A gentle rejection letter is fine, but document why you chose someone else

Employers often have many reasons for choosing one candidate over another. You should document all business-related reasons for your decision.

But you don’t have to list them all in the rejection letter you send. Feel free to provide just one reason.

That won’t mean your other reasons weren’t valid—or that the reason you chose to share was a pretext for discrimination.

Recent case: Carl Brown applied for a job with Marriott International. He had several phone interviews and exchanged e-mails. Ultimately, Brown wasn’t picked for the job. Marriott told him his communication skills were not good enough.

Brown sued, and it came out that Marriott had documented several other reasons not to hire him. Brown argued that those other reasons had to be evidence of discrimination, since the company had kept them from him.

The trial court agreed, but the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed.

It concluded that Marriott had several “reasons for not hiring him, and they communicated the most palpable reason to him.” That Marriott chose to provide Brown with an alternate—and valid—reason for its decision wasn’t discrimination. (Brown v. Marriott International, No. 08-2347, 4th Cir., 2009)

Advice: A better choice is simply telling rejected candidates—without going into specifics—that you selected another candidate. Don’t forget to document your rationale, though. If a failed candidate from a protected class sues, you’ll need those reasons to prove you weren’t discriminating.