Rejection is an unfortunate but essential part of any hiring process. When done right, proper passing on candidates shapes how think about and handle future situations. This means that as HR professionals, the way you convey rejection to candidates plays a big part in forming that company’s candidate experience. 

If a candidate rejection is handled gracefully, it can leave a positive lasting impression on the candidate. Satisfied, engaged candidates can make up a healthy talent community and contribute to a positive employer brand image long term. 

Conversely, a negative candidate experience resulting from poor rejection experience can be expensive. The Human Capital Institute found that 72% of job seekers report sharing their negative candidate experiences online. Similarly, 55% of job seekers avoid companies that they have read bad reviews about. 

In the world of Glassdoor and social media, there is more at stake when it comes to preserving candidate experience. Here is how to handle candidate rejection kindly.

1) Email the candidate immediately

First things first, no one likes to have their time devalued. One of the top causes for negative candidate experience is the lack of response from employers. A survey found that a whopping 75% of candidates never hear back from an employer.

Job hunting can be emotionally taxing, and you want to notify the candidate as soon as you know so they’re not left hanging. Imagine investing hours of effort into a job application only to be ignored and overlooked. While there is some debate over whether difficult conversations should be done over the phone or email, the majority of candidates prefer email. Reach out as soon as you get word that the hiring manager doesn’t want to move forward with a candidate. Regardless of how you choose to deliver the news, through email or phone, it’s important to keep feelings in mind. Rejection can be difficult to hear, so timeliness and compassion are paramount.

2) Be sensitive

One of the hardest parts of rejection for candidates is the immediate reaction to make it personal. When rejecting a job candidate, you already know that you are not rejecting them as a person, but just for the particular position… but do they know that? Wording and tone play a significant part in providing clarity and empathy.

Examples of role-focused rejection include “have decided not to move on into the next phase” or “will not pursue your candidacy further.” If the candidate is considered for the talent pipeline, inform them that you will retain their application for future openings.

It’s best to personalize your communication, especially for late-stage candidates. Small gestures can go a long way in building a positive candidate experience. Genuinely thank them for their time. Or if you’ve established a rapport, adding personal notes can demonstrate thoughtfulness and empathy.

3) Give candidate feedback

Whether this is a late-stage or early-stage candidate, they will almost always appreciate thoughtful, constructive feedback. Of course, this depends on where the candidate got in the process, so it is up to you to decide if it would be appropriate. For instance, if the candidate’s job application was rejected simply due to a mismatch in job scope, this wouldn’t need to be communicated thoroughly. 

Remember that all feedback should be tied to specific examples. It could be that a candidate needs to focus on delivering even more value in interviews or ways they can better “sell” themselves more effectively. As with all constructive conversations, it’s important to lead the conversation with things they did well. Chances are, the candidate is already feeling down. You don’t want to make them feel worse.

4) Continue candidate relationships

Many recruiters have close relationships with candidates, so it can be jarring if a candidate gets an automated rejection email rather than a personalized notification.

The relationship candidates have with their recruiter is a key part of continuous candidate engagement, and it’s important to nurture it. Even if the hiring team already emailed or called the candidate to let them know that they’re not moving forward with them, still make it a point to contact them yourself. Additionally, keep an open line of communication with the candidate.

Some of the best practices for preserving candidate experience are:

  • Invite the candidate to connect with you on social media. LinkedIn is a great platform for professional connections. Interact with past candidates on social media to build a closer relationship (e.g congratulating them on a new role, commenting on their posts).
  • As a recruiter, tap into HR events like career fairs. Having an available talent pool to invite to these events will boost your reliability and expand their opportunities.  
  • Keep a track record of exemplary candidates so that you can contact them again for future positions.   

You never know where your recruiting plans will take you, so it’s critical to give every candidate the best experience possible. GoodTime’s hiring experience solutions create a best-in-class candidate experience that’s scalable, measurable, and memorable. Schedule a demo today to learn how you can optimize your hiring experience to win top talent, faster. 

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