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The Right Way to Reject a Job Candidate

rejectedMost small businesses today know about the importance of online reputation and the power of social media to help or hurt that reputation. Dozens of websites and rating services, from the majors such as Yelp, Twitter and Facebook to those serving specific business sectors such as travel, are open for anyone to express an opinion.

What many business owners haven’t yet realized, however, is that the so-called “Yelp factor” reaches into the job interview process as well. With social networks allowing everyone to share their experiences, good and bad, through a wide range of social media platforms, business need to be aware of how they deal with job applicants as well as customers.

Rejecting a job candidate the right way can avoid negative comments and finger-pointing, notes Barry Sloane, CEO of Newtek, a firm that offers a variety of small business services.

When a business decides not to hire someone, it is free to let the person know or not know he or she didn’t get the job. In the past, most businesses chose the latter approach since there were no consequences one way or the other. If these companies were aware of any ill will these actions generated, it wasn’t something that kept them up at night.

Things are different today. Job applicants freely share their experiences, good and bad, through a wide range of social platforms. Being treated poorly after applying for a job always makes for a good story and word travels fast if it’s a particularly bad experience.

It simply makes good business sense to treat job applicants in a dignified and professional fashion. Not only does it go a long way toward soothing wounded feelings, it elevates the perception of the business and creates goodwill.

Here are some tips on rejecting a job candidate the right way:

1. Don’t wait. Prompt notification of a job-seeker’s status significantly reduces the individual’s anxiety and stress. After a decision has been made, let finalists know the outcome.

2. Reach out in one of three ways. Ideally, a brief telephone call is preferable. It’s sometimes difficult and uncomfortable, but it’s also the quickest, most direct way to make contact. An email is the next choice and takes little time to compose and send off. Finally, a rejection letter can be sent as long as the tone is right. In any written communication, be sure to:

  • Address the applicant by name.
  • Thank him or her for taking time to apply and interview for the open position.
  • Get to the point clearly and politely.
  • Add a brief, positive comment about interview.
  • Encourage future contact, where appropriate.
  • Offer feedback, where appropriate.

3. If the job applicant barely missed the mark, or demonstrated talents and abilities that might later be of interest, encourage him or her to “please keep us in mind.” If it’s possible to provide a little feedback on where the applicant fell short (delivered in an upbeat tone), it might offer some insight into areas where he or she can seek improvement for the next job interview. This honest approach is often greatly appreciated by the recipient.

4. End on a positive note. Thank the candidate once again for his or her interest in the open position and wish them luck in their search for the right job.

5. In most cases, it’s best not to include any details regarding other candidates (including anything about the person actually chosen). This information is open to misinterpretation and may only aggravate the situation. And if there’s no plan to consider this applicant again, don’t tell them “We will keep your resume on file.”

Just as applicants can go to Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels to complain about a bad job-hunting experience, when they are treated well they will likely share this news as well. This can be great publicity for your business and assist in the future hunt for qualified job candidates.

Join The Conversation

  • Ashok Kumar's picture
    Aug 23 Posted 3 years ago Ashok Kumar

    Most of the companies are not getting back to the rejected candidates. I have experienced this embarrassing situation with few companies. It would be more helpful to them to improve themselves in a better way, If the employer let know why they have been rejected, where are they weak, etc.

  • robin_garrison's picture
    Aug 22 Posted 3 years ago robin_garrison

    It's a small (working) world in many industries. Never forget that the applicant who sat across the desk interviewing with you last week might be the person who is your client - or who will determine if they will be your client - in the future. As such, straightforward and prompt communication should be the rule instead of the exception.

  • Aug 22 Posted 3 years ago Selina Kerley (not verified)

    Closely after graduating from university I attended a group interview to become a chalet host for the upcoming ski season. I put in hours of research in prepration of my task, presented to a group for the first time, answered pages of interview questions as complete a short essay in German. The representitives of the company (a well known winter season recruitment agency) thanked me for my time and said they'd be in touch. Ten days later, nothing, two weeks, nothing. In the end I phoned for my results. The HR member put me on hold to look for my profile - only, he didn't put me on hold, I could still hear everything and what I heard was this: "s**t, I've got to tell her she didn't get it" In hindsight, it's pretty funny, but at the time I was devesated - and all my friends knew about it, and we all opted for a different (rival) firm for our subsequent winter season jobs. Lesson learnt? Common courtesy is all it takes.


  • Aug 20 Posted 3 years ago Terry Bierwirth

    What companies fail to realize is that candidates are interviewing the potential employer just as seriously as they are interviewing the candidate. I have had multiple experiences when did not receive any feedback. This has been very frustrating. If I was an employer, I would treat candidates as potential customers or clients. 

  • Ava Cristi's picture
    Aug 19 Posted 3 years ago Ava Cristi

    It is better to let them know they didn’t get the job than to keep them hoping for what will never happen. Remember, these job seekers are just trying as hard as us. In the end, we just have to be straightforward.

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