16 Mar How to Tell an Employee They Didn’t Get the Position
We recently had an open position that two employees were interested in. We’ve made our selection and our chosen employee accepted the role. How do we tell the other employee they were not selected?
Answer from Laura, MA, SHRM-CP:
We recommend having a face-to-face conversation with the employee who wasn’t selected to let them know that someone else was selected for the role. If you elaborate on your decision not to select this employee for the position, keep the feedback honest and factual. For example, you could let them know that you went with the candidate whose skills more closely match what you were looking for, specifying what those skills are so that the candidate knows what to work on in the future. Factual, job-related feedback like this helps set up the candidate for future success and encourages them to accept, rather than dispute, the decision. Overall, it creates a better experience for everyone.
Assuming you want to keep this employee, you may want to prepare to have a short conversation about their career trajectory, what they could apply for in the future, or how they can grow their skills. They will be understandably frustrated. The feedback will help to foster a more positive and productive conversation about their next career step with the organization.
This Q&A does not constitute legal advice and does not address state or local law.
Laura has 9 years of HR experience, spanning public- and private-sector work in the education, transit, and insurance industries. After completing a B.A. in Asian Studies from Knox College, she received her M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from University of New Haven along with graduate-level certificates in Human Resources Management and Psychology of Conflict Management. Laura enjoys fencing, baking, and cross-stitching.