It's important to be direct, clear, and thankful. Source: Unsplash/Romain V.

Kate Furey

Let them down easy: How to tell candidates they don’t have the job

Kate Furey
3 minute Read

Finding the right candidate for a job is very fulfilling, but for each candidate you hire, there will be many more that you must let down. Most employers are familiar with the potentially awkward moment when you tell a candidate they weren’t successful. Sometimes a simple, “sorry you didn’t get the job” is enough, and sometimes more information is needed to respectfully close the conversation. While being the bearer of bad news can be difficult, letting candidates down is an unavoidable part of the hiring process.

Unfortunately, there are many businesses who would rather avoid this conversation altogether, evidenced by the huge number of people who never hear back after going through the interview process. In fact, a recent study from Indeed found that 77% of job seekers have been ‘ghosted’ by a prospective employer during the recruitment process since the onset of the pandemic last March. While simpler, this just isn’t a viable option. Candidates invest time and effort in the recruitment process and have a right to know whether they’ve been successful or not.

Failing to respectfully close the conversation can have significant detrimental impacts on both the company’s revenue and reputation. Not only will it shape the unsuccessful candidate’s perception of the organisation, they’re also very likely to share their experience with people in their network and may even go so far as to share it more broadly online. In order to let candidates down respectfully and to keep your reputation intact, try incorporating the following tips.

Seven tips for letting them down easy


Managing relationships

It is essential to maintain a professional relationship with unsuccessful candidates. It’s not uncommon for job candidates to reapply for roles within the same organisation, or with the same recruiter, making it crucial to foster a positive relationship. This will ensure candidates feel encouraged to reapply in the future. And if a role comes up that you think they could be suitable for, they’re more likely to be receptive if you approach them with a new offer.

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