It’s never a nice experience telling someone they didn’t get the job, but there are ways to break the news in a gentle and positive manner.

The way you do it will most likely depend on how far down the interview process the candidate has got. If you’re letting down a number of candidates you may do it in an email, but if the candidate managed to get to the latter stages of an interview, you may want to give them a call or write them a letter.

Whichever way you choose to do it, these tips will help you to deliver the news in a way that’s both professional and sincere.

Don’t delay your response – One of the worst things you can do as a company is take a long time letting candidates know why they were unsuccessful. If you’ve rejected an applicant and you’ve told them, let them know as soon as possible why you have rejected them. Long delays will make you look like you don’t care about the candidate and that can reflect really badly on your company.

Thank the candidate coming in – This is crucial because it shows you really valued the candidate’s time. You always want to make them aware than you’re thankful for their interest in your company and the role in which you were recruiting for. Let them know that you appreciate them taking the time to fill out an application form.

Mention the candidate’s strengths – They might not be right for the job, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have some strong qualities that made them a true contender – after all, they must have had something to get an interview in the first place. Talk about what they did well in the interview and what they should continue to do moving forward.

Be clear about why they were unsuccessful – It’s important to be honest when letting a candidate down but try to be constructive when critiquing to avoid being offensive. Be concise and clear when it comes to explaining the reasons why they weren’t the right fit. The candidate will inevitably be disappointed but by being honest in your approach and offering them useful feedback you’re actually doing them a favour when they go for their next interview.

Let them know if there are any other roles available – They may not be right for the role but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t suitable for any other roles you may be recruiting for. If you really liked the candidate, let them know of any future openings and what they need to do in order to apply. This shows them that you are interested in them for other roles and that you, as a company, think highly of your applicants.

Respond promptly to any questions – When you reject a candidate it isn’t uncommon for them to raise questions. If a candidate does ask you anything or they have any enquiries, make sure you respond promptly and professionally. You don’t want to burn bridges, especially if you want to consider them in the future. It’s recommended you keep all applications on file for at least 6 months.

Wish the candidate well for the future – Always end on a positive note to show the candidate that you have respect them. Offer them the best of luck in the future and mention that it was lovely meeting them. You want the candidate to be left feeling like you have built a connection as this will increase the chances of them applying at your company again.