Avoid Candidate Let Down: Quick Tips to Standardize the Candidate Rejections Process

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One of the biggest complaints and frustrations from job seekers is that they often never hear back in regards to their application status.

If I am being honest, candidate rejections are probably the least favorite part of any search. When I started  out as a recruiting coordinator I sometimes (all the time?) thought of them as the bane of my existence, especially when applications came in droves. But guess what – rejections are important. They’re a large part of the recruiting cycle, specifically vital in maintaining a positive candidate experience. So don’t sit on them, keep the communication open.

Here are some quick tips on how to both streamline and standardize the candidate rejections process.

Let’s start by breaking it down into three categories:

  1. Candidate applications that do not meet specified requirements
  2. Candidates who have interviewed
  3. Candidates who participate in final round interviews

1) Candidate applications that do not meet specified requirements   

Every job posting receives applications from candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements for the position. If you have clearly stated the requirements in the job description (and you should), it is okay to have a standard template to use for rejections. These templates can be straightforward. Ex:

  • “Thank you for your application to the ABC  position at Company X. We have reviewed your application, but have decided to move forward with other candidates for the role at this time.”

2) Candidates who have completed the first interview and are not moved forward in the process.

These rejections, while still straightforward, should be personalized and detailed. Let candidates know that you appreciate the time they spent preparing the application and interviewing. Below are a few examples from my colleague Meghan Maher’s blog:

  • “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today in regards to the ABC position at Company X.  We have decided not to move forward in the process as we are seeking candidates with five or more years of experience selling at the enterprise level.“
  • “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about the ABC opening at Company X. After our conversation we have decided not to move forward. This is due to your lack of expertise with Salesforce.com, which is required for this role.”
  • “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about the ABC opening at Company X. Unfortunately, we have decided to move forward with another candidate who had more experience within the Z industry.”

3) Candidates who have completed final rounds of interviews but are not selected.

For these candidates, I would recommend two options: If you have had a reasonable level of contact throughout the entire interview process, I would give the candidate the courtesy of a call. This should only be the case when you are comfortable speaking with the candidate and confident it would not be awkward or uncomfortable. The call should be brief and to the point. If you cannot get the candidate live, go straight to the email route. If you have not had a comfortable level of contact throughout the interview process, or it is a short interview process, I would simply send a personalized email. This email should be detailed in its explanation, highlighting the positives of the candidate. Many times, at this stage in the selection process the decision is not due to lack of experience or skills, but rather a stronger candidate in process.

  • “Thank you for your interest in Company X and your time during the interview process. Though the team was impressed with your [add specific details about what you were impressed by here], we have decided to move forward with another candidate at this time. We will certainly let you know if another positions opens that may be of interest. Thank you again for your time during this process.  Best of luck to you in your job search and please stay in touch. “

Whatever rejection you decide is appropriate, it is important to maintain a positive candidate experience. Complete and accurate feedback is the best way to go. If a candidate has taken the time to speak with, or come onsite for interviews, they deserve a personalized response with direct feedback as to why they were not chosen to move forward. Though candidates are sure to be disappointed, it’s important to keep lines of communication open for future opportunities, networking, and run-ins.