The Art of Rejecting Candidates


Rejection is part of life, right? It’s a big part of job search and recruiting, getting rejected and rejecting candidates. Few candidates go out and get every job they apply for, and recruiters and hiring managers have to routinely cut even great candidates to get down to the best one that matches the job requirements or brings the most to the table.

Rejection can be hard on the job seeker’s ego and hard on the conscience of those who genuinely care about people. It can be stressful and challenging to routinely disappoint hopeful applicants even as you’re selecting the right people for the company’s needs. But how you reject candidates impacts your recruiting reputation and company employer brand.

Consequences of a Poor Rejection Process

When you are hiring and interviewing candidates, do you have a plan for communicating throughout the process? Keeping candidates informed of the status of their applications, getting back to them after interviews, and staying friendly and welcoming during recruiting interactions are important when you have to reject candidates. They also have an impact on whether or not the candidate you decide to make an employment offer to will accept or decline your job offer.

How you treat candidates who apply to and interview for open positions can mean the difference between complaints or complements in social media that many others outside of your hiring process will see, especially if they go viral. Not following up after interviews to let top candidates know you went with someone else is one of the biggest mistakes in the recruiting process. It makes candidates feel like the company doesn’t value their time and effort to come in and interview.

Change the Rejection Experience with Attention to Candidate Experience

How can you reject candidates without disappointing or upsetting them? Recruiters and hiring managers are busy and have access to huge volumes of qualified candidates they have to sift through quickly to make decisions. Recruiting timelines are much shorter than they used to be. Does a busy hiring manager even have to bother with a candidate after they’ve been selected out of the recruiting process?

The quick answer is no, especially in the early screening stage. But realistically, candidates who have taken the time to prepare and come in to interview with your company have made a commitment to starting a relationship and deserve respectful communication and consideration. Responding quickly at every step of the process is more than just good manners. It’s good business. It’s important to make candidates feel welcomed and valued during their recruiting interactions with you because when they shake your hand one last time and leave your office, they will go back to their lives and talk about their experience, either in person or in social media. Either way, how do you want them to talk about your recruiting process?

In glowing terms, or with disappointment and disparaging commentary? Paying attention to candidate experience, or better yet, implementing a formal candidate experience program, ensures that even though they didn’t get the job, they are treated well throughout their recruiting interactions with your company. When candidates are given plenty of good reasons to speak highly of your company, you protect and strengthen your employer brand and you keep a connection with candidates who are interested in working for your company. That translates into competitive advantage in recruiting, something every employer needs in the highly competitive hiring environment today.


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