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How Should I Tell Someone They are Not Hired?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 March 2014
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Telling someone they are not hired is never an easy job, but all hiring managers will face this dilemma many times in their careers. While everyone fears denial on some level, it is important for all to understand that not everyone will fit in every job. Further, there are times when the applicant quality will be so great, a decision to reject an applicant may not reflect on that applicant's abilities but the overall quality of the field.

There are a number of methods that can be used to get the message across that a person is not hired. In many cases, especially for those who were never called for an interview, a simple form letter may suffice. In other cases, where someone may have been called for an interview, a phone call or letter could be chosen to deliver the message they were not hired. In cases where there may be an ongoing relationship with the person not hired, it may be best to break the news in person, though this has the obvious potential of being more uncomfortable.

Above all, it is best to always be honest with those who didn't get the job. If there may be a future position they may fit, let them know. However, do not just say that to ease the pain. While it is always good to let someone down easily, there are limits to how far one should go to accomplish this. Lying is never acceptable.

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Most applicants understand there is usually only one available position and multiple applicants vying for that spot. Therefore, most will understand if they are not hired. Some may take it personally, but many will be very professional about the situation. For those applicants who do take it personally, understand this verifies you likely made the correct decision in not hiring that person.

In all cases, even if you felt someone misrepresented themselves to obtain an interview, never be condescending with the news they are not hired. This is unprofessional and reflects very poorly not only on the hiring manager, but the organization as a whole. Yes, there will be times when a person is so desperate they may misrepresent themselves, but it is best to chalk this up as a hazard of the position and move on.

Generally, it is not a good idea to tell someone specific reasons why they were not hired for a job. This can only lead to resentment and regret. However, there may be specific times when this could be a good idea. For example, if an applicant was promising and the hiring manager believes another position will be opening up that suits the applicant's skills, this could be a way to let that person know they may soon have another opportunity.

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Discuss this Article

anon267664
Post 5

I think most of the times, the position is "already taken." In other words, the company knows who it wants to hire, but goes through the motions, accepting applications, conducting interviews, and the like. On the same note, sneakers41 mentioned that most companies receive referrals. All in all, if the applicant knows someone in the inside, he or she likely has the position.

anon231604
Post 4

There should always be a specific reason why someone was not hired. The "x people for y positions" excuse does not suffice.

surfNturf
Post 3

@Sneakers41 -I have to say that I like when a company offers a compliment even though they are turning you down. It is nice to know that I am otherwise qualified but the company had to turn down a lot of applicants because of the sheer volume of responses.

I like when a company highlights how impressive my qualifications are because it is so polite for them to do so and it is such a gentle way to send a not hired letter.

It also leaves goodwill towards the company and leaves me with a good impression of the company. This is important because public relations always matter.

sneakers41
Post 2

@Bhutan - I think that is a good point, because it is an objective reason that happens all of the time because so many times because companies get so many resumes that a lot of these resumes are not even looked at.

I think that a lot of people hire people not resumes. A lot of companies get referrals and that is how a lot of jobs are filled. A lot of jobs go unadvertised and when they do there are usually get a lot of resumes.

I think that another nice thing to do is to let the applicant know of a future opening or what they could do to improve their chances professionally in the field. This advice really helps people and makes them a better candidate in the future.

Bhutan
Post 1

I know that this is a hard thing to send to an applicant. But I think if you mention the fact that there were a lot of applicants and the company has only so many positions available, I think that will people understand that the odds were not in their favor in a gentle way they don’t take it as bad.

For example, my children were on a wait list for a prestigious private school, while it is not the same as a rejection letter I still had to explain to my children that there were a lot of applicants like them that were really qualified but they only had so many spots available.

Most people can understand this and they won’t take things personally if they receive a thank you letter but not hired.

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