Rejecting candidates is the most unpleasant but inevitable part of the recruitment process. It’s emotionally hard for both parties. That is why we should always reject as respectfully as possible, providing detailed and timely feedback.
Feedback is a detailed review of how good one did their job and what could have been done better, so do not mix it with criticism as feedback is much more than just praising or criticizing someone’s work. Instead, it’s a perfect tool to motivate your candidates, to help them improve and grow professionally. Try to make it as useful to your candidates as possible by preparing feedback in advance.
It’s also worth adding that we can’t evaluate ourselves in an unbiased manner as there are always some blind spots, so it is really important to receive such feedback with gratitude and use it properly. Remember that it takes time and effort for a person to prepare it.
The first thing you should think about when rejecting a candidate is that no one wants to be rejected. By default, we all consider rejection as something very negative & personal and it inevitably influences our self-esteem. In order not to hurt anyone’s feelings, concentrate less on the candidate’s personality and more on their skillset, try to reduce emotional stress and pay the careful attention to how you give feedback.
Here are the three biggest mistakes one can make when rejecting a candidate:
You should avoid expressions like “your attitude doesn’t match our company culture” or explain that despite the candidate's amazing and relevant experience, they seem to be too ambitious, sociable etc. to fit in with your team. Try to find reasons related to their technical skills or experience required for the position instead, but be honest and never make up reasons. A candidate may not believe or be happy with something like “your level experience is not good enough”. So, it’s better to send an automatic rejection email saying that “we have chosen to proceed with another candidate” when you don’t have anything useful to share. In this case, at least you won’t hurt the candidate’s feelings.
When it comes to professional skills you should always lean on concrete facts. For example: you can write “we are looking for a person with at least three years of relevant experience in mobile development with React Native while your CV suggests two years of experience” and avoid something like “we are looking for a more experienced candidate.” More experienced can mean anything from not enough years to a complete lack of skills in the required technology.
Stick to the feedback shared by your hiring manager and do not overinterpret or add anything of your own. You may let some unnecessary information slip and spoil the candidate’s experience or even hurt the company’s reputation.
In order to make the candidate experience as positive as possible, it is better to reject them in a call as that shows your caring attitude and genuine interest. Still, very often your work-load dictates the rules and you would have to work 24/7 to call all the candidates when there are dozens of inbound applications daily. Besides, it might not be reasonable to call the candidate when you do not have proper detailed feedback to share. So, when choosing the method of rejection, use your common sense and the communication channel that was initially chosen by the candidate. It is much more important to inform the candidate in time and in the most tactful way rather than the exact channel used to do this.
Mentioning the candidate’s age, sex, religion and other personal or physical aspects when rejecting can be interpreted as discrimnation, so this should be avoided when rejecting in writing. Make sure to avoid these topics when speaking to the candidate during a phone or video call as well, even if the candidate has become your best friend during the hiring process. For example, telling them that the hiring manager would like to have more women in the workplace, may backfire and not only hurt the HR brand, but also your reputation.
Unfortunately there are no ideal generic rejection templates, as it’s all about having a personal approach. However, here are some rules you should follow if you want to leave the window of opportunity open:
We should all remember that if the candidate has a good experience, even if they're rejected, they'll be likely to apply again or refer friends.