For Gold, Peace, and Freedom


How To Write A Job Applicant Rejection Letter

November 12th, 2007

sample-rejection-letter.jpgWriting a rejection letter is not always an easy thing to do, although those of us who are freelance writers or have gone through many job interviews in other fields have probably received our fair share of them. This article by Pat Cuchens offers advice on how to write a rejection letter that will soften the blow of bad news and hopefully allow you to retain favorable relations with the other party.

Meanwhile, if you are working in a human resources department and need some customizable sample letters and templates to use for nicely turning down job applicants (or for many other HR-related issues), you can check out The Comprehensive HR Operating Guide: 539 Ready to Adapt Human Resource Letters, Memos, and Forms. If this doesn’t quite do it for you, I have included other resource links at the bottom of the article.

Everyone takes rejection personally. No, you didn’t get the job. No, you don’t qualify for that credit card. No, you won’t get a refund. No, Mary doesn’t love John anymore.

And while taking the sting out of bad news is not always possible, you still want your reader to be well-disposed towards you and your company. John will be hurt by his lost love, for sure, but hopefully Mary will tell him goodbye softly and they will part amicably.

When you have to deliver bad news, such as rejecting a job applicant, but you want your reader to remain well-disposed towards your company, how should you write that business letter? Well, that depends on how your reader is going to react.

If your reader is a bottom-line person, then put that bad news in your opening paragraph: “We have carefully reviewed your application, but we need someone with more experience.” Using a direct strategy is certainly efficient but even if the applicant didn’t really want the job, the effect will be hurtful.

You can expect your job applicant to feel rejected and respond negatively, so you don’t want to sabotage your purpose by beginning with the main idea in that opening paragraph: “You didn’t get the job because we found someone better.” Ouch!

All business letters—good news or bad news—should follow a short-long-short paragraph arrangement. Busy readers want to skim, and this diamond arrangement helps them recognize that introductions, closings, and transitions are in short paragraphs and detail and explanations are in the long paragraphs.

Use the diamond paragraph structure and follow a four-part indirect approach with bad news business letters.

Begin with a Buffer

You want to cushion the blow of the bad news, so begin your letter with a neutral idea. As your opening paragraph, this buffer should be short and could offer thanks or praise. For example, “Thank you for applying for the accounting clerk position at our office. We enjoyed meeting you last Friday.”

This buffer should relate to the content of the letter and smoothly connect to the next paragraph.

Provide Reasons

This middle paragraph will be longer because you are going to tell the reader why you are making this decision before delivering the bad news. Use enough detail to satisfy the reader’s needs. For example, “This position requires two years of experience.” Be tactful. Avoid reasons that are self-serving, such as “We don’t have the time to train you.”

Deliver the Bad News

By now, your reader should be prepared but you still want to minimize the impact of the bad news. You can do this by embedding it in this middle paragraph, so place it after the reasons. Don’t put it in a separate paragraph because that will draw attention to it.

Use subordination to lessen the impact: Here, you put the bad news in a dependent clause, such as “Although you do not meet the necessary requirement at this time” and put the positive news in the stronger independent clause, such as “please contact us again when you have more accounting experience.”

Or, use passive voice, such as “Although the position has been filled by someone with five years of experience, we will keep your application on file should you want to apply for a different position.” That phrase “has been filled” is indirect and is less hurtful than “We hired someone other than you.”

Don’t use negative words such as “regret,” “dissatisfied,” or “unfortunately.” This sets a gloomy tone and calls attention to the bad news.

Positive Close

Now’s the time to end the pain. As the final paragraph, this will be short. Don’t repeat the bad news; instead, provide a look to the future such as “We wish you well in your job search.”

Throughout your letter, be firm and confident. Your decision was not personal; it was based on logic and reason. When rejecting an applicant for a job, you want to keep in mind the reader’s likely negative reaction and use the indirect strategy. Your goal is for the reader to accept the bad news and still remain favorably disposed towards your company.

Helpful Resources:

The Complete Book of Contemporary Business Letters

Human Resources Guide to Business Letters and Memos

11 Responses to “How To Write A Job Applicant Rejection Letter”

  1. comment number 1 by: refine

    i want to have a sample letter rejecting an applicant in a positive way. thanks

  2. comment number 2 by: Ivorytan

    I want to have a sample letter rejecting an applicant in a positive way. thanks

    thank you


  3. comment number 3 by: Shavonne


  4. comment number 4 by: Simona

    where can I find a good sample letter on how to regret an applicant?

    thank you

  5. comment number 5 by: nasir ali

    I want to see the type of bad news letters in which the vacancy, and the applicant is rejected.

  6. comment number 6 by: Horlic

    It would be great if you could furnish a good sample letter.

  7. comment number 7 by: ella

    tnx 4 d help..well appreciated!

  8. comment number 8 by: Hina

    I want a refusal letter to applicant using indirect wordings. or telling him/her in a light way. Means using that kind of word which dont hurt them

  9. comment number 9 by: Karlonia

    @ All commenters above:

    I have now updated the article with some resource links where you should be able to find some good guides and templates for job applicant rejection letters. I have been getting many requests for sample letters, so I am hoping that this will help, or at least give you a good place to start.

  10. comment number 10 by: SINGBOHEO

    SANK YOUUU SIRRR, this is a great help, even betta than me book’s examples, hehe. :D

  11. comment number 11 by: James Park

    I would like to have sample letter rejecting an application in positive way.


Post Your Comments, Opinions, or Suggestions Here:


Email (optional)

Website (optional)