Corporate Eye

Dealing with unsuccessful candidates – without damaging your brand

Being rejected in life is a normal thing that happens to everyone once in a while.

It’s not much different in the corporate world. I remember when I received rejection letters in the past. Somehow the content was always very similar, they included words such as “unsuccessful”, “unfortunately”, “unable to consider you for this position”, “regret to inform you” etc. That’s surely something that nobody enjoys reading. Therefore, I would like to provide you with some tips on proper etiquette when dealing with job candidates who have not been chosen for an interview.


  • DO reply to every candidate who expressed their interest in a position including those who seem not to fit, for whatever reason.
  • You could write it by following these steps:
    • Acknowledge and appreciate the person’s time and interest in applying for a certain job at your company.
    • Explain that the company decided on someone else, in a respectful and considerate way.
    • Finish on a positive note (for example by adding “Never give up!) and wish the person success.

Now here is the dilemma: There are companies who receive hundreds or even thousands of applications a year. Google, for example, gets well over 2 million job applications a year and can only hire a tiny percentage of those great talents. Thus, writing to each of them would surely be a time consuming task. One might therefore wonder what the best approach would be to deal with a high volume of applications without damaging a corporate brand.

The answer is to try to reduce the number of inappropriate applications, and to use automation wherever possible.


  • Trying to reduce the number of inappropriate applications by:
    • Making the pre-screening criteria visible and clear.
    • If people fail these, but still apply, send an automated reply

  • Making the culture clear, perhaps including self-test tools and employee interviews, to discourage applications from those who wouldn’t fit.

    See, for example KMPG, whose self-test tool makes the culture clear.

  • Use automated assessment (CV filters and/or psychometric tests)

    Again, if people are deselected at this stage, send an automated response to explain why
  • Use automated responses wherever possible at the various stages of application, including after interview
  • Resourcing appropriately

    With careful planning, the number of remaining applicants should have been sufficiently reduced through the filtering process that the number of personalised communications becomes far smaller.


  • Don’t be brutally honest by telling them what the real reason for your rejection was (even though every job applicant would be interested in knowing it!). Bear in mind that you could be sued for your personal statements. Therefore, do it in a polite, diplomatic, thoughtful and professional way.
  • Don’t let candidates wait too long for a reply. As mentioned earlier, explain the timescales for responding, and write a letter/email within a reasonable timeframe. Don’t make them think that they have to chase you in order to find out if there is a chance for a job interview.
  • If you think that writing rejection letters to unsuccessful job candidates is a waste of time and doesn’t make any difference, I would like to highlight the benefits that your HR Department can receive in taking the extra time to respond to candidates. Your company will be perceived as an enterprise that:
    • takes their job applicants seriously and respects their valuable time
    • works in a professional and efficient way and
    • cares about their reputation and image (offline and online).

Some companies might not realise that by ignoring job applications they can severely damage their company’s reputation. It leaves an impression about the way a company operates and cares about other people. The question is: Can a company nowadays in such a competitive world really afford an approach like this?

Unfortunately many companies do not take the time and make the effort to reply to potential employees. In today’s technology driven world we need to remember that social media can be very powerful. Every upset candidate who might feel disappointed about not hearing back from any company (after investing time in writing tailor-made CVs and cover letters) might be tempted to vent their anger online. This can happen with a comment, an email or a video going viral. Just imagine…. A candidate can easily do it within seconds, from any device, from all over the world and most importantly at no cost!

Companies need to think about what impression they want to leave behind. Here I’m not just thinking about the job applicants themselves but also all those people that they are going to share their negative experience with, such as friends, relatives, acquaintances and strangers online. And by the way, it is a fact that negative comments are being spread more often than positive ones. It would be advisable to not underestimate the power of “many ordinary people” because it can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line.

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Karin Schroeck-Singh is a passionate Public Speaker, eBook Author of several eBooks, a Career Blogger at and a freelancing Online Content Producer. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK), 17 years of international work experience in Italy, the UK and India. She loves helping individuals and businesses gain a competitive edge by strengthening their professionalism and image and achieving their goals.

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