How to Reject Candidates

Even after you’ve created your Scorecard and had several successful interviews with a candidate, sometimes he or she simply isn’t the best fit. Although rejecting candidates is probably your least favorite activity, it’s one of the most important steps of the hiring process. A thoughtful and timely rejection is the cornerstone of the candidate experience, and there’s a right and wrong way to approach it.

5 things to consider when rejecting a candidate:

1. Follow up, quickly

If there’s one rule in recruiting, it’s this: don't leave any candidates hanging. Send an email or make a call to notify the candidate that he or she will not be moving forward. According to a CareerBuilder survey, a staggering seventy-five percent of workers who applied to jobs don't hear back from employers. Not following up with candidates is a sure-fire way to provide a bad candidate experience, which is the cornerstone of your hiring brand.

Jon Stross, co-founder of Greenhouse, points out that the majority of people that you interview don’t end up your employees. They are the ones talking about your company and shaping public perception of your brand. Treat them well!

2. Treat candidates like customers (they just might be!)

Airbnb’s Recruiting Programs Manager Maeve Blessing says that the recruiting team is mindful that the people they’re interviewing are probably their customers. If candidates don’t work out as employees, they don’t want to lose them as great hosts or customers.

So, the Airbnb recruiting team treats recruiting much like customer support - quick responses are important, and recruiters respond to every single application that comes.

3. Get clear feedback from interviewers

Don’t accept unclear feedback from your hiring team. With a structured interview process, and a clear purpose for each interview, interviewers should be able to point to a specific attribute that a candidate lacks.

Erin Wilson, Head of Talent Engineering at BrightRoll, tell us that If a hiring manager or interviewer comes back with feedback that isn’t constructive, he asks them to rephrase it or interview the candidate again. It’s important to Erin’s team to provide meaningful feedback to candidates that they reject. Because of a positive candidate experience, Erin says that BrightRoll has hired people that have been referred by people who they’ve declined.

4. Your emails should be different at each stage

It’s acceptable if you send a quick email after a phone screen that says that a candidate’s background isn’t what you’re looking for. But it’s not acceptable after a final, in-person interview.

Your rejection emails should evolve as a candidate moves through the recruiting pipeline. Each stage’s rejections should be increasingly personal, thankful, and thorough. The more time a candidate has spent with you, the more thought should go into the rejection so that they have closure.

5. Keep them in mind for the future

If you have a streamlined, structured interview process, only strong candidates should be getting through your interview pipeline. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right for a specific job, but they might be later!

At Disqus, the hiring team used Greenhouse, their applicant tracking system, to send out an event invitation to all candidates they had engaged in the past to keep in touch for future opportunities. They were pleasantly surprised by the attendance and have a growing reputation as a great place to work in the Bay Area.

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Filed Under:

Candidate Experience