How to Let Someone Know She Didn't Get The Job

Keep your notes on the candidate handy when you call him so you don't confuse him with someone else.

Keep your notes on the candidate handy when you call him so you don't confuse him with someone else.

Being in charge of selecting someone for a job vacancy, whether as a human resources officer or a department manager, can be exciting because you get a chance to be on the other side of the interview table and consider a group of talented candidates. But the downside is that you have to give bad news to the candidates who weren't selected. Remember how it felt when you were waiting to hear about a job you applied for and respond accordingly: Contact the candidate as soon as the job is filled, be polite, but brief, and don't get into a discussion about her personal traits or qualifications.

Plan your comments before you contact the applicant. This is definitely one time you don't want to wing it on the phone. And it pays to be prepared, since the applicant might contact you before you get a chance to call her with the news.

Call the applicant on the phone. Keep your comments short and concise. Tell him you appreciate his interest in the company, then get right to the point. Briefly express your regrets and tell him he wasn't the one selected for the job.

Be prepared to provide tactful answers to the candidate's questions about the why she wasn't selected. You're better off not getting into a detailed discussion about the decision, because it's likely to put her on the defensive and devolve into a fruitless, unpleasant exchange. Avoid citing reasons that are personal in nature. Instead, refer to "management decisions" or the company's needs. This helps take the sting out of the news for a candidate. It's sufficient to simply state that you're not at liberty to get into specifics, but that the company decided on another candidate who is a better fit for the position.

Wish him good luck in his future job search. Offer to hold onto his file for possible future vacancies if you anticipate having additional vacancies and he's a strong candidate.

Tip

  • Contact each of the non-selected candidates you interviewed as soon as the position is filled so they hear the news from you first, rather than through the grapevine.
 

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.

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