8 Tips to Reject Candidates (While Maintaining a Good Candidate Experience)

May 25, 2017 Deanna Hartley

You don’t like getting rejected — and neither do candidates — but rejection is something unfortunate we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. While you don’t have control over who is or isn’t a good fit for your open position, what you can change is how you respond to the situation. And in this case, it means responding in a respectful manner to the candidates who didn’t make the cut.

Why You Should Care

You need to provide a great candidate experience. For starters, you’ll want to stand out in the minds of candidates by providing a great candidate experience — and this doesn’t end once an offer letter has been sent to someone else. Remember: It’s possible that the same candidates that you reject will end up 1) becoming your customer or 2) becoming your next great hire. That’s right — the very people you take the time to reject in a graceful manner could end up back in your talent pool to be reconsidered for a different position that suits their skill sets better later on.

Candidates deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. No one wants to wait in agony for the possibility of bad news. Candidates shouldn’t have to chase you down to find out whether they landed your open job; they have applications to send out and interviews to go on. Think of the rejection like a Band-Aid, and give candidates the bad news as soon as possible, rather than putting it off and dragging it out.

You have a reputation to uphold. While today’s candidates are selling themselves to you, you’re also selling your company to them. Your employment brand and company image is at stake. Keeping the lines of communication open will help you build and maintain relationships with candidates who may become your employees at a later date. Even if they don’t become your employees, reputation is a powerful thing. If you don’t give candidates the respect of knowing whether or not they can cross your open job off their list, they might tell a friend. Who tells a friend. And before you know it, candidates may start to avoid applying to your company. Customers may also see your lack of communication as a sign of how you will work with them. A little communication can go a long way in how candidates — and customers — see your company.

It’s an opportunity to organize your process and save time. Aside from reputation, keeping this piece of communication in your recruitment process can actually help you organize your process and save time. Why field tons of calls or emails from irate candidates who haven’t heard back from you? Why put them through the agony, and why go through it yourself?

Tips For the Best Rejection Letters or E-mails

We’re all under various types of constraints in our jobs — that’s why it’s important to understand what to prioritize versus what can be placed on the backburner. Communicating with candidates is a vital step in the recruitment process — and one that you should not dismiss.

According to CareerBuilder’s 2017 Candidate Experience Study, the No. 1 biggest frustration during the overall job search (cited by 52 percent of all job seekers) is the lack of response from employers. In fact, more than 4 in 5 candidates (81 percent) said it would greatly improve the overall experience if employers continuously communicated status updates to them.

So, if you’re convinced that sending a rejection email or letter is worthwhile, consider these best practices:

1.     Be candid but gentle. Remember, this is a rejection — be respectful of candidates’ feelings and wish them success in future endeavors.

2.     State a clear reason for the rejection. For example: “We have selected other candidate/s whose credentials were better suited to this position.”

3.     Be honest. If there are other future opportunities and you will keep the resume on file or want a candidate to reapply in future, say so. If not, don’t. Don’t promise to keep a candidate’s resume on file if you have no intention of doing so, and if you do, state a specific time frame.

4.     Be personal. Personalize the letter with the candidate’s name, position and, if possible, a remark — or at least your signature.

5.     Though this is a rejection letter, it’s still nice to compliment a candidate – for instance, “Although your background and qualifications are impressive, we have chosen someone else for this position.”

6.     Don’t send a postcard; this isn’t a “hello” from your Caribbean vacation. A letter format is more appropriate. Plus, if you go the email route, your costs are even more minimal.

7.     Do not say who was hired for the position in question.

8.     Respond to candidates in a reasonable amount of time.

Keep in mind that nearly 4 in 5 candidates (78 percent) say the overall candidate experience they receive is an indicator of how a company values its people. So how would you want your company to be perceived?

Download the CareerBuilder’s 2017 Candidate Experience Guide for more data and insights on how to improve the candidate experience.


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