Sample Rejection Letters

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Just about everyone would likely agree that getting a rejection letter is something of a downer, if not downright depressing. Worse, however, is writing one. You could be turning down a personal loan, a college admission, a job seeker, or a would-be pet owner. You know--because you've been there yourself--what it feels like to be turned down. So what do you do? How do put it nicely? How do you put the "the glass is half full" spin on a "no, thank you" message?

A good first step, you might already have thought, would be to look a variety of rejection letters for different circumstances. That would give you boilerplate language to adapt to your own needs. You might not need to do much with a generic sample, in fact. The fewer words you use, the better off you generally are. Job rejections are the letters that both are the most variable and take the most work.

Composing Rejection Letters

Once you've seen enough samples to be able to recite half of them (or think you can), sit down and write your letter. After you've tweaked it here and there several times over, you'll come up with turns of phrase you're comfortable with. Be sure to edit vigorously. You certainly don't want to wish someone you've turned down for not meeting the criteria with a spelling error!

Let's look at a few stock phrases to get you started. It's hard to go wrong with "Thank you for taking the time to interview" and "Thank you for your application." What follows generally boils down to, "After careful consideration of all the candidates, we have offered the position to someone who more closely met the skills of the position and the department's needs." It's only decent (read: humane) to follow by expressing best wishes for the candidate's job search.

You'll probably want to have a variety of letters on hand--one for flat rejections, one for candidates you'd be interested in for another position, and another for those you really hate turning down. For the middle category, you might want to say something along the lines of, "We encourage you to continue to review our openings for future positions that match your interests and qualifications." For the last, a template and standardized language probably won't do.

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