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Thank you for applying: How to craft a tactful & lawful rejection letter

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in HR Management,Human Resources

The current employment situation is still struggling, meaning there is intense competition for relatively few jobs—which means employers are re­­jecting a greater number of applicants than usual.

How you reject applicants can mean the difference between applicants still having a positive impression of your organization, versus coming away with hurt feelings or even giving them incentive to take you to court on discrimination claims.

Rejecting interviewees

A well-crafted rejection letter is the safest route for external candidates who were interviewed—it assures them that they were seriously considered for the position and it keeps you from having to verbally explain, in detail, why you rejected them.

In crafting the letter, it’s generally best to give a neutral and nonspecific reason for the rejection. After all, no employment law requires you to tell employees the reason why they weren’t hired, and you don’t want to get pulled into a debate over your reasons.

Here is some sample language you might want to consider using or building upon for your rejection letter:

Thank you for your interest in our organization. We have reviewed your background and experience, and although your qualifications are excellent, we have decided another candidate more closely fits the position’s requirements at this time.

It was a pleasure meeting you during your interview. We wish you the best of luck in your job search.

If you believe that applicants could qualify for other positions in your company, you might also encourage them to apply again in the future. (But don’t encourage them unless you truly want them to do so!)

Also, try to personalize the rejection letter, at least marginally. Use the candidate’s name, the name of the position, and refer to something you’d discussed during the interview.

This will go a long way in making him feel appreciated rather than passed over.

Never provide inaccurate, misleading, or conflicting reasons for an applicant’s rejection, as these can come back to haunt you; judges and juries often look askance at employers that do this, viewing it as pretext for discrimination.

You may consider contacting the rejected candidate by phone to notify him of your decision. Many job ­hunters appreciate learning their fate as soon as possible so they can continue their searches. Your phone call should be concise and brief.

Immediate no’s

For applicants who never even make it to the interview stage—those whom you reject based on their initial job application/cover letter/résumé—consider sending out a form letter or email, thanking them for applying and stating that “other candidates more closely fit the position’s requirements.”

For résumés/applications that arrive unsolicited, have a form letter or email ready stating that no appropriate positions are available at this time.

Why bother doing any of this? Aside from being good business etiquette, a quick response can help prevent applicants from calling again and again to ask whether you received their materials and whether they are still being considered for the position.

It also presents your organization in a good light; let’s face it, because of the avalanche of applications they receive, most employers nowadays send no re­­sponse whatsoever to applicants they’re not seriously considering, so offering applicants some sort of closure sets you apart from other employers.

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