News No One Wants to Hear: Regretting Candidates

“Hi John, thank you for your interest in a position with ABC company. 

Although your background is impressive and we enjoyed our time meeting with you, upon further review, we were unable to select you as an ideal fit for the position and the organization’s current needs – the position has now been filled.

If you have any further questions regarding the selection process, please don’t hesitate to contact us!”

The above message is not exactly what an enthusiastic candidate wants to hear. Rejecting candidates can be one of the more challenging aspects of a manager or HR professional’s responsibilities. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, and while you most definitely don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, sometimes a candidate just isn’t the right fit for a role. Since leaving them hanging is bad form, one way or another, they need to be informed of your decision.

Rejecting candidates can be one of the more challenging aspects of a manager’s responsibilities.” 

So how do you go about rejecting a candidate while ensuring they feel respected and appreciated throughout the recruitment process?

Here are 6 simple steps to regretting a candidate:

1. Timing is Everything: Got a signed offer in hand from the successful candidate? Now it’s acceptable to regret the other hopeful applicants – not before! It can be dangerous to “jump the gun” by regretting candidates, and then realizing your top prospect is no longer interested in the position, or you can’t come to an agreed offer, and you’re now left without a candidate to fill the vacant role.

2. Get Straight to the Point: If the time has come to regret a candidate, don’t waste time by trying to engage in small talk or by diverging from the matter at hand. Whether it be by phone or email, kindly greet the candidate and thank them for their time and application, then in a matter-of-fact tone, advise them that they unfortunately were not selected for the job, and the position has been filled. If the candidate is someone of interest for future vacancies, tell them to keep an eye out for future opportunities with your company, or ask if you may contact them regarding future vacancies.

3. Don’t Make it Personal, but Personalize your Messaging: In many situations, when a candidate is rejected from a role after going through the interview process, it doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t a fit, it just means they may not have been the very best fit. When notifying an individual that they were not successful, tailor your messaging, and be kind with your wording to soften the blow of the bad news. Try not to be too generic in your conversation; the candidate will appreciate your sincerity and personalization.

4. Provide Feedback: Providing feedback to rejected candidates can be beneficial for several reasons. First, the feedback will allow the employee to learn and improve for the next opportunity that comes their way. Second, feedback allows the candidate to better understand the decision-making process, and the reason another candidate was selected over them. Being transparent about the decision-making process creates goodwill with the candidate, and fosters a positive employer brand. Finally, the candidate will likely appreciate that you were candid with them and gave them the information they need to improve their performance should they seek positions with other employers in the future.

5. End on a Positive Note: We’re all human, and no one likes to give or receive bad news. When passing on your regrets, be empathetic and understanding if they openly express their disappointment or frustration to you. Avoid a deep conversation and remain firm, but voice your sympathy and wish them all the best with their future endeavors and career ventures. Being empathetic and encouraging may be just what they need to bring back the pep in their step, and to move forward onto other job opportunities.

6. Don’t Leave Them Hanging: When rejecting candidates from positions, it is best practice that you make an effort to contact all that have applied. Not advising candidates if they’ll be proceeding in the hiring process or not can leave them wondering what’s going on and hopeful about their job prospect. Eventual disappointment and frustration from long wait times can lead to a bad reputation for your organization, and cause candidates to think twice about reapplying or encouraging others to apply. The rejection notice is really the last opportunity to build a relationship with candidates and leave a positive impression. It all boils down to common courtesy – if a candidate has taken the time to complete an application, participate in a phone screen and/or attend an interview, it’s only polite to advise them of the outcome.

Your Engaged Assignment: Does your organization have a formalized rejection process for unsuccessful candidates? Are you being mindful of your tactfulness, transparency and empathy when you’re communicating the decision?  If you need any tips or feedback, we’re just a phone call away! Contact us.