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Thanks, But No Thanks: How to Say It and Hopefully Have a Happy Recipient

Thanks, But No Thanks: How to Say It and Hopefully Have a Happy Recipient

At one time or another, we all have to say no—or no, thank you—as my mom taught me. It’s often not easy, and sometimes downright hard. Most of us don’t enjoy letting people down. And as situations evolve, expectations elevate.

Executive search consultants have to face this situation quite often. And, before I get into the plant-based “meat on the bone” (vegetarian humor) of delivering this message, let me first say that by supporting the offering party early on, you help them set realistic expectations. Sometimes even the most sophisticated people need to be reminded to not get overly emotionally invested in an opportunity. 

The Delicate Art of Turning Down Job Candidates

How people and organizations handle the delicate task of rejecting candidates can have long-term consequences. A poorly executed rejection can leave individuals with a bitter taste, prompting them, in some instances, to seek legal recourse. A well-crafted conversation and/or letter can leave a very positive impression. So, how can a company ensure its rejection process strikes the right chord?


Eight ways to help you create a polite, professional, and personal rejection:


1. Practice the Golden Rule

Or, better yet, treat people the way you would like your loved ones treated. It’s simple, tried, and true. If you require more motivation, then consider karma and the fact that there is a good likelihood that this person will pop up in your future someday.

2. Act Swiftly to Alleviate Anxiety

Promptly notifying people of your decision shows respect for their time and effort. If you felt a connection, a phone call says a lot. Everyone you touch is a potential new friend, and you may look to hire this person in the future or vice versa. Don’t laugh; I’ve seen this firsthand.

3. Avoid Specifics About Other Candidates

While it may be tempting to explain that another candidate was chosen due to superior qualifications, it’s fine to share that the company decided on someone who was a better fit at this time. Don’t get into details or names.

4. Refrain from Promising Future Consideration

Be honest and authentic. Experts suggest not talking about future considerations. Of course, if you aren’t going to follow through with getting back to them, don’t do it. However, it’s fine to let a candidate know you’d like to keep them in mind for future consideration. Give them the option to follow up with you in the next few months.

5. Provide a Neutral, Nonspecific Reason(s)

While no law explicitly mandates disclosing the reasons behind a candidate’s rejection, it is helpful to provide a neutral and nonspecific explanation. This is a great time to pay a compliment, but you have to be authentic.

Example: Doug, our team really liked you, your skills, and your experience. You were a little light in the  area, which we really need right now. 

6. Be Direct and Polite

Brevity and clarity are key. Keep the tone gracious, direct, and polite, ensuring that your message conveys appreciation for their interest in the organization.

Note: If this is a situation where you and/or your team really got to know the candidate, as I mentioned earlier, a phone call goes a long way. Here at Joe Produce Search℠ (as executive search consultants), we do everything we can to deliver the message verbally.

7. Express Gratitude and Good Wishes

Begin your letter by expressing sincere gratitude for the candidate’s interest. Demonstrating appreciation for their time conveys professionalism, respect, and warmth. Close the letter or call with a sincere thank you. In writing, a sign-off such as “sincerely,” “best wishes,” or “thank you.” 

8. Choose Words Wisely

Avoid using phrases like “I’m sorry” or “unfortunately,” as they may intensify the candidate’s disappointment. Strive for a balanced and neutral tone throughout the letter or call.

Bonus Tip - If someone responds to a job posting, such as on, and there is a rejection: At the very least, have someone in your office send them a “Thanks, but no thank you” form email from a [email protected] email address. They’ll be grateful for the communication.

Bonus Tip - Tired of the recruiting, vetting, and rejection process? Hire a professional executive search firm like Joe Produce Search. We know how to navigate these waters and represent your employer brand at every step. Reach out anytime.

Remember, every interaction with potential employees is an opportunity to demonstrate your organization’s values and build a positive reputation within the industry. 

Contributing Author

Founder and President, Joe Produce Search℠. Joe Produce Search (JPS) is the Executive Search division of Joe Produce®. Joe Produce Search is comprised of experienced search consultants and produce professionals. Our placements range from middle management to C-level positions, throughout North America, covering a wide range of produce and produce-related businesses. Joe Pro Resumes is another service of Joe Produce®. Joe Pro Resumes helps you write and refine your resume to help you find the produce industry position of your dreams. We have written hundreds of resumes for many professionals in the produce business in addition to various related sectors.