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Rejecting candidates; one woman interviews another woman

TestHow Respectfully Rejecting Candidates Impacts Reputation

How Respectfully Rejecting Candidates Impacts Reputation

Imagine receiving a thank you note from a candidate after rejecting them. This is a common occurrence at rater8, where we aim to ensure everyone who interviews with us is treated with respect regardless of the outcome.

Bearing Bad News

One of the hardest parts of recruiting is telling candidates they haven’t been selected to move forward in the interview process. Over the past 18 years, I have told countless, remarkable people they are not getting a job they had hoped for. It hurts rejecting candidates who have not only invested time and energy into preparing for the role, but have also undergone multiple rounds of interviews. The challenging thing is that, more often than not, I really love the candidate; however, the reality is that the final decision is not mine to make.

Rejecting candidates; three professionals holding signs over the face that say the word "no"

Throughout my career, I have made an ongoing personal choice (one my employers have never required of me) to be transparent with the candidate. If they make it to the next step in the selection process after our initial conversation, it’s because I believed them to be a great fit for the job. If they ultimately aren’t selected for the position and the time comes to let them know the bad news, I do the following three things:

  1. I tell them it’s really unfortunate, but they were not chosen to move forward. If I have feedback from the hiring team that will benefit them, I share it. Be mindful that feedback is an opinion, and sharing too many details can be a liability. Instead, focus on sharing general feedback.
  2. I let them know the rejection is not a reflection of how I feel about them as a person. I tell them this is the hardest part of my job, and that I would love to stay connected on LinkedIn so we can easily find each other if our paths cross again.
  3. I sincerely wish them the best of luck on their journey. This reminds them that you’re human and that you respect them as an individual beyond the parameters of your role within your organization.

Simply telling an applicant the decision wasn’t mine, nor a reflection of how I felt about their candidacy, goes a long way. It helps candidates understand my role in the process. Sharing how hard it is to relay the bad news helps people feel appreciated and respected for the time they’ve invested. 

Candidates have written to me to say, “This is the best bad news I’ve ever gotten,” as well as, “Thank you so much for updating me. Most recruiters don’t follow up, leaving me to assume I didn’t get the job.” Recruiters, it pays to be honest and make sure the candidate feels valued despite the outcome. Don’t ghost them.

Rejecting candidates; happy, indifferent, and sad smiley faces, with a checkmark beside the happy one

Human First

My personal motto that “we are human first” drives me to serve candidates with a white-glove experience. When we’re interviewing people, we are talking to other human beings who are putting all of their hope on the line. They’re expending energy into the process, taking time off from their job or other obligations, and maybe even losing sleep over their job search. They’re committed to the process and take the time to show up. They deserve the respect of knowing where they stand afterward.

Consider if it were you in their shoes. Interviewing is a two-way street. While you’re gauging whether the candidate is the right fit, they’re vetting your organization as a match for their goals, too. Once they’ve invested time in the process, they shouldn’t have to assume that silence means they didn’t get the job. It’s disrespectful to them and detrimental to your company’s reputation. While your company is paying you to look for talent, remember you’re also one human being talking to another. The old adage “treat others how you want to be treated” goes a long way. How you treat people makes a difference, and your reputation as a recruiter is always on the line.

Rejecting candidates; two people shake hands

Candidates As Customers

While I wish I could hire many of the people who I instead must reject, I know those decisions aren’t always reflective of the candidate’s skills, and they deserve to know that as well. For example, sometimes two candidates are equally strong, but only one offer can be made. Understanding that can help lighten the blow on the setback in a candidate’s job search process. It reminds them that while this particular role wasn’t a fit, there’s a great role with the right company out there waiting for them.

To my fellow recruiters: Remember, we’re in a support role, a client-centric position. While you’re looking to please your hiring managers and give them the best possible candidates to interview, your candidates are also your customers and should be treated as such.

Keep in mind, candidates can be a source for more applicants and can even become clients. Treating them with respect will improve your company’s reputation. Ghosting them can tarnish your reputation just the same. The last thing you want are negative reviews on Glassdoor simply because you failed to extend the courtesy of letting someone know where they stand.

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