Dos and don’ts when rejecting candidates

How to reject candidates

It’s a sad fact that there are currently more rejections than acceptances in the job market. Rejecting candidates while maintaining a good relationship can be a tricky one.

Luckily, we’ve put together our top dos and don’ts to consider when relaying that difficult decision.


DO keep a jobseeker informed

It’s always good to contact applicants to let them know if they’ve been successful, even if they never get past the application stage. But if someone has taken the time to come for an interview, then this is especially important.

Daley Pritchard, Director of Non-Core Banking and Financial Services from Communicate says, “Inexperienced recruiters who aren’t confident in their understanding of a clients’ needs or in their ability to make a tough call can often fall foul of this and, when speaking to the candidate, will defer the rejection to the client or even avoid following up at all. Recruiters need to remember that transparency builds trust, and trust builds sustainable relationships.”


DON’T keep a jobseeker waiting too long

We’ve all been there, the nail-biting, the clock-watching, the desperation for the phone to ring. Waiting on good (or bad) news is never fun, so don’t drag it out any longer than is strictly necessary.

Put contacting the rejected candidates’ top of your to-do list once a new hire has been made, not something to get around to when you remember. This allows the jobseeker to get on with searching for other positions, or accepting other offers that may have come their way, and you’ll be remembered positively as a result.


DO encourage the jobseeker to apply again in the future

But only if you mean it. Don’t tell someone you’d love to hear from them again if you know it’s unlikely that they will ever be a good fit for your company. Whether that’s because of a personality clash, the wrong type of experience or something else entirely, you’re only wasting your own time as well as theirs by opening the door to multiple applications from them. On the other hand, if the candidate is almost there, be enthusiastic about showing it.


DON’T send out generic rejection letters to interviewees

It’s acceptable to do this to every candidate who applied, as individually replying to hundreds of interested jobseekers is not particularly practical. However, those that turned up for an interview deserve better treatment. At the very least, be sure to reference the person by their name, and if you can mention something positive about their interview, it may help soften the rejection news.


DO consider using the phone instead

Many employers and recruitment agents prefer to send out emails or letters to avoid the confrontation of speaking to a rejected candidate. However, it’s much easier to express tone and reply to any questions over the phone.

As Pritchard points out, “Any rejection or key update should be delivered over the phone. As a recruiter, you need to be able to control and influence what happens next. In an ideal world, I would love to do this in person, but of course, this is simply not practical. Delivering news of an unsuccessful application should be regarded as a jumping off point, a chance to change the tone by drawing lessons from the previous process and strategising.”


DON’T forget who’s in charge

It’s important to understand the importance of your role, so don’t oversell a candidate to a client, and don’t tell a candidate that a job is a sure thing.

“Managing expectations throughout a process is the greatest weapon in overcoming potentially difficult rejection scenarios,” says Daley Pritchard. “It can be easy for an overzealous recruiter to overstate a candidate’s chance of securing a specific opportunity. In an incredibly volatile market, this is a dangerous game.”


DO keep rejections brief

Whether you choose to go down the letter/email or phone route, don’t make a rejection any longer than it needs to be.

It’s also a good idea to get to the point as soon as you can. Don’t list all the reasons why a candidate is great, why they performed well at interview, only to reveal five minutes later that they weren’t successful. Instead, after the formalities are over, be upfront, say they weren’t successful and then move on to the reasons why they still impressed, it’s always better to end on a positive.


DON’T worry about multiple rejections

You may not find the perfect candidate in the first round of interviews. That doesn’t mean that you should employ the best of a bad bunch rather than face another set of rejections.

Pritchard agrees, “The hardest part of candidate rejections can be managing the initial disappointment whilst maintaining momentum to continue driving the search forward. In the current climate, the cumulative effect of sometimes multiple rejections can have a particularly negative impact.”


DO give jobseekers something to work on

The more information you can give a candidate on the reason they didn’t quite make it, the better. You don’t have to go into masses of detail, but if you can highlight an area they can work on, perhaps they need some more relevant experience for example, you not only do them a big favour.

You’re not only potentially helping them with their further career, but also if a more appropriate job arises in your company further down the line, you’ll be remembered in good light by the candidate.


DON’T enter arguments

It’s a downside of letting someone down over the phone, but as long as you have an exit strategy and remain calm, you should be fine. Being rejected for a job is tough to hear, especially if you’ve been let down multiple times, so try not to take it personally if a candidate gets annoyed, or even angry. Be polite and professional at all times, remain calm if the situation gets heated and never argue back.


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