Candidate rejection: Knowing when to walk away

Knowing when to walk away from a candidate

You’ve spent time and effort whittling down the list of candidates to find the right one for you, but problems emerge. We look at how and when to cut your losses and find someone new.

Negotiate or walk away?

For most recruiters the make or break moment in the employment process comes at the end, when it’s time to negotiate the offer. A successful negotiation means that the process concludes with a hire, and everyone is happy. Of course, that doesn’t always happen, maybe the employer has second thoughts, maybe the candidate gets cold feet or perhaps the salary negotiations break down. There are many things that can go wrong.

What employers need to understand is when it’s best to cut their losses and move on. Having spent a lot of time and money finding the ideal candidate, it can be difficult to walk away. But recruiters have to consider that hiring the wrong person can be much more expensive in the long run.

Organisations spend huge amounts of money recruiting staff. Too many then continue to spend money on training and paying for people they should not have taken on in the first place. In around one-third of new jobs, the selected incumbents can be considered as ‘wrong decisions’ by the client company.

Honesty should be the best policy

So why does this happen? In most cases, the interview process is too rushed to allow time to check out details and facts, it fact it’s estimated that the number of people that lie or misrepresent themselves on their CVs range from around 30% to over 50%. This is why employers need to take the time to check an applicant’s credentials and references thoroughly. Statistics also show that companies that use a recruiter are far less likely to make this sort of elementary mistake.

Of course, if you do find yourself in this position as an employer then transparency is the best policy throughout. Don’t let yourself get into the position that one candidate recounts where he applied to “a large multi-national company, ran through three interviews and ended with the HR department sending him an email saying that they were waiting on his background check and then they would call him with the intent of making a firm offer. Three days later he received a call to say that they were restructuring the position and that they weren’t sure whether they would be hiring for that role anymore.”

While this sort of thing does happen and was very possibly true, leaving someone hanging like that is at the very least cowardly and at worst extremely unprofessional. Neither of which are desirable traits in the recruitment world.

Although you can’t legislate for all situations, the bulk of recruitment problems stem from four distinct areas: inadequate specification of needs; internal company politics; wanting the impossible or the very unlikely; or poor selection from among the possible candidates.

If you’ve genuinely taken all possible steps to ensure that your recruitment process is up to scratch and you still hit a brick wall, then there are several key things you need to ensure you do:

Let people down easy

It’s important to be tactful and considerate when you let the other party down. If handled well, you’ll preserve a valuable connection that you’ll be able to call upon at a later stage. If you end things on a bad note, you’ve burned a bridge and word of your unprofessionalism will get around. Whatever you do, don’t give people the cold shoulder.


Don’t hang around

If you’re 100% sure the candidate is not right, then don’t drag things on. Turn them down as soon as possible.


Be brave

Pick up the phone – email is impersonal. Just like you wouldn’t break up with your significant other via email, you shouldn’t turn down a candidate that way either.

It’s best to decline over the phone and speak directly with the person you interviewed. Although that conversation will very likely be far from comfortable, maintaining the relationship and being polite is of utmost importance.


Be discreet

When it comes to actually explaining why you’re not offering them the job, keep it short, sweet and to the point. Start off by thanking them for their time, but unfortunately they’re not the right fit for your organisation. If they press you for details, then you have to be prepared to explain your reasons.

Of course nobody’s perfect and we all make mistakes, and candidates change their minds, which is beyond your control. However, following these basic guidelines will ensure that you keep these situations to a minimum and at the very least come away from them with your head held high.


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