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Rejecting a Candidate: Four Steps To Follow

When it comes to candidates, recruiters have to give more bad news more often than good news.

It's not fun, but it is important to follow a set procedure - because doing so will always enhance your reputation with the right sort of candidate, and can also provide information that the client will thank you for.

Added on 04.12.2018

1) Always use the phone

Too many people have forgotten how to use the phone. Make the time. A proper rejection serves three purposes:

  • Lets the candidate know you RESPECT them and the effort they put in;
  • Gives the candidate a chance to ask QUESTIONS;
  • Allows you to gather FEEDBACK on the process from the candidate.

Showing candidates respect and consideration is good for business.

Far too many companies never notify people they've been unsuccessful. A five minute phone call will make you stand out as 'one of the good guys'. That can go a long way.

A quick chat so someone can work out what went wrong makes them a better candidate. That also helps you.

The company will have given you an offical reason. Communicate that to the candidate simply and clearly.

If others had more directly applicable experience, or the exact skills sought, then your candidate can feel that this wasn't the job for them at this particular time in their career, and no harm is done.

If it was something that your candidate could take personally, then our advice would be to NOT pull any punches. It wasn't your decision, but it is your job is to help the candidate understand it properly. So, whilst you should include any positives to soften the blow, you will not help your candidate by protecting them from any negative comments.

2) Always ask the candidate for feedback

If nothing else, this is their 'consolation prize', and the information you get could be invaluable when it comes to building a picture of candidate, the client and the client's recruitment processes. Was the candidate having a bad day? Was their interviewer? Is there anything they found intimidating? Was the 'fit' wrong? You might discover things that the client will be grateful to know.

3) Never make them wait

Most roles have a two stage interview process. If your candidate hasn't made the shortlist for stage two then let them know the moment you know. They could be delaying applications for other jobs, turning down other interviews, or even offers - because this is the job that they wanted more than anything.

This is another reason to use the phone. Leave a brief message if you need to (just say that they didn't get job and to call you to discuss). The call gives you the opportunity to say "I've just heard from..." or "I've just got off the phone to...". This might seem like a small detail but it says to the candidate that they were important to you.

4) Always follow up by email...

Once you've had the full conversation with the candidate, send an email. This is important for various reasons:

  • gives you another chance to say 'thank you' to them;
  • creates a permanent record of the reasons for rejection and other things discussed that both you and the candidate can review at a later date;
  • gives you a chance to follow up if you want to (mention other roles, let them know you're keeping an eye out for them etc).

... but only talk about next steps if there ARE some

Email gives you a chance to move forward with the candidate, to other roles and opportunities. But don't say anything during the call or put anything into an email that you don't intend to actually do.

The candidate will almost certainly feel deflated, and it might feel natural to want to please them. But don't give a candidate false hope by saying you'll consider them for other roles if you won't.

If you think they're being unrealistic in any way (their abilities, their salary expectations etc) then tell them. If there's nothing else on the horizon then don't say there is. As always, honesty is always the best policy.

Making a little time in the day to make even unsuccessful candidates feel certain that they matter is simple manners, and it's also good for your professional reputation.