I’m sorry to have to tell you, but………

I'm sorry to have to tell you.... candidate rejection
candidate rejection

No-one likes giving bad news. But it’s a fact of life in recruitment that when one happy candidate secures the role, there will be a few more that haven’t. So how do you deal with candidate rejection?

As a responsible and caring employer, you should meet this head-on and treat the unsuccessful candidates in the best way possible.


Common old-fashioned courtesy

Yes, it’s a task that takes a bit of extra time, but it’s just the decent thing to do. Someone’s hopes were riding on that interview, and the least you can do is give them feedback as to why they were not chosen. If you do it properly, they’ll feel much better about themselves afterwards.

Your employer brand

Don’t underestimate the importance of your employer brand. People who apply for jobs with you can and will share their experiences, probably online. They may not have got the job, but if they are treated with courtesy, they’ll feel their time and effort was valued. Develop a reputation as an uncaring employer, and you’ll struggle to attract top people.

They may be great for future vacancies

Okay, they were not the ideal candidate this time. But what if the perfect role arises for them six months down the line. You need to have left them with a positive view of your organisation so that you can go back to them in the future.

So, as an organisation, you are embracing the need to give constructive feedback to non-successful candidates, but how exactly should you tackle this sometimes uncomfortable task?

Be honest

You are not doing anyone a favour if you tell them they performed brilliantly when they didn’t. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be tactful. This can be achieved by using neutral language rather than negative. And try not to introduce personal views– ‘I’m appalled that you were so badly prepared’ is wholly unhelpful. ‘I think more preparation was needed’ delivers the point without being cruel.

Be clear

If you genuinely think the candidate might be suitable for other vacancies, by all means, tell them you will keep their details, but don’t raise false hope. Be clear the current position is filled. And don’t make vague promises about future opportunities that may never arise.

Be helpful

You can help this person do better next time. If you say ‘your presentation skills are awful’ all you are doing is knocking their confidence. Instead, you could say ‘practice your presentation skills and ensure you look people in the eye.’ You’re giving them a piece of solid advice that they can take away and implement, and so improve their performance in their next interview.

Offer praise

If there were some areas whether the candidate really shone, by all means, let them know. You may have just told them what they need to improve, but if you follow up with ‘you’re clearly an expert in XYZ, and your enthusiasm for it really comes across’ it softens the blow. And again, it’s helping the candidate to know what to change and what to keep for next time around.

The final question is the method of feedback – phone, letter, email, text? We’d never recommend text as it is far too impersonal. As for the other methods, it really depends on how far along the process the candidate was. If they were in the final two, they deserve a phone call, that allows them to ask questions and delve further. Earlier in the process, a letter or email is okay as long as it is sent promptly.

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