Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

Have You Actually Told Your Candidates That You Are Not Hiring Them?

In yesterday’s Advisor, we explained some of the many reasons why it is in an employer’s or recruiter’s best interest to follow up with all candidates. Now let’s take a look at how to professionally contact rejected candidates.

Tips for Rejecting Candidates with Professionalism

  • For any candidate who has made it all the way to the interview process, the rejection should be done over the phone, ideally. It is more personal than e-mail, and this level of personalization is appropriate for someone who has invested this much time and energy into the organization.
    • If your interview process is phone-based, there could be an argument for an e-mail, but a phone call may still be the politest and most professional option.
    • After the phone call, feel free to finalize the conversation with a follow-up letter confirming the discussion.
    • For candidates who did not make it to the interview process, an e-mail or letter is fine. Explain that their application is appreciated but that they were not selected for an interview.
  • Be professional but direct when speaking to the rejected candidate, and get to the news right away so as to not lead them on. (But take care to not confuse being direct with being overly blunt or rude.)
  • Express gratitude to the individual for showing interest in the position and organization. Acknowledge that they’ve invested time and effort in the process and you respect their time.
  • Have this conversation as soon as it is appropriate (i.e., as soon as you’ve officially filled the role or even before in the case of candidates who will not be proceeding further in the selection process). The longer an applicant has to wait to hear from you, the less confidence he or she will have in the organization overall.
  • Keep the conversation brief.
  • Have a general policy that outlines how much information a candidate will be given when being rejected. Be sure to be consistently fair to all applicants. For example, if your organization typically offers a simple (and generic) explanation that the organization “went with someone else,” do so consistently. On the other hand, if the organization chooses to give the candidates more information, determine up front how much will be discussed. It can be helpful for both the candidate and the employer to offer constructive information that can assist the candidate in the future—but again, if choosing to go that route, do so consistently. Honestly will be appreciated if it is delivered professionally.
    • Bear in mind, however, that sometimes there are reasons that are too delicate to discuss professionally; always use independent judgment and discretion when determining how much to say and what feedback to provide. Remember that providing constructive feedback is a professional courtesy, but there’s no need to risk getting the organization into trouble or alienating someone.
  • If you’re giving constructive feedback on how the candidate could improve, consider including positive feedback, as well, to make the news easier to take. This helps keep the conversation positive.
  • If appropriate, consider providing the candidate with additional resources for their job search, such as contact information for other recruiters you know who may have a position that is well-suited for this person.
  • Don’t raise false hopes with generic platitudes like “we’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities” unless these comments are completely true. Don’t encourage someone to apply again in the future if there is a reason that individual will not be a good fit with the organization in general.
  • Be very aware of not making any type of discriminatory statements, and train everyone interacting with applicants accordingly. Be aware that even seemingly innocuous statements can be taken wrong; this alone is why many employers opt to remain more generic will rejections. Consider what makes the most sense for you.
  • Be prepared for the applicant to be defensive, as this is a natural reaction to rejection. Train those involved in this process to not meet defensiveness with more defensiveness. Remain calm, professional, and empathetic.

By remaining professional in the rejection process, employers and recruiters can spin a negative situation into one that can have positive outcomes in the end.