How Not to Reject Job Applicants

Perspectives
Sep 3, 2013
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9 Min Read

You’ve screened resumes, interviewed candidates, and now you’re ready to make a hire. But wait – while your attention might be focused on the new person who will be joining your staff, don’t forget about all those other candidates who are waiting to hear back from you.

Yes, it’s rejection time. No one likes doing it, and candidates certainly don’t like receiving them – but it’s far better than letting people continue to wait and wonder if they’re still in the running, as too many companies do.

But when it comes time to reject job candidates, there are four big No’s to remember. Don’t reject candidates in any of the following ways:

By phone. You might think that it’s polite to phone candidates to let them know they didn’t get the job, but resist that impulse and send an email instead. Phone calls put candidates on the spot: They have to react to the rejection while they’re still in the immediate moment of disappointment. It’s awkward. And the call often creates a moment of false hope, which then dissipates when the candidate has to pull it together to be gracious about disappointment seconds later. (Besides, email is better on your side too, since some candidates will try to argue your decision.)

With an email so convoluted the applicant isn’t sure what it means. When you’re letting a candidate know that she is no longer under consideration, be sure to state that clearly. Sometimes in an effort to be diplomatic, rejection emails leave job candidates unsure what you’re actually saying to them. Just be direct: “We appreciated your time and interest in working with us, but we have decided not to move your application forward.”

With silence. Most candidates put a lot of effort into preparing for a job interview—reading up on your company, practicing answers to interview questions, and thinking about how they could best offer something of value. They might take a day off work and spend time and money traveling to the interview. If you decide not to hire them, they deserve to hear that. But too often, employers never get back to them with an answer, leaving them waiting and wondering what happened. Give your candidates the courtesy of a clear rejection when they’re no longer under consideration.

By announcing the new hire. Too many job seekers have stories of waiting to hear back about a job they interviewed for, only to get online and see an announcement from the company of their new hire – in a press release, on LinkedIn, or on Facebook. That’s no way for someone to find out they didn’t get the job – and it’s a recipe for creating bitter candidates who won’t apply with you again, refer friends, or in some cases even use your product. So before you announce your new hire publicly, make sure you’ve gotten back to the candidates you’re not hiring.

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