No one likes dealing with rejection – not even human resource people who are used dismissing candidates. But, it’s a necessary part of the recruitment process that needs to be done with care. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle candidate rejections. Done well, and the organization will build goodwill with candidates; done wrong and the company will probably get a series of negative posts on a company review site.
Why a process matters
There are a number of reasons why a consistent process of handling candidate rejection is critical to the image of your company. It’s only fair to the candidates who have already gone through an often lengthy process of searching for and applying for career opportunities with your organization. They’ve often invested time in a series of interviews, pre-employment assessments, and putting their best foot forward in the hopes of landing a dream job. A rejection handled professionally and with kindness can directly affect the way candidates feel about your company, how your recruitment team is measured, and if the candidates will respond positively or negatively to the news.
Since human beings are naturally emotional when they receive bad news, rejections can take a turn for the worse when a candidate is treated poorly, or worse yet, ignored outright. Research conducted by CareerArc and Future Workplace found that 60% of candidates have experienced something negative in their job search, and two-thirds have been “ghosted” (no response at all) by an employer. 72% of these negatively treated candidates have also turned to social media, review sites, and other outlets to vent about it.
Brin McCagg, the CEO and founder of RecruitFi, a crowd-based recruitment platform, who spoke with Roy Maurer, contributor for SHRM Online, said “From an employment branding perspective, having a rejection process that is poorly perceived by your candidates negatively impacts your ability to recruit top talent. Keeping your approach quick, responsive and enthusiastic sheds a positive light on your business for not only current, but future applicants.”
The way rejections are handled can create brand ambassadors for your company. For example, a well-known restaurant group sends a hand-signed letter along with a free gift certificate for a meal to thank candidates for their efforts and time. This is often a pleasant surprise to a candidate who has been receiving other less compassionate notices or nothing at all. In the future, the candidate will likely remember this experience as more positive and recommend the company to others.
Being honest counts, but so does compassion
Oftentimes, hiring managers forget that they are dealing with human beings who have these feelings and therefore, they may give the impression of being dismissive or cold. What most candidates will respect and understand is when a company picks another candidate for a good reason that’s honest and not based on personal bias. There are a few guidelines for handling candidate rejections that don’t take a lot of time and can be easily implemented into any recruitment process.
#1 - Create a brief, but personalized candidate rejection letter.
Every organization should have a formal candidate rejection letter that is ready to edit and send out to candidates. Keep it brief, focusing on thanking the candidate for their time and interest in the company, but that the company has chosen to move forward with a different candidate. Let the candidate know that you believe they have skills that are highly valuable and you wish them well with their career endeavors.
#2 – Send out rejection letters within 24 hours of making a decision.
Don’t wait too long to send out the rejection letter. Whether you close the job order, or you hire someone for the job, send the notice within a day. This helps candidates with closure and moving onto other opportunities.
#3 – Invite candidates to reapply again in the future.
It’s always possible that a candidate may find another opportunity at your company in the future, and this is ok. Let the candidate know they are welcome to reapply and to keep checking for jobs that more closely match their skills and qualifications.
By managing candidate rejections professionally and promptly, they can actually build a positive image for your company.