3 Ways to Turn Down a Candidate and Preserve Your Reputation

Jul 15 2016

thumbs downJob Seekers are often just left hanging because employers don’t want to say the words, “We didn’t choose you.” Rejecting people isn’t easy and being the bearer of bad news on a regular basis is a bit of an art form. Why should you take the time to reject a candidate? The short answer is because it’s the right thing to do. The long answer is because career (and company) success is about having a great reputation and building smart relationships. This means thinking of everyone you meet as someone who will shape your reputation for future opportunities—whether it’s as a potential employee, client, financial backer, or part of your overall network. You can do this by using one of these 3 simple approaches:

1. The Email Rejection
Every job seeker we’ve worked with will tell you he’d much rather receive an email (even an automatically generated one) telling him he wasn’t selected for the role, as opposed to having no communication at all. The consensus is that it’s better to know than to be left wondering. This can be as simple as a quick email template that comes from you, your HR manager, or an in-house recruiter. Simply say, “Hi John, thank you for your interest in joining our team. Unfortunately you were not selected to move forward in the role, but we appreciate your time and will be back in touch if we have another opportunity that might be a fit in the future. Best wishes, Jane Smith.”

2. The Abridged Rejection
A short, personalized rejection via phone or email is a polite way to turn down a candidate. You’re not obligated to justify your decision, but it’s always nice to give a little bit of substance to back up your choice and most candidates will respond well to it. One way to approach this is to say, “Hi John, thanks so much for your interest in this role. It’s been a very difficult decision for us, but in the end we’ve decided to go with someone who has a little bit more project management experience. We loved your enthusiasm and would like to consider you for a future opportunity down the road. We wish you the best.”

3. The Helpful Rejection
If you’ve had to make a very difficult hiring decision and must reject extremely qualified candidates, a certain degree of transparency around your rejection will usually be welcomed and greatly appreciated. Highly qualified candidates are excellent contacts and staying on great terms is a smart business decision. Offering some specific feedback and/or explaining the reasoning behind your decision is respectful and informative. This doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but noting a few key points that factored into your decision will help your candidate understand how to better position himself for another opportunity and it will also give him areas to consider for professional development. The chances that your paths will cross again are strong, especially if you live in a small town or work in a niche industry. Keeping that relationship warm can only benefit you both in the future.

Happy Hiring!


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