How to Reject Candidates in the Right Way

The past twelve months have been tough for jobseekers across a range of sectors. Many who lost their jobs will have been competing for a small pool of available vacancies and have likely faced a few rejections. But with furlough ending and the economy showing signs of recovery, there are fortunately many new jobs on the market. If you’re looking to recruit in the coming weeks and months, remember to be respectful towards your applicants. And when it comes to rejecting candidates who are unsuitable, take the time to provide them with an appropriate response.  

Here are a few tips on how to say ‘no’ in the right way:  

1) Always provide a response 

From a candidate’s perspective, there’s nothing as disheartening during a recruitment process than not hearing back from your prospective employer. Especially if you’ve taken the time to fill out a lengthy application form or spent ages on perfecting your cover letter. Even if you reject a candidate during the first sifting stage, be sure to send them a quick email to acknowledge their application and to thank them for their interest. Explain that there were other applicants whose skills and experience were better suited to the role.  

rejecting a candidate in the right way

2) Don’t keep them waiting too long 

With more jobs on the market, the recruitment process is likely to gain pace. It’s never good practice to keep a candidate waiting too long. Wherever possible, always try to give a time frame for when you expect to get back to them and stick to it.  

If they’ve come through to the final round and they’re your second choice, it’s particularly important that you don’t leave them hanging. Some recruiters like to keep their second choice waiting in the wings until they’ve secured a signed contract from their first choice. If this is your strategy, don’t let the process drag out. It’s unfair on your candidate and it might mean that they lose out on another job offer. You also run the risk of missing out on an excellent future employee.  

3) If they’ve reached the interview stage, provide constructive feedback 

According to research from LinkedIn, only 41% of candidates receive feedback after an interview. One of the reasons why recruiters don’t provide feedback when rejecting candidates is the worry about hurting their feelings. Others simply don’t feel that they can make the time for it. But the benefits of a good candidate experience—which includes feedback—will help you build your reputation as an employer that values people. It’s also likely to lead to positive comments on sites such as Glassdoor.  

A vast majority of the candidates greatly appreciate constructive feedback and are more likely to consider other roles in your charity in the future. Also remember that generic and ambiguous feedback could be worse than no feedback at all. So be mindful of the impact of your comments and try to be as specific and objective as possible.  

If you’ve spoken to the candidate in person, it’s courteous to offer them feedback on the phone, rather than via email. Explain the reasons for why they weren’t chosen and ask them if they have any questions. They themselves might offer you feedback about how the interview went from their perspective, so be sure to take note of this for future reference.  

work from home meeting etiquette

4) Respond honestly 

When it comes to rejecting candidates, honesty is the best policy. If the candidate failed to convince you that they meet a particular area of competence, tell them. If they didn’t complete a recruitment task to the expected standard, be honest about this too. Most of all, if you have any specific feedback that you could give them about their interview preparation or technique, be sure to mention this. It will stand them in good stead for the future.  

Finally, if you feel that this role wasn’t quite right for the candidate, but you saw a lot of promise in them, offer to keep in touch. It may well be that a role will arise which will suit them in the future.  

It’s all about treating your candidate with respect 

It’s always worth considering how you would feel being in the candidate’s shoes. We all want to be treated respectfully and to be able to learn from our interview experience. Your feedback will always reflect well on you both as a human being and an employer. So be sure to make the time for it.  

Tags: charity job, charity sector, hiring process, recruitment process, rejecting candidates

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About the author

Ewa Jozefkowicz

CharityJob’s Content Manager Ewa Jozefkowicz has a passion for all things digital, particularly when it comes to UX and writing engaging copy. In her spare time she likes to travel and devour huge quantities of books.