Rejecting a Job Candidate and Avoiding Liability in Texas

A user on Quora asked: What should I avoid when writing a rejection letter?

I’ve heard this question before from well-meaning employers who want to send their denied applicants a nice note. Some employers, like the Quora user, want to provide constructive criticism so the candidate can improve his or her interviewing skills.

What should you avoid?

You should actually never offer specifics on why you denied a candidate.

Why?

First off, by giving a specific reason you are at risk of starting an argument. Anyone can argue why your reason is incorrect, and then continue arguing each new reason.

Second, you could be opening yourself up to liability. In McDonnell Douglas Corp v. Green (1973) the Supreme Court ruled that individuals can demonstrate a case of disparate treatment (discrimination when protected classes are intentionally treated differently) if the following applies to the candidate:

  • Belongs to a protected class under Title VII
  • Applied for a job when the employer was actively seeking applicants
  • Was rejected despite being qualified to fulfill the essential job functions
  • Was rejected and the employer continued seeking candidates with the same qualifications

And even if the candidate does not fall under a protected class, you should still avoid offering a detailed rejection, particularly if he or she meets the minimum qualifications for the position.

What should you do then?

You should definitely always let an applicant know that you will not be hiring him or her. It’s good form. Just avoid specific reasons. Be prompt and vague. And never make promises such as “We’ll consider you for other positions in the future”, or you may receive a lot of attention from the candidate every time you post a job advertisement!

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