Nothing beats that feeling of elation when you’ve trawled through stacks of candidates, interviewed some great (and not-so-great) individuals, and you’ve finally made an offer to the best of the bunch. But there’s a fly in your talent pool ointment – those unfortunate candidates that didn’t quite make the cut.
Rejecting candidates is the not-so-nice part of recruitment; nobody likes hearing they didn’t get the job, and it’s equally unpleasant for the person having to deal the news to unsuccessful applicants. Sadly, this is why many recruiters distance themselves from the process, avoiding that awkward conversation by sending templated emails en masse – cold, impersonal and often lacking vital candidate feedback – or worse, ghosting candidates by simply not contacting them at all. These six steps will help you handle candidate rejections in the right way.
Being able to empathise with your candidates is key to better recruitment. Unsuccessful candidates will naturally be disappointed and upset that they haven’t been offered the job, but when the rejection is handled badly by a recruiter it just adds insult to injury. Instead of thinking of your applicants as ‘just candidates’, remember they are human beings, just like you, who wish to be treated with respect and compassion.
The importance of actually responding to candidates can’t be overstated. We’re not suggesting a personal phone call to every single applicant, with an in-depth analysis of their strengths and weaknesses – that’s unrealistic, especially if you’ve had hundreds of candidates applying for a role. But you should aim to give every candidate that reaches the final stages of hiring a phone call to deliver the news. Rejecting the remainder of candidates via email is fine, but consider personalising your emails rather than sending generic templated ones, and give some interview feedback whenever possible.
Good communication should be practised at every stage of hiring, and rejection is no exception. Let candidates know as soon as possible if they’re unsuccessful, so they’re not wasting their time waiting for an answer and can carry on with their job search elsewhere.
As a recruiter, you know how precious your time is – it’s no different for candidates. The process of finding, applying and being interviewed for jobs eats up a great deal of time; if your candidate is currently employed then they’ll be squeezing all of this around their day job too. Always thank candidates for taking the time to apply and come to an interview, whether they’re successful or not – it shows you value their time as much as your own.
Rather than simply giving candidates the usual spiel along the lines of ‘sorry you were unsuccessful on this occasion’, give them some specific feedback as to why they weren’t right for the role, and what they could do to improve their chances for future roles. If they lacked a particular skill, or were very nervous in the interview and didn’t necessarily show themselves in the best light, let them know in a tactful and constructive way, and offer some guidance to help them improve.
Consider using scorecards in your interviews to ensure your hiring process is fair and each candidate is being assessed on the same criteria. This will also make it easier to compare candidates post-interview and rate their strengths and weaknesses against each other. A final benefit to scorecards is that it provides useful, objective material to give interview feedback to rejected candidates – this shows candidates that your decision was based on fact and their suitability for the role, rather than any interviewer bias.
Keep the channels of communication open with your rejected candidates, especially those that made the final shortlist. Connect with them on LinkedIn and let them know you’ll consider them for any future positions which might suit them better. Keep them within your talent pool using your ATS, so that when it comes to hiring for future positions you’ll have a ready-made bank of talent, saving you time and money later on.
How you handle candidate rejections is a vital part of your hiring process – it will reflect on your employer brand, your overall reputation, and your potential for attracting talented candidates for future positions. No-one likes rejection, but that doesn’t mean it has to be painful – follow these steps for letting candidates down in the best way, so that even if they don’t get the job, they’re left with a positive impression and a good experience of your brand.