How You Reject Candidates is Just as Important as How You Hire Them

Alexandra Levit, Managing Partner, PeopleResults
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Once your first choice has accepted the job, how do you close the loop with the other candidates who have interviewed? My first piece of advice is to contact them and let them know of your decision. This may sound obvious, but it’s shocking how many organizations don’t do it and just leave candidates hanging. If a candidate takes the time to interview with you, you at least owe her the courtesy of a phone call or email. Here are some general best practices:

Err on the side of over-communicating

You can get things off on the right foot by explaining your selection process before or during an interview. When you provide this information, the candidate will know exactly when they can expect communication from you and will be less likely to check in repeatedly about offer status (or sit and stew about why they haven’t heard from you).

Yes, you must use a phone

Now that most organizations have an applicant tracking system and/or career portal that can send automated emails to candidates at various stages of the recruitment process, there’s no excuse for allowing a rejected candidate to disappear into a black hole. However, if they went through the trouble of coming in for an interview, you should really call them as soon as you’ve given an offer to someone else – if not sooner. You’d be surprised how fast word gets around in local job hunting circles. If your call gets sent to voicemail, leave one. They might be one of those non-checkers, but that’s not your problem. A voicemail is better than no call at all.

Be wary of giving too much feedback

As for what to say, it’s best not to get too specific. Rather, thank them for their time and interest and state that you’ve decided to go in another direction. Not only will this approach keep you out of legal hot water, but it will also prevent the candidate from trying to debate your reasoning or change your mind.

Heed the “don’t burn bridges” rule

Whatever you do, make sure you end your interaction with a rejected candidate on a good note. You never know who the person is connected to, or when you might run into or be in the position of working with her again. For example, a few years ago a colleague of mine treated a new college graduate applicant pretty poorly, stringing her along for weeks on end. He sincerely regretted his behavior when the grad eventually became his client.

Open the door to future follow-up

If you liked the candidate and may consider her for a position in the future, tell her you’ll stay in touch – and then do exactly that. Interviewing can actually be a terrific way to build your pipeline of promising talent, and by establishing a long-term, positive relationship with this candidate, you may also gain access to her network of friends and colleagues.

Would you like to learn more?  Take at look at our Recruiting Resource Center.

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