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09.09.2021 Hiring

Feedback after rejection: dos and don’ts

Feedback after rejection: dos and don’ts

Rejecting applications is sometimes difficult — and so is the question whether you should communicate the reason for that. We tell you 5 reasons why you should not miss giving feedback after a rejection, and add a bunch of useful dos and don'ts on top.

There can only be one! — At least, in most cases, there is only one position to be filled. This means that even if a few good applicants are found, there are bound to be many rejections. Especially within the shortlist, it is often only small details that make the difference. So what could you tell rejected applicants as motivational feedback without getting into hot water? And should you actually give feedback after a rejection? Definitely YES, we think!

5 good reasons for giving feedback

You have certainly experienced it yourself: you have successfully completed several interview rounds and the firm offer seemed to be within reach — and then the rejection came instead. Wouldn’t you like to know what the “problem” was? Feedback would be a useful thing, wouldn’t it? But from the recruiter’s point of view, there are also some good reasons why honest feedback should not be omitted:

  • Important part of the candidate experience
    The need for a good candidate experience should be well known now. However, many recruiters are not aware of the actual end of the experience in the event of a rejection. Requests for feedback on the reason for rejection are therefore all too often ignored. This leaves a bad taste in the candidate’s mouth and runs an otherwise positive candidate experience into a brick wall on the last few metres.Tip:
    The candidate experience does not end with the rejection, but where the roads part “amicably”. Some applicants simply need such feedback to be able to conclude and learn from it. Providing it is therefore a “last service” and that bit of added value that can work wonders as a consolation gesture — and make you look all the more professional as a company. So be sure to use the feedback after the rejection to create a consistently positive applicant experience!
  • Enhanced employer branding
    Never forget: A good applicant experience is part of your employer branding. The more professional and positive the experience applicants make with your company, the better the impact on your image as an employer.Indeed, anyone who felt valued and professionally treated by you, even as a rejected candidate, is likely to recommend you to friends and family, who may then apply in the future and shorten your search for talent. Good candidates often know other good talent, and you can take advantage of this with the help of a good feedback culture.
  • Expanding your talent pool
    The paths of the company and the applicant do not always have to part. In contrast, if they are superb potential employees of the future, you should not simply let them go, but invite them to join your talent pool and nurture the relationship.The likelihood of rejected applicants accepting the invitation can even be significantly increased through appreciative feedback after the rejection. And who knows, maybe it will work out with the next vacancy?
  • Gaining free insights for process optimisation
    If you opt for feedback after the rejection, you can collect feedback yourself at the same time. You will receive free insights into the current quality of the candidate experience, which will give you the opportunity to identify valuable optimisation points within your recruiting process. At the same time, asking for candidate feedback also suggests a high level of professionalism, because you as a company obviously want to do better too. So please, ask, listen and learn!
  • Small effort, well invested time
    Of course, time is limited and feedback can be a time thief. Nevertheless, the question “Feedback after rejection — yes or no?” actually only concerns a fraction of the applications received, namely those of the shortlist. After all, both parties have already got to know each other and built up a relationship, so feedback is quite appropriate for these few “selected” applicants.And even if it seems like extra effort at first, it is actually a rather small, but ultimately well-invested use of time. In the medium term, this effort can save valuable resources; because anyone who joins your talent pool and/or recommends you as an attractive employer expands your network and can thus help you achieve significantly faster recruiting success in the very next search. And that’s worth it, isn’t it?

So, just as small nuances make the difference between success and rejection, honest feedback after rejection makes the difference between a strong and an excellent candidate experience. Even more, it offers both sides precious added value and should therefore not be underestimated. To ensure that this results in the desired outcome, we will now take a look at the dos and don’ts of post-rejection feedback.

Dos and don’ts for post-rejection feedbacks

However, there is one variable that is difficult to assess: the candidate’s reaction. If the candidate cannot (or does not want to) understand why the rejection was necessary, your professionalism is all the more important for a positive outcome of the situation. These dos and don’ts should therefore help you to make the most of your advantages:


  • Offer feedback actively and provide space for questions
    As many employers tend to keep a low profile when it comes to feedback, applicants are often uncertain whether an enquiry about the reasons for rejection is even welcome. Show rejected applicants that you are open to this by making the offer immediately after informing them of the rejection. If the rejection takes place by phone, direct feedback only makes sense if the message has really got through and the applicant is receptive. After all, his or her hopes have just been disappointed and that hurts. Some applicants need a moment to digest this information. In such cases, it is best to offer the dialogue partner space for a later discussion of the facts.
  • Combine feedback with constructive criticism
    Rejections always sting, but especially when the candidate is simply rejected, as frustration is then added to the pain. How could candidates do better if they don’t even know what they are doing wrong? With a touch of constructiveness, candidates learn not only what they did wrong, but also how they could do better. And constructive criticism is also a way of showing appreciation.
  • Don’t just criticise, applaud too!
    Even though you ultimately rejected the candidate, there was a reason why he or she was shortlisted and may have successfully completed several interview stages. So highlight the positive characteristics of the candidate as well and let it shine through what was done well. According to the so-called sandwich strategy, criticism should always begin and end with something positive anyway, so that both praise and criticism can turn into motivation. The positive end could be, for example, an invitation to join the talent pool.


Many recruiters are concerned about making their company legally vulnerable with feedback. We can very well understand their caution, but nevertheless, applicants explicitly want personalised and individual communication and feedback after rejection. Therefore, it should not go by the board. With these don’ts, you can avoid the worst mistakes:

  • Propose alternative reasons for rejection
    The feedback should be honest and factual, refer exclusively to the suitability for the vacant position and not advance any empty phrases. This is not only because candidates on the shortlist deserve honest feedback, but also because it is very easy to score an own goal with pretextual reasons. Base your decision exclusively on the degree of fulfilment of the requirements and qualifications.
  • Give feedback by email
    Don’t dismiss the applicant with an email, as this could be misunderstood as an avoidance tactic. Giving feedback in writing is not only impersonal, it also makes you more vulnerable. Therefore, it is best to contact the applicant by phone for feedback after the rejection.
  • Give feedback without prior consent
    You want to offer feedback to rejected top candidates? Very commendable! But then it is also important to agree beforehand with all decision-makers which reasons for rejection should be given in the feedback. Together, pick a maximum of three reasons to which you will all adhere meticulously when asked.Background:
    Not every candidate accepts feedback so constructively and gratefully. There are indeed applicants who subsequently try to squeeze out the “real” reasons elsewhere. However, if a rejected applicant receives the same factual information everywhere, this will be resolved quite quickly. And you will also know that your decision was the right one. However, only a few really aim for a real conflict.
  • Get involved into discussions
    If a rejected applicant really does react in a snotty way, it can happen all too quickly that a conversation is dragged onto a personal level. An urge to justify oneself can also arise. Bloopers then happen quickly and cannot be taken back. It is therefore important that you never get involved in discussions or justifications when giving feedback on reasons for rejection. What is required here is iron objectivity and professionalism from your side. Always stick to the reasons discussed with reference to the fulfilment of the requirements and qualifications of the vacant position.

You are in doubt about which wording you can use and which better not? In case of doubt, it is always advisable to consult a lawyer.


The benefits you can harvest as a potential employer from post-rejection feedback range from demonstrating your professionalism in the candidate experience, to improving your corporate image, to streamlining your recruitment processes for more efficient talent acquisition. Even if it takes some sensitivity to provide truly professional feedback, don’t be discouraged. Provide transparent feedback, especially to your top candidates, and create clarity in an appreciative way.

Do you want to learn more about feedback at work? Then learn more about the different types of feedback in communication or jump straight to our extensive guide on how to give feedback effectively!

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