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What to Say to Candidates You Don’t Hire

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You know the truth, and on some level, you expect your candidates to recognize it too: rejections are often a matter of simple math. They’re almost never personal. When you have one open position, 85 applicants, and ten interviews, there’s no way to sugarcoat the facts. You’re going to end up with 84 total rejections, and some of those will take place after candidates have put quite a bit of time into the process. Some may even be candidates who you may want to hire in the future. 

So how can you break the difficult news to these applicants without alienating them, discouraging them from applying in the future, hurting your workplace reputation, undermining your company brand, or damaging your personal image? Start by using these tips.

Be Kind

That is to say, show respect. Pay attention to your words and what they might sound like to the person on the receiving end. If you need to break the news by phone, give the listener your full attention. If you’re delivering the message in writing, review your words carefully and ask a colleague to look them over for a second opinion. If you have the resources, engage the support of your HR team and/or legal department.

Be Very Clear

If this is a flat, unequivocal rejection and you do not wish to continue the dialogue any further, don’t leave the door open to negotiation. If there is an opportunity available in the future, suggest that you’ll keep the application on file. If there isn't then don’t suggest so. This causes confusion on the candidate's end and creates false expectations of a possible job offer in the future. 

Call It Like It Is

Let the candidate know if you have selected another applicant or taken the position in another direction. Don’t try to explain exactly what credentials the candidates lacked, or why they may not be a good fit. Giving a just reason for not being hired leaves the candidates' confidence intact and your company will look good in the public's eyes.

End on a Positive Note

Thank your candidates for taking the time to consider working for your company and going through the application process. Good candidates are aware of the effort that goes into the selection process and can handle rejection when done professionally. Show interest in their ongoing career journey and wish them well in future endeavors.

For more on how to stay diplomatic as you deliver difficult news to your candidates, contact our recruiting and staffing experts today! 

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