When I searched Google for “how to reject a candidate,” I received about 8 million results. There were how-to articles, email templates, and pep talks, but none of the results in the first two pages were from the major publications that usually show up for recruitment-related searches. This really surprised me.
It is not news to most recruiters that there is merit in rejecting a candidate gracefully so they leave the interaction with no hard feelings. However, despite this common knowledge, this crucial interaction gets bungled more often than not. And rejecting candidates gracefully has gotten even tougher now that most hiring is happening remotely. Simple human interactions like a firm handshake or a friendly hug that can help soften the blow have been replaced with impersonal emails wishing the candidate luck — or, worse, no email at all.
Why do recruiters fail to humanely reject candidates? Usually, it’s because the recruiter either thinks they are already doing the best they can or believes there is no truly gracious way of doing it. The latter is especially common when recruiters are hiring remotely.
But the truth is that there are always gracious ways to reject a candidate, even when you hire remotely, and a kind rejection goes a long way in candidate relationship management. So, are you sure you follow best practices when rejecting candidates? Read on to find out more.
1. Set Clear Expectations for What a Good Fit Looks Like
Start by setting expectations from the very beginning, even before a single interview happens. That means crafting perfect job descriptions. Well-written job descriptions help applicants filter themselves out and save you the pain of having to reject them. While writing a job description, make sure it outlines both requirements and deal-breakers. For example, if it matters that the developer you’re hiring be familiar with Alexa, emphasize that. Reiterate these requirements during the candidate screening process as well. When you are clear about your expectations, you give candidates an idea of what you expect from a good fit and give them the information they need to weigh their own strengths, skills, and job requirements against the role. Repetition will also highlight the requirements and show candidates you are serious about them, making it easier to explain rejections when they happen.
2. Don’t Leave Anyone Hanging — Be Courteous and Communicate the Rejection
A study from LinkedIn found that 94 percent of professionals want interview feedback if they are rejected, but only 41 percent actually receive that feedback.
They say no news is good news, but in the world of job interviews, it is actually a terrible sign. The nicest thing you can do for a candidate is to let them know when they should stop holding out hope. When you withhold your decision from candidates, it can affect their mental well-being. It can even provoke public displays of frustration and anger from spurned candidates, which can do damage to your brand. No one enjoys being the bearer of bad news, but in this case, it is the right thing to do. This way, candidates can move on to focus on other opportunities instead of getting hung up on a job they won’t get.
3. Provide Feedback at Each Stage and Clearly Explain Rejections
Interviewers should spend a few minutes after each stage of the process giving candidates feedback on their performance, whether it be good or bad. This steady stream of feedback prepares the candidate for the final decision and helps defuse their anxiety. If you think you don’t have time to give feedback at each and every stage, try providing the information at intervals that seem fair to you.
According to one study, 59 percent of candidates like to receive feedback as and when you have it. For example, if yours is a one-day process, then you can wait until it’s all over to give feedback. If, on the other hand, your hiring process spans two weeks or more, try to give regular feedback and status updates to candidates after each interview, or at least as frequently as possible.
4. Thank Your Candidates Sincerely
Companies and recruiting panels learn a lot from candidates during interviews — even from those candidates they do not hire. When you write to a rejected candidate, thank them for their time, for choosing your company over all the other awesome companies out there, and for anything you learned from them or liked about them during the process.
5. Invite Candidates to Stay in Touch — and Be Sure to Stay in Touch on Your End
A candidate may not seem like a good fit right now, but that doesn’t mean they’ll never be the right fit. For all you know, you might find yourself hiring the same candidate you just rejected three years down the line. That’s why you should make sure to cultivate a relationship with each candidate. Invite rejected candidates to follow your careers page and other social media channels. If you can establish an ongoing relationship with them, they will be likely to refer their own friends and vouch for you. Some might even end up involved in other business relationships with you, perhaps even as new clients!
6. Go the Extra Mile for the Candidates Who Almost Made It
Nothing says “This is the beginning of a long-lasting relationship” like going through multiple rounds of interviews. Do not use a template email to turn down someone who has nearly gone the distance with you. Instead, draft a personal email or call them. If you have archived their resume in your talent pool for a later opportunity, let them know and seek permission to reach out to them in the future. You could send the candidate a request on LinkedIn, too! Keep the relationship open for further communication.
7. Introduce KPIs to Measure How Recruiters Handle Rejection
Although most recruiters are genuinely good at heart and courteous by nature, they don’t always respond well to rejected candidates. This is largely because recruiters are not motivated to do so. The average recruiter does not have any key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure how they handle candidate rejections. Instead, recruiters are mainly focused on KPIs like time to fill, offer acceptance ratio, cost per hire, source of hire, new hire turnover ratio, and interviews per hire.
Include performance indicators that measure the time taken to respond to a rejected candidate, the quality of feedback given, and the candidate’s overall experience with the recruiter. This should be done for the good of your own brand in accordance with the values you hold or represent.
It certainly is not easy to provide feedback at every stage, send multiple emails, and safely store candidate scorecards when you are hiring on a large scale, but that should not deter you from building value for your employer brand. With the right tool by your side, you can store all this information and automate these processes to ensure you follow best practices for candidate relationship management.
Freshteam is a smart applicant tracking system that helps you conquer all your recruitment challenges with ease. You can use Freshteam to ensure your company provides a good candidate management experience across all stages of your hiring process, from sourcing candidate profiles to sending prompt email feedback to rejected and selected candidates without delay. You never again have to be the recruiter people have to chase to get responses.
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