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Why Rejecting Candidates Can Maintain Your Reputation


The most common complaint from job seekers is that they never hear anything after their interview.

Yet getting back to unsuccessful candidates is a common courtesy that many employers and business owners don’t seem to consider necessary any more.

It’s easy to call a candidate, tell them how impressed you were and offer them a job with your organisation. It’s not so easy to call a candidate and tell them they have been unsuccessful, but it’s something you need to do, if only to maintain your professional reputation in the marketplace.

It’s pretty rude when you think about it. After going to all the trouble of preparing an application and then sweating through the interview process, more often than not taking time away from their current job to do so, the candidate then hears nothing more for weeks on end, until finally they are forced to conclude that they didn’t get the job.

There are two main why this happens:

  • Priorities:  If a candidate is no longer in the running for a job, calling them back is not as important to a manager of business owner as meeting their other deadlines.
  • Procrastination:  Being the bearer of bad news is not a pleasant task for anyone and a hiring manager may just be putting it off until they have a spare moment. Unfortunately, that moment may never come.

Providing feedback to unsuccessful candidates should be considered part of the recruitment process.

It is in your interests, because it demonstrates you are serious and that you care about what you do. The candidate will respect you for it and remember that you called them back.

It is also very much in the candidate’s interest to hear why they didn’t get the job.

It will help them to brush up on those areas that may have let them down and allow them to do a better job next time. It will also help them to maintain their self-esteem, knowing they were unsuccessful because a better candidate won on the day, rather than hearing nothing and assuming it was because their application was so bad it didn’t warrant a reply.

Don’t wait weeks to get back to them and don’t just send them a formatted email.

Call them personally and provide them with any feedback you can. Giving constructive feedback is about more than just telling the candidate what they did wrong. They probably already know that and would benefit more from hearing what they did right as well.

Here are some tips for when you call:

  • Firstly, ask them if they want feedback. Nine times out of ten they will, but if they don’t, don’t force it on them
  • Be honest. Don’t just give them positive feedback because you feel sorry for them not getting  the job. Tell them what they could improve on for next time.
  • Be balanced. Offer a mixture of praise and criticism, as too much criticism creates defensiveness and too much praise sounds insincere.
  • Criticise the behaviour, not the person. By inferring that others have made similar mistakes, you are can keep it general rather than criticising them personally.
  • By the same token, don’t avoid the issue. Tell them what they did wrong, in your opinion, and what they can do to get it right next time.

If you’re still not sold on the idea of calling every unsuccessful candidate and providing them with feedback, remember this:

On average, people tell one friend about a positive experience and at least 10 friends about a negative experience.

If you don’t provide feedback to your candidates and just hope that by not hearing from you they will assume they have been unsuccessful, you and your organisation will start to develop a bad reputation in the industry.

Paul Slezak

Cofounder at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for 20 years. Follow me @paul_slezak.

  • Kevin

    Very sensitive topic. Nowadays where Employer Branding is fundamental to talent attraction, it is more than ever risky to provide a feedback that is by essence.. “negative”.
    Even by being as honest and objective as possible, you never know how the person will react to it and possibly turn into a detractor to the brand.

    This happened to me no later than this morning, and I had to leave everythg I was into to deal directly with the disatisfaction and resolve the situation.
    Hence, why I prefer to be cautious and let silence reply.

    Disclaimer: this opinion is my own

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