As you go through the hiring process, keep in mind that declining an applicant is also part of your employer brand. Whenever possible, give the applicant feedback and suggestions for future applications.

Declining an Applicant

Keeping Your Employer Brand in Mind

As you go through these discussions with applicants, keep in mind that declining an applicant is also part of your employer brand.

All applicants not selected for the job will need to be advised. Providing people with this type of feedback can be uncomfortable, but it’s also an important learning experience for each to better prepare for the next opportunity they apply for.

Of candidates who have had a bad experience, 72% of them have shared that experience online or with someone directly.

If the candidate was referred by a community partner or employment service provider, contact the referring organization to provide an update on your employment decision. Give as much detail as you are comfortable with and if the candidate was not a good fit, let them know why. They may be able to provide a better match to your needs in the future. If skills or experience was lacking in the candidate, they may also be able to provide training to better prepare the candidate to be successful for future openings. Either way, it’s a learning opportunity for the individual to further grow and develop.

End the discussion by thanking the applicant for considering your business. If the applicant may be suitable for a job at another time within your organization, let them know that you will keep them in mind for future opportunities.

Declining an applicant in a professional, timely and considerate way will help to maintain your employer brand reputation and leave the applicant with an overall positive impression of your business.


Supportive Employer Top Tip

“Whenever an applicant isn’t selected to participate in our employment program, we always give them constructive feedback about why they were not chosen and things that they can work on. And we let them know that we will keep them on our list for when the next program starts.”


Providing Feedback

Whenever possible, give the applicant an example of why they were not selected. Providing them with a suggestion of a skill to build upon or additional training to take can be helpful and reflects well on your business.

Here are some tips for providing feedback:

  • Let the person know of your decision in a timely manner, explaining what’s relevant
  • Be intentionally kind and respectful
  • Whenever possible, decline the applicant by phone and not by email
  • Listen to the person and provide an opportunity for them to present any supporting information
  • If the applicant becomes upset, maintain a non-defensive and non-confrontational manner throughout the discussion
  • Demonstrate a willingness to review a decision if an error was made. However, if the decision is final, let the applicant know


This chapter is an excerpt from the B2B Untapped Talent Guide to Innovative Hiring and Retention.

Available for download

Untapped-Talent_Declining Applicant (122.36 KB) Download PDF