How to Turn Down a Candidate

Respond to all applicants

“I hate recruiters who don’t give feedback,” says SmartRecruiters CEO Jerome Ternynck.

As humans it’s in our nature to avoid what is uncomfortable. We want to be liked, enjoy life, and turning down a candidate is not on a list of most businesses must-dos.  You don’t wake up in the morning and shout from the rooftops, “I can’t wait to turn down a candidate today!” According to hiring managers communication is often the number one most important trait they look for in candidates, and yet many companies don’t provide thorough communication for the job seeker to move on.

As a candidate , going through the hiring and selection process is much like dating. We meet, share pleasantries, and do our best to impress, looking for a spark or fire that intrigues us into wanting more. And by more, I mean more dates, more time, and eventually a long-term relationship. Sometimes relationships don’t work out, and one party makes the decision to move on. Without proper communication about said end to relationship, one party feels lost, angry, and unable to move on. The turn down selection process is a lot like that.

The reality is that many aren’t good at telling the candidate, we’ve found someone else in any part of the hiring or candidate engagement process.  Fifty percent of companies surveyed as part of Career CrossXoads Sources to Hire Survey did not communicate with the candidate whatsoever.  So it’s understandable that a candidate’s biggest job search frustration  is the lack of follow up, communication, and feedback from the employer.

One US News journalist states, “Post-interview silence from employers is callous and dismissive and lacks any appreciation for the fact that the candidate is anxiously waiting for an answer, any answer, long after a decision has been made.”

Callous and dismissive because when you closed out that job requisition you didn’t bother to send a candidate a quick email?  I think yes.

Turning down a candidate isn’t rocket science. It’s common courtesy, and it should be part of our job as recruiters, as ambassadors, and as representatives of the company where we work. And to provide job seeker piece of mind, only takes one little sentence.

“I’m sorry {Candidate Name} you were not selected to move forward in the hiring process for {Position title}.”

I’m not suggesting that you send an email turn down with one simple sentence, but that is all common courtesy takes. Any chance you get in our connected world, you should foster relationships with talent. Pick up the phone or personalize the email of the news to your candidate. Your job seeker has invested time, stress, and the emotion of investing in you. Treat candidates with respect. Don’t leave them in relationship limbo. How you turn down a candidate is with honesty, dignity, and grace.

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.

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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.
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