Post-Interview Etiquette for Telling Someone That They Did Not Get the Job

Your interaction with unsuccessful job applicants could affect the bottom line. Eighteen percent of unsuccessful job applicants subsequently refused to conduct any type of business with a company due to poor treatment in the recruitment process, according to a study by British testing organization SHL. An additional 50 percent of applicants reported they were left with an overall negative impression of a company or brand after an unsuccessful job application.

Phone Call, Email or Letter

Although a phone call may seem more personal, many applicants actually prefer to receive a rejection by letter or email, according to "The Chronicle of Higher Education." Applicants are used to receiving offers by phone, so a telephone rejection can be an unwelcome surprise. Candidates can also deal with the rejection privately, rather than having to remain professional on the telephone.

Be aware that if you send a letter, applicants will pay attention to the postmark. One unsuccessful job seeker was dismayed to receive a rejection letter that had been mailed before she attended the interview, reports BNET. Email is faster than regular mail, but less formal. If you decide to send the rejection notice by email, learn from the mistake made by Twitter's human resources department. HR Recruiting Alert observes that Twitter forgot to blind copy email addresses when sending a mass recruitment notice. Not only did the company fail to appropriately safeguard the applicant's contact information, but it was obvious to each rejected applicant that all candidates received the same impersonal form email.

What to Include

Personalize the letter. Even if you are using a form template, begin the letter with the applicant's name instead of a generic salutation. If possible, add a sentence about the candidate's individual skills and experience, or mention something that was discussed in the interview to add a personal touch. Get to the point as soon as possible -- especially if you are calling by phone -- and be concise. Always remember to thank the applicant for their participation in the process.

What to Avoid

Don't try to soften the blow by telling the applicant you will keep them in mind for future positions if you know that the person will never be a good match for the company. The reasons you give should be accurate and remain consistent. It's not uncommon to be sued by rejected applicants and an employer should not provide a different answer in court than was provided in the rejection letter. HR Recruiting Alert advises employers to refrain from using wording such as "I'm sorry" and "unfortunately" as this suggests the employer has something to apologize for and might amplify an individual's bad feeling regarding the rejection.

Candidate Responses

If a rejected candidate presses for details about why someone else was chosen, it's permissible to provide basic feedback about the legitimate reasons the applicant was not selected. However, employers must not compare candidate skills and qualifications because that could provide a basis for legal action. Interpretation of the requisite qualifications is subjective. HR Recruiting Alert suggests that if pressed, an employer should simply state that another applicant was the best fit for the job. Applicants today have avenues on the Internet to express their negative impression of the company. In addition to blogging and social media, websites allow applicants to send an anonymous email to hiring managers, calling them out on poor treatment during the interview process. By sending sincere and respectful rejection notices in a timely fashion, employers can minimize job seeker dissatisfaction.