“You Didn’t Get the Job.” 4 Tips for Communicating with Applicants

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“You Didn’t Get the Job” - 4 Tips for Communicating with Applicants

“You didn’t get the job.” No employer wants to communicate this news to applicants, but communication about whether or not a candidate “got the job” is an important part of the hiring process.

Making a good hire partly requires an individual having a good candidate experience in your hiring process. Candidates are as much evaluating your workplace as you are evaluating them, and without a positive experience, you run the risk of losing strong candidates. Effective communication with job applicants is one of the most important predictors of whether or not applicants have a good experience.

Unfortunately, candidate communication is an area needing improvement among many employers. Too often, organizations leave applicants wondering whether or not they made it to the next phase of the hiring process or if they got the job.

1. Why Communicate with Job Applicants

It's in every employer's best interest to communicate regularly with job candidates about the steps in the hiring process, their status, and the employment opportunity. Though communicating can take some extra time and effort, we’ve found that it strongly influences job candidates' satisfaction, which in turn affects how they perceive your organization and its work environment. It also helps build effective relationships with candidates.

And, simply put, it’s just the right thing to do…a common courtesy out of respect for their time.

2. How to Communicate with Applicants

What does effective communication and correspondence with job candidates entail? First, it means communicating your process, what to expect, and information about the position and your organization.

Second, it involves extending respect and courtesy to your applicants about their status in your process. This means that at every stage of the hiring process, applicants know where they stand, and aren’t left to question whether they’ve been rejected.

Third, it also involves communicating in a manner that is positive and professional. Communication should always be responsive, timely, and clear—as you would communicate with any of your customers. Also, you need to deliver on what you promise. If you say you will get back to candidates within a specific timeframe, then do so.

3. What to Communicate with Applicants

For effective candidate communication, there are several things that your organization must communicate to job applicants. We’ve identified twelve (12) of them and have included some sample verbiage.

Confirmation of the receipt of their application/resume.

An email confirming the receipt of an applicant's resume or application should be sent to each applicant, ideally immediately, or at least within one business day.

Sample: Dear [First Name], We appreciate your interest in the position of _____. We are currently reviewing applications and will in touch if you are selected for an interview. Thank you again for your interest in our company and for the time you invested in completing this application.

Application rejection.

You will also want to let applicants know that they were not chosen for an interview after reviewing their application.

Sample: Dear [First Name], We appreciate your interest in the position of _____. After reviewing the applications received, your's was not selected for further consideration. Thank you again for your interest in our company and we encourage you to apply for other positions in our company in the future.

Job information.

Every candidate who is interviewing for the position should be given a copy of the job description. This is typically included in the job posting, but if not, make sure that each candidate receives it. Essential communication about the position's requirements, duties, qualifications, and purpose of the role should be explained.

Hiring process overview.

Provide every candidate with an overview of the hiring process, including all of the steps of the process, how many candidates are being considered, and the expected timeframe in which you expect to make a decision (e.g. within 3 weeks).

Organizational information.

Communicate information about your organization, specifically its products and services, history, values, and culture. Encourage them to view your website, provide collateral, and explain these things in-person.

Interview logistics and information.

If a candidate is being brought in for an interview, call or email them to schedule an interview. Prep candidates with information before the job interview, including directions to your office, timeframe for the interview, and with whom they will meet.

Post-interview update.

At the interview, let the candidate know when you plan to follow-up with them, giving them a time period (within 3 days, within 1 week, etc.). After the interview, each candidate should be given an update regarding their status in the process, specifically if they made it to the next phase of the process or not, typically within 1 week of the interview.

Assessment and other selection logistics.

If you require a candidate to partake in a pre-employment assessment, background check, physical, or other selection practice, be sure to call or email them to explain instructions for how to complete these items. If there are preferred vendors that you use, make sure they know this information.

Post-selection update.

After other components of the selection process are complete, such as an assessment or background check, you owe the candidate another update regarding their status. If results of an assessment or other selection method cut an applicant from being further considered, your organization can provide either a general rejection notice or communicate more specifics regarding why they were not selected.


Communicating to a candidate that they did not get the job is a common courtesy that needs to be extended to each candidate through an email, phone call, or formal letter. No thorough explanation is needed when rejecting a candidate, unless you wish to provide more feedback to the candidate. Note that there are both benefits and drawbacks to providing additional feedback to candidates.

Sample: Dear [First Name], Thank you for your interest in the position at our company. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer you the position at this time and have selected another candidate for the position. Thank you for the time you invested in the process. We will keep you in mind for other opportunities within our company and we encourage you to apply for other positions in our company in the future.

Offer letter.

For the candidate that is selected for the position, extend a call to them to offer the position and follow-up with a positive and optimistic offer letter. At a minimum, the letter should confirm the following:

  • Position for which they were hired
  • Compensation arrangement (hourly pay rate, annual salary, etc.)
  • Reporting relationship
  • Location
  • Start date 

Questions and answers.

Throughout the hiring process, it’s important to be available to answer applicants’ questions. Let them know that you are available to answer any questions or concerns and respond to their questions in a timely and professional manner.

Finally, keeping in touch with your best candidates is often an overlooked form of communication with candidates, but also important to maintaining relationships for your future staffing needs. You can start a newsletter, a group within a social media platform, or keep an email list and reach out to them from time to time.

4. Ways to Easily Communicate

While effective candidate communication is necessary, many employers fear that it can take too much time and effort. There are a few ways to streamline your correspondence and make it easier to administer:

  • Maintain a list of all candidates with notes regarding when they were contacted for a status update. This helps ensure that all candidates are followed-up with regarding their status in the process.
  • Centralize all communication with the candidate under one individual, such as your recruiter or an administrative HR professional.
  • Develop standard templates for candidate communication versus customizing your communications.
  • Use applicant tracking systems or recruiting software systems. These systems can make efforts easier because you can automate correspondence with applicants—especially initial correspondence regarding resume and application receipts.
  • Partner with a firm or vendor. Outside staffing firms and vendors can manage the recruiting process and communication with candidates.

These days, job applicants expect employers to maintain good communication with them during the recruiting and hiring process and demonstrate transparency. Be sure that you take the time to communicate well with your applicants. A satisfied hire and a pool of great candidates that view your organization positively and want to consider your organization as their future employer will be worth the extra efforts.

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