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How to reject a candidate after the interview 

 

Every recruiter will have to reject a candidate after an interview someday. The human resource space takes into consideration emotions and other human elements in the world of business. Nothing takes a toll on one’s emotions as much as rejection. This makes it necessary for recruiters to know how to reject interview candidates professionally.

Candidate rejection might seem like a piece of cake. But there’s an art and science to it. Engaging in it without care could cost you. 

Let’s unwrap why rejecting interview candidates professionally is a big deal.  

The importance of rejecting an interview candidate professionally

 

Politely telling interview candidates that they were not selected for a job after the interview is crucial. Its essence goes beyond simply communicating the decline. It also

  • Preserves your brand’s rapport with the candidates. According to Talent Board, 52% of candidates who receive feedback after an interview process are likely to continue a relationship with the company
  • Portrays your brand in a good light before prospective applicants. A study by the Human Capital Institute shows that 72% of job seekers report sharing their negative candidate experiences online while 55% of job seekers report avoiding certain companies after reading negative online reviews
  • Builds goodwill as unsuccessful applicants will be encouraged to apply in the future 

What are the best practices for rejecting an interview candidate?

 

Here are helpful hints to gracefully turn down unsuccessful interview candidates. 

Avoid delay

 

The fact that the interviewee didn’t get the job is bad news. However, wasting time notifying them won’t make it less hurtful. If anything, it might be disrespectful and demonstrate a lack of care for the candidate’s time and emotions.

An excellent practice to reject an interviewee professionally is to tell them within a reasonable time. 

So, even if your recruiting team decided not to hire the said interviewee during the interview or immediately after, think twice before communicating the rejection that same day. Same-day rejections raise eyebrows. They give the impression that the process was rushed. 

You don’t have to wait a whole month either. 

A good practice is to tell the candidate within a week after the interview. This will end their anxiety right on time and paint the picture of a well-thought-out decision. This practice is essential as it shows respect and empathy. 

At least the interviewee will accept their fate and proceed to go for other job offers instead of hoping for yours in futility.           

Choose a proper means of communication

 

To gracefully reject an interview candidate, it’s crucial to do so through a proper means of communication. A proper means of communication is the channel of communication you’ve both been using for previous interactions.

If initial interactions have been via email, it makes no sense to communicate the rejection via social media. That’s downright impolite. Having a social media profile hardly equates to frequent use.

Some common means of communicating rejection to the candidate are:

  • Rejection letter
  • Candidate rejection email
  • Phone call 
  • In some rare instances, a video call might be necessary

You’re welcome to use more than one of these. It helps with emphasis and equally demonstrates care.  

How to write a candidate rejection email  

Out of the bunch, candidate rejection emails seem to be the most popular – maybe because they require minimal effort. Without proper guidance, however, using emails for such a delicate purpose might seem insensitive. Here’s how to word a polite candidate rejection email.

 

Dear (Candidate’s Name),

Thank you for applying for the (role) at (your company). 

I was personally impressed with your skills, experience and approach. However, we won’t be proceeding with your application at this time. We’re currently looking for candidates with different skill sets to propel our business forward.

Indeed, your skills and experience are superb and I would like to stay in touch. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. That would be a good way to stay connected and also learn about other opportunities at (your company).

 

Kind regards,

(Your name)

 

This template of an interview candidate rejection email, which can also be used for a rejection letter, contains certain notable features. Keep reading for better insight into these elements and their relevance.       

Customisation matters

 

Another point on rejecting an interview candidate professionally is to tailor the rejection appropriately. The rejection shouldn’t be cold – you’ve already interacted multiple times with the candidate. They’re not strangers to you. 

Including the candidate’s name and other noteworthy elements peculiar to them discloses that you paid due attention to the candidate. But tossing out a generic message proves that you don’t value the candidate. 

Candidate rejection brings a lot of disappointment to the interviewee; be kind enough to show that they’re not a mere speck in the dust. Personalisation shows that you’re considerate of them even though they didn’t make the cut. 

Brevity and feedback are key

 

The next tip is to keep the rejection message short and simple. Don’t resort to long convoluted sentences; a couple of punchy statements will do the trick. 

However, it’s crucial to couch this message appropriately to reduce any devastating effects.

To ensure that the message isn’t emotionless or entirely negative, begin with a warm appreciation for their interest in your company. Next, state positive points about the interviewee’s performance and work experience. Then proceed to tell them they were not chosen and constructively detail the reason for the rejection. 

Genuine constructive feedback will help the candidate make sense of the rejection and avail them of better ideas to improve their candidacy for future interviews.

Then end by re-emphasising their strong points and some words of encouragement. They need it.     

Exercise caution

 

As important as the things to do when rejecting an interview candidate are things that you ought not to do.

One of them is giving the interviewees baseless hope. Being fair in communicating the rejection doesn’t mean telling lies. Don’t give the impression that you have plans to re-invite the candidate for extra screening. Neither should you tell them that there are other roles which you’re considering them for if there are none.

Candidate rejection is part of the job market. Be mature and expect maturity from them.

Additionally, be mindful of your use of words when communicating the rejection. It’s important to avoid extremely harsh language and terms that might land you on the wrong end of a discrimination lawsuit. 

Also, don’t use words that suggest comparison among candidates. Some candidates might have questions that you won’t be prepared to answer.    

Hear from them

 

Being in the position to reject an interviewee gives the impression of being in control. However, this isn’t entirely true. While you’re evaluating the candidates, they’re equally evaluating you. And, to be frank, there might be some cracks in your interview process and the general candidate experience.

Ask all your candidates for feedback. Do not neglect the unsuccessful ones simply because they didn’t sail through. Respectfully invite them to complete surveys and leave reviews on notable sites such as Glassdoor. Their feedback will give you insight into areas of your recruitment and interviewing that need patching. 

It will also prove that, regardless of the outcome, you respect them and value their opinions. That will speak volumes for your brand and nurture trust.     

Offer to stay in touch and close warmly

 

“This isn’t goodbye, even as I watch you leave, this isn’t goodbye…”

Who knew that those words from the Westlife classic “What makes a man” had a place in HR?

Rejecting interview candidates professionally involves closing on a positive note and preserving an amicable relationship. The fact that they didn’t land the role doesn’t imply that you should discard them. 

Who knows, there might be job openings in the future that they might fill perfectly. Additionally, how you relate to unsuccessful interviewees impacts their impression of your company, does wonders for your brand reputation and helps you build rapport.

Excellent ways to stay in touch with them include:

  • Connecting on social media
  • Having them subscribe to your company’s newsletter
  • Inviting them to events that you host or participate in
  • Sending them updates about new vacancies in your company

Maintaining communications with rejected candidates prevents the burning or collapse of any bridge. 

To finally close the rejection process, throw in an element of positivity. Offering to maintain communication is already a good start, but here’s more that you can implement:

  • Thank them for their interest in your brand and for the time they spent applying
  • Offer to answer any questions they might have
  • Encourage them and wish them the best in other ventures
  • In the event that they were almost successful, explain that you hope they’d consider applying again in the event of another vacancy 

 

While taking the time to reject interview candidates professionally and courteously might seem tasking, it’s necessary. It’s good for everyone – your brand and the candidates. Understand that rejection is hard to deal with.

Treat others as you would like to be treated. Show empathy. Be polite.