Providing Feedback to Rejected Candidates – Will You Please Suck It Up?

Jennifer McClure Jennifer McClure, Recruiting

You’re a Recruiter. You have an open position. You source. You screen. You interview. You send several candidates to the hiring team for consideration. In the end, the “best” candidate is selected. You celebrate the successful completion of the search by either updating your recruiting metrics or collecting a hefty placement fee. One candidate is happy and starting a new job with the company, and usually there are a few candidates who interviewed for the position, but weren’t selected, who must now be dealt with. How do you close out these candidates?

One option is to do nothing at all, and never circle back to let the unsuccessful candidates know thatFeedback  someone else has been selected. We may forget to do so, feel like we’re too busy, or take the position that if the candidate is interested in knowing the results, they’ll follow up with us.

Another option is to provide a standard response to rejected candidates via impersonal, succinct and lawyer-approved rejection notices delivered in one of the following ways:

-Form letter or email. Using a mail merge from the ATS, several notifications can be sent in a matter of minutes. Rejection letters can then be crossed off the To Do List, and we’re on to the next position. Easy. Clean. Nobody gets hurt.

-Brief phone conversation. “We decided to go in a different direction”, “We selected a candidate that we feel is a better match” or “it was a difficult decision, but in the end, you were not selected” are all ways of telling candidates they weren’t “The One”, without really saying anything at all. If candidates press for more details, we repeat the opening line, and add “I’m sorry”. Still more questions? Rinse and repeat.

-Voice-mail. Used when there’s a desire to deliver the message “in-person” – but not by actually talking with a person. Call a candidate’s home number during the day, or call their work number early morning/late at night, and we can usually score voice-mail. We can also use the helpful *67 to block your phone number (hang up if someone answers), and for the truly conversation phobic, there’s Slydial, which sends calls straight to voice-mail.

If you’re the candidate on the receiving end of these types of rejection communications, how does it make you feel? Let’s switch places for a minute…

You’re the candidate. You were made aware of an opening at ABC Company either through their advertisement, a referral from a trusted relationship, or you may have been cold-called by a recruiter. You take the time to customize your resume and do research on the company. You go through several interviews for the position via phone and in-person – all of which add up to several hours spent discussing the opportunity with recruiters and/or representatives of the company. You take time off from your current job to attend interviews. You spend time away from your family in the evening talking with the recruiter, collecting and sending follow-up information, and arranging contact with your references. You don’t get the job – and all you got for your time and effort was a form letter, short conversation or voice-mail from the recruiter who has been treating you like their best friend for the past few weeks. You spent all of your valuable time being pursued by the company/pursuing the opportunity, and you didn’t even get a lousy t-shirt.

Why don’t we provide more specific feedback to candidates on why they weren’t selected? Most candidates don’t like dealing with recruiters (internal or external). In fact, some hate recruiters, and their dislike of us often centers around how we communicate with them (or don’t).

I get it that if you do provide specific feedback, sometimes candidates want to debate the reasons why they weren’t selected. That’s no fun, and it can get uncomfortable. But in my opinion, it comes with the territory. Also, the excuse reason that we are protecting ourselves or our clients from legal/liability issues doesn’t hold water either if we’re doing our jobs properly and pushing clients/hiring managers for objective and specific reasons why they selected one candidate over another.

The Bottom Line

Put yourself in the candidate’s place. I think we need to do a better job of respecting the time and energy that candidates put into the process. The more time they invest with us in the process, the more time we should spend communicating the reasons why they weren’t selected. An experienced and well-trained recruiter/HR professional should be able to deliver the message in a respectful manner, and in such a way that doesn’t expose the company or client to liability. Respecting all of the candidates in the hiring process can go a long way in helping us with positively building our personal brand or employment brand in the marketplace, and maybe someday a candidate will send YOU a lousy t-shirt thanking you for your efforts!

What’s your take on providing rejected candidates feedback?