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Susan M. Heathfield

Say No Thanks - With Care

By May 13, 2014

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George Lenard calls them "Dear John" letters. Job searchers call them, "thanks, but no thanks" letters. Many HR folks call them rejection letters. Whatever you call them, do write them.

But, write them carefully. What you write - or fail to write - in a rejection letter can get you sued. And, especially now, as in all things HR, job searchers are desperate and they'd love rejection to be your fault - or problem.

Certain employment letters are crucial to the maintenance of your relationship with your potential employees. From applicant to employee, your interaction with your potential employees rests heavily on written communication. In fact, this communication - or the lack of communication, as candidates would complain - can make or break your relationship with potential employees and every person with whom they share their job searching stories.

In George's Employment Blawg, attorney George Lenard reinforces the importance of rejection letters at every stage of the hiring process. Sure, no applicant wants to hear that they've been rejected, but they'd rather hear rejection than to hear nothing at all - having their resume wind up in the proverbial back hole. Lenard says:

"...businesses need the good will of every customer they can get -- and if you don't send a rejection letter to applicants, you may well alienate them and their families, discouraging them from doing business with you or from applying for another position to which they may be better suited.

"Imagine people switching to your competitors or disparaging your company for every rejection letter you don't send and multiply that by the number of resumes you're receiving in response to each of your job postings, and you can begin to see the possible negative ripple effect that could occur."

Send Rejection Letters

I have perpetually advocated the same position. I believe that employers need to politely reject applicants and candidates as soon as they determine the individual is not the appropriate person for their open position. As Lenard also mentions, though, you don't want to make the rejection so quickly that your candidate does not feel he or she was fairly considered.

Many employers, however, keep all candidates on the hook until they have offered the position and the chosen candidate has accepted the job.

Why? If you've decided the candidate is not among your most qualified applicants, you don't want to settle for an unqualified person. If you decide you can develop the person to perform the job, you have, essentially, created a different job. Call the candidate and ask if they are interested in interviewing for a different position.

You'll want to take a look at Lenard's tips for writing legal, effective rejection letters. I have developed sample rejection letters for your use, too. Please take a look at my latest addition to my sample rejection letters: my sample email resume rejection letter.

Sample Human Resources Letters

Additionally, these sample Human Resources letters provide guidance for common letters you encounter in business and human resources. Use these sample human resources letters to make job offers, resign from your job, review resume cover letters, review interview thank you letters, and provide effective employee recognition.

Find sample human resources letters. Are there more samples you'd like to see? These sample human resources letters were developed as the result of reader requests.

Related: See forms for hiring employees.

Image Copyright Pali Rao

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