The Art Behind Turning Down Candidates

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We have read hundreds of articles about how to get better candidates, how to attract them, how to write better job descriptions for them, and about every possible recruitment tip you can imagine; however, we ever hardly see anything about rejecting candidates, even though recruiters are bound to reject more applicants than to hire them during their entire careers.

More often than not, candidates don’t even receive a call or email when they don’t get the job; and even if they do get a rejection communication, it’s usually very impersonal and even cold. So why not take the time to give them some feedback—and even ask for it—or at least let them know that they will be considered for any upcoming open positions?

Candidates that have a positive hiring experience are more likely to recommend your company to friends and family and even consider applying for another opening in the future, eventually improving your employer branding.

Here are three easy steps you can follow to make turning down candidates easier and smoother:

1. Let them know ASAP: The sooner the better. If you already know which candidates will continue with the hiring process and which won’t, don’t wait until you actually hire someone to inform the latter of the decision. Some candidates may have another offer standing by and are only waiting for you to contact them, so hearing from you promptly after the interview is a very considerate move. Not to mention it’ll also help prevent candidates from tarnishing your employer brand and reputation by sharing their candidate experience.

Don’t let a simple rejection call or email stand in the way of achieving an excellent employer branding. A timely, personalized, and brief communication will make a positive impression on the candidate about the company. Not letting a candidate know they haven’t been selected for more than two weeks could be considered to be very rude.

If a candidate is still being considered for the position, don’t wait for the hiring manager to make up their mind; take the time to communicate with them and tell them about their application status. They will very likely appreciate the update and won’t consider any other offers if they are truly interested in your position.

2. Personalize your communication: Whether a call or an email, rejected candidates deserve a little bit of your time. Believe us, there’s nothing worse than an awkward, robotic email or a cold call from a recruiter. Even if it’s to hear bad news, trust us when we say a person will always be thankful for you reaching out, especially if you personalize the communication. Always thank them for the time put into applying to the job, offer them some constructive feedback, wish them luck with their future endeavors, and tell them to keep in touch, anything that would make them feel you made an effort.

3. Provide and ask for feedback: Being honest, specific, and to the point is probably your best weapon when it comes to turning down candidates. Candidates will always be grateful not only to actually hear from you, but also to know what they can do better—and what actually might’ve caused you to consider them at some point in the process. Highlight their strengths all while briefly explain why you made the decision to go with another person or what that person may be lacking—always being polite and considerate. It will at least let the candidate know what they did wrong or what they need to improve for future interviews.

Always remember to be honest and avoid sugarcoating things, as well as making any empty promises like telling them you will contact them as soon as another position opens up when you’re really never planning on talking to them again.

Just keep in mind to put yourself in your candidates’ shoes and not to do anything to your candidates that you wouldn’t like to be done to you.

Vanessa Fardi
Digital Copy Editor