Based on three different samples, we show you how to formulate rejections of applications in a friendly, legally compliant manner and with the necessary sensitivity. Because who knows? Perhaps an applicant fits again on another place!
Why a good application rejection is so important
Ok, cancellations are not obligatory. If it is purely a matter of employment law, you do not have to write or give reasons for rejection letters. In view of the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG), lawyers even recommend not explaining rejections in detail.
However, it is important to write refusals. First, applicants have invested time and effort – so it’s a matter of courtesy. Secondly, we live in a transparent world, in which a dubious treatment of applicants gets around very quickly – poison for your employer branding!
Nevertheless, HR managers seem to like to shirk: According to a study by Meta HR and job advertisements.More than 25 percent of participating job seekers have already experienced that they did not receive a rejection letter for their application.
A survey among the readers of Karrierebibel.de came to the following conclusion: the items "Never hear back after application" and "No feedback received after interview" ranked second and third, respectively, among the biggest annoyance factors in the application process. The lack of feedback was only topped by the fact that "no one is honest about what caused the application to fail". No wonder, then, if a total of 62 percent were very to completely frustrated when an employer didn’t respond after an application or after an interview.
How quickly should employers cancel?
With the shift of the job search to the Internet, the expectations of talents have also changed: Those who send an email with their resume and credentials or fill out a form on an online career site expect a quick response. On average, it takes two days for an acknowledgement of receipt to arrive. Too long in times of digitalization.
The first feedback that the application has been received should be immediate. In it should never be the final rejection. In such a case, the candidate might think that not a human, but an algorithm has evaluated his or her data. Instead, the text should state that the documents will be reviewed and when you will get back to him or her.
Schedule rejections and send them automatically
Show appreciation through prompt feedback: create email templates for rejection letters, set a send date, and ensure a smooth process.
The next contact should be made within a maximum of 10 days. After this period, the applicant should either receive an e-mail with a rejection or an invitation to a (telephone) interview. If you can’t make up your mind in that time frame, we’ll send you an interim response. Otherwise, a recruiter will have to deal with telephone queries. Only large companies with complex structures are considered by talented people to take more time.
Sample professional rejection letters
Depending on the position and company size, your rejection letter will also vary. Here are some examples for your orientation.
Sample 1: Basic template for a rejection letter
Subject: Your application for a position as (Job Title)
thank you for working for us as (job title) would like to work with us and thus show that you are interested in (company name) and believe our business idea. Reading your documents was very exciting. You have given us a vivid impression of who you are and what skills you have.
We are sorry to inform you that your profile did not quite match our expectations and we cannot offer you a job this time.
However, we would love to add you to our talent pool and contact you again. If we should create a position in the future that better fits your profile. Please contact us briefly if you agree with this.
With your skills, it certainly won’t take long to find a job where you can show what you’re made of. We wish you all the best!
Sample 2: Rejection after an interview
Subject: Thank you for the friendly interview
Dear (first name last name),
thank you for taking the time to talk to us. It was a pleasure to get to know you better.
You made a very positive impression on us, but unfortunately we have to inform you that another candidate was a better fit for the job profile and that is why we chose him/her.
We wish you all the best and much success for your future career.
Sample 3: Rejection "Specialist in a medium-sized company
Subject: Your application as (job title)
Dear Ms/Mr (last name),
Your application for the position as (job title) at (company name) we have carefully checked.
We are pleased that you as an experienced professional can imagine to work for our company. However, since we are looking for the position as (job title) We are looking for a candidate with extensive market knowledge and networks within our industry. Unfortunately, we cannot consider you this time.
We will delete your applicant data in accordance with the regulations of the Federal Data Protection Act after two months.
We thank you for your understanding and wish you continued success on your career path.
With best regards
Sample rejection letter – also in English
Formulate rejection letters in a professional and appreciative manner. You can find more samples as well as examples in English in our free template.
Sample 4: Rejection "Training position
Subject: We are very sorry..
Good day (first name last name),
we are pleased that you (company name) have chosen to start your professional life and have taken the time for a personal interview.
With the large number of applications for our training position as a (training title), who have reached me, the decision has not been easy. Unfortunately, another candidate was more convincing, so I have to turn you down today.
Please do not be disappointed that it did not work out this time. This rejection is not a criticism of your personality or skills. Surely you will soon find a training position where you can realize your plans for the future.
If you would like more detailed feedback on your application and the job interview, we would be happy to talk again. Call me at any time.
Good luck for your professional future
(first name last name)
(department or position)
Sample 5: Rejection letter for a speculative application
Subject: Your unsolicited application for the position of (position)
Dear Sir/Madam (last name),
Thank you for your unsolicited application, which demonstrates your great interest in our company and shows how proactive you are.
Unfortunately, we are not able to offer you a position that fits your profile and meets your expectations at the moment.
However, we would be happy to include you in our talent pool and get back to you. if we should create a position in the future that fits your profile better. Please contact us briefly if you agree to this.
Until then, we wish you all the best and much success.
How to cancel in a friendly manner
First think about in whose name the rejection text will be formulated. A good rule of thumb is Whoever handles the process also cancels and remains the contact person in case of queries. Therefore, and for reasons of politeness, one author of the text should always be identifiable by name.
As far as the length of application rejection letters is concerned, the following applies: as long as necessary, as short as possible. All in all, the text printed out should fit on one letterhead.
The minimum length is based on the building blocks that are common in a rejection letter. What the recipient is most interested in is what gives companies the biggest stomach ache: the reason for the job rejection.
Find the right structure for rejection letters
As a rule, you will be sent rejection letters by e-mail. You should already have Subject line make it clear which position it is. Because not only do you receive many applications, the candidate looking for a job may also have several horses in the race. He is therefore pleased if he can assign the e-mail immediately.
After the Greeting you should first address thank the applicant for the time and effort he/she has put in. Depending on how far the person has come in the process, the thank you is a little bigger.
Now it’s time for the justification: Formulate the content positive and praise the candidate if he or she has covered certain aspects particularly well. The reason why you have chosen a competitor should also be formulated positively.
A Closing and greeting formula should encourage the applicant – similar to a job reference – on his further path. The job seeker has just been turned down. Maybe not the first. Regardless of his actual suitability, he deserves a pep talk. How well this works often depends on nuances.
Striking the right tone when rejecting an application
Because rejection letters are part of applicant communication, Jobware and Kienbaum Communications have even launched a competition for the best rejection letters in the past. But in practice, wooden formulations often dominate a rejection text. This does not have to be. A rejection letter may also be written in a natural, individual and creative way – as long as it takes the applicant seriously. For example, make reference to the applicant’s cover letter or resume. In this way, you show that you have really dealt with the application in detail.
Of course, text modules can be prepared and reassembled over and over again. But these can also motivate, instead of putting the recipient into a microsleep. Well advised is who so write how he speaks on the phone and does not use bureaucratic terms. Avoid standard phrases such as "We regret to inform you" or "After careful consideration, we have decided".
The wording and tone depend on the company, its corporate culture and the position advertised. An applicant for a position as head of department in a traditional medium-sized company can be more serious than an entry-level employee. A major international corporation may act dignified to aloof. A start-up that has already addressed its applicants as "you" in the job advertisement and in the job interview may retain this in the rejection text. Especially if you are looking for trainees, you should take into account that you are dealing with young, inexperienced people whose self-esteem is even easier to shake than that of an experienced applicant.
Legally sound rejection letters
For fear of being sued on the basis of the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG), many companies nowadays refrain from telling the applicant their selection criteria and take refuge in generalities. The AGG prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin, gender, disability, religion, ideology, age or sexual identity. Without a reason for a rejection, however, the candidate is left in uncertainty.
Any rejection is easier to take if the reasons are explained. A company that treats its applicants as equals makes transparent which qualifications or experience other competitors had ahead of it. This will motivate the applicant to develop further and possibly to move on in a few years. Apply to the company again.
You can reduce the risk of a lawsuit if necessary. lower something by cancelling by telephone, since their reason is then nowhere recorded. Hopefully, however, your justification is based on comprehensible, non-discriminatory arguments that do not bring you anywhere near a lawsuit. A telephone rejection from a good candidate who has narrowly failed always offers the chance of another application for a more suitable position.
Complete candidate management in one tool
Store applicant documents clearly, send acceptance and rejection letters, and gather feedback from colleagues centrally: If you control your applicant management from one tool, you save time in recruiting and are one step ahead of the competition.
What needs to be considered regarding data protection?
You want to keep the data of a promising candidate to contact him again at a later date? Then you get his consent. Especially in the case of unsolicited applications, there are often candidates who would be a good fit for the company. Since there isn’t always a job opening, recruiters like to consider these applicants at a later date.
According to the Federal Data Protection Act, however, applicant data must be deleted after two months at the latest. This is when the deadline for filing discrimination claims ends. This is how long a company is allowed to keep the application documents in order to be able to defend itself in case of emergency. If you want to store the data for longer, the applicant must agree in writing. With an electronic applicant management system, this permission can be granted with a click of the mouse.
Conclusion: appreciation pays off
Treating applicants with respect is in the best interest of every company and is becoming increasingly important. People looking for a new job usually share their experiences with friends, family and (ex-)colleagues. In addition, employer rating platforms such as kununu have long offered categories for the application process. If you don’t get a response to your painstakingly compiled documents or read inappropriate wording in your rejection letter, you can share this with a wide audience.
A company that alienates applicants and damages its image not only loses potential talent, but possibly customers as well. Conversely, a rejected but courteously treated candidate can turn into a brand ambassador – even with a rejection (more on the candidate experience).
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