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How To Reject A Job Candidate The Right Way

by Barry Sloane, President and CEO of Newtek Business Services

Back in the day, companies could treat job applicants any way they liked. When they chose to reject a candidate, they were free to let a person know or not let the person know he or she didn’t get the job. More often than not, businesses chose to take the latter approach since there were no consequences one way or the other. If these companies were aware of any ill will these actions generated, it wasn’t something that kept them up at night.

Things are different today. Job applicants freely share their experiences, good and bad, through a wide range of social media platforms. Being treated poorly after applying for a job always makes for a good story and word travels fast if it’s a particularly bad experience.

As for the company that treated that candidate poorly? It may suddenly find itself awash in bad press, the target of considerable social media ire and finger-pointing.

These negative consequences aside, it simply makes good business sense to treat job applicants in a dignified and professional fashion. Not only does it go a long way toward soothing wounded feelings, it elevates the perception of the business and creates goodwill that may be useful down the road.

Need to say, “No thanks?” Here are some tips on doing so humanely and with respect:

Don’t wait. Prompt notification of a job-seeker’s status significantly reduces the individual’s anxiety and stress, waiting to hear the word. After a decision has been reached, let the applicant know the outcome.

Reach out in one of three ways. Ideally, a brief telephone call is most preferable, even if it’s sometimes difficult and uncomfortable for the caller. But it’s also the quickest, most direct way to make contact. An email is the next choice and takes little time to compose and send off. Finally, a rejection letter can be sent as long as the tone is right. In any written communication, be sure to:

  • Address the applicant by name.
  • Thank him or her for taking time to apply and interview for the open position.
  • Get to the point clearly and politely.
  • Add a brief, positive comment about interview.
  • Encourage future contact, where appropriate.
  • Offer feedback, where appropriate.

If the job applicant just barely missed the mark, or demonstrated talents and abilities that might later be of interest, encourage him or her to “please keep us in mind.” If it’s possible to provide a little feedback on where the applicant fell short—delivered, of course, in an upbeat tone — it might offer some insight into areas where he or she can seek improvement for their next job interview. This honest approach is often greatly appreciated by the recipient.

End on a positive note. Thank the candidate once again for his or her interest in the open position and wish them luck in their search for the right job.

In most cases, it’s best not to include any details regarding other candidates (including anything about the person actually chosen to fill the position). This information is open to misinterpretation and may only aggravate the situation. And if there’s no plan to consider this applicant again, don’t tell them “We will keep your resume on file”.

Just as applicants can go to Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels to complain about a bad job-hunting experience, when they are treated humanely, they will likely share this news as well. This can be great publicity for your business and assist in the future hunt for qualified job candidates.


Barry Sloane is the President and CEO of Newtek Business Services. Mr. Sloane was the founder and President of Aegis Capital Markets, a consumer loan origination and securitization business. Additionally, he was a Senior Vice President of Donaldson, Lufkin, and Jenrette, where he was responsible for directing sales of mortgage-backed securities and was a senior mortgage security sales person and trader for Bear Stearns, L.F. Rothschild, E.F. Hutton, and Paine Webber.

This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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