But rejecting a candidate might also be an opportunity for a company, too.

An opportunity, of course, only if you take the right steps and act with grace. Remember: You never know where the person you are rejecting is going to end up. They may be on the other side of the desk one day!

Why it’s important to give feedback

Some companies state that they won’t give feedback at all. We recommend leaving this open—it’s likely that those who take the trouble to ask you for feedback are those who were serious about applying to you anyway. Giving some of your time to these candidates can leave a positive lasting impression. Those people are likely to then say nice things about their experience with you, even if it ended in rejection!

If you haven’t yet started the interview process…

Take thorough notes at each interview.You might be speaking to several candidates, and weeks after the interview rounds you could easily have forgotten your reasoning for rejecting a person, especially if they weren’t strong presenters! It always helps to run through where you saw their strengths and weaknesses, and if you’ve prepared well then going through your notes will help you to defend your decision.  

Candidates can’t stand “not knowing”

Rejection is hard for everyone involved, and we find that our candidates get most frustrated when organisations don’t tell them why. Giving constructive, honest feedback to a candidate who requests it will help them to improve – and they’ll remember you for being one of the few people who took the time to give them clarity.

Giving feedback will show you’re serious about your business

All companies know that they have to take care of their external communications. Few realise that this should extend to the way they treat their candidates. Remember that they wanted to work for you, so keep that positive relationship going with a gracious response.

Giving feedback will help to keep your approach consistent

There’s nothing worse than a candidate having a good feeling about a company only for it to fall flat at the last hurdle. You worked hard on the job spec and the interview, so why let everything you built fall to pieces at the end?

Be punctual when you give your feedback

If you have invited a candidate to an interview, we believe it is important to not leave it too late to give feedback. Include feedback time in your recruitment strategy, and it will become a great wrap up the process.

How to give appropriate feedback to rejected candidates

Opinions differ when it comes to the appropriate format in which to give feedback. We’d say that an email is the minimum requirement—a telephone conversation is ideal. If you’re in any doubt, we recommend matching the way that you communicated with your candidates in the past. Letters, for example, would be the best choice if you asked your candidates to apply to you by post.

The truth really is important, so try to be constructive

Often, it’s not the case that the rejected candidate did anything “wrong”, it’s just that another candidate seemed more promising. We think that it’s best to tell them this. Help them make that feedback actionable by telling them what it was about the other candidate that swayed you (for example, did they have experience in a certain area, or were they particularly enthusiastic about learning while on the role).


How do you typically give feedback? Or, if you don’t give feedback, have we swayed your opinion at all?

We are a boutique recruitment agency in the City of London. Reviewing candidates takes time and expertise—if you’re looking to recruit from a pool of top talent, call us and we can help!