Here's How to Let a Candidate Down Professionally

Here’s How to Let a Candidate Down Professionally

So, you’ve found the perfect candidate – but what about the ones who missed out?

Rejecting them in an unprofessional manner can put them off from applying again and seriously damage your reputation as a company.

In fact, Virgin Media were previously heavily criticised in a report for their poor candidate experience.

It’s believed that more than 130,000 candidates applied for jobs in 2014, with 18% of them being existing Virgin Media customers.

However, due to their poor handling of candidates, over 7,500 of them cancelled their subscriptions afterwards – which cost them in the region of £4.4 million!

While your business might not necessarily be on the same scale as Virgin Media, there’s still a chance you could upset candidates and cost your business money.

Is this something you can afford to do?

To help you avoid this, here are some tips on how to let candidates down in the right fashion.

Act quickly

Once you’ve made up your mind on which candidate you want to choose, don’t let the unfortunate ones wait.

Sure, you may have to spend a lot of your time preparing contracts and getting things ready for the new employee’s first day, but keeping the others on tenterhooks is disrespectful.

You need to remember that some candidates might have turned down other job offers in the hope of securing the role at your company.

Let them down quickly and you’ll maintain a certain level of respect.

Be personal

If you usually send a generic email or letter to unsuccessful candidates, it’s worth changing your system.

The bottom line is that both of these methods are incredibly impersonal and cold.

Sparing a few minutes out of your day to speak to them will make them feel valued and give them an opportunity to ask you for some comprehensive feedback.

At the end of the day, a candidate might have spent a long time putting their application together.

So, the least that you can do is to give them an extra couple of minutes of your time for some constructive and personal feedback.

After your phone call, follow it up by sending a quick email to reiterate the points covered and to thank them again for their time.

This way, the candidate will have your feedback on record, which will allow them to refer back to it whenever they need it.

You should also think about the way you address the candidate as well.

Don’t make the mistake of sounding like a pre-scripted robot.

Instead, you should use the candidate’s name and refer to any relevant personal bits of information you covered in the interview.

For example, if the candidate likes to play cricket in their spare time, wish them luck in their next match at the end of the feedback phone call.

This will mean a lot to the candidate.

Always keep it short and sweet

While giving detailed feedback is certainly important, focus on quality rather than quantity.

If you don’t keep it short and sweet, you’re more likely to waffle and say something wrong.

Whether you’re sending a personalised email or talking on the phone, keep the bad news to a maximum of one line.

For example:

“While we were extremely impressed with you as a person and the skills that you possess, we’ve decided to go with another applicant who has a bit more experience in managing employees.”

This kind of response gives the candidate some positive news and finishes with a suggestion on how they can improve themselves.

It’s telling them that by going out and getting more experience in managing employees, they will then be in a stronger position to land a job at your company in the future.

Never sugar coat it

Beating around the bush and glossing over the facts is an absolute no-no when it comes to rejecting a candidate.

Empathy might be a positive trait, but not giving a candidate the hard-hitting facts in a bid to keep them happy could seriously impact their future career.

If you’re genuinely interested in hearing from them again in the future, by all means, connect with them on LinkedIn and ask if you can keep their details on file.

However, if you don’t think that they’ll ever be a good fit for your company, then wish them all the best in the future and stop there.

Using expressions like “maybe next time” and “speak soon” is just giving a candidate false hope.

Trust me when I say, they’ll much prefer it if you’re upfront and honest to them.

Ask for feedback from the candidate

Hiring a new employee is a process, so you need to find ways to always improve it.

Similar to an exit interview, you can attain honest and open feedback from candidates if you simply ask.

There are two ways you can do this:

  1. Get them to fill out a quick survey via email
  2. Ask them their thoughts on the phone

It’s worth noting that you must do this once you’ve rejected the candidate.

Otherwise, you’ll get biased feedback as they won’t want to hamper their application with you.

Key lessons

The main things to remember during the rejection process is to ask candidates their thoughts on the whole experience and be willing to adapt.

Doing the rejection part in a professional way can take time to perfect.

As you do it more frequently, you’ll start to gauge what sort of things are received well and what aren’t.

Implementing these top tips is certainly a great starting point and will set you on the right path towards maintaining your company’s reputation and your relationship with the applicant.

For similar advice, you may find our previous blogs useful:

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