As a hiring manager, you’re no stranger to the piles of emails that hit your inbox after a round of interviews — thank yous, follow-ups, and persistent emails from candidates asking for an answer.
But as the nature of the game would have it, not every candidate you interview will result in a hire. In fact, most of them don’t.
Giving rejections to candidates isn’t fun. As humans, we don’t typically love uncomfortable conversations — and yet, we all crave feedback. So you’d be forgiven for thinking: Do I really have to give feedback to unsuccessful candidates after an interview?
The short answer: No.
But if you’re here, you don’t want the short answer.
Delivered well, sharing feedback with candidates on why you’ve decided not to move forward after an interview can help soften the blow and keep them motivated to keep going in their search.
In this article, we’ll outline all the latest best practices for giving the kind of constructive feedback candidates actually appreciate, while preserving both your employer brand and your karma as a recruiter or hiring manager. 😊
Unsuccessful interview feedback emails:
- The ‘thank you for your time’ email
- The ‘didn't get the job’ email
- The ‘here’s what we liked’ email
- The ‘hey, it’s ok’ email
- The straight-shooting feedback email
- The helpful resources email
- The follow-up email
Why bother giving unsuccessful candidates feedback after an interview?
In a sentence? Because providing a stellar candidate experience is crucial for your employer brand.
Sharing constructive feedback for candidates at the end of the interview process has a ton of benefits, including:
- Ensuring the applicant’s time wasn’t wasted by giving them valuable information to take into the future.
- Maintaining a positive reputation as an employer, which can play a role when unsuccessful candidates interact with your brand later on down the line.
- Improving your pipeline of future talent. After all, just because someone didn’t get the job this time, doesn’t mean they won’t be able to circle back to the next one or recommend your company to their peers as a great place to work.
Clearly, there’s room for improvement. Start offering better interview feedback to unsuccessful candidates with these eight example scripts and emails.
Example #1 — The ‘thank you for your time’ email
Always, always, always acknowledge that the candidate has taken the time out of their busy day-to-day life to show an interest in your company.
Whether this role represented someone’s dream job or was simply an application they made on a whim, you want your brand to be viewed as one that respects their time and interest.
And while many recruiters and hiring managers have an expectation that the candidate should be the one to immediately follow the interview with a thank you email, leading HR pros believe this is one area where the shoe can easily go on the other foot.
“If a hiring manager believes in expressing gratitude, they should send candidates a thank you note expressing gratitude for their time,” says Laura Mazzullo, owner of New York based HR boutique East Side Staffing. Simple as that.
I want to thank you for taking the time to have the various conversations with our team members. We truly enjoyed getting to know you. We’ll be back in touch by the end of the month with an update.
Example #2 — The ‘didn't get the job’ email
Like it or not, we all know this post interview email as a necessary part of the hiring process.
As a brand, you should always let employees know the status of their candidacy — and being communicative is a huge (and with the right recruitment tools, easy) way to improve the candidate experience.
Before you sit down to write the infamous ‘didn't get the job’ email, make sure you’re in the right state of mind. Be prepared to give this email the time and effort it deserves and allow yourself plenty of space to be sincere and authentic in your message.
You want to keep your email simple, while still showing the candidate that you were paying attention during the interview. The candidate should walk away from this email feeling seen, and not as just another task you had to tick off the list.
Interview feedback script:
You’ve got an awesome background but after reviewing all the projects that came in for this role, we decided to go with someone with more technical experience in Asana.
Since that’s our main platform, this is what makes the most sense for now. We were all super impressed with how well your resume fit the job description and enjoyed our conversation, so we’ll definitely reach out for any future openings you may be a good fit for.
Example #3 — The ‘here’s what we liked’ email
Even if a candidate clearly wasn’t the right fit for a specific role, they’re still a human being. And considering they took the time to apply with your company, they’re probably a pretty awesome one too!
So soften the news and send the candidate away feeling confident by saying something that is both positive and specific to that individual’s background or experience.
In today’s world or robo-callers and misspelled Starbucks lattes, don’t underestimate this candidate rejection email — adding a human touch makes all the difference in how people perceive companies.
And while it’s true that no one likes rejection, sharing feedback with unsuccessful candidates in a way that shows a personal connection can make a huge difference in how they take the news. Remember, candidates have taken a ton of time to get to know you and your company, the least you can do is offer them a positive experience from beginning to end.
Interview feedback script:
Your interview answers were great and your personal story was super inspiring — finishing your graduate degree at night while working is no easy feat.
However, for this current role, we’re looking for someone with a bit more hands-on experience on the technical side. We’ll definitely keep you in mind for future positions and would love to stay in touch.
Example #4 — The ‘hey, it’s ok’ email
When we asked Elijah Elkins, HR expert and former Global Talent Acquisition Manager at CloudFactory about his view on candidate experience he said, “One of the most helpful things for me has been to take a moment and put myself in the shoes of the candidate. How might I be feeling? How would I want to be treated throughout the recruitment process?”
Unfortunately, when you’re urgently trying to fill an open role, it’s easy to blow right past every opportunity to pause and reflect.
Here’s how you can remain empathetic with each of your candidate feedback emails:
- Keep it compassionate. Remember, for some candidates this isn’t their first interview rejection. Even if you’re disappointed with how things went, aim to keep your compassion or at the very least, stay neutral.
- Feel free to mention both the candidate’s strengths and ‘weaknesses’ within the context of the role they’re applying for.
- Tone matters — always be polite.
Even if it’s hard, try to pinpoint some of the things the candidate did well and so they can apply that in the future. And for negative feedback specifically, always remember to position your comments within the context of the role or company culture as described in your job posting.
Interview feedback script:
We loved that you were so well-prepared for our questions, but we were hoping to have more of an organic dialogue so we could get to know each other better.
It’s completely normal for people to be nervous in an interview — as a recruiter, I see this all the time! One tip that I have personally found helpful for me that might also work for you is listening to my favorite song right before to help shake out the nerves.
Let’s definitely stay connected!
Example #5 — The straight-shooting feedback email
For most hiring managers, avoiding the real reason for not hiring someone is a lot easier than facing the truth.
After all, “We found someone who is a better fit” is a lot easier to type than “You kind of seemed like a know-it-all who isn’t a team player.” 😬
But as straight-shooter Sarah Corboliou, Head of Employee Success at Unito, found out when she accidentally sent her raw interview notes to a candidate — sometimes even the ugly truth can get a great response.
Sarah had written in her notes that she found the candidate to be “pretty arrogant.”
“I was expecting a super bad Glassdoor review or something [when I accidentally sent him my notes],” Sarah shared. “But instead, the person replied saying ‘Well, you must be pretty embarrassed, but it’s actually refreshing to hear what recruiters really think of me for once. Would you mind jumping on a quick call to discuss how I can present myself better?’”
The result? The two had a super constructive discussion that ended up changing Sarah’s opinion of him. After all that, she was open to hiring him for other roles in the future (even if that specific opportunity didn’t work out).
Interview feedback script:
We believe telling the absolute truth about our hiring decisions is the only way to help you succeed (and maybe apply to us again later!). Your technical skills were completely on-point but your approach to developing new skills didn’t seem to fit with our company values around embracing a learning mindset. Happy to jump on a call if you want to prove us wrong for next time!
Example #6 — The helpful resources email
Is there something simple you can do to help this candidate be better in the future? Maybe a masterclass or an article you read recently that they could benefit from?
When appropriate, try to provide resources to help the candidate further their career. This shows you’ve been paying attention and that you as a human and a brand are invested in their future… especially if their future could be at your company one day.
This interview feedback example is especially helpful for candidates for entry level roles and younger employees who may be at the start of their career.
Interview feedback script:
It was so great meeting you the other day!
I loved the range of roles you’ve had in the past, however for this specific job, we’re looking for someone with more industry experience.
Just because this opportunity didn't work out, I think you have a lot of great transferable skills that will serve you well. I recently saw this article that might be helpful for you. It shares tips for how you can play up your transferable skills to better compete against someone with more industry experience. I hope we can stay connected.
Example #7 — The follow-up email
You’ve carefully wrapped up the interview feedback and sent your email to the candidate. You feel relieved, the hard part is done. Or, is it...
To really go the extra mile, why not follow up by offering to jump on a call with the candidates that you thought had potential, but just didn’t fit the bill for whatever reason. This is a brilliant way to give back, especially when dealing with some of the more junior candidates who could use a little extra mentorship as they start their careers.
You’re probably thinking, “Come on, I don’t have time to have another conversation with a candidate.” And we get it, you are super busy.
But remember that:
- Not every candidate will actually take you up on the offer.
- Those that do will likely find real value from it.
You never know how that connection can serve you in the future!
Interview follow-up script:
In my role, I’ve talked with a ton of candidates and seen a lot of what works and doesn’t work. If you would like to jump on a call or grab a coffee, I’m happy to talk through some opportunities for how you can better position yourself for future job opportunities. You have a great foundation, but some restructuring of how you present your skills and value might be helpful for similar roles.
Example #8 — Connect with unsuccessful candidates on LinkedIn
People sometimes have a way of coming back into your life at just the right moment.
Maybe an unsuccessful candidate will be a great fit for a future role. Or maybe their college roommate or former colleague will be.
Growing your LinkedIn connections helps both you and your candidates expand your networks and increase your chances of finding the right opportunities. Plus, reaching out to connect on LinkedIn is a small but powerful way to show them that you did in fact value their time.
It was great talking with you the other week. Sorry, this opportunity didn’t work out, but I would love to stay connected.
Don’t delay sending your feedback
This is an easy one, but it often gets overlooked.
Sending candidate feedback sooner rather than later is crucial to delivering a high-quality candidate experience.
Have you ever waited weeks or even months after a job interview where you’re just sitting in limbo? It sucks!
Don’t do that to someone else.
Use a streamlined, user-friendly applicant tracking system to easily track your candidate communication and make sure every candidate knows where they stand.
Systemize your interview feedback to keep every candidate in the loop
When you’re in the middle of a big hiring push, it can be hard to keep all your candidates straight — especially if you have multiple applicants interviewing for multiple roles.
Make it easy for every member of your hiring team to securely share their interview feedback in one central location, right next to the candidate’s profile. With a streamlined and systematized approach, you’ll have the bird's eye view of each of your candidates, their strengths and weaknesses, and full communication history.
If you really want to elevate the experience for unsuccessful candidates, you could also add them to a nurture sequence that checks in a couple of months later to simply say thanks and ask how their job search is going.
You don’t need an open position, or any other motive, other than to simply see how they’re doing and how you can help. 😊
Want to be sure you’re truly staying connected with a candidate (and not just coasting on automated messages)?
Breezy makes it easy for you and your teams to manage candidates, collect feedback, and automate interview feedback emails to make better hires faster — without cutting corners on candidate experience.
Check it out for yourself with a free 14-day trial.