future is brightWe all know in our hearts that it is important to treat candidates well; they invest their time and energy into applying to our businesses and they can quite reasonably expect a high quality and responsive candidate experience in return.

But as well as the niceties, there are also sound business reasons that employers should manage the candidate experience well, that is that your business may suffer brand damage as a result. For example, a survey by Web Recruit tells us that nearly 75% of job seekers would let others know if they had a negative experience with a company during the recruitment process. These findings were supported by a Startwire survey of 2,000 job seekers which found that 72% of applicants would be deterred from recommending or speaking positively about a company that did not respond to their application.

But not only is it important that we handle the candidate relationship well to avoid damaging our brand, I also think it is important to take positive steps to harness the precious talent that has come through our doors and which has not been right for us on this occasion, but which may be right for us in another role at some point in the future. To this end, I have set out 6 things that you can do with failed candidates that can help to turn them into a potentially valuable future talent stream. And who doesn’t want that?

1. Always reply to them whether successful or rejected and try to reply promptly. A Web Recruit poll has found that ’77% of job seekers expect no longer than three days before they have their CV application acknowledged’, and 83% expect ‘less than five days to hear whether it is being passed on to a hiring manager, short-listed or rejected’. We realize that there may be internal reasons why you cannot correspond with clients according to these time scales, but if you want to deliver a strong candidate experience you should aim to get as close to these time scales as you can or at least explain way.

2. Create an ‘Almost there’ list. If you had to reject well skilled candidates who only fell short in a few areas and who could probably have done the job, then file them in your ATS or talent management system as a ‘near miss‘ who you can call on again should you be recruiting for the same or similar role again. If your ATS is powerful enough to do tailored rejections, explain that they are a ‘near miss’ to the candidate and let them know they will be considered for future opportunities — which primes them for the future.

3. Create a ‘future potential’ list; this is for rejected but well skilled candidates who fell some way short but with natural career progression and personal development may be right for the role in a  year or two – or may be suitable for a less demanding role should it emerge in the future. Record them in your ATS and communicate to them as with the list above. However, make sure to review their career status on Linked-In in a couple of years to see if they have matured – and are more suitable for your role.

4. Connect with your Almost There/Future Potential talent on LinkedIn. Also follow key talent on twitter; this means that you can track their career movements, e.g. promotions, transfers or company changes. This means that you have access to a potential stream of talent in the market-place who you have a prior relationship with. You can ‘warm call‘ them as and when opportunities arise.

5. Develop a talent community and invite rejected candidates to join. Develop a talent community and ensure to invite the ‘almost there‘ and ‘future potential’ rejected employees to join – and this way you can engage with them and stay in contact with these warm and primed passive candidates.

6. Offer to provide detailed developmental feedback on their interview and candidacy. From experience not many candidates will take you up on this but they will all value the offer nonetheless. And those who do take it up, will appreciate the advice and are more likely to speak fondly of your business in the market-place. Your advice may also act as a catalyst for them to more quickly grow into an employee that you may be able to recruit.

Final word: this is not about accepting inferior quality (as the rejected candidate will still have to prove themselves capable in the future), but acknowledging that a rejected candidate could become a valuable asset to your business in the near or distant future – and developing a process that enables this to happen.

Remember, J.K. Rowling was rejected outright 12 times before the Harry Potter manuscript was accepted and she went on to become one the most successful rejected candidates ever.

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