You can’t escape rejection in
the recruitment process. The candidate feels bad; the recruiter feels bad. It
just sucks. But how we let down candidates can make a world of difference for
everyone involved, including the employer.
Make the situation as painless as
possible with these candidate rejection tips:
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.
Then, 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, it’s best to tell applicants right away.
It’s disrespectful to keep them
in the dark because, among other reasons, you very well may be delaying their
job hunt. Treating candidates with common courtesy is critical to driving a
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
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. 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.
Instead, consider saying something like “the hiring manager decided to go with
another candidate” or “the selection team decided that they will not pursue
your candidacy further. We will retain your application and consider it when
additional openings come up.”
5. GIVE FEEDBACK
Maybe the most important
candidate rejection tip: give some sort of feedback. Review your interview
notes, pinpoint the pros and cons, and summarize them in a few
Avoid vague criticisms that
only speak to the candidates’ qualifications without further detail. 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? Try to be specific so the candidate knows it
wasn’t personal and gets an idea of how they can improve.
The sandwich 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” only 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
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.
Here at REI, we understand that
being the bearer of bad news is hard enough. These tips will help prepare you
for the daunting task that is rejection.