Write a Professional Rejection Letter

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If you have ever applied to a college or university or for a job, you will know how it feels to have rejection jitters. And in the event that you don't pass, or don't get accepted, there is that feeling of dread when you receive the rejection letter. Even if it's worded objectively and as politely as possible, you know that it's not good news.

Writing a rejection letter is not always the most pleasant of tasks, especially knowing that the recipient might not take it well, therefore it's important to be as matter of fact as possible, and to present the reasons behind the rejection.  If you are in the position of sending that type of letter, here are some suggestions to lessen the blow to the recipient.

  • Use formal letterheads and documentation. When you're writing a rejection letter, it's important that you use the official letterhead of your company or institution. This gives the impression that even if you are rejecting someone from the job or application, you still give enough respect to accord him this formality. Don't give handwritten rejection notices.

    It's also important that a rejection letter is signed by a competent authority within the company or institution. If a letter has been signed by the hiring manager or even the owner, then the applicant will have a better appreciation for the company.

  • Thank the applicant for his time and effort. Applicants for job openings usually go through a lot of effort in preparing themselves. There are the written tests, resume submission and even personal interviews. They might feel they have wasted their time if you don't express your appreciation for their efforts.
  • Write about the candidate's qualities. Also, include in your letter an assessment of the applicant's qualifications, qualities, and experience. Share the results of written tests, interviews and other relevant information, which could be helpful in furthering his job hunt.
  • Give the reason behind the rejection. Give an honest statement as to why you rejected the candidate. Be clear that your rejection is not necessarily because his qualifications do not meet your standards, but that you have found other applicants who are better suited to the job, and who might have more experience in the field.

    If the applicant really does need to gather more experience, or if he requires a certain educational degree or certification, be straightforward about this, too. For example, some jobs like those in medicine, teaching positions and IT would usually require licenses and certification before someone can be eligible. You can give your recommendations to this effect, for example suggesting that the applicant undertake his licensure examinations before coming back to apply again.

  • Keep the candidate's information on file. If it is company procedure to do so, explain to the candidate that you will keep his file on record, and will get in touch with him in case you find a job suitable to his qualifications.

The key behind writing a good rejection letter is being honest and straightforward without necessarily presenting the rejection too harshly. As a company's human resource manager, it's your responsibility to make sure you hire the right people with the right qualifications. On the part of the applicant, however, it would be better if a rejection letter is constructive instead of critical.


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