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The landscape of human resources is changing rapidly. With the explosion of social media and sites like Glassdoor, people can comment on their experiences with your recruitment and employment process. In fact, around 60% of job seekers report negative candidate experiences with the employers they engage with; and around 72% of job seekers share their experiences online.

Try to think of candidates that you interview as customers: if they had a negative experience, would they likely do business with you? Would they reapply? Their opinion will matter. Throughout the whole recruitment process, from the initial phone screen to the interview stage, recruiters should inform candidates of what they should expect next in the recruitment process. Now, it’s time to inform the candidate that they did not get the job. What do you do?

Here’s how to reject candidates without burning bridges.

Helpful Resource: Read ‘10 Interview Tips to Ensure a Smooth Hiring Process.

Knowing How and When to Reject a Candidate

1. Act Quickly Following the Interview.

It’s a courtesy to candidates. If a phone screen or in-person interview did not go well, and your hiring manager knows they would like to move forward with other candidates, reject the candidate quickly. Even though rejecting a candidate can be difficult, the candidate will be grateful they received a response from the company. Now they can use their time and effort elsewhere when job searching. If you use a generic template, make sure to customize it enough that they feel you took time to communicate with them. Completely automated emails make it feel impersonal, which can cause bad feelings towards the company.

If an interview did go well and this candidate was a top contender for a position but the hiring manager selected a different candidate, notify them immediately after you receive an accepted offer from the other candidate.

2. Talk to Them.

When notifying a candidate that they did not get the job, hold a phone conversation with them, especially if you met them for an in-person interview or a video interview. If you’re unable to get a hold of them within two days, then feel free to leave a voicemail or send an email. When sending an email make sure to thank them for not only their time, but sharing their experiences with you. Use the broad term of the hiring team when referring to whose decision it was to not move forward, to keep it broad enough that it doesn’t feel like it is a person to person rejection, but a company- person rejection. This is easier to get over and not feel discouraged versus a personal rejection. While it isn’t always rational, rejection can be very hard to get over and not take personally for anyone. Make sure you thank the candidate for considering your company for employment. Also, make sure to always keep your language unified with the hiring team. Overall, an email can be a great way to give a lot of tough information to a candidate where they feel properly rejected without struggling through a phone call. Keep the conversation short and sweet; there is no need for a long explanation as to why they did not get the position. Neutral terminology is the best way to pass along this message and have the candidate leave feeling neutral or still positive about a company.

If the candidate asks for reasons why they did not receive the job, stick to job-related criteria to avoid legal issues. When speaking with the candidate, add personal touches to remind them that your company sees them as a person and not just an applicant – use their name when speaking to them, mention the position they applied for, and consider mentioning something that they shared with you during their interview. Have the interview notes handy when making the call so that you may reference specific interactions that you had. This will not only offer constructive criticism for the candidate as they move forward in their search, it shows that your decision-making while hiring is thoughtful and calculated.

3. Provide Words of Encouragement.

If you can picture this candidate being a strong fit for another position for your organization down the road, encourage them to regularly check your careers page to see if any other job opportunities would interest them. Just because a candidate didn’t come out at the top for this position, does not mean that they couldn’t be ideal for another position. For such candidates, tell them that you’ll keep their resume handy as you anticipate impending job openings and that you’ll stay in touch. Keeping a good rapport with interviewees improves your employer branding image and keeps your company’s reputation intact.

If you cannot see the candidate as a great fit overall, do not encourage them to reapply. Do not say anything you don’t mean. If you did encourage them and they applied for a different position in the future, it will only cause frustration when they don’t hear back from you the second time around or if they are rejected for the same reasons.

4. Thank Them!

Always remember to thank your candidates. Thank them for expressing interest in your company and for taking the time to interview with you. In addition, make sure to wish them the best as they move forward in their job search.

How to Write the Perfect Candidate Rejection Email

It’s one thing to know when to reject a candidate — but it’s a whole other ballgame when it comes to how. A prompt and good candidate rejection letter doesn’t leave the candidate wondering, it provides closure to the job seeker, and will ideally uphold your employer branding.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re writing a candidate rejection email.

1. Begin With a “Thank You”

Receiving rejection is never easy, but it’s almost always necessary. To lighten the blow and to show genuine appreciation for a candidate’s interest in working at your company, thank them for applying and for taking the time to speak with you. Also thank them for sharing their skills and experiences with you.

Be sure to add a line or two about how impressed you were with certain experiences or how the candidate handled a tough question during the interview.

2. Let Them Down Easy

Give the candidate a clean break with no room for interpretation. Use phrases such as “we have decided to move forward with another candidate” or “we are not able to proceed with your application.” You can also use the term “the hiring team” as it is unified and neutral. While it’s never bad to let a candidate down easy, be sure to be straightforward that they are not getting the job. Additionally, do not apologize for moving forward with the right candidate.

3. Give Reasoning

Getting rejected can leave a candidate wondering where they went wrong and having self-doubt. By giving a few reasons that are strictly job-based, you can offer both constructive criticism and give them a much-needed sense of closure. It is becoming more common for candidates to reach back out and ask for feedback. Collect feedback from everyone who interviewed and share the things that can be improved and are job-based. That way they can learn something from your feedback.

4. Be Personal and Cordial

Review the candidate’s resume and your notes from their interview(s). Pick an anecdote, skill or job experience that you were impressed with and make it known that they have potential. But don’t just offer this to be friendly — it’s important that you really mean it. This step is especially crucial when rejecting candidates that may be viable for a future position at your company.

5. Keep It Short and Sweet

A job rejection email shouldn’t be too long; and there’s a chance that the candidate won’t even read beyond the bad news. Be sure to frontload the most crucial information within the first paragraph. Make sure to end your email with a closing statement that is sympathetic, like: “Take Care,” “Sincerely,” or “Best Regards.”

6. Finish on a Professional, Positive Note

If a candidate seemed promising but barely didn’t make the cut, make it known that they should apply again in the future and that you’ll keep their resume and interview notes on file for an expedited interview process should they reapply for a new position down the road. You may even suggest that they connect with you on LinkedIn, or refer them to a different department/organization altogether.

Timing and Communication is Everything

It is never appropriate for an employer to fail to respond to a candidate. Respect each candidate and show common courtesy by informing the person that he or she did not move on in the hiring process. It is equally important to notify the person in a timely manner. Remember, disgruntled individuals have a platform for all to see and your business’s integrity is on the line. As a business owner or human resources professional, it should always be your goal to build a healthy talent pipeline.

Interested in learning more tips of the trade from our HR department? Check out our HR Blog Series for additional industry insights and best practices. Or contact your local independent agent to ask how Society can make a big difference for your business.