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Be consistent

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

Make a Recruitment policy to set out your fair recruitment processes, to help you stay compliant with the law. You should also adopt an Equal opportunities policy to avoid discrimination and promote equal opportunities in the workplace, including during recruitment.

For more information, read Recruitment and 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 via 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 that when you reject a candidate, you do so without damaging your brand.

Don’t mention other candidates

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

In fact, it’s possible that the candidate will ask for the application of the employee who was hired instead. They could then use this to make direct comparisons between their own application 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 individuals' personal data (eg names and addresses), including personal data of 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.

For more information, read Data protection and employees and Complying with the GDPR.

Avoid suggesting the candidate apply for other roles

If the candidate isn’t suitable for your business, 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 leave a good impression on applicants. This reduces the risk of your business facing legal action. 

Make sure to always follow your Recruitment policy when filling a vacancy, including when rejecting an applicant.

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


CV-Library is the UK's leading independent job board and are experts in recruitment. They take pride in hosting 184,545 jobs across all sectors for the nation's jobseekers and supporting recruiters and employers with their quality services.

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