Employer internship guides

Rejection Letter Sample and Advice

Brown_arrow_21 Written by Nathan Parcells on May 11, 2010

When You Can’t Accept Them All:  Turning Down Candidates

A great internship posting, often leads to a large number of intern applicants.  In fact, it is not unusual for employers to get hundreds of applicants for a single role! Since you can't accept them all it is important to have a a clear and respectful response ready for the students you say no to.  

If you have a rolling position you may want to respond to candidates in an ongoing basis.  On the other hand, if you have a set deadline for your role, it might be easier to send one email to all the candidates who didn't make the cut at once.  If you are moving forward with the latter, be sure to BCC all the candidates on your email, as not doing so can lead to a real nightmare, and be highly damaging to your brand.

At InternMatch we found the rejection process to be an opportunity to help the students we say no to.  We try to let them know how many students applied (so they can get a feel for the competition level), what the best students did to succeed, and where they could improve.  We wrote a blog post about how we reject intern applicants after getting some incredibly thankful and positive responses from one of our rejection letters.  That being said we know this kind of detail isn't for everyone.  The vast majority of companies we speak to prefer a simple and uniform rejection letter that is clear and professional.  Here is a sample below that you can use:

Sample Rejection Letter

To:  _____________@___________

Fr: ______________@organizationsemailaddress.com

Re: 2010 Summer Internship Program at LearnSomething

July 5, 2010

Dear Mr. ________,

My name is _________ and I am the Internship Supervisor at ___________.  I want to thank you for your sending us your application for our summer internship program.  We appreciate the time you took to apply and we were excited to receive your materials and hear more about your professional interests.

We have finalized our selection process and reviewed your application.  However, we have chosen another candidate for the summer position.  The internship program received an overwhelming number of applications in a very competitive year.  It was a difficult decision considering your experiences.

Thank you for considering an internship at our organization.  I encourage you to reapply to next year’s program or check our website for other opportunities.

Best wishes in your career pursuits.

Sincerely,

John Doe

Additional Points to Remember:

Turning down candidates is part of the hiring process and keeping it professional will help you stomach this step as well as keep a candidate’s respect.  Before we address suggestions on how to turn down a candidate, let’s discuss 3 reasons why it’s important to let them know in the first place:

  1. Candidates took the time to apply to your organization.
  2. Your organization’s reputation is important.You want to maintain a good professional rapport with candidates, especially those that may reapply at a later date.At this stage, you also may have forged a professional connection with your candidate at the screening stage, whether it be a callback, interview, or otherwise.
  3. Developing an internal system to address this hiring matter is part of the overall development of a good and compliant internship program. Someone should be responsible for reviewing inbound candidates, and systematically informing them where they stand in the application process.
After reading these reasons, here’s the takeaway:  You should always respond timely to candidates you did not choose by sending correspondence letting them know of your decision.

Tips to Help Respond: While some organizations will formerly snail mail candidates, email is both faster and commonly accepted by students.  Notwithstanding your organization’s policy on the chosen method to respond to candidates, your organization might want to read the following suggestions to help you write this letter:

  • Keep it concise and relevant.
  • Include a salutation directed at the specific candidate: Use the candidate’s name in the salutation.
  • Always end the letter with your signature, title and company: Write the letter on behalf of yourself or your organization, not on behalf of someone else in your organization.  If it’s through snail mail, put it on your organization’s letterhead.  This is part of tailoring the letter to the individual candidate.  For some candidates who may feel rejected, a letter that comes directly from you or on behalf of the organization keeps it personal and lets the candidate know you took the time to inform them of this decision.
  • If possible avoid the use of BCC: and definitely avoid CC: in an email: In an email, the goal is to keep it tailored to the candidate and get to the point.  Don’t use the CC function and email all the candidates – that may be seen as unprofessional and may lead to indirect embarrassment among candidates who wanted to keep the news private.  Again, a candidate that took the time to apply will appreciate the time your organization took in crafting a professionally response.
  • Immediately “Thank” the candidate for applying: Thanking the candidate for their interest in your organization shows that you recognize the candidate’s efforts.  This is a simple gesture of goodwill, but worth mentioning it upfront and in the first few lines.
  • Customize: You may want to include a specific line thanking the candidate for submitting their resume or application or, if appropriate, for taking the time to interview at your organization or advancing to the “final stages” of the hiring process.  Keep it positive and show enthusiasm for the candidate’s interest in your internship program.
  • Get to the Point:The news should be delivered right away.  Usually reserved for a separate paragraph, this section is where you let the candidate know that you have (a) reviewed the application and/or finalized decisions by your organization (or selection committee) and (b) you have chosen another candidate for the position.

You can include an additional sentence, if relevant, about the competition that year, the number of applicants, or about the difficulty of the decision.  This gives the candidate some insight into the process.  But stay away from phrases you don’t mean or from going into a long discussion into the hiring process.  Remember, keep it concise.

  • Don’t lead the candidate on by promising and not delivering:Unless you will keep the resume on file or you sincerely plan to forward the candidate’s resume elsewhere, don’t make promises your organization can’t keep or where you don’t have authority to do so.
  • Close by again thanking the candidate, wishing them well and adding any specific encouragement.Keep the final lines positive by thanking the candidate, praising the candidate’s passions or experiences, and wishing them well in their career endeavors.  If this is relevant to your internship program, you may want to encourage the candidate to reapply or point them out to other resources or leads.
  • Edit for spelling, typos, and grammar. Do not send a poorly written letter.
  • Develop a “Check and Balances” system for sending out or emailing these letters:Another person in your organization should approve the letters before they go out.  It helps to have a second pair of eyes look out for tone, spelling errors, mistakes or statements incongruent with the message and intent of the decision.

Cover image: Olivier Charavel via Creative Commons

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