Chris Russell

2 min read


The Golden Rules of Rejecting Candidates

Here’s a statement that won’t get much argument. Recruiters hate sending rejection emails and candidates hate getting them. It’s no wonder then that most companies don’t pay much attention to this important recruiting chore. But with a little thought and effort your company can easily improve the rejection process in order to change that dynamic.

By implementing a more refined workflow you can actually help turn those you can’t hire into allies while letting them down gently. The last thing you’ll want is for them to head to Glassdoor and leave a rant after you say No. Those candidates could actually become a candidate in the future and/or a customer, therefore how you reject them matters if you want to keep them coming back.

So here’s four golden rules to add value to the dreaded rejection email process. Ignore them at your peril.

Time It Right

When it comes to sending mass rejection emails, those should be sent no earlier than 24-48 hours after applying. Let a day or two pass so that it appears some thought was put into their application. If you are rejecting a candidate who did a phone interview, let them know as soon as possible. The same goes for anyone you interviewed in person. Respect their time and don’t make them wait, you might be impeding their job search if you do.

Be Honest, But Not Too Honest

When you have candidates who take the time to come to an interview it is best to contact them by phone within a day or two. Let them know you chose another candidate but give them as much feedback as you can to help them understand why. Honest feedback is valuable to them. But don’t make it too personal. Tell them it was more because “another candidate performed better” for example. Thank them again for their time and if they are a good candidate be sure to connect with them on LinkedIn.

Have Multiple Email Templates

When Johnson & Johnson revamped their hiring process a few years ago, they actually took a hard look at their candidate communications including the rejection email templates in their recruiting software. They rewrote them into nine different templates for certain types of candidates depending on how far they got in the process and which department they were hiring for. So for example, create a general mass rejection email and one for shortlisted candidates that sounds more personable.

Get Their Feedback

Want to improve your overall recruitment process? Survey each candidate afterwards and find out where things can be improved. Send them a short survey (4-5 questions max) using a free tool like Google Forms or perhaps a paid service like what Survey Monkey offers. Send a candidate feedback survey about a week after the rejection note and your department will learn where improvements can be made.

Understanding that rejection has a long-term impact on hiring and employer brand is the mark of a good recruiting department. You can’t hire everyone who applies, but you can let them down by being respectful of their time and effort. So think about revamping your rejection process and adding a bit of humanity to it. Your candidates will thank you.

About Emissary

Emissary is a candidate engagement platform built to empower recruiters with efficient, modern communication tools that work in harmony with other recruiting solutions.

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