5 Ways to Reject a Candidate Professionally and Painlessly

5 Ways to Reject a Candidate Professionally and Painlessly

Finding the ideal candidate is one thing, but what about the ones who narrowly missed out?

Simply discarding them is unprofessional and can put them off ever applying again – which could come back to bite you in the backside further down the line.

The truth is, rejection is part and parcel of the recruitment process.

However, if you do it in the right way, you can keep your company’s reputation intact and help inspire other applicants in their careers too.

In fact, a widely-publicised report about the cost of poor candidate experience at Virgin Media, cost them £4.4m in 2014.

It’s believed that more than 130,000 candidates applied for jobs that year, with 18% of them being existing Virgin Media customers.

Due to a poor candidate experience, over 7,500 of them cancelled subscriptions and switched to another provider!

Can you afford to take that risk?

With this in mind, here are some top tips on how to reject a candidate without upsetting any of the candidates.

Speed is everything

While trying to sort out all of the paperwork for the chosen candidate can occupy a lot of your time, delaying the response to others isn’t fair.

Remember, candidates might be unemployed or could be turning down other offers in the hope of securing this particular job, so to keep them on tenterhooks for a long period of time is plain disrespectful.

Once you’ve made your decision, let the applicant know on that day.

Respect people’s time and they will respect your company.

Make it personal

An email or a generic letter might be the easiest ways of letting someone down, but they are both incredibly cold and impersonal methods.

If possible, pick up the phone and talk to the unlucky candidates.

Just a few minutes out of your day will make them feel valued and will give them an opportunity to ask you for some proper feedback.

Just think, a candidate potentially spent a long time putting their application together for this role, so you should give them the same treatment.

Once you’ve finished the phone call, drop the candidate a quick email reiterating the points covered in your conversation on the phone and thank them again for their time.

They then have this information on record to refer back to.

It’s also worth thinking about the way you address the candidate as well.

Your conversation or email shouldn’t sound like it’s pre-scripted.

Instead, you should use the candidate’s name and bring up small nuggets of personal information you learnt about them during the interview stage.

For example, if the candidate likes to act in theatre productions in their spare time, wish them good luck in their next play.

It’s simple but extremely effective.

Keep it short and sweet

While breaking the bad news and providing feedback to a candidate is imperative, don’t make the mistake of waffling on as you’re more likely to say something wrong.

As a rule of thumb, you should tell them the outcome and why you made that decision in just one sentence.

For example:

“Although we were impressed with you as a person and the skills you possess, we’ve decided to go with another applicant who has more experience running marketing campaigns.”

This tells them that they conducted themselves very well, but they need to gain more experience in a certain area.

It’s the definition of constructive feedback, which will allow the candidate to go and gain the experience so that they can either land a similar job elsewhere or return as a stronger applicant.

Don’t sugar coat it

Glossing over the facts may feel like an easier way of breaking bad news, but it can really impact a candidate’s career for years to come.

Empathy is a wonderful thing, however, it can force people to forget about the hard facts and end up making false promises to someone.

If you’re genuinely interested in keeping a candidate in mind for a future role, that’s absolutely fine.

Feel free to connect with them on LinkedIn and keep their details on file.

On the other hand, if you really don’t feel like the candidate is a good fit for your company at any stage, then wish them all the best in the future and leave it at that.

A professional will much prefer an honest approach than an ambiguous one.

Ask the candidate what they thought

At the end of the day, hiring a new employee is a process.

In order to improve it, you need honest feedback.

It’s kind of like conducting an exit interview for departing employees, you can tap into free information which can play a pivotal role in improving the way you approach things in the future.

You can do this by asking the rejected candidates to:

  • fill out a quick survey via email; or
  • tell you on the phone.

It’s always important to do this once you rejected a candidate, as asking them earlier in the hiring process might not give you the honest responses you need to improve.

Final thoughts

All-in-all, learning how to reject a candidate isn’t easy. As time goes on, you’ll start to identify what works and what doesn’t.

However, by implementing these top tips, you’ll be able to quickly improve the candidate experience without having to make drastic mistakes that damage your company’s reputation and relationship with every applicant.

For more top tips on assessing candidates, you may find these blogs useful:

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Shubham Batham
2 years ago

This is good. I also think about this thing, finally, you gave me the answer to my question. Thank you.