Candidate Rejection: 6 Ways to Let ‘em Down Easy

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You can’t escape rejection in the recruitment process. The candidate feels crappy; the recruiter feels crappy. It just sucks. But how we let down candidates can make a world of difference for everyone involved, including the employer. A survey conducted by Jobbio found that 82% of participants said they’d dodge a company if it had a bad rap. In other words, you don’t really have time for any slip-ups.

Here’s how to make candidate rejection as painless as possible.

1. Explain the selection process

Have a conversation about the selection process upon the first interview or phone screen. Explain what you’re looking for, like culture fit, soft and hard skills, and must-have experience. This way, if denial does come their way, they won’t be completely blindsided.

Not to mention it holds recruiters and hiring managers accountable for their actions and processes.

2. Break the news immediately

Sometimes you know after the first phone screen that the candidate isn’t the right fit. And sometimes, recruiters wait until the end of the hiring process—or forget altogether—to dish out the denial. If anything, for that reason, it’s best to tell applicants right away.

It’s downright disrespectful to keep them in the dark because, among other reasons, you very well may be delaying their job hunt. Given today’s talent shortage, treating candidates with common courtesy is critical to driving a positive brand.

3. Make time for a phone call

Recruiters and hiring managers receive hundreds of applications for a single role. Between a phone call or a quick automated rejection email, the quicker option usually wins. But for the sake of candidate experience, I wholly suggest recruiters and hiring managers buck up and just pick up the phone.

The call doesn’t have to be long; short and sweet suffices. If even one phone conversation occurred, a phone call is always the way to go. Always remember common courtesy. Automated emails are better-suited for applicants who didn’t even make it to the first round. If you insist that you don't have time for a call, then personalize an email instead.

4. Don’t use the word rejection

The good thing about the English language is that there are tons and tons of words to choose from. Use them to your advantage and avoid words like rejection and denied.

5. Give feedback

More than any other generation, millennials ask for constructive feedback after a rejection. This isn’t to say that others don’t want pointers, too. So, offer it up anyway. Review interview notes, pinpoint the pros and cons, and summarize them in a few sentences.

For the love of all things holy, never use a variation of this classically stale and impersonal line: “we decided to pursue other candidates whose qualifications better fit the position. We will retain your resume for consideration for future openings.”

Candidates are left wondering what the heck that means. What about their qualifications don’t fit? What technical skills should they acquire if they want to enter that or a similar role? Was it the way they interviewed? Soft skills?

The sandwich feedback method is pretty easy to follow. Praise → constructive feedback → praise. Rejection is hard enough. A laundry list of “here are all the things you did wrong, don’t do them in the future” adds insult to injury.

6. Ask for feedback

Often recruiters ask for feedback only from the ones who made it through to hire. The best way to learn about your hiring process is to ask the ones who know best: the candidates. But make sure to request feedback only after you issue theirs. The candidate is your priority.

Identify any holes in your hiring process. What could you improve? What are your concerns? Have you tried anything new? Think of some targeted questions before an open-ended one like “what did you think of the interview process?” However, that question is valuable and should be on your list. It puts the ball in their court and gives them an opportunity to share their personal experience. Then, use the information to shape your hiring process moving forward. If you don’t get a response, the fact that you give a hoot about their opinion can leave a lasting impression.

What's your experience turning down a candidate? Do you have any go-to communication tools? Let us know in the comments!
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Sam Sandler
Sam Sandler
Sam is a copywriter and strategist at Qualigence International. She enjoys exercising, eating pizza, and long walks through her Netflix queue.

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