The Art of Rejection — How Much Should You Say?


After a terrible interview, it’s tempting to just toss your notes in the recycling bin and move on, but the question remains: how much, if any, feedback should you give when rejecting someone? Breaking the news to a candidate is hard enough, even without going into detail, but dumping him or her with no explanation is cold. How much should you say?

As an interviewer, you aren’t obliged to give a bad candidate feedback — only about 30% of employers provide comments — but this isn’t the fairest way to reject someone. Put yourself in his or her shoes: wouldn’t you want to know why you were turned down? After all, how can you improve if you don’t know your weak areas?

To hone your skills of constructive rejection, consider the following points:

  • Honesty can be uncomfortable.

Most employers likely avoid providing feedback to unsuccessful candidates because the conversation is not exactly fun. However, if you’re committed to helping job seekers improve, go into the call knowing it will be uncomfortable for both of you. You’ll never eliminate the discomfort altogether, but you can ease it. Be respectful, start with positive comments, and tread lightly. Plan a short and to-the-point conversation, and be prepared to wrap it up if the candidate seems unreceptive.

  • Be constructive.

If you simply didn’t jive with a candidate or you disliked his or her attitude, try to keep those thoughts to yourself. Commenting on personality does very little to help a person improve, and if those are the only critiques you have, it’s probably better not to make the call at all. Aim for constructive feedback that will truly help the candidate. For example, you can nicely suggest improvement in the form of a question such as: “How about seeking training in team management?”

  • Agree to disagree.

Criticism is a tough pill to swallow. Some people may be grateful for your feedback, while others may get defensive. Instead of justifying your opinions or engaging in an argument, give concrete, specific comments that are as factual as possible. Use your job description as your foundation for the conversation and point out particular areas in which a candidate fell short, such as a lack of adequate experience or education. He or she can’t argue if your comments are objective and based on fair criteria.

In the end, you aren’t required to have these conversations, but every candidate deserves the short time it takes you to reach out, especially if he or she has undergone several rounds of interviews. Giving rejected candidates a chance to improve will strengthen the quality of job seekers in your market and may lead to applications from better candidates crossing your desk in the future.

Author: Alisiana Peters

Alisiana is a senior marketing coordinator at HiringThing, an award-winning online recruiting software provider dedicated to changing the way businesses hire talent. Questions? Contact HiringThing Marketing.