Ed NewmanJanuary 26, 2017
Topics: Candidate Experience

What's the Best Way to Turn Down Applicants?

There’s a lot of buzz in the market about how the candidate is just like the consumer. While there is a lot to be gained by “consumerizing” your candidate experience, there is one fundamental difference between candidate engagement and consumer engagement.

In consumer engagement, we want every customer to buy. As long as there is supply and the buyer can afford it, anyone can enjoy the benefits of the product or service. Very few are turned away.

In candidate engagement, we only want the best qualified, and only one person is selected for a given job. For every candidate who gets the job, there are potentially hundreds who get turned away.

When it comes to talent acquisition, we have to say “no” so often that you would think we would be awesome at it by now. However, the data suggests otherwise. According to the 2016 North America Candidate Experience Awards research report, almost half of job seekers surveyed waited to hear back from employers more than two months after initially applying for a position. Only 20% of all candidates received an email from an actual person, and only 8% received a phone call. Alarmingly, only 51% of recruiters are actually required to communicate with every applicant at the time of disposition or when the position is filled or closed.

The most common employer practice for handling applicants who are unqualified or not among the selected is no contact at all. Most of the time, this is either because the application states only qualified candidates will be contacted, or because they provide a link to a page where a candidate can check their own status.

For most companies that do provide a standard system generated email to all applicants, they typically trigger the email at the time the position is filled – leaving candidates hanging in the dark for months.

Now, I get that the sheer volume of candidate applicants can be overwhelming, but I think we can do better. We can start by keeping these three simple things in mind.

Treat your applicants the way you would want to be treated It’s important to think about how you’d feel if the seats were reversed. Being ignored and left in the dark after applying to a company can hurt. If you think about feedback from your candidate’s shoes, it will keep your rejection process in check.

When it’s available, give honest and transparent feedback Although we don’t always get feedback from hiring managers on why they are rejecting candidates, it’s up to us to push for that feedback even if it’s a small piece of information that can be taken to the candidate. More than likely, the candidate will thank you for letting them know, and will appreciate any and all feedback you can provide for improvement in the future – or just for closure’s sake.

Get creative with your rejections, but be sure to test them out first I recently wrote a blog post in November that highlight a horrible video rejection that one of my millennial children received when she wasn’t selected after an in-person interview. Ultimately, this video rejection hurt the employer brand, and left candidates feeling less than appreciated.

Although this is just one example, your rejection process doesn’t necessarily have to be innovative, creative, or cutting-edge. It just needs to be consistent, personalized, and easy to roll out even if you’re dealing with high volume recruiting.


What is your practice for turning down candidates?

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