How to Write a Rejection Letter Before an Interview (+ Samples)

Joanna Zambas
Joanna Zambas

Content Manager and Career Expert

Male hand holding rejected stamp

When you’re going through the hiring process, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of the candidate and be as kind as possible.

A jobseeker will most likely spend hours putting their CV together and crafting their cover letter so that, in their eyes, they perfectly match your job ad, and they will eagerly await a reply – even if it’s just a ‘thanks but no thanks’ kind of thing!

To make sure you don’t turn them off your brand (and potentially give your company a bad reputation in the process), even if you’ve decided not to proceed with their application before they’ve even reached the interview stage, it’s always a good idea to do so gently in the form of a well-written letter.

This simple gesture will show that you appreciate their time, which in turn will make them value your company and it also gives them validation to continue with their job search.

So, without further ado, here’s how to write a rejection letter before an interview.

The Structure of a Rejection Letter/Email

Even though you’re sending a quick rejection note, it’s still important to follow grammatical and structural rules when it comes to composing your email or letter. By following the below structure, you’ll have a professional letter typed up in minutes:

  • Sender’s address: Start your letter with your organisation’s full address in the top right-hand corner of the page. If you’re writing an email, skip this step.
  • Date: Add the send date a few lines under the letterhead. There’s no need to include if you’re sending an email.
  • Inside address: The candidate’s address should be listed a few lines beneath the date – again, if you’re rejecting them via email, you won’t need to include this information.
  • Subject: You don’t have to go to great lengths to change the subject of the email. You can use something simple like: ‘RE: Job Application – XYZ Company – Role’.
  • Salutation: There’s no need to be openly formal here. To make the letter more personal, you could say ‘Dear Name’.
  • Opening paragraph: In the first paragraph, you should express your appreciation for the candidate’s taking the time to apply for the position.
  • Body: This is where you will inform the candidate that they were unsuccessful in getting through to the interview stage.
  • Final paragraph: In the final paragraph, you can either encourage the applicate to apply for other positions at a later date or let them know that you will keep their details on file for future opportunities.
  • Closing: Your closing line should thank the applicant for their time and wish them luck in their job search.
  • Your name and signature: To give your letter or email an official stamp, be sure to close with your full name and signature including your contact information.

Tips to Follow

When writing your letter, be sure to keep the following tips in mind.

  • Let them know early on: If you know from the second that you skim over a specific application that they aren’t a good match for the job, it’s best to let them know from the get-go. Even if there’s no other suitable candidate to fall back on in the sea of applications, put them out of their misery and send them a quick rejection email.
  • Provide honest feedback: Don’t give them some fake excuse about how you plan to keep their CV on file when, really, it’s already in the bin. If you do think they’ll be a good match for another position, let them know. Otherwise, just tell them that they have been unsuccessful.
  • Show some support: Job hunting is hard – you should know; you were there once – so be sure to show some support and make the email positive. You could do this by identifying some of their strengths; this could be offering recognition of their main skillset and encouraging them to keep searching for the right position.

Sample Letters/Emails

These sample letters should be used as a guide to help you reject a candidate before the interview stage. They have been split into different scenarios that you may be faced with.

General Letter

Rejection Letter Before Interview

Letter for a Possible Hire in the Future

Rejection Letter for Possible Future Hire

Things to Remember

  • Don’t talk about other candidates: Although it’s easy to compare the applicant to other candidates, refrain from doing so. This doesn’t help them – or yourself. On the contrary, if you say that you’re interviewing ‘more qualified candidates’, it will just make the rejected candidate feel useless and not good enough, which won’t help their psychology going forward in their job search.
  • Don’t waffle on: You’re not writing a heartfelt letter to an ex, so there’s no need to waffle on about your feelings and reasons – you haven’t even met the person! Instead, keep your note short and sweet and to the point.
  • End on a positive note: Be sure to always end on a positive note and try to avoid saying things like ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘unfortunately’.

Although it might seem easier to avoid dishing out some of the rejection pie, it can actually be really damaging if you don’t – remember: word travels fast and you can end up turning consumers against your brand.

To make sure your business is always operating at the same professional level, follow the above tips and take 10 minutes out of your day to let unsuccessful applicants know you won’t be taking their applications further.

Do you usually write to unsuccessful applicants to let them know? Join in on the conversation below and let us know!