Have to Reject an Internal Candidate? Be Sure to Take These 8 Steps

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Welcome to Recruiter Q&A, a dynamic platform where we present pressing employment-related questions to the experts and share their enlightening answers! In this ever-evolving employment landscape, we understand the need for up-to-date advice and insights from industry professionals.

Today’s burning question focuses on a common yet delicate situation: While many businesses may prefer hiring from within to nurture growth and encourage loyalty, internal candidates may not always be the best fit for the job. So, what should a business do when faced with the tough task of rejecting an internal candidate for a position, and why is this approach critical?

Addressing this issue requires a careful balance of honesty, sensitivity, and foresight. The implications are professional and personal, potentially impacting team morale, employee engagement, and workplace culture. This is a scenario that many businesses face, yet one that is often handled with trepidation.

The enlightening answers to this quandary are provided by the esteemed members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most accomplished young entrepreneurs. With their fingers firmly on the pulse of the modern business world, YEC members represent a broad spectrum of industries, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have collectively created tens of thousands of jobs, driving innovation and growth in the employment market.

These trailblazers are not just leading their successful ventures; they’re transforming the entrepreneurship landscape and sharing their insights to help others navigate their business challenges. Let’s delve into their expert advice on handling an internal candidate’s rejection with professionalism, respect, and empathy.

How to Reject an Internal Candidate

1. Lead With Transparency

I believe leading with transparency goes a long way. Treat your employees like grown-ups with honesty, respect, and integrity, and they will have no reason not to trust that you made what you believe to be the best decision for the company as a whole. I think employers often underestimate their employees’ ability to be disappointed in a decision while still understanding it. — Eric Zuckerman, Pac Team Group 


2. Be Clear in Your Own Mind

You have to be clear in your own mind about why you’re rejecting an internal candidate. Spend some time going through your mental processing and focus on one or two major facts that prevented the employee from being a good fit. You can reframe these points into opportunities to build skills and offer training. With this in mind, it becomes easier to convey to the candidate why it didn’t work out. — Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner 


3. Directly Explain the Situation

Provide direct communication to the internal candidate explaining exactly why they weren’t a good fit for the position. Ambiguity is a bad thing in this situation, especially if the applicant believes they have a chance at acquiring the same position in the future when they actually don’t. This will set reasonable expectations and prevent resentment from developing. — Bryce Welker, Real Estate Schooler 


4. Back Up the Decision

I like to use their Gallup Strengths report and DiSC profile to back up my decisions when it comes to HR-related matters and why somebody was not the best fit for the job. It explains why I made my decision based on their strengths and work style and also opens the platform to have a more meaningful conversation on how their work in the company would be better suited to a different position. — Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office 


5. Offer to Mentor Them

The key to rejecting a team member when they apply for a new position is to explain that you want to help them rise through the ranks, but they need more training. Let them know that they won’t be getting the position, but offer to mentor them once or twice a month so you can develop their skills and prepare them for future openings. — John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC 


6. Ensure They Don’t Feel Alienated

You should make sure that your decision has not alienated your employee. Be clear and upfront about your decision, speak with them about it and be sure to offer them other clear pathways to advancement within the company. You don’t want the filling of one position to vacate an experienced presence in another, as this can often result in a net loss in capabilities and productivity. — Salvador Ordorica, The Spanish Group LLC 


7. Guide Them Toward a Different Path

Guide the internal employee to a path for development. Even if an employee isn’t ready for a position now, they could be great for the position later on, and you can help them get there. If an employee expresses interest, try to offer new training or educational opportunities. Just be clear that while you are offering these opportunities, you are not guaranteeing them a position. — Shu Saito, All Filters 


8. Help Support Their Professional Goals

It’s important to communicate with your internal candidate as to why they are not currently the best fit for the position. In addition, it’s important to go a step further and conduct a review with the employee to help them set goals to help them achieve their larger professional goals. By showing support and backing it up with real action, an employer can show they value and support the employee. — Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC 

In conclusion, the delicate task of rejecting an internal candidate for a position requires more than a simple ‘no’. It demands a thoughtful, sensitive, and forward-thinking approach that not only maintains the employee’s morale but also fuels their professional growth. The key, as our esteemed experts from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) have pointed out, lies in clear and honest communication, constructive feedback, and providing avenues for continuous learning and development.

This process, though challenging, is instrumental in fostering a transparent and supportive work environment. It sends a strong message to all employees that the organization values their aspirations and is committed to their growth, even when immediate prospects may not align.

Remember, while the immediate concern is the employee who has been rejected, the manner in which this situation is handled also sends a message to the rest of the organization. It sets the tone for the company’s culture, its approach to employee development, and its commitment to fair and transparent decision-making.

In this regard, the insights shared by our YEC members are invaluable, providing a roadmap for businesses to navigate this delicate situation with grace and empathy. These strategies not only help maintain a positive work environment but also bolster the organization’s reputation as an employer that genuinely cares for its employees’ growth and well-being.

We hope you found these insights enlightening and useful. Stay tuned for more Recruiter Q&A, where we will continue to explore pressing employment-related questions with expert advice from industry leaders. Until then, happy recruiting!

By Recruiter Q&A