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Dealing with Rejected Candidates: Maintain a Positive Relationship

December 19th, 2014

It’s never easy to deliver bad news to a rejected candidate, especially one who holds impressive credentials and fine personality traits, and may have patiently maintained interest and respect through several rounds of interviews. Whether you recognize it or not, your candidates (all of them) are essential brand contacts, and their feelings about your workplace and about your product can have a wide circle of impact. When you treat customers well, your company benefits. But when you treat candidates well, your company benefits even more. And the reverse is also true. Before you say goodbye to second and third place contenders, keep these tips in mind.

Actually do it.

This is a no-brainer, but a surprising number of companies skip this easy step and suffer as a result. If a candidate goes through the trouble of attending a single interview—even a screening interview by phone—he or she deserves a clear and upfront yes or no response from the company. Never let the line simply go silent after the selection process has gone this far.

Express regret.

You don’t have to explain why you chose another candidate, and in fact, the less information you offer the better protected you’ll be from backlash and lawsuits. But accept the fact that eager, dedicated, smart and qualified candidates are probably going to feel disappointed by your decision. Their feelings may not be your problem, but if you respect these feelings, show some humanity, and try to keep the exchange polite and sympathetic, you’ll be leaving a positive impression that can last for a lifetime.

Keep the conversation short.

If you deliver the news by phone, make it clear that you can’t discuss the particulars of the decision. Simply deliver the message and say goodbye. Encourage the candidate to apply again if this suits the situation. Even better, share your decision in writing. Keep the message limited to a few lines of text.

Thank the candidate.

By the final stage of the selection process, your candidates have made some heavy investments, both in terms of time and money. Thank them for their sacrifices and show some sincere appreciation for their interest in your company. Your parting words should be warm, not cold, and grateful, not dismissive.

Try to convey the sense that your decision was measured and fair, and that even though you ultimately chose another direction, you appreciate the candidate’s time and interest and wish her well. For more on how to deliver this message properly, reach out to the staffing experts at Merritt.

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