Do you need a sample "thanks, but no thanks" letter? This is the letter that Human Resources people don't like to send. But, send it you must though even if it's painful, because no matter what, you can usually only select one candidate for your job.
I believe strongly that either the hiring manager or the HR staff should call the candidates you are rejecting just as you call the candidate to whom you want to make the job offer.
You want to leave each candidate with a positive view of your organization which simple, timely communication will achieve. This positive impression may affect your candidate's application to your organization in the future or the impression may affect other potential candidates for your jobs. Candidates do talk and often, like birds, flock together to pursue an employer of choice.
When to Reject a Candidate
I know that many employers disagree with me, but I also believe you should call a candidate as soon as you determine that he or she is not the right person for the job. Many employers wait until the end, even as long as it takes for a new employee to start the job, before they notify unsuccessful candidates.
I find this disrespectful and not congruent with the actions of an employer of choice. Let candidates know as soon as you know. Otherwise candidates wait, fret, and feel as if their candidacy disappeared into a dark hole. Trust me; their feelings about you as a potential employer did, too.
Additionally, as an employer, if you've decided that the candidate is not the right person for the job, retaining the applicant tempts you to settle for an under-qualified, or less than you had hoped for, staff person. My only caveat here is that if you have determined a person is both well-qualified and a good cultural fit, call the applicant to let them know the status of their application. Tell the applicant that he or she is still being considered for the position, but that you also have several other qualified candidates to interview.
In this way, you have not rejected an acceptable candidate and the candidate is not left in the dark while you consider your other options. This is courteous and respectful and it may help you avoid restarting your recruitment. A candidate who is not updated about your process may accept a position elsewhere. Plus, by staying in touch, you continue to build a positive relationship with a potential employee and his or her network.
Candidate Rejection by Employers
One last point: I receive frequent questions from job searchers about what is appropriate for them to do about follow up with employers with whom they interviewed. Days, weeks, and sometimes months, have passed with no word from an employer who was obviously interested enough to bring the applicant in for an interview.
These candidates are assuming they were not selected but they have never heard for sure. Like most normal humans, they seek closure so that they can move on. In my book, it is never appropriate for an employer to fail to respond to a candidate with whom the employer has had contact. It is not candidate, employee, potential employee, or company image friendly to fail to let a candidate know his or her status. Say, yay or say, nay, but say something - in a timely manner.
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