The Art of Rejection: Making the Best of a Turn Down

Posted by Kathleen Smith

How you handle candidate rejection affects your company brandAs cleared recruiting professionals, you know that hiring the best and the brightest is vital to the success of your organization. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that a timely and respectful process for informing a candidate they haven’t gotten a position is also imperative.

You may interview 5+ candidates but you will only hire one. Those 4 who didn’t get the job will share their experience with others. In today’s world of social media and the tight cleared community, the quality of those experiences can spread like wildfire.

Research tells us that the candidate experience is very important and that company reputation fuels interest from the top talent pool. Understanding that how you handle candidate rejection affects your company brand is an important point to keep in mind.

Also very potent is the power of referrals. That candidate who is not quite right for a certain position can be connected to dozens of other cleared job seekers who might be perfect for your organization in the future. If a rejected candidate refers his network to you, that’s powerful. Plus that rejected candidate might be just the person you need a couple of months from now. It will be so much easier to reel them in if they feel good about you and your organization.

Often in recruiting it can be an odds game. The goal is to increase the odds that even candidates who have been turned away will become advocates for your organization. Here are a few ways to cultivate the art of silver linings.

Ghosting Is A No-No

In the 21st century vernacular “ghosting” means to end contact with someone without explanation. While typically this is a term from social circles, it can’t be denied that it also takes place in the recruiting world.

Everyone has had this experience sometime in their professional life when you apply for a position but your resume seems to get sucked into a black hole. Recruiters have a full plate and when you hire in mass this is such an easy way to let a candidate believe there is no interest.

A recent study indicates that waiting for a response from an employer is the #1 complaint for almost 50% of job seekers. No response can quickly alienate at least this percentage of your potential talent pool. Further research reveals that candidates share their bad experiences with their network 66% of the time. Do the math. How will your company brand stand up to this negative publicity?

Takeaway: Utilizing a ‘no answer’ to mean ‘no thanks’ is a poor recruiting strategy.

Candidates Deserve Feedback

To eliminate a poor candidate experience put steps in place to communicate outcomes early in the process. All candidates who are not being considered should receive this indication in a timely manner.

Really, it can be accomplished. Enterprise, a leader in the transportation industry, has a stringent rule of replying to every applicant. They hire hundreds a year and reject many times more so their example shows it can be done. They know their employer brand relies on positive experience and they make sure that all who apply know they are important.

If you don’t have a system in place, figure out how you can efficiently send a professional response to all applicants. A quick email thanking them for their interest and wishing them success is a solid approach to building your business reputation. Encouraging them to keep an eye out for future opportunities with your organization is an even better way to develop goodwill and a larger talent pool.

Offer An Explanation

Most recruiters will have an opinion as to how much explanation you give to job seekers for the rejection. Deep details are not required. But if a candidate has given up their time to go through an interview process, timeliness is important and your feedback will be greatly appreciated.

If something was discovered during the interview process that could benefit the job candidate in their future efforts, why not inform them?

For example: Your follow up correspondence contained several typos; this position requires someone with great attention to detail.

If something changed, let them know: The role of the position shifted a bit and it was determined that we need someone with more experience in pen testing.

If the project fell through or if more certifications would have improved their prospects, candidates can move forward feeling less demoralized.

Sending a hopeful note can benefit you both in the long run: While we may have chosen another candidate with better qualifications for this position, we were impressed with your experience. Please stay in touch because new opportunities pop up regularly.

Why not make an ally wherever you can?

Step Away From Hostile Reactions

A job search is a very emotional and draining process. Candidates can let frustration build. Even if you have handled the rejection very empathetically and professionally, some job seekers may vent their feelings.

It’s most important in these situations to realize it’s not a personal attack. Stay on point, remain calm, don’t retaliate or even respond. Playing into an argumentative situation can add fuel to the fire. A hostile email does not deserve a response; an aggressive response on a phone call should be ended quickly. Thank the candidate for their time and wish them future success.

Your professional demeanor will benefit the job seeker in the long run by not allowing them to continue with behavior they will later come to regret.

Bottom Line

Treating candidates with respect makes you a shining representative of the company brand. All job seekers know that they will meet rejection at some point, but they will appreciate it being presented in a timely and professional manner.

With all the chatter about the difficulty in finding top tier cleared candidates, isn’t it worth a little extra time and effort to build word-of-mouth reputation and in turn a large talent pool?


This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 9:03 am

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