How to Reject Candidates with Grace


There is a currently a rising trend in the industry for Hiring Managers and Recruiters avoiding candidates after they have been deemed unsuitable for a position. Concerningly, this ‘ghosting’ is becoming acceptable, and even expected by candidates. We regularly speak to individuals who tell us that they previously had an interview at XYZ company but have not heard anything in a while, so they simply assume that they have been unsuccessful.

Candidate rejection is very important part of the hiring process. Scheduled, constructive feedback, not only helps candidates with their interview technique and applications going forward, it ensures your pipeline of potential candidates for upcoming positions remains strong. With this in mind…

Try to create a positive rejection process

Rejecting candidates with grace helps to build an encouraging hiring experience and can shape a lasting impression of your business. Insensitively deliver bad news and you’ll potentially leave candidates with a negative opinion of your organisation that they can share with others in the industry. Do it respectfully, however, and they may want to stay connected for future roles and even refer colleagues and friends, further building your pool of prospective hires.

Set clear expectations

Even as early as application submission, it is important to set the tone for what job seekers can expect to experience throughout the hiring process. Hiring Managers and Recruiters can receive hundreds of applications daily, so something as simple as including a note in an email to detail when the candidates will have a response if successful, avoids wasting people’s time. It is important to treat candidates with respect and you treat them how you yourself would wish to be treated.

Let the candidate know ASAP

If possible, do not wait until the end of the hiring process before you notify unsuccessful candidates. Your candidate may be delaying applying for other roles or even turning down offers in anticipation of good news. It is good practice to confirm within 48 hours of interview when possible, if this is not possible, it is polite to send an update detailing when the candidate can expect to hear from you, whether this be for next steps or a decision. Respect other people’s time and they are more likely to respect yours. Pick up the phone and speak with the candidate if you have previously done so. Thank them for their time and the effort they put into their application and follow up with an email confirmation, so they have a record of this.

Feedback the good and the bad

No-one takes pleasure in delivering bad news, especially when you are telling a particularly keen candidate that they have not got their dream job. Don’t procrastinate over the task. Try not to ‘sugar-coat’ your feedback too much but be mindful to not come across overly negative. Where negative feedback is given, always try to also include positive comments on their performance. Perhaps provide idea of areas they may need to work on for next time. Whatever you decide, the key in this stage is clarity. You may encounter an individual who disagrees with your comments, in which case you must remain firm that the decision has been made. Always remain calm, be consistent and empathise with their frustrations.

Remember, we work in an industry characterised by an increasing scarcity of skills. For particularly niche organisations, the talent pool can be incredibly small and it is important, when hiring, that individuals are left with a positive impression of your company that they can share with their peers so that future recruitment does get even more challenging.

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