How to Write Rejection Letters Which Make the Rejected Like You

You’ll find a need to reevaluate your communication strategy as you make your way from being the recipient to becoming the courier of life’s rejections. More rejection letters will unfortunately need to be sent to the inexperienced as you grow in your field of expertise. 

You’ll be granted with additional responsibilities at each phase of your pursuit toward mastery over your field. Whether you work your way up in an established corporation or start your own successful business, get ready to adopt the responsibility of a professional gatekeeper. 

In the role of dealing with fresh prospects, a more nuanced responsibility will include communicating with the interested, but unskilled. They’ll send you job applications to evaluate and cover letters to wade through. Most of them will need to be rejected. 

Your rejections will be an important part of your general communications strategy. The way you reject people can hurt or aid your goals in a variety of context specific ways. At the root of it all, remember that word of mouth is powerful in building and breaking personal and corporate reputations. 

This article aims to lay out a few reminders for you to follow when handing out rejections to people who don’t make the cut – whatever context it may be in. 

The idea that even rejection letters can help build your influence in your field is an imperative assumption being made on this page.


Obviously Generic Messages Sprinkle Salt on the Rejected Wound

You’ve likely bore witness to a professional rejection which was obviously generic in its nature. Perhaps you’ve received an automated email response stating you weren’t shortlisted for a position that you applied for.  

Do you remember how you felt upon realizing that others received the same exact response to something as personal and unique as a job application?

As you tried so desperately to stand out from the rest, you weren’t only rejected in your efforts, you were also placed right alongside all others who failed in their attempts. 

At least a personalized rejection letter would have maintained a sense of distinctiveness you so hoped to establish – even if you came up short in selling your distinct skills. A personalized rejection would have perhaps cited your experienced at your previous roles to be good, just not good enough for what the employer was looking for. 

Generic rejection messages exacerbate the pain of the rejection itself because they deprive the individual from a sense of individuality in addition to whatever it is they were rejected from. In addition to telling the rejected that they’re not good enough, generic messages serve to communicate that they’re not worthy of a differentiated response. 

Generic rejection messages from your end will make those who seek your acceptance feel as though you perceive them to be worthless, in addition to being unskilled. 

They Were Seriously Considered: Details Make Them Feel Important

To piggyback off the previous point, you’ll find yourself wanting to express that you’ve seriously considered those you reject in order to make your rejections more personal in nature. A serious consideration almost always entails acclimating to the details of the applications that you reject. 

Cite details about the profiles, applications, forms, and submissions of those you reject in your communications to them. Explain the aspects you are a fan of and the things that caused their application to come up short in your view. 

It is imperative that you don’t fake the fact that you seriously considered someone’s application to whatever it is you rejected them from. If you’re thinking about randomly picking things on their applications to cite in an effort to seem like you seriously considered, don’t do it. 

Being generic in your rejection is better than being fraudulently detailed and personal. By being inauthentic, you will lead the rejected applicants on a wild goose chase for things that may not be true. They’ll take your word on what they did well and fell short on seriously, and will likely seek to improve those things. 

Sooner or later, your fraudulent compliments and criticisms will be found out. As others compliment those same applicants on things you criticized, they’ll realize you to have acted fraudulently with them. They’ll understand that you just said something to say it, and that you didn’t seriously consider their application for what it was.

By genuinely attempting to improve all of those you reject with authentic criticisms and compliments, you’ll make a lasting mark. As they improve the aspects of their skills you genuinely rejected them for, they will begin seeing results. They will grow grateful for your truthful rejection down the line, and once the pain of the rejection fades, they’ll feel a genuine respect for your honesty start to build. 

Masking Criticisms but Still Giving the Applicant Something to Take Home

Providing something of value should be an overarching goal while you communicate with those who didn’t make the cut. Though some candidates would want to know what they came up short in, veering away from blatant criticism often seems to be like the professional thing to do. Criticizing a candidate will open doors to back and forth negotiations in which they attempt to explain how skillful they actually are. 

Rather than criticizing those who ask what they fell short in, you can take the approach of voicing what the successful candidates did well. Doing so will provide pointers on what you were looking for that the rejected candidate in question might’ve come up short in without explicitly stating so. 

In addition to stating that you found another candidate who met your specific requirements a bit snugger than the rejected individual, try throwing in one specific way in which they did that. Hit the rejected individual with an unanticipated dose of honestly they don’t expect. 


“We were impressed with the shortlisted candidates’ extensive experience working with SAS software; which is exactly what we are looking for.” 

“We were looking for people with extensive customer relations experience and we shortlisted based on that preference.” 

Stating a specific facet of the successful candidates’ profiles in an anonymized manner will soften the blow of any reasons for a rejected application. If you find yourself wanting to provide something for the unsuccessful candidate to take away without criticizing them outright, this option is always on the table. 

It Was a Difficult Decision  

The time of rejection is a point which forces an individual to decide on their forthcoming course of action. Their motivation levels will either take a hit or will be fueled by the rejection you send out. From your perspective, it seems right to do whatever you can to preserve and amplify the motivation levels of those whom you reject. 

A simple yet effective way of ensuring that your rejection doesn’t destroy someone’s motivation to keep working toward their goals is to communicate that your decision to reject them was a difficult one to make

You finding difficulty in deciding on a direction which does not include the individual in question will make them feel that they had a contending chance at succeeding. They’ll more likely attribute your decision to be one of personal preference and luck rather than an objective measure of their knowledge and skills. 

They’ll feel as though another decision maker may take a chance on them the same way you might’ve decided to take a chance on another candidate. They’ll feel within reach of whatever it is they were applying or trying out for. 

That feeling will transfer into the effort they put forth in other opportunities. They’d understand themselves to have come close in their attempts at trying out for what you were assigned to manage. 

The Balance of Warm but Nonnegotiable   

Being warm and personable provides a background for your stern and direct communications to contrast against. A rejection letter or communication is often the final piece of communication between an applicant and the decision makers. 

Ensure that you make the finality of your communication to the applicant obvious

Leave no open ends for the rejected applicant to enter from. It’s best to not leave yourself open to any questions or concerns. 

Ensure to include closing statements such as, “Thank you for investing your time into this application process.” 

“I hope our paths cross once more.” 

“It was a pleasure getting to know you.” 

Leaving a trail of hints that your decision has been made with finality will make it difficult for the rejected individual to want to keep the conversation going. 

The reason why you want to limit back and forths with rejected applicants is because the hope that they can change your mind will linger within them. They’ll be writing back to you with the hope that the stars somehow align, and that your mind somehow changes. 

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.