How to reject job applications whilst staying compliant with the law

It’s never easy telling someone they haven’t got the job. Especially if they’ve taken the time out to come in for an interview. It’s common courtesy to tell the applicant and, for example whilst you aren’t legally required to give feedback, there are potential legal issues to be aware of when rejecting applicants.

Below, we explain how to reject job applications whilst staying compliant with the law.

Be consistent

When shortlisting candidates, it’s important to be consistent with your assessment methods. Candidates should be measured against the same criteria, matching their skills and experience against the key requirements of the role.

By being consistent with this, you ensure that your recruitment process is fair, non-discriminatory and compliant with the law.

Create your Equal opportunities policy to stay compliant with the law and show you have a fair recruitment process. For further information read Equal opportunities and discrimination.

Give a neutral response

What does your current application rejection email look like? Ideally, it needs to be neutral and offer a standard response that’s consistent across your entire hiring process.

This might be something like ‘Thank you for your application. We have decided not to take your application further on this occasion, but wish you all the best with your job search.’ This works well because it is straight and to the point, avoiding opening itself up to arguments from candidates.

Alongside this, it avoids any potential issues around unlawful discrimination statements that candidates may take offence to.

Be timely with your rejection email

It’s no good waiting around to reject applications that you don’t plan on moving forward with. Not only will this leave candidates waiting, it could also potentially give off a negative impression of your business.

Building an effective employer brand is extremely important in the current market. Dragging out the process will only make it harder for you. So make sure you reject a candidate, without damaging your brand.

Don’t mention other candidates

It’s best to avoid stating anything around other candidates and their experience. For example, phrases such as ‘we’ve decided to hire another person who is more qualified’.

In fact, it’s likely that they’ll ask for the application of the employee who was hired instead. They could then use this to make direct comparisons between the applicant you’ve rejected and the successful one.

Furthermore you may be breaching data protection laws by mentioning other candidates. All employers have an obligation to protect the confidentiality of all personal data, including applicants and prospective employees. Providing details of other candidates without their permission is a breach of data protection laws and your business could face severe penalties.

Avoid suggesting they apply for other roles

If the candidate isn’t suitable for your company, don’t suggest that they apply for other roles when rejecting their job application. After all, it gives them the impression that you’d be happy to consider them for other roles, when really you may not.

Reject job applications fairly

An overall fair and consistent approach to rejecting job applicants will ensure you remain compliant with the law and reduces the risk of facing legal action.

Ask a lawyer for specific advice related to your business or for any other employment queries.