job applicants including CVs, cover letters and interview notes. You should hold onto this data for 6 months even if the applicant was unsuccessful, as they could log a discrimination claim against you within this time.

Should you provide feedback to rejected candidates? ›

Treat All Rejected Applicants Respectfully

Just a small portion of applicants will ask for detailed feedback. Yet everyone you interview deserves an authentic, appreciative reply. At a minimum, try to send all rejected interviewees a gently worded note. Let them know how much you appreciate their effort.

When an unsuccessful candidate asks for feedback? ›

Offer a positive, followed by a negative and conclude with a positive. It's a simple method, but one that can ensure the candidate goes away with some positivity. Try starting by highlighting their strong skills, experience and qualifications.

When to tell a candidate they were not selected? ›

Follow these tips when telling someone they didn't get the job: Be responsive: Once you know you won't be hiring a candidate, reject them as soon as possible. A quick response shows that you value their time. Keep in mind that job seekers learn a lot from the interview process and often talk about it on social media.

How do you follow up with a candidate who hasn't responded? ›

Tell them you're excited to hear back and wanted to check if there's an update or a decision yet. Best follow-up email if you already sent a “Thank You” email: “Hi <NAME>, I wanted to follow up to see if there have been any updates regarding the <JOB TITLE> position that I had interviewed for on <DATE>.

How do you follow up with a candidate after no response? ›

Explain that you're following up regarding the job you interviewed for, to ask about the status. Be specific when mentioning the job; include the job title, the date you interviewed, or both. Reaffirm your interest in the position. Ask directly for an update and say you look forward to hearing about the next steps.

How do you tell someone they didn't pass the interview? ›

Listed below is a step-by-step on how to go about letting a candidate know they didn't make the cut.
  1. Open with the Rejection. ...
  2. Follow up with Gratitude. ...
  3. Express that it was a Tough Decision. ...
  4. Encourage them to Apply for Other Opportunities. ...
  5. Via Phone. ...
  6. Via Email. ...
  7. Showing Empathy. ...
  8. Being Concise.
Jan 5, 2022

How long should you wait before rejecting a candidate? ›

Wait 2-3 days before sending a rejection email to avoid any concern that you did not spend time vetting the candidate. If you use an Application Tracking System (ATS), make sure you input the correct criteria and audit your system regularly to avoid accidentally rejecting candidates.

What the 3 most common reasons for rejecting candidates? ›

Interview Rejection Reasons and Job Rejection Reasons
  • One-Type-Fits-All Resume and Impersonal Application. ...
  • Under or Overqualified, Exaggerating Experience. ...
  • Social Media Behavior. ...
  • Inappropriate or Untidy Appearance. ...
  • Poor Body Language. ...
  • Lack of Good Communication Skills. ...
  • Vague Responses, Avoiding Questions.
Nov 8, 2022

Do employers tell unsuccessful applicants? ›

Once initial offer is accepted they would inform the others of the outcome. Usually, yes. In case that person declines and the employer wants to offer to their second choice. It's possible they might let people know who definitely haven't got the job first, depending on who they can get hold of.

How do leaders deal with rejection? ›

10 Tips for dealing with Rejection
  1. Have a vision and don't let anything deter you from following it. ...
  2. Keep a positive mental attitude. ...
  3. There are valuable life lessons you need to learn. ...
  4. Nothing happens before it's time. ...
  5. Rejection offers us a chance to evolve through and learn from our experiences.
Feb 2, 2015

Do employers interview best candidate last? ›

HR professionals should keep these biases in mind; they should schedule a strong candidate first, perhaps the strongest candidate last and the weaker candidates in the middle of the process. Doing so will help hiring managers focus and find the best person for the job.

How long is too long interview response? ›

As a rule of thumb, you're advised to wait 10 to 14 days before following up. It's not uncommon to wait for a few weeks before hearing back from your interviewer. Calling too often can make you look needy and high maintenance.

How long should a successful interview last? ›

Well, it depends on the interview! Cidnye Work, former Meta university recruiter and former career coach, says, “Most interviews are typically between 30 and 45 minutes in length.” That said, the type of interview can influence how long the interview lasts.

How do you respond to a rejection professionally? ›

How to respond to a rejection—tips and a template
  1. Say thank you: Hosting a candidate for an interview takes time, effort, and a surprising amount of coordination. ...
  2. Keep the door open: Reiterate your interest in the company and their work. ...
  3. Respond promptly: As with all thank you notes, you'll want to send it quickly.
Feb 4, 2022

When should you follow up after no response? ›

At most, wait three days before following up after no response. If you wait a week, it'll be too long. And if you send an email on the same day, you'll appear desperate. Send two to three emails in your sequence, and remember: never send a breakup email.

What does it mean when someone takes too long to reply? ›

It's also possible they're busy or overwhelmed at work and don't have time to reply, or they keep opening up your messages without remembering to reply. No matter what excuses there may be, one fact usually remains true: The longer the lag, the less that person likely values the conversation.

Should I follow up after no response? ›

Should you write a follow-up to your prospects after no response? Definitely yes. As research shows, you can boost your reply rates by 65.8% by sending a single follow-up.

How do you follow up with a passive candidate? ›

Send out personalized emails

Sending out personalized emails is one of the most effective ways to reach out to passive candidates. They should spark interest in the candidates that would encourage them to consider other job opportunities, even though they're happy at their current job.

How do you respond to no response? ›

When you are in a no-response situation, here are the steps to take.
  1. Remember. Remind yourself that no response is a response (in most cases). ...
  2. Try to reach out again. One simple way to restart every conversation is to try reaching out again. ...
  3. Bring up a different topic. ...
  4. Ask for a convenient time. ...
  5. Know when to take a bow.
May 18, 2022

How do you tell someone they don't have enough experience? ›

Thank you for coming in to speak to us about {position} recently. We enjoyed meeting you and learning more about you. I wanted to let you know that, unfortunately, we won't be offering you a position, as there were candidates whose skills and experience better suit what we're looking for.

How to tell an internal candidate they didn t get the job examples? ›

Sample 1: Internal Applicants

I want to let you know how much I appreciated the opportunity to discuss with you/review your application for the ____________________________ position in the Office/Dept. We had several excellent candidates for the position and the final decision was a difficult one.

How do you let a candidate know we are still interviewing? ›

Candidate follow-up emails allow you to establish an open channel of communication with your candidates. It lets them know that your company appreciates their time. Job interviews are pretty stressful to many, so follow-up emails, even just to let them know you appreciated their time, can go a long way.

What are the 5 stages of the selection process? ›

The selection process consists of five distinct aspects:
  • Criteria development. ...
  • Application and résumé review. ...
  • Interviewing. ...
  • Test administration. ...
  • Making the offer.

What are the 4 stages of the selection process? ›

Some of the more common ones are resume screening, interviewing, testing and reference checking.
  • RESUME SCREENING. The purpose of screening a resume is to determine if the applicant has the basic knowledge and skills needed to do the job you're trying to fill. ...
  • TESTING. ...

How do you inform a candidate that he is not selected? ›

Use these steps:
  1. Thank them. Whether you're sending an email or making a phone call, thank the candidate for applying for the position. ...
  2. Explain that you're pursuing other applicants. ...
  3. Mention the strengths of the other candidate. ...
  4. Let them know that many qualified applicants applied. ...
  5. Encourage strong candidates to apply again.
Feb 15, 2021

Should you call a candidate to reject them? ›

Rejecting Candidates After an Interview

Once an applicant has had a formal interview, either virtual or in-person, they deserve the courtesy of a phone call to receive notice of rejection. At this stage of the recruitment process, a company can reject a candidate yet still show that they are a people-first company.


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