How To Best Reject A Candidate For A Role

 In Culture, Recruiting & Hiring

Knowing somebody wants something, and having to be the person to let them down is a tough gig, there’s no doubt about it. Sometimes the decision might be out of your control, and others it may sit with you and you have not only make the call but also deliver the news. This blog won’t make you cold to it, but it might help eliminate the uncomfortable feelings that come with it all, making it a smoother ride.

The worst thing you can do as a hiring manager, or even a recruiter is, to stick with what feels good and hope the rest goes away. Delivering the good news is always exciting, however, where one candidate succeeds, another will not, and just as the candidate you hired needs to know to turn up on Monday morning, the unsuccessful candidates need to know to keep pursuing other options.


The biggest factor in a healthy recruitment process, on in fact, any business transaction, is always honestly.

If you’re implementing this as you go along, you’re already setting yourself up for an easier ride, don’t twist yourself up getting confused about how you’ve sold the job to each candidate and what angle you’ve taken.

When you’re having your initial chats, and a candidate does not posses a key skill that you would like, nip that in the bud. A simple one liner at the end of the conversation stating ‘one thing I have reservations about at the moment, is your lack of experience in x’ will go a long way.

The candidate won’t get their hopes up, and knows where they stand. If they do get to the final stages of interview and are unsuccessful, you have already stated that there may be a possibility of this, and so it doesn’t come as too much of a shock. This also being followed up for further feedback at the end of the process, as you’ve given this at every stage.

Being honest with your candidates, even if it isn’t what they want to hear will do wonders for your company brand, and will leave that candidate willing to apply for a role with your company again in the future.

Tell them immediately

Whether it be a glance of a CV, or final interview stage, as soon as you know your decision, let the unsuccessful candidates know.

Dragging the process out has a huge effect on candidate’s opinions of you as an employer of choice. If they are waiting for a decision that never comes, or comes incredibly late, not only are you delivering bad news, but you’re also showing how your company works. You’re giving the impression that the company is slow, or disregards staff, as these people have applied and are willing to work with and for you. That’s a privilege not a right.

Feedback is key

Rather than just the generic ‘we had candidates that were a better fit’ or no feedback at all, give one or two key points to help that candidate when applying for a similar job elsewhere. Was their interview slightly weak? Did you hire someone more confident? Were there other candidates who had a technical ability that the unsuccessful candidate did not? Use specifics.

Again, constructive criticism can help candidates going forward, and tailored feedback makes them feel like they’re a person, and not just a number in the unemployment funnel.

Recommend them if you can

They might not be a fit for your team or company, but they might be a fit for another team within your organisation, or perhaps there is a more junior role available that you know of.

If you are purely unable to hire someone due to experience levels, however you think they would have been a great fit in different circumstances, a recommendation for other roles (if you know of any) would go a long way.

If you’re not recommending them to another company, recommend events, networking opportunities. Particularly with young candidates looking to land their first role, little things like a push in the right direction will always be remembered and appreciated.

Stay in touch

It’s the age old, you’ll never know when you might need someone, so don’t burn any bridges.

Now I’m not suggesting you attend their birthday party and their nieces christening, but add them on LinkedIn, you never know when their skills may be of use down the track.

There’s a recurring theme in these blogs, and it really does just come down to the same thing, human interaction. Treating someone how you would like to be treated.

It’s very easy once you’ve been employed for a long time, to forget how difficult it is searching for a new role. It isn’t a fun experience, and it’s heightened by the typical ‘ghosting’ attitude of employers. Don’t be a ghost. If your connection can’t be as a new employer, be of support, or just be human.

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