Must Employers Tell Applicants Why They Weren't Hired?

Businesswoman gesturing and talking in meeting
You Don't Legally Need to Supply a Reason When You Reject a Candidate. Caiaimage / John Wildgoose / Getty Images

The majority of employers are not legally required to supply job candidates with information about why they were not hired for a job. Exceptions to this may exist when an employer is a governmental agency, covered by civil service requirements, or if the employees have a collective bargaining agreement that outlines the process for promotions or transfers.

So, if you are an employer in the government or in a workplace with a union contract, make sure that you understand the rules that pertain to hiring, promotions, job transfers, and other conditions of employment.

Even though feedback is not legally required, candidates who were not hired for the job, especially after participating in the interview process, do ask for feedback. Most employers provide little or no feedback to candidates who were not selected for the job.

Why Won’t Employers Provide Feedback to Rejected Candidates?

  • Most attorneys recommend that employers provide little feedback to job candidates. They are concerned that feedback can be used or misconstrued by the applicant to demonstrate discrimination in the hiring process. Since you fear the cost, time and staff attention that a lawsuit would require, many believe it is safest to avoid providing feedback at all.
  • You have a finite amount of time to correspond and communicate with job searchers. This is why so many job searchers complain that they don’t know where they stand in an employee selection process. A form rejection letter still takes staff time to develop and send. Providing feedback to a candidate who was not offered the job is the most time consuming of all. It is usually done in a phone call, since you should avoid putting feedback in writing. See the first bullet, if you have questions.
  • You are afraid that providing feedback will turn into a difficult conversation during which the candidate argues with the feedback or becomes upset or angry. Why would you actively subject yourself to an uncomfortable situation with an applicant you aren’t hiring? Many hiring managers and Human Resources employees dread difficult conversations and many candidates don’t really want and will not react well to honest feedback – hence the common use of form rejection letters.
  • Finally, you fear that the candidate will ask for advice about interviewing and job searching. As kind as the you want to be, you don’t have the time, energy, or knowledge to give good advice. You know about your own hiring practices, but you are not familiar with what other companies do. You know your culture and work environment for employees, but you can only guess at that of other companies.

What Feedback Should an Employer Provide?

Face it. Job searchers are hungry for feedback. The longer they’ve been searching for a job, the more desperate they are to find out why they are not getting the job. An employer who is willing to take the time and can offer constructive, actionable feedback is a gift to a job searcher.

Yet 70% of employers surveyed by Gerry Crispin do not provide feedback to candidates who are not hired for the above reasons. (The survey included 100 American companies most admired for their HR practices.)

Several reasons exist for why you might want to provide feedback to a candidate.

  • You like the candidate and believe that you would hire him for the right opportunity in a less competitive recruitment.
  • You want to create an environment of good will for your company in which candidates will tell friends and social media positive things about interviewing with you. Reputation will play an increasing role as talent becomes scarce. Your reputation as an employer of choice is dependent on how you treat candidates as well as employees.
  • You want the candidate to experience your integrity and transparency in your hiring practices so that he is less likely to target your firm with a lawsuit.

If you choose to be part of the 30% of companies that will provide feedback, here are ten guidelines for the employer.


Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice both on this website, and linked to from this website, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality, and is not to be construed as legal advice.

The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace.

When in doubt, always seek legal counsel or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The information on this site is for guidance, ideas, and assistance only.