The Why And How Of Rejecting Candidates

Free Online Recruiting SoftwareThere’s a crucial step to good recruiting that many people skip or do poorly, and that step goes by the name of “rejecting candidates.” It’s a nasty job, but you have to do it. We’re going to go over several questions and then add some helpful strategies to make the job less “nasty.” If you need help tracking your talent, our free online recruiting software can help. Click here to start recruiting smarter by using Recruiteze.

What Typically Happens When A Candidate Is Rejected

Many recruiting and hiring professionals don’t send a rejection at all, leaving candidates to wonder how long to hang on.

Many others do send a rejection to candidates but their effort is either:
● Too late
● Too general
● Not appropriate to the candidate relationship

Why Most Candidate Rejections Bomb So Terribly

There are two main reasons for candidate rejection failure:
● Who wants to give someone bad news?
● Most recruiters and hiring professionals feel they don’t have the time.

Following those, fear of repercussions from a disgruntled candidate keeps some recruiters from contacting candidates about rejection or from giving them reasons for the rejection.

What’s wrong with this situation?

There are many things wrong with absent or poor candidate rejections, but they boil down to one main point: you are not investing in your future talent pool.

Job candidates are much like customers. Their opinion of your business(or the one you’re representing) matters. Imagine, if you applied to a job at a company and that company didn’t treat you as well as you would expect to be treated as a customer, how likely would you be to do business with them? How likely would you be to apply to another job with them in the future?

An unimpressed candidate may also tell others of their disappointment. We all know the importance of word of mouth advertising, so we definitely don’t want the opposite. This candidate may run customers and other job applicants away from your business.

Sometimes job candidates are great matches for your company or client, they just simply don’t make the cut. Of course, you want to keep them interested so you can reach out to them about a future opening.

What about the candidates who aren’t a great match? You may be tempted to think of them as a waste of your time. After all, you are very busy. You have to prioritize. If you are so busy that you have to neglect this investment in your future candidate pool, something needs to change. You see, they may not be a great match today, for this client, but in six months or two years, they may be exactly the candidate you are looking for. Particularly if you give them a little nudge. Read on to learn more about this “nudge.”

A good candidate rejection can be a huge benefit to your business. Applying to a job is an important thing in a person’s life because it impacts their livelihood. There is emotion and investment involved in this. Much like customer service after a sale, how a recruiter handles candidates leaves a huge impression on them. You can turn what would be a negative situation into a positive one with the leverage of this emotion. If you show consideration of the candidate and nurture them, they may spread positive word of mouth about your business or client and become a huge fan of the company.

As we discussed in a prior post, Richard Branson amassed his fortune partially with this nurturing attitude toward job candidates in mind.

This is an example of the rejection letters he has been sending out to candidates:
“I am sorry that you have been unsuccessful with your application to Virgin Atlantic but I wanted to give you some words of encouragement for you to reapply in the future.

When I was travelling on a rival airline’s flight, I was so impressed with one of the Cabin Crew that I asked “Why don’t you come and work with us at Virgin?” She replied, “I tried but I wasn’t successful through the interview process.”

This just goes to show that even those that I feel would be great working with us at Virgin don’t always manage to get through our interview process (often because of the sheer number of people who apply). It is for this reason that I encourage you to keep trying and not to be disheartened.

As a small gesture the next time you fly on any Virgin route, I’d like to offer you a £20 voucher to put towards a flight or some duty free when flying with us. Wishing you every success for the future.”

On the Virgin website, he tells of a young woman who was rejected for a job with the cabin crew and ended up as his personal assistant years later.

His advice: “Companies should treat all people well – staff, customers, those applying for jobs, those who have only just heard about the company. You never know when your paths will cross in the future. Plus, if everybody treated everybody else how they would wish to be treated, the world would be a better place.”

How To Reject A Candidate

Free Online Recruiting SoftwareNow that we’ve explained why it is important to reject a candidate well, we need to go over how to do that.

First, do it quickly.

Time is crucial with most business interactions, including candidate rejections. Once you know that the candidate will not be hired, it is time to tell them. Don’t put it off so you can tell everyone at once.

You see, that candidate is probably taking your job into consideration when deciding whether to apply to more jobs. Particularly if they are the kind of candidate who is really passionate about this job. They will greatly appreciate being notified quickly of their rejection so they can regroup and start investing their time and effort elsewhere.

You can use your ATS software, such as Recruiteze, to help you organize your communications so rejecting candidates takes much less time.

Give them an explanation.

Now, don’t go into the gratuitous details. It’s painful, unnecessary, and could get you into trouble. You do want to provide them with more than the general message, “we’re sorry, but we had to select another candidate.” Yes, it does the job and it is safe, but it doesn’t give the candidate any information on which to improve themselves. Instead, try saying something like, “Another candidate had more experience in so-and-so area.“

It gives the candidate a sense of powerlessness to invest their time and effort, and hopefully passion, into applying to your job and then to have no idea why they were rejected. With just a brief explanation, you may empower them to become a better match and enrich the candidate pool. In a job market where one of clients’ main complaints is finding quality candidates, this boost to candidate potential is a change we all need to make.

Give them hope.

As Richard Branson showed above, leave them with an invitation to apply again in the future. This gives the candidate a deeper impression that you appreciate their interest in your company. If you combine it with the step directly above this one, you will have invested in your future candidate pool in a powerful way. You see, you’ll already have information on candidates who are interested in your company and may six months or a few years from now be perfect for a position without you having to do any sourcing to find them.

Be honest.

Don’t give them an explanation that you can’t back up with facts. It doesn’t look sincere for one thing, and an insincere rejection may be worse than none at all. Worse, you might get in a legal bind if it appears that discrimination has come into the equation. You can make this being honest aspect much easier with a little prior planning which we’ll discuss below.

Respond appropriately to the candidate relationship.

The rejection should be tailored to the relationship you’ve built with the candidate, or the stage you are in the hiring process.

If you have just received the candidate’s resume and have not interviewed them, a simple email with a brief explanation regarding a less than satisfactory skill or experience match is fine.
If you have already interviewed the person, you might consider calling them or, at the very least, giving them a more personal rejection letter.

Invest in them.

Some companies and recruiting agencies nurture their own future candidate pool by providing them resources to improve themselves.

Linkedin mentions offering yourself as a networking resource to these candidates. This will give candidates the impression that you truly care about them and will keep them in contact with you for easy future access.

Forbes also suggests inviting candidates to your Facebook page or “an online fan club” specifically for talent. They discuss a company offering job-search tips and insights into the company. You might include links to free courses, volunteer opportunities, and other chances candidates may be interested in to ramp up their qualifications and resumes.

Prepare before the rejection.

A little preparation from the start can save you a lot of time, help you give honest answers, and better satisfy your candidates.

#1. Always make sure you have prioritized your candidate criteria before interviewing any candidates so you can evaluate and rank them fairly.

#2. Don’t make decisions on candidates without having proof to back it up. You need proof to deliver to the clients to sell them on the candidate and you need to backup the reasons behind why they were rejected.

#3. From the job advertisement to the interview stage, always tell candidates what to expect next. When can they expect a reply? Should they reach out to you? If so, when? Tell them if there will be a second interview stage they need to be on the lookout for. These things will reduce anxiety in the candidate and reduce the amount of messages and phone calls you need to handle. You can include them in pre-written communications so it isn’t a choice you have to remember to make each time you communicate with someone.


Free Online Recruiting SoftwarePoor candidate investment is like swimming upstream. Yes, you can keep sourcing for new candidates and treating candidates any ole’ way and painstakingly fill and refill positions, but what if you worked smarter and not harder, strategized your job marketing, improved your candidate communication procedures, and invested in your candidates’ futures? You’d spend less time working with ill-fitting candidate matches and more time creating successful hires to the benefit of recruiter, client, and candidate alike. Where’s the downside?

Searching For Free Online Recruiting Software In 2017?

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