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How to turn down unsuccessful candidates

If you are recruiting for a role in 2021, you’re probably receiving more applications than ever before. While a high volume of candidates offers choice when making a hiring decision, it can become a problem, particularly when it comes to turning down unsuccessful candidates.

When recruiting for new roles, it is important to maintain adequate communication with all candidates all the way through the application process, otherwise you could risk losing good candidates along the way. How you reject candidates also speaks volumes about your company and its work culture. Candidates who have a positive hiring experience – even if they were unsuccessful for the job itself – will think positively of your company and perhaps even tell others of the good experience they had with you. Those who are turned down poorly can be dissatisfied and take their feelings online posting reviews on Indeed, Google or sharing screenshots on social media accounts. Industry research has shown that over 70% of job seekers say they will share their negative experiences online and 55% would actively avoid certain companies if they had negative reviews online.

Here are our top pieces of advice to help create a positive experience for all candidates, whether they were successful or not:

• Do actually reject them

While it is unrealistic to be able to respond to every unsuitable CV and reject their application, it is crucial to keep candidates in the loop, especially if they have been through any of the screening processes.

Some companies do not let candidates know they have been unsuccessful, even after they have been interviewed. At Vital People, we think poor communication is a terrible way to treat people who have gone through the effort of applying for our roles. Keeping our candidates in the loop is something all reputable recruitment companies strive to do. We also advise being honest with our applications; if a candidate doesn’t have the required experience or skillset for a particular role, we inform the candidate of this as soon as it has been identified to avoid.

• Pick up the phone

Don’t stick to email when it comes to communicating with your applicants. Candidates need to feel valued by prospective employers and you can do this by keeping touchpoints of human connection through the recruitment processes, such as providing updates or rejections over the phone rather than on email.

If you do decide to turn down a candidate via email, a personalised email structured around a standardised template is a better choice than a automated email.

• Provide feedback where you can

Although informing a candidate why they’ve been unsuccessful creates more work and because of this many employers leave this step out, it is nonetheless the ethical thing to do. Candidates deserve to know why they have not been selected for the role.
Some of our best practice tips to giving constructive feedback include:

  • Empathise with the candidate’s disappointment
  • Mention something you spoke about during their interview
  • Be encouraging but truthful
  • Give an actionable tip on how they might develop further
• Positive candidate experiences count

Rejecting unsuccessful candidates after an interview can be hard, but you can still make people feel respected – and positive about your company. In an uncertain economic climate where compassion and empathy have proved themselves even more important, it’s crucial to imagine how you’d like to be treated.