SmartRecruiters Blog

5 Ways to Let a Job Seeker Down Gently

One of the biggest complaints and frustrations from job seekers who apply for a position, is that they often never hear back from the company in regards to their application status. This lack of communication causes job seekers a great deal of anxiety at a time when they are often very vulnerable especially if they have been displaced or unemployed for an extended period of time.

In the United States, business professionals associate their self-worth with their job title. So when a job seeker is suddenly let go, they are left unsure how to engage and introduce themselves in a business-networking environment. The financial stress of being unemployed along with the urgency of the job search in addition to a professional identity crisis makes for a very emotional and irrational time.

As a job seeker, I can say there is never anything worse than not hearing back from a company. When I first moved to Oklahoma, I was among the final two candidates for a Human Resource Director position at a Houston based oil and gas company. The interview process involved two flights to Houston along with a third interview at the offices in Oklahoma City where the position was based. Two weeks passed from my final interview, without a reply. From Barcelona, Spain, during my honeymoon, I called the hiring manager to inquire about the status of my position.  Thirty-five dollars and seven minutes later, he told me the following, “You should be hearing something soon from us.  Likely in the next three days.”

I never did.  Not a single solitary word, letter, phone call, or even email.

  • Be Honest. If you’ve already made a hiring decision, give it to the candidate straight. No news leaves the job seeker cold, wondering, and alone. They could spread stories that could damage your reputation.


  • Call Them. The hardest phone calls are the phones that make us most uncomfortable. They are also the ones that we avoid, but shouldn’t. As a recruiter, you are the first point of contact for the job seeker. A bond has been formed, and you owe your candidate a call even if it’s not to deliver good news. Call them and tell them, “I’m sorry.  You didn’t get the job, but we’ll keep your application on file for the next six months.”


  • Email Them. Emailing is not my first choice when letting the candidate down easy. Once again they are left to create stories base on pure speculation. Technology isn’t always 100% , but depending on the amount of candidates, type of candidates, and the relationship established, an email can be acceptable. Send all your candidates an email even those who were not selected for an interview. Give them peace of mind knowing that you received their application and it was reviewed. However, someone else was the better fit.


  • Written Correspondence. This is the most impersonal form of turn down for the candidate. Nothing says I could care less about you, than a standard form letter send the same day you interviewed for the job. Pick up the phone and call the candidate first, and then send them a letter that reinforces your earlier message.


  • Provide Feedback. As I mentioned, the job search is a long and frustrating process for some. Provide them some insights into hiring best practices or suggestions on how they can improve or better prepare for the candidate selection process.  A job seeker toolkit send via email attachment is a great way to say, “I’m sorry you didn’t get the job, and I want to help.”  Depending on your industry, candidates are often also your customers; a toolkit can provide value and set you apart.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a HR consultant, new media strategist, and author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. Jessica is the host of Job Search Secrets, an internet television show for job seekers.

Photo Credit Volt and CareerCast

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a HR consultant, new media strategist, and author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. Jessica is the host of Job Search Secrets, an internet television show for job seekers.