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Don’t Leave Them Hanging: How to Close the Loop with Job Candidates You’re Not Hiring

Published on 2/20/2019 12:00:00 AM

After screening multiple resumes and interviewing a handful of candidates, you’ve narrowed down your next new hire. Reaching out to the candidate who made the cut is easy. But how will you address all the candidates who didn’t?

Although it may be uncomfortable to deliver bad news, it’s a courteous and professional gesture to let candidates know where they stand. Depending on the type of candidate, here are some ways to make the correspondence easier.

Candidates who applied but didn’t interview — For candidates in the initial pool who were immediately dismissed, you can send rejection emails before you even start interviewing. Draft a standard email (although be sure to include the candidate’s name and the position applied for) to let them know they are no longer in consideration for the job. The content should be clear and direct, with a statement that, after careful consideration, the candidate was not selected for an interview. Always thank candidates for their interest and time, in addition to wishing them luck on their job search.

Candidates who interviewed — Once you’ve interviewed an applicant (either in person or by phone), you may want to deliver the news in a more personal way — especially if the candidate has gone through multiple rounds of interviews. The correspondence you send to these applicants should be more detailed than your standard rejection email, referencing the interview date and thanking them for their involvement. If you think any applicants would be a good fit for other positions within your company, encourage them to apply again in the future or for another open position.

Internal candidates — Since they already work for you, internal candidates warrant a more personal rejection, too, regardless of whether or not they were interviewed. If possible, you should meet with internal candidates one-on-one to discuss why they weren’t selected. Rather than focusing on negative or critical feedback, offer guidance on how they can better position themselves for the role in the future. This may include actionable items, like taking on a specific task, learning a new skill or enrolling in a training program.

More Pointers for a Proper Response

Follow these additional guidelines to handle candidate rejections professionally and politely:

  • Don’t deliver the news by phone — While it may seem friendlier to phone candidates, this could put them on the spot. They’re forced to respond to the news, which is most likely disappointment. Or worst, they may try to challenge your decision. Stick to email instead.
  • Be straightforward — No matter which kind of candidate you’re rejecting, it’s important to be direct and inform them they’re no longer in consideration for the role. If you try to sugarcoat or sidestep the actual rejection, you create false hope.
  • Don’t mislead — Similarly, if candidates aren’t a good fit for your company or the role, don’t invite them to reapply at your company or tell them you’ll revisit their application materials. Thank them for their time and interest, but don’t encourage them if you know they’re not a good match.
  • Watch the wording — Avoid using the words “rejection” or “rejecting” when communicating with candidates. These words have a negative connotation, and most people don’t take rejection well. Instead, use phrases such as “We will not be proceeding with your job application.”
  • Don’t announce the new hire too soon — Before you share the news of your new hire publicly (whether a press release, on LinkedIn or on Facebook), contact the candidates you’re not hiring. You won’t leave a very good impression with candidates if they learn their fate by going online and seeing that the position has been filled.

Get Help with Hiring

Are you ready to update your hiring process with easy-to-use, online tools? HRdirect Smart Apps offers two web apps for more effective hiring: Job Application to create and customize state-compliant job applications, and Applicant Tracking to track and evaluate candidates.

Ashley Kaplan, Esq.
Presented by: Ashley Kaplan, Esq.,
Senior Employment Law Attorney
A record number of state and local employment laws were passed in 2018, and many more are pending. With each new law that passes, employers must struggle to understand and comply with ever-increasing obligations.