The best way to break up with your candidates
Editor's note: This is a contributed piece by Liron Panaczuk, VP of people operations at Wibbitz.
Neil Sedaka sang in his hit song, “breakin’ up is hard to do,” and it’s as true in professional relationships as much as any other type. The recruitment process is exciting and nerve racking all at the same time. Candidates spend hours preparing their resume and practicing for their interview, while hiring teams hope that with each interview they’ll find the perfect candidate.
Unfortunately, it’s not always a perfect fit no matter how wonderful a candidate is. Although the interview process can be challenging, it can also prove to be a fruitful process as long as each candidate is treated with respect and leaves feeling good, even if they aren’t offered the position.
There’s no denying that breaking up with candidates is challenging and uncomfortable, but here are three things that my team and I abide by to keep the process positive and mutually advantageous:
Keep an open line of communication
To apply for a job, a candidate must understand that, as eager as he or she may be, they’ll need to have a lot of patience as they wait to hear back from the potential employer. Most will wonder, “did they receive my resume?; do they think I’m qualified?; are they going to invite me in for an interview?” Every candidate knows they are one of many applying for that position and it takes time for a company to sort through all the resumes, but that certainly doesn’t make waiting any easier.
To put candidates at ease and show you respect their time and effort, be honest and provide an outline of the interview process at the beginning. Explain what’s in store for them: one phone interview and two in-person interviews, for example. Then, let them know how long you’ll be conducting interviews, or when you’re hoping to make a decision.
This open communication strategy will not only help candidates feel in the loop, but will also reduce the amount of follow-up emails asking if a decision has been made. You’ll also eliminate the risk of losing a great candidate to another company because they assumed they weren’t selected.
Don’t leave your candidates hanging
It’s no secret that people have been known to put off a “break up,” either because they want to avoid letting someone down or they want to avoid a difficult conversation all together. Regardless of the reason, you should be transparent with your candidates and let them know sooner rather than later; it’s better to rip the bandage off than leave someone hanging.
One rule of thumb I use: provide an answer — or at least an update — within three days of your most recent conversation. When a candidate isn’t chosen, we like to make the email that informs them as personalized as possible so they recognize their time and effort was valued. This small, personalized gesture goes a long way, showing the candidates that although they weren’t a fit for that position, you care about their career trajectory.
If a candidate is looking for more details as specific as to why they were not selected or for just general feedback on their interview, we invite them to reach out to our team so we can provide that information and help them succeed for future job opportunities.
Stay in touch
The hiring process is a two-way street and candidates can be a valuable resource, even when they aren’t chosen to join your team. That’s why my team and I distribute a short, anonymous survey after an interview is conducted, inviting them to rank their experience and provide feedback. We are proud to see a 50% response rate and when asked to rank us out of five for their interviewing experience, we’ve received a score as high as 4.53.
I also believe in second chances. There are many incredible men and women who, after the interview process weren’t offered a job, but are intelligent and wonderful people who could be a great fit down the line. For those candidates, it’s beneficial to hang on to their resumes for future opportunities that could open up down the road. In fact, about 5% of our applicants have re-applied for jobs with us at a later time.
At the end of the day, nobody likes being rejected, which is what it feels like when you don’t get offered an opportunity to take the next step with a company. To keep the experience positive, enjoyable, and mutually beneficial, take a moment and put yourself in the candidate's shoes, remember how it feels to go through the interview process, and follow the “Golden Rule” by treating them the same as you would want to be treated.