“I can’t wait to reject these applicants!” said no hiring manager ever. Candidate rejection can be a difficult and sensitive task, and it’s critical to know how to reject a candidate without burning bridges or providing a negative experience.
Whether the person you’re rejecting was an immediate “no” or highly qualified runner-up, you should treat them with respect. Here’s how to turn down a job seeker and do candidate rejection the right way.
No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but one of the top complaints from job seekers is never hearing back from employers after applying to a job. While they’ll get the message eventually, being ignored leaves a bad taste in their mouths about your company.
If you don’t communicate with rejected candidates, you run the risk of hurting your employer brand and missing out on talent for your pipeline.
According to a 2016 candidate experience survey by CareerArc, almost 60% of surveyed job seekers have had a poor candidate experience and an alarming 72% of them shared their bad experience online or with someone else directly. Furthermore, candidates who were not informed about their application status were 3.5x less likely to reapply with that company in the future.
If you don’t communicate with rejected candidates, you run the risk of hurting your employer brand and missing out on talent for your pipeline (more on that below). Letting applicants know where they stand is simply good manners, even if that status is “rejected.” Treat them as you would a valued customer.
Communication templates are excellent timesavers and will help you and your HR team maintain consistency and compliance in your correspondence with applicants. However, it’s important to still humanize your messages and always express thanks and appreciation for the applicant’s time.
A good rule of thumb to follow is the further down the path the candidate is, the more personalized your communication should be. If you receive an application and immediately know they aren’t the right fit, a templated job rejection email response is appropriate. Rejected applicants will appreciate being kept in the loop even if the email is transactional.
The further down the path the candidate is, the more personalized your communication should be.
If they have been through a phone screen or an interview/round of interviews, you should tailor your message accordingly and deliver it via phone – don’t just send a job rejection email to these candidates. Again, genuinely thank them for their time and interest in your company.
Having a pipeline of strong talent is critical in today’s hiring market. Stay in touch with rejected applicants who were well qualified but not the right match right now. Engage with them on social media or meet them for coffee on occasion if feasible and appropriate.
When a role opens up that’s perfect for them, they’ll be more likely to come on board if they’re familiar with your organization already and have had positive experiences with your brand.
Note of caution: be very careful not to make any guarantees – verbally or in writing – of a future hire.
We’re all at least a bit uncomfortable with rejection, but it’s equally human to desire closure. Applying to a job takes time, energy, and mental fortitude – you owe it to your applicants to acknowledge and appreciate this. Learning how to reject a candidate with kindness and respect will go a long way to ensuring your company will continue to attract qualified applicants in the future.