July 1, 2023

How to refuse correctly: communication with the candidates who haven't fitted


Turning down the applicant's candidacy is one of the most frustrating moments of the recruiting process. The post-interview rejection is emotionally demanding work that many recruiters put off until later and eventually forget about it or, at best, limit themselves to a dry clichéd job rejection letter.

In OnHires, we are well aware that such a state of affairs may spoil the company's image and even alienate potential customers and employees from it.

Thus, in this article, we want to share our personal experience of refusing a candidate.

The ways to refuse the candidate

There are several ways to reject a candidate we would recommend:

  • A call. Remember that this conversation will be difficult, may last forever, and will require a lot of mental strength from you.
  • An email or a message. This method of refusing the candidate is easy, fast, and energy-efficient. But it is also more soulless. On the other hand, it will help the candidate deal with emotions better.
  • Rejection during the interview. It happens that already from the first words of the applicant, it becomes clear that they do not match your company. In this case, the applicant may understand themselves they might not manage to perform the role. Politely indicate the parameters that prevent you from hiring them.

What not to do when refusing the candidate

When you realize that you have to refuse the candidate after the interview or during it, you should remember to avoid doing the following things:

  • Don’t talk about the applicant’s personality traits. It is assumed that we evaluate the applicant in terms of their professional skills and experience. And even if the applicant is very unpleasant to you, they should not know this.
  • Don’t burn the bridges out. The candidate you turned down today may become necessary to you tomorrow. Perhaps, your company will open a position that this candidate will ideally match.
  • Be sure to justify the post-interview rejection. The reason you don’t hire the interviewee is the mandatory part of the rejection.
  • Don’t apologize. Be concise and honest, and void polysyllabic apologies and explanations. The more words you say, the more likely they will be misused.
  • Don’t hang up. If the rejection of a job upsets the candidate so much that they lose their temper, you should remain polite and calm. Try to state the reason for the refusal briefly and politely end the conversation. Remember that you represent the company and cannot spoil its image.

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How to make the rejection softer

Even if you have to turn down the candidate, try to remain polite and humane. Probably, these tips will help you make the rejection softer:

  • If you send the candidate a rejection letter, start it with a personal appeal. The person will have the feeling that you sent them an individual letter.
  • Thank the candidate for choosing your company in the least cold way possible.
  • Politely justify the reason for the rejection, and do not dump all the shortcomings of the applicant at once.
  • Try to encourage the candidate, especially those just starting their careers. Make it clear that you were impressed by their qualifications and skills, which were just a bit not enough for the role.
  • Position yourself as a recruiter who is attentive to the candidate. Use a confidential tone. You can politely lead the applicant to understanding that the vacancy is not suitable for them. For example, if it is a student, explain that the work will take all the time, and it will be impossible to combine it with studying.
  • Ask for permission to save the applicant’s contacts in the company’s personnel reserve. You may have a vacancy for them in the future or offer their candidacy to another employer. Anyway, the candidate will be pleased.
  • Provide the applicant with your company’s contacts. Possibly, when they address the company next time, you will offer them another position.


Whether you follow our advice or not, it will be your choice. But remember the most important thing: no matter what kind of tactics you choose when refusing a candidate, try to be extremely polite and honest.