PrincePerelson & Associates

How to Reject a Job Candidate Gracefully

None of us enjoys rejection. Similarly, no hiring manager relishes the duty of telling candidates they weren’t selected for the job. But the way you reject candidates says a great deal about your company.

If you send a generic “thanks, no thanks email” back, applicants won’t feel like the investment of their time was taken seriously. However, if you adopt a professional yet empathetic approach, you can solidify your reputation as a classy organization and create an atmosphere that continues to attract top talent.

With this in mind, here are some ways to reject a candidate without burning bridges.

Be quick to inform

Don’t leave the candidate hanging for weeks. Once you know that the decision has been made and another candidate has been selected, break the news to the rejected applicant. This helps alleviate applicants’ anxiety and frees them up to look for and accept other offers.

Be direct

Remember to limit the small talk when you contact candidates that did not make the cut. They know why you’re calling, so don’t beat around the bush in telling them that they weren’t selected.

Give them closure

Once you have informed the candidate that they didn’t get the job, don’t end the conversation there. Be transparent about why they weren’t a good fit for the role. This provides them with closure and also a roadmap of what they need to work on to become a more viable applicant for a similar or better role. For example, if they seemed promising but lacked a certain certification, you can open the door for them to get qualified and apply again.

Stay away from scripted responses

Stilted, pre-written rejections don’t go over well. Personalize your message based on the situation and the profile of the candidate. Ensure them that you took the time to review their qualifications so they know that you put a high priority on people.

Don’t provide false assurances

It might sound like the easy way out to promise a candidate that you will consider them for another role to help them feel better, but it can do more harm than good. If there is no prospect of an applicant securing a future role, don’t say that there is. Otherwise, you could find them coming back for more, which will ultimately waste your time and theirs.

Ask for feedback on the hiring process

Be sure to ask the candidate about their experience with your hiring process. Doing so helps you gain insight into what you’re doing well and what you could improve upon. This can also head off any negativity before a disgruntled candidate takes their experience to social media. Instead, you can work to resolve the concern so that the candidate leaves with a favorable impression of your company—even if they aren’t destined to be a part of it.

Thank and encourage them

Finally, thank the candidate for taking part in your hiring process. As a recruiter, it is often easy to forget that the candidate has set aside their time to make themselves available. The fact that they didn’t get the role shouldn’t disregard the effort. Gratitude can go a long way in making the candidate feel respected and valued—even if you can’t provide them with a job right now.

Get Connected

In the scenario where you see a candidate working for your company in the future, encourage them to stay in touch and offer to keep them informed about potential openings. You can also connect with the applicant on LinkedIn.

Pro tip: To keep a promising potential employee engaged, check in now and again to see what the candidate is involved with. If applicable, let them know what’s on the horizon for your company’s hiring needs.

Rejecting a job candidate is never an easy task. If it goes down the wrong road, it can set candidates back and reflect poorly on you and your organization. Keep in mind the tips provided above, and always remember that you are communicating with a person who deserves your respect—regardless of the outcome.

Remember that most people understand that rejection is part of the job search process. They will appreciate hearing from you—even if the news isn’t what they had hoped for—so that they can move on with their job hunt.

If you feel you are not well-equipped to handle this process yourself, enlist the services of a placement agency like PrincePerelson to do it on your behalf.