How to Reject Job Candidates

This article was originally published on Quick Sprout

Rejecting job candidates is an inevitable part of an HR manager’s role, but it can be an uncomfortable and confronting experience for both the recruiter and the candidate.

For this reason, many recruiters leave the rejection until the very last possible moment, which only creates more disappointment and frustration for rejected candidates.

However, it is possible to soften the blow with unsuccessful candidates, and it all starts with creating a positive candidate experience from the get-go.

Let’s dive into just how you can make rejecting job candidates a more pleasant–or at least a less unpleasant–experience for both parties.

The Easy Parts of Rejecting Job Candidates

Although most will find rejecting job candidates tough at first, when you have a positive hiring process and a clear job description in place, rejecting applicants does become easier. That’s because you have clear-cut guidelines in place that you’ve communicated with the candidates from the get-go.

The key is to treat all applicants with respect, eliminate discrimination, and keep communication lines open. All of which you can achieve with a sophisticated recruiting tool like Workable.

Not only can Workable help to streamline your entire hiring process, but it will also help you to create a positive candidate experience right from the outset. You’ll attract high-level candidates with a branded careers page builder, keep lines of communication open with bulk communications to candidates, and retain their details for future opportunities.

Furthermore, Workable offers a robust knowledge base filled with rejection templates for every recruitment stage, helping you to craft a polite and balance rejection letter to each applicant.

The Difficult Parts of Rejecting Job Candidates

The part that most people struggle with when it comes to rejecting job candidates is letting someone down, especially when a candidate shows great potential but just wasn’t the best candidate for the role.

Another aspect that many recruiters fail to do is to notify candidates of their rejection promptly and with personalization. This is a time-consuming process, but an important one in maintaining a positive candidate experience, regardless of their success applying for the open role.

Finally, many people also struggle with being politely honest when delivering the news of rejection. It’s much easier to sugarcoat things and let the candidate think they have a chance in the future than to honestly and tactfully let them know that they aren’t the right fit for your company.

These parts of the rejection process don’t have to be so challenging. Today, we’re going to give you a rundown of key steps you can take to reject job candidates with grace.

Step 1: Communicate Candidate Rejection Early

Candidates want to hear from you as early as possible, even if it’s to deliver bad news. They may have applied for multiple other roles and are waiting to hear from you before proceeding with other opportunities.

Early-Stage Applicant Rejection

Once your open job role is live, applications will start rolling in straight away. As you go through the applications, you’ll quickly be able to determine which ones are clearly not the right fit for the role. Usually, these applicants will be missing key, non-negotiable skills, or education requirements of the role.

Given that the applicants don’t meet the requirements as stated in the advertised job description, a simple and polite rejection email can be sent out to these applicants even before applications close.

Workable can provide you with an early-stage rejection email template to help you craft the perfect message, which you can then send to unsuccessful candidates via your Workable portal, in bulk.

Be Mindful of Communicated Timelines

Candidates who progress through the interview process will inevitably ask you what the next steps of the process are and when they can expect to hear from you.

Once you’ve communicated these details it’s important to keep in mind that applicants will be eagerly awaiting an update from you around these timelines. With this in mind, it’s important to communicate with rejected candidates as close to these deadlines as possible, to avoid wasting their time or prolonging the process.

Notifying rejected candidates as early as possible that you’re not continuing with the application is a great way to show them you value and respect their time.

As a general rule of thumb, no matter which stage of the recruitment process you’re in, as soon as you know you’re not moving forward with a candidate, it’s time to let them know.

Step 2: Personalize Your Communication

When you’re excited about a new job opportunity and put time and effort into the application process, there is nothing more disappointing than receiving a stale rejection email or cold phone call.

After all, some candidates might be great for the role but have been edged out by another applicant. Instead of burning bridges with these candidates, you need to soften the rejection with a personal touch.

Personalize Your Email

If an applicant is being dismissed in the early stages of the process, or you’ve only ever communicated via email, it’s fine to reject candidates in writing only. But it’s still important to address the candidate by name, rather than “Dear Applicant.”

You should also include personalized feedback in your communication. Highlight why the candidate didn’t make the cut.

For candidates let go in the early stages, it may be that the competition was fierce or they were lacking the non-negotiable experience required to progress.

For candidates who are let go in the later stages, providing more detailed, but constructive feedback relating directly to their interview is key.

If you’re not sure where to start, Workable has tons of fantastic resources to help you find the right words. Here’s an example of a basic post-interview rejection letter provided by Workable.

Pick Up the Phone

If you’ve previously communicated with the candidate over the phone, or they made it to the final round of interviews, it’s important to give them a call to let them know they were unsuccessful.

This will also give you a chance to genuinely thank the candidate for their time and effort throughout the interview process. You can also ask the candidate if they’d like to keep in touch via Social Media or to be invited to future events, in case another position becomes available.

It’s also a good idea to follow up this phone call with an email to cover your tracks in writing.

Adding a personal touch to your communication with rejected candidates regardless of how far they progressed is an important step to creating a positive candidate experience. The better the experience, the more likely they are to apply with your company again in the future.

Step 3: Provide Feedback

Some recruiters will not automatically provide feedback for rejected candidates. While it’s a time-consuming process, tactfully helping candidates to understand why you turned them down is another way to ensure they have a positive experience with your company.

Use Job-Related Criteria

When providing feedback, it’s important to keep the feedback constructive and related to the specific role they’ve applied for. Not only will this help you to communicate the feedback effectively, but it will also help to avoid legal risks and discrimination.

You can also use interview scorecards used during the interview process to help relay specific facts surrounding the candidate’s performance during the interview. Make sure you highlight some things that the candidate did well with their application so that the feedback is not all negative.

Be Clear and Concise

Candidates don’t want a vague explanation as to why they didn’t make the cut. They want constructive feedback and clear advice as to how they can improve for the future. Summarizing your feedback for each candidate into one succinct sentence or paragraph is a great way to ensure you leave the vagueness behind.

Furthermore, be honest with the candidate. If there is no chance of them ever working with you in the future, don’t give them false hope. Wish them all the best and leave it at that.

If you’re not sure how to construct clear and effective feedback, Workable has tons of built-in resources and templates to help you find the right words.

Recommend Skills for Development

If there are certain skills or education opportunities that top candidates could undertake to improve their chances of landing a role with you in the future, tell them! By sharing this information with the candidate, you’ll gain their respect and trust, and help them to improve their job search for the future.

When it comes to providing feedback, as long as your advice is genuine and constructive, candidates will appreciate your help and remember the effort you made to help them improve their application to other jobs. The better that the candidate feels about the application process, the more likely they are to want to stay in contact with you for future opportunities.

Step 4: Ask Candidates for Feedback

Just the same as candidates welcome constructive feedback to aid their professional development, you should welcome feedback from your candidates on the recruitment process.

How you interact with candidates during the recruitment process is critical. Whether the candidate is successful or not, they should still have a great candidate experience and walk away willing to apply for further opportunities in the future.

Create a Candidate Survey

To understand and improve candidate experience, you need to put yourself in the candidates’ shoes. The best way to do this is to create a candidate survey that covers every step of the application process, from submitting their application to receiving the rejection letter.

Workable allows you to create and administer a customized survey to all your candidates. You can even create multiple different surveys to suit candidates who progressed to different stages.

Candidates can return the survey in their own time, while Workable will collect and report the data for you to analyze and make necessary adjustments to the candidate experience.

Ask Candidates Directly

If you’re speaking with a rejected candidate over the phone and feel you’ve built a great rapport with them, you may want to ask for feedback directly.

Constructing a few questions to ask the candidate beforehand is a great way to ensure you receive feedback on key aspects of the hiring process. Keep in mind that the candidate may prefer to provide feedback anonymously, to not hurt their chances of successfully gaining a role at your company in the future.

Whether you collect feedback via a survey or ask candidates directly, asking for feedback shows that you care about the candidates’ opinions and respect what they have to say.

Step 5: Stay In Touch with Unsuccessful Candidates

Ending things on a positive note with unsuccessful candidates is a key step in maintaining a good professional relationship. This step is particularly important if you want to stay in touch with some of the top candidates for future job openings or collaboration opportunities.

By staying in touch with these candidates, you give yourself a pool of talented, passive candidates, for future reference. Just because they weren’t the right fit now, doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future.

Send Monthly Communications with Workable

Workable’s automated bulk email communication is not only reserved for the hiring process. You can also use it to keep in touch with unsuccessful candidates by sending monthly or bi-monthly updates.

Updating candidates on company news or inviting them to industry events is a great way to maintain their interest in working with you. The more you build up your professional relationship with top candidates, the easier it will be to recruit them again in the future.

Use Social Media

Using social media platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook is another great way to stay in touch with past candidates. It allows for better, more personal interaction. For example, instead of receiving a general company update every so often, you can interact with purpose when they land a new job or comment on pieces of work they share.

These interactions will help you to build further trust and rapport with unsuccessful candidates and facilitates the potential for you to recruit them more easily in the future.

This article was written by Lars Lofgren

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