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Keeping the Door Open: Candidate Rejection Email Templates for Recruiters

In this article

Paul Beglinger
Head of People & Operations, Carv
Close to a decade of experience crafting success stories, from startup to global presence.

A critical, yet often overlooked, aspect of the recruitment process is clear and timely communication with rejected candidates.

Leaving them hanging with no update reflects poorly on your company's professionalism and can damage your employer brand.

That's where rejection email templates come in. They provide a framework to express appreciation for their interest, clearly communicate the decision, and (optionally) offer helpful resources.

Let’s dive in.

Essential elements for a rejection email

Leaving a positive impression, even during rejection, is crucial for maintaining a strong employer brand. A well-crafted rejection email shows respect for the candidate's time and effort while clearly communicating the decision.

Here are the essential elements to include.

Subject line

Don't leave the candidate guessing! Craft a clear and professional subject line that informs them about the status of their job application.


  • "Next steps for your [Job title] application"
  • "[Job title] application update"
  • "Thank you for your interest in [Company name]"

Opening salutation

A personalized touch goes a long way. Open the email with the job seeker's name.


  • "Dear [Candidate name],"

Body paragraphs

Begin by thanking the job candidate for their application and interest in the position, and clearly state that you will not be moving forward with their candidacy for this specific role.

While not always necessary, you can optionally provide a brief explanation for the rejection, particularly if it can help the candidate in their future job search. Reiterate your appreciation for their time and effort throughout the application process.

If applicable, you can encourage the candidate to apply for future opportunities at your company.


  • "Thank you for applying for the [Job title] position at [Company name]."
  • "We have carefully reviewed your application and qualifications, and we have decided to move forward with other candidates whose experience more closely aligns with the requirements of the position."
  • "While your skills in [relevant area] are impressive, we were ultimately seeking a candidate with a stronger background in [specific skill]."
  • "We appreciate your interest in [Company name] and wish you the best of luck in your job search."
  • "We encourage you to keep an eye on our careers page for future openings that may be a good fit for your skills and experience."


Conclude the email with a professional closing salutation, such as "Sincerely" or "Best regards." You may optionally include your contact information if the candidate has further questions.

Rejection email templates for different stages

While the core elements discussed above provide a solid foundation for rejection emails, the stage of the recruitment process also plays a crucial role.

A generic job rejection email might not suffice for a candidate who invested significant time in multiple interviews.

This section explores how to tailor your rejection emails for different stages of the hiring process, ensuring clear communication, detailed feedback, and a positive experience for candidates at every step.

Application not selected for interview

This scenario often occurs during the initial screening stage, where a large pool of applications is reviewed. Here's how to craft a rejection email for candidates whose applications haven't been selected for a particular role.

Acknowledge qualifications: Briefly acknowledge the candidate's qualifications that caught your attention.

  • Example: "Thank you for applying for the [Job opening] at [Company name]. We were impressed with your experience in [relevant area] and your skills in [specific skill]."

Explain the decision: Clearly state that you won't be moving forward with their application for this specific role. However, maintain a positive tone by emphasizing the competitiveness of the hiring process.

  • Example: "Due to the high volume of qualified applicants, we have decided to move forward with candidates whose experience more closely aligns with the specific requirements of this role."

Reiterate commitment: Briefly emphasize your company's commitment to finding the best fit for the position.

  • Example: "We appreciate your interest in [Company name], and we are committed to finding the ideal candidate for this role."

Encourage exploration (Optional): If applicable, you can encourage the candidate to explore other career opportunities or stay in contact for future roles at your company.

  • Example: "We encourage you to visit our careers page at [link] to see if there are any other positions that might be a good fit for your skills and experience."

By following these steps, you can deliver a respectful rejection email that acknowledges the candidate's effort and encourages them to stay connected with your company for future opportunities.

After the initial interview

Following an initial interview, a candidate has invested more time and energy in the process. In this case, it’s preferred to offer constructive feedback and ensure the applicant has a positive candidate experience despite the rejection.

This not only protects your company’s reputation, but also keeps the door open for future applications - an aspect that’s particularly important when rejecting qualified candidates who might fit future positions.

Here's how to tailor your rejection email.

Express gratitude: Thank the candidate for their time and insights shared during the interview.

  • Example: "Thank you for taking the time to interview for the [Job title] position at [Company name]. We appreciate you sharing your insights and experience with us."

Explain the decision (Optional): While not mandatory, you can optionally provide a brief explanation for not moving forward. This can be especially helpful if the candidate was a strong contender.

  • Example 1 (Skills focus): "The decision was very close, but we ultimately decided to move forward with candidates whose experience more closely aligns with the specific technical skills required for this role."
  • Example 2 (Cultural fit): "We were very impressed with your qualifications and enjoyed learning more about your background. However, after careful consideration, we believe another candidate might be a better cultural fit for our team."

Wish them well: Conclude the email by wishing the candidate well in their job search.

  • Example: "We wish you the best of luck in your job search and future endeavors."

Remember: Even if you choose not to offer a reason, ensure the overall tone remains professional and respectful.

Our recommendation is to add a personal touch instead of using a standard candidate rejection letter.

Carv can help with this - just use the candidate interviews or phone calls as input, and ask the AI workmate to create a personalized rejection message that keeps a positive note.

After multiple interviews - Advanced candidate rejection

When a candidate has participated in multiple interviews, a more detailed and personalized rejection email is warranted. Here's how to handle this scenario:

Express deep appreciation: Begin by expressing sincere appreciation for their time and effort invested throughout the interview process.

  • Example: "We want to express our sincere appreciation for your time and dedication throughout the interview process for the [Job title] position at [Company name]. We truly appreciate you taking the time to meet with our team and share your skills and experience."

Acknowledge strong candidacy (Optional): If applicable, consider acknowledging their strong candidacy and the difficulty of the decision.

  • Example: "You were a very strong candidate, and the decision between finalists was extremely close. We were particularly impressed with your [specific strength]."

Explain the decision (Optional): Briefly explain the decision to choose another candidate. Be mindful of not going into excessive detail that could be discouraging.

  • Example: "Ultimately, we decided to move forward with a candidate whose experience more directly aligns with the specific needs of this role at this time."

Offer feedback (Optional): Offering constructive feedback on their application can be valuable, but proceed with caution. Ensure the feedback is specific, actionable, and delivered in a positive and encouraging manner.

  • Example: "If you're open to it, we'd be happy to provide some brief feedback on your application to help you in your future job search." (Note: Only offer this if you have the resources and are prepared to deliver helpful feedback.)

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that even after multiple interviews, your rejection email is respectful and leaves a positive impression on the candidate.

Internal candidate rejection email template

When an internal candidate invests significant time in multiple interviews, a thoughtful and personalized rejection email becomes even more crucial. Here's how to craft such an email while fostering continued engagement:

Deep appreciation: Express sincere appreciation for their dedication throughout the interview process. Highlight the time they invested in meeting your team and showcasing their skills.

  • Example: Thank you for your interest in the [Job title] position and for taking the time to apply internally. We appreciate your contributions to [Company name] and value your dedication to growing within our organization.

Acknowledge strong candidacy (Optional): If applicable, acknowledge their strong performance and the difficulty of the decision.

  • Example: After careful consideration, we have decided to move forward with another candidate whose experience more closely aligns with the specific requirements of this role.

Explain the decision: If you choose to explain the selection of another candidate, be brief and focus on their qualifications aligning more closely with the specific role requirements currently.

  • Example: This decision was based on the need for a candidate with extensive experience in [specific skill] we felt was crucial for the immediate success in this role.
  • Example: However, your contributions to [Company name] have been invaluable. We especially appreciate your work on [mention specific project or area where their skills shone]. Your [mention specific skills] and achievements are highly regarded, and we value you as a member of our team.

Offer development opportunities: Demonstrate the company's commitment to internal talent development. Offer to connect them with relevant growth opportunities within the organization.

  • Example: We are committed to fostering the development of our internal talent. We encourage you to explore other growth opportunities within the company that might be a good fit for your skills and career aspirations. We have several programs and initiatives available, such as: [mention programs].

Open communication and future prospects: Reiterate your support for their continued growth. Invite them to discuss the feedback on their application in a meeting. Additionally, encourage them to stay informed about future openings that might be a better fit for their skillset.

  • Example: We understand that receiving this news might raise questions, especially after going through multiple rounds of interviews. If you'd like to discuss the feedback on your application or explore potential development opportunities in more detail, please don't hesitate to schedule a meeting with me.

By following this approach, you can deliver a rejection email internally that prioritizes respect and future possibilities.

This can help maintain a positive and engaged relationship with the candidate, even though you haven't chosen them for this specific role.

Candidate withdraws

While the focus is typically on rejecting candidates you haven't chosen, there are other situations to consider.

Sometimes, candidates withdraw their application after submitting it. Here's how to handle this scenario.

  • Subject: Acknowledging your application withdrawal for [Job title]
  • Body:
    • Begin by thanking the candidate for their interest in the position and for taking the time to apply.
    • Briefly acknowledge their decision to withdraw from the hiring process.
    • Conclude by wishing them well in their job search and future endeavors.
  • Example: "Thank you for your interest in the [Job title] position at [Company name] and for taking the time to submit your application. We acknowledge your decision to withdraw from the hiring process. We wish you the best of luck in your job search and future endeavors."

Incomplete application

  • Subject: Your application for [Job title] - Additional information needed

Occasionally, applications might be incomplete. Here's how to address this situation:

  • Body:
    • Begin by thanking the candidate for their interest in the position.
    • Briefly explain that their application is incomplete and specify the missing information needed (e.g., resume, cover letter, references).
    • Offer them a chance to submit the missing documents within a reasonable timeframe.
    • Conclude by expressing your continued interest in their application if they complete it.
  • Example: "Thank you for your interest in the [Job title] position at [Company name]. We've received your application, but it appears to be incomplete. We are missing your [missing information, e.g., resume]. Please submit the missing documents by [date] so we can continue to consider your application for this role. We look forward to hearing from you soon."

By handling these situations professionally, you maintain a positive relationship with potential candidates who might be a good fit for future opportunities.

Tailoring the reasons for rejection

While tailoring is valuable, use your judgment. In some cases, a generic thank you and rejection might be sufficient, especially for high-volume applications. Consider the specific situation and the resources available when deciding on the level of detail to include.

While it's not always necessary to go into detail, here are some examples of how to tailor the reasons for rejection based on the situation.

Skills or experience mismatch

This is a common scenario. Here's an example of how to tailor the message:

  • Example: "While your experience in [relevant area] is impressive, we were ultimately seeking a candidate with a stronger background in [specific skill] to tackle the challenges of this role."

This approach acknowledges the candidate's strengths while gently explaining why they weren't the ideal fit.

Cultural fit concerns

Company culture is a crucial aspect of a successful hire. Here's an example of how to address cultural fit:

  • Example: "We were very impressed with your skills and experience in [area]. However, after our conversation, we believe your ideal work environment might differ from our company culture, which emphasizes [specific value]."

This message acknowledges their qualifications while explaining why they might not feel comfortable within the company dynamic.

Salary expectations

Salary expectations can sometimes be a dealbreaker. Here's how to address a mismatch:

  • Example: "Thank you for your transparency regarding your salary expectations. Unfortunately, they do not currently align with the budget allocated for this position."

This approach avoids negotiation and keeps the communication transparent.

Although it might take you longer to create personalized emails for every rejected candidate, tailored rejection reasons have their benefits:

  • Provide closure for the candidate: Knowing why they weren't selected can help them focus their job search efforts on more suitable opportunities.
  • Show respect for their time and effort: Taking the time to explain your decision demonstrates professionalism and respect.
  • Minimize frustration: A clear explanation can help prevent the candidate from feeling like their application was ignored.

Remember, the key is to be respectful and avoid overly critical language. Focus on the specific needs of the role and how the candidate's qualifications didn't align perfectly.

Over to you

Taking the time to craft professional and timely rejection emails pays dividends. It shows respect for candidates and strengthens your employer brand. While templates streamline the process, personalization is key to a lasting impression.

That's where Carv's AI comes in.

Carv uses the candidate interviews as context for the rejection emails, so you can personalize the messages and leave a positive impression on all candidates - at scale.

Just add Carv to your call and, if the candidate isn’t a good match, let the AI workmate write the rejection email.

Give it a try below.

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