Let’s face it; not every applicant is suitable for every job. While we all know this, applicants can be very sensitive when hearing they weren’t selected for the position. While you may think that no matter how you deliver the not-so-good news you will be labeled as a jerk, there are ways to let applicants down without leaving them with soured feelings.
What is the Position?
First of all, what were you considering the applicant for? High-level executive positions, in my opinion, deserve more than the average letter or email rejection – they deserve a phone call or even a face to face meeting. For instance, when interviewing applications for a Vice President position, shooting an email rejection an applicant’s way, especially after testing, multiple interviews and time taken from his day, is not the way to make friends. Therefore, when interviewing for executive level positions, you should let down the rejected applicants with at least a phone call. Lower-level positions, however, can be rejected with a simple letter or email.
There is an important note to always remember: be courteous enough to make the call or send the email instead of just letting a potential candidate hang. Leaving candidates in the great wilderness of the unknown is a sure fire way to sour the candidate on not just you but on your company. Who knows, the candidate may never become an employee but they might one day be a potential customer.
How Far Did They Get?
The second question to answer is how far did this applicant get? If he or she simply turned in an application, but never made it to an interview or even your desk, then going the extra mile to let him or her know they were not selected may not be worth the effort especially if you have to make these follow-ups manually. However, if you have really quality HR management software, doing the follow-up – even for casual job seekers – should require nothing more than punching a button and sending such a follow-up will ensure that you leave a good taste in the applicant’s mouth about you and your company.
If however you had the applicant come in for interviews, especially multiple interviews, it is improper to simply leave the applicant hanging but you may question whether an email or a call is right. To decide, I like to combine the first question with the second to determine the best course of action.
For example, if an applicant applied to a high-level position but was never interviewed or even considered from the get-go a letter or email let down should suffice. However, if that same applicant was brought in for multiple interviews, the rejection needs to be a little more personal than a quick email.
Another example would be an applicant applying for a mid-level position. In this case the applicant may have come in for two interviews but did not receive the job. While this was not a high level posting, after two separate interviews it is safe to assume that the candidate likely had hopes of landing the job and in this case, I would say the candidate deserves a lot more than just an email or letter stating they didn't get it.
Letting Them Down Gently and Gracefully
A good rule of thumb (and just plain good manners) is to look at the process from the applicant’s perspective. Suppose you had applied for a job, went to the interviews and perhaps even did a few tests to prove your aptitude for the position. The phone rings one day and you answer it to hear the HR representative on the other end. You think “I must have got the job!” only to hear “I am calling to inform you that we went with another applicant”. Huge let down for the applicant and no warm fuzzy feel for the HR person breaking the bad news.
I think that for many HR pros it isn’t that they don’t have the time to make a personal call but rather that it is unpleasant to be the bearer of bad news. However, this is a critical part of the whole HR process and one that you need to do with class. It’s really not that hard to be kind and courteous even when delivering bad news. Remember, that just as you’ve invested time and effort into the candidate the candidate has invested time and effort in you – especially when they have put in a lot of time into the process, such as second interviews or even aptitude testing. Again, the first question also applies in this situation as well. One interview for an entry-level position does not necessarily need a phone call rejection, while one interview for a CEO position does.
How to Word Your Letters and Emails
If you are rejecting an applicant through means of mail or email, you need to realize that written words have zero tone. That means if your rejection letter is not worded properly, you can come off sounding callous and insensitive.
What Not to Write:
Thank you for taking the time to interview with our company. Unfortunately, we have chosen another candidate for this job. We wish you the best of luck in your job hunting and future projects.”
Sounds professional right? That’s the point. It’s professional, concise and has zero personal touch to it. An applicant that receives this letter or email will feel as though they were just another number in your mass rejection send-out plan.
So how do you word it correctly? Instead of sending a generic rejection template, which ultimately paints an impersonal picture of you and your company you can make the rejection personal by including:
· What you liked about the applicant (such as his or her strengths).
· Why you cannot move forward with hiring the applicant (such as qualifications you were seeking and how he or she did not meet those).
· Give the applicant the chance to provide you with feedback (such as what she thought about the interview process).
While this may sound a bit time consuming, if you have great HR management software at your disposal you can prebuild many of the most common reasons and then it’s just a click or two to compile a “form” letter that still has personality and conveys information to the candidate that may help them land the next job they apply for.
Just remember that, no matter what, applicants will be disappointed they didn’t get the job. How you deliver that rejection, however, will determine what they think of you and your company when they receive the bad news.