Rejection is hard. No one likes to say no, and no one likes to be said no to. But when you have two to three great candidates, and only one job title to hire for in your company, unfortunately, you will have to deliver some bad news. There are a few things to think about before you speak with a candidate who isn’t moving forward.
First, understand why you need to follow up.
The farther a candidate goes into your process, the more interested they are in working for your company. They are investing more time and energy into landing a spot in your special role. If they are not the right fit, don’t lead them on or hang them out to dry. It is good to keep them in the loop, but also important to consider the timing of your response. If if you’re in the phone screening phase, and you know early on they won’t be a good fit, then deliver the news. By avoiding them or not following up altogether, you might be holding them back from other opportunities that they could be going after. However, if it is a candidate that has moved further along in the process, you should wait to deliver them a rejection until the other top candidate officially accepts. If the candidate does not accept, you will have another top candidate or candidates at the ready. Whereas if you were to reject all the other candidates right away and your pick does not accept, you will have to re-start the process.
Second, consider the method.
If you are turning down a candidate who had made it to the final stages of the process such as second interviews, you should call them. Let them know that you appreciated their time throughout the process and that it was a hard decision. If you would consider hiring them for another position in the future, let them know that they should apply for those opportunities if they really want to work at your company later on. If your candidates did not pass the phone interview or first interview, a general follow-up email would suffice to let them know you will not be pursuing their candidacy, but appreciate their interest and time.
Third, don’t feel so terrible.
Yes, telling a candidate that they aren’t moving forward certainly isn’t joyous, especially if you have met with them a few times and they are in your top two. But think of it this way – if they were so qualified to make it that far in your process – imagine how far they made it (or will make it) in some other company’s process. It is likely that the candidate you reject will accept an offer somewhere else, so you shouldn’t feel like you ruined all of their hopes and dreams. Think positive, and understand that the candidate you reject will probably find another opportunity that is better suited for them.
Lastly, business is business, but remember bad news shouldn’t leave a bad impression.
When you deliver a rejection, whether it be in person, via email, or over the phone, make sure to do it gently. While you want to make it clear that you won’t be moving them forward, you also don’t want to say it in a condescending or harsh way. Every interaction you have with a candidate is a chance to sell your Employee Value Proposition to the talent world. Leaving them feeling like their time was wasted or they were bad candidates will give them a bad impression of your company and how you treat people. This can lead to bad company reviews online or through word of mouth, so be sure to get your point across in a nice way. If a candidate presses you on why they are not moving forward, you can explain it was a difficult decision, competitive, and you had to consider every detail. Be very careful in your choice of words when delivering the news. You do not want to say anything that would put you or your company in a situation where you risk being accused of discrimination. The best thing to do is to thank them for their time and wish them the best moving forward on their job search.
For most people, rejecting someone or taking rejection is just plain difficult, but it’s a necessary task. We can’t hire them all, and we certainly cannot take every rejection we deliver personally, because, in the end, you need the right person for the role, not just anyone. As NewHire puts it, “Every job deserves the right person!” and your job is no exception. You will have to reject some good candidates along the way in order to hire the right candidate. For more information on best practices for making employment offers, check out our webinar recording on Step 6 in the recruiting process: Hire ’em!