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The Art of Rejecting Candidates

It is not uncommon for managers to skip contacting unsuccessful candidates who didn’t get the job. The manager may not simply have enough time to do so or may dislike giving negative feedback.

However, as we share briefly in this week’s post, responding to all candidates – whether rejected or accepted – not only improves your company’s brand (through candidate experience) but also line up talent that might be suitable for another position or great potential for another point of time.

Not This Time Around

• Branding: Treating candidates well reinforces both your employer brand and your consumer brand.

According to a survey by Web Recruit, 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.

• Follow up with every candidate: Ideally, you should to respond to every single applicant who applies or at the very least, the candidates you bring in to interview – even when it’s bad news. After all, the candidate took just as much time out of their day as you did to come in for the interview.

• Respect: Every organisation should treat its job applicants with the same level of courtesy and respect as it would treat its customers.

In many cases, your job applicants will be your customers. Design your entire selection process from the applicant's point of view. Think about what steps you can take to make sure they feel engaged at every stage and when it comes to rejecting candidates, make sure you do it with care and consideration.

• 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 ‘almost there’ list 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. 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.


Candidates that have been previously rejected for a position may re-apply either for the same position or if another opening becomes available, for a different role within the company – would you consider them this second time around?

• Poor Interviewees: Some people just don’t interview well, but are more than competent in their field of expertise. While it’s not good news if a salesperson can’t convince you of their value, someone applying for a skill-reliant role like IT or finance might just be more comfortable letting their résumé do the talking. Try implementing a skills-based assessment to complement the interview process, or bring in a co-worker with expertise in their field to test their knowledge and expertise.

• Constructive Feedback Follow Up: Sometimes you might have turned down a candidate that lacked a certain qualification or needed improvement on. Like those talent shows on TV, if rejected on a previous attempt and feedback was given, did the candidate come back taking on any constructive feedback and improve? They may have addressed those shortcomings and now possess exactly the competencies for which you’ve been looking.

What’s your experience with previous candidates that were rejected? Would you consider hiring any of them for another position in the future? Do you think from their previous rejection experience that they would consider joining your organisation?

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