A guide on how to turn down unqualified candidates

Dismissing candidates can have its own risks and opportunities. Here are some tips on how to turn down applicants without making them feel rejected…

Not every candidate is right for the job. In fact, most of the time you have to turn someone down instead. Contrary to popular belief, turning down a candidate can feel just as bad as getting turned down yourself so dismissing candidates is a delicate art with its own risks and opportunities. In the worst case scenario a rejected candidate can hold a grudge against your company, but there are plenty of great opportunities to be had by rejecting candidates the “right” way. Here are some pointers on how to avoid mistakes and take advantage of the opportunities presented.

Overplaying the significance of the event.

Even if it may be true – don’t leave the candidate feeling like they just missed the opportunity of a lifetime. There are plenty of other jobs out there in the world and this was just one of them. If the candidate is not qualified now then that may change in a few years. Leave them feeling that the rejection is not final and they are welcome to send in their resume again in the future when they have accumulated more experience in the field.

Reject candidates as early as possible.

Show them that you respect their time and effort by letting them off the hook as soon as possible. This allows the candidate to move on to other offers they may have available and focus their efforts on moving forward.

Set correct expectations for your process.

Set time frames for getting back in touch with the candidates and stick to your dates. It may also be helpful to offer transparency into the recruitment process when needed. If a candidate is not right for the position, then it’s okay to contact them before your promised date. This will lessen the impact of your rejection by taking the long anticipation out of the equation.

Don’t make your rejection too personal.

Most people are not very good at handling rejection and are likely to enter a high state of stress when it occurs. Try to offer genuine constructive feedback, but don’t go into too much detail. This helps avoid potential conflicts and arguments while helping them improve their future efforts at the job market.

Make them feel they got a fair shot.

Acknowledge any bigger effort they made on their part especially if it was a trial day or a test job of some kind. This was part of your evaluation so let them know you appreciated the effort they made.

Keep it simple, short and professional.

At the beginning stages of your process it’s preferable to send a personalized email. Later on when the candidate has been through multiple interview stages, it’s better to call them and let them hear the news from you personally. Keep in mind that the rejection etiquette varies depending on your industry and field. For example sending the rejection via email during the later stages in the IT sector is often preferable to a phone call.

Keep the relationship going.

If the candidate just barely missed the mark or you feel they have great potential in the future, then let them know that fact and ask if you can keep their details for future reference. In today’s fast developing world, the junior of today can be an expert performer in 2 years. Don’t burn bridges, instead build your candidate pool and be prepared for the future. Connect with them on LinkedIn and go the small extra mile in making a connection.
The candidate will appreciate the effort and will remember you as an ally in the future.

Always communicate effectively.

Sending 200 personalized emails and keeping track of your communication as a team can be a massive task. The bigger the workload the higher the chances and risks of dropping the ball. This is something we as recruiters are all well aware of. That’s why we’ve begun constructing the tools to help us work more efficiently. Recrur is a product of love that we first built for ourselves and eventually opened up for others to use. If your goal is to build great relationships and worry less about excessive paperwork, then we welcome you to try Recrur out for yourself.


Sirli Spelman

A recruiter and human resource manager. Sirli has many years of practical experience in hiring for the IT industry – excellent in both finding new talent and organizing existing talent.

Software & Services info

I would be happy to introduce the ways Recrur can bring your organisation's recruitment process to the next level by making it simpler and more effective.

Please get in touch and let's find the most suitable solution for you.

Want to try?

Create a free account and try it for yourself.
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes.

Customer support



    All information in Recrur is stored in accordance with GDPR data protection laws and you will be notified when your data starts to expire.