“Thanks, but no thanks.”
“It isn’t you, it’s me.”
“I just don’t feel a connection.”
Sure, the above may feel like the start to a Reddit thread on #worstbreakuplinesever, but the dating world isn’t the only place in life where rejection can have a vicious sting. After all, when it comes to matching up job seekers with companies looking to hire, the interview process can tend to have a lot in common with some of our worst awkward first dates.
Recruiting professionals know that, much like a reputation for being a poor life partner, keeping on good terms with rejected candidates is an essential part of the hiring process. Maybe a job-seeker wasn’t the right fit for one position but would be ideal for the next. Perhaps you understand the importance of upholding your company or firm’s reputation for professionalism and making recruitment as easy as possible. Whatever the specific reasoning, there’s plenty of upsides to impressing all candidates, even those that don’t make it to the job offer round. With that in mind, we’ve put together this quick guide on how to leave a good impression with rejected candidates.
One of the key elements of any successful hiring program is defined steps and actions that candidates and hiring managers know will take place at various stages. A jumbled, inefficient system of interviewing and hiring will often leave the impression that the workplace is similarly chaotic. Having a candidate show up for an interview only to be unexpected or have various personnel late or unprepared is a sure fire way to start off on the wrong foot whether you extend an offer or not.
So now that we’ve defined what shouldn’t happen, let’s talk solutions. Sure, we hate complicated, paper drenched protocols as much as the next person, but when it comes to interviewing a hefty dose of procedure goes a long way. Have a standard hiring protocol in effect that spells out details such as the number of meetings, length of interviews and a system for centrally collecting relevant resume and professional information. While the recruitment process will vary by job title, department, and seniority, having rough guidelines that can be adjusted to individual situations will help keep the recruitment stage running smoothly and will help you avoid leaving a poor taste in the mouth of rejected candidates especially.
Another major annoyance for rejected candidates is a failure to communicate on the part of the company. Few things can be more nerve wracking to a job seeker than delays in responses when it comes to everything from interview scheduling to finding out if they got the offer.
From the outset, set the right communicative tone by keeping the candidate in the loop. Clearly spell out the timelines they can expect during the interview process as well expected dates for final decisions. If there’s a delay due to an unexpected absence or other change, be sure to let the candidate know as soon as possible. When conveying timelines, be sure to steer clear of absolute promises. Communicate to the candidate that the hiring process normally takes X number of weeks, or that decisions are typically made within Y number of days after the interview. Finally, when you do make a hiring decision, be sure to let rejected candidates know promptly. As painful as it may be, hearing that they weren’t the right fit allows the individual to continue scoping out the job landscape for other opportunities.
Our last piece of advice for making a good impression even on rejected candidates is an acknowledgement that no one likes bad news. Whether you’re the recruiter or hiring manager tasked with conveying the news or the candidate on the receiving end, rejection is a necessary “evil” of the job application process. While this may seem a bit doom and gloom, once you acknowledge that no one wants to be told “we’re sorry”, you can move on to having healthy discussions about ways to mitigate any stress.
When you inevitably have to turn a candidate away, be sure to focus on the positive aspects of their candidacy and the fact that the interviewers enjoyed meeting with them. Instead of a generic, canned response here, pull out key elements of the candidate’s resume or skills to specifically point to strengths they demonstrated. When you are inevitably asked “why not me” stay away from negatives and instead focus on the fact that all candidates were excellent but the person selected had a few traits that you thought would make a better fit. Lastly, be sure to ask to stay in contact with the candidate in case any additional opportunities pop up. This will ensure good feelings, even amidst rejection, and will also help to keep quality talent in your pool of resumes in case a new position does open.
Once you have a clearly defined hiring process, have ensured direct and frequent communication and implement a positive rejection process, you’ll have tackled the essential elements of dealing with candidate rejection respectfully. Remember that your company’s reputation is often bolstered or tarnished by how potential employees interact with individual hiring managers during the process. Thinking about these items ahead of time may be tedious, but they’ll save you a host of headaches in the future.