It might not seem like turning down an unsuccessful applicant will have a significant impact on your bottom line, but in fact the repercussions can be huge, affecting both your revenue and sucking up a large portion of the managers time. In the age of social media, word-of-mouth from a disgruntled applicant has far more reach, affecting the companys reputation and possibly impacting your ability to recruit the top candidates in the future.
Larger companies tend to send rejection letters by mail. This option has several advantages:
Quicker and easier
Can be delegated
But also disadvantages:
Does not allow for individual feedback or questions
Some businesses prefer to contact each applicant personally by phone to explain the rejection. Again, there are pros and cons to this approach. On the plus side:
More personal touch
Can provide constructive criticism
Can encourage a good candidate to apply again
The negatives of rejecting an applicant over the phone include:
Liability (potential to say something damaging, or for the candidate to assert that you did)
Whichever approach you choose, some basic rules apply.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Be positive, not negative. Carefully review what you will sayeven if you are rejecting applicants by phone, plan the wording in advanceto ensure you use positive phrasing.
I regret to inform you
You failed to
You werent selected
Competition was strong
Make sure to thank applicants for their time and let them know that you were fortunate to have several well-qualified candidates to select from.
Reasons for Rejection
Giving applicants a reason why they werent selected can help you avoid potential discrimination complaints. Without a reason, candidates will be more likely to speculate about the causefor example, thinking that you didnt give them a fair chance because of age. However, they are more likely to understand if you tell them that the lack of managerial experience was a concern.
If you give a reason, be honest, but word your statements extremely carefully, and stick to job-related, factual criteria. Dont talk about the applicants personality, appearance or traitsif you cannot provide a job-related reason, dont give a reason at all.
In some cases, it makes sense to provide detailed feedback to internal candidates only, so that you can then structure their regular duties to help them succeed in a future opportunity.
Discussing the Successful Candidate
Avoid getting into a discussion about the successful candidate. When rejecting applicants in a letter, this isnt typically an issue unless the unsuccessful applicant goes out of their way to call and ask. On the phone, however, applicants are more likely to ask questions about who got the job.
Minimize liability by refusing to discuss the successful candidates age, sex, race or other factors that could lead to a complaint. If youre pressed for details, limit the information you provide. Dont give generic, meaningless statements like the applicant was the best fit, because this doesnt provide anything useful to the rejected applicant, and may even increase your liability.
Conversation Tip: We were fortunate to have many highly qualified candidates to select from. The successful candidate has a great mix of qualifications and experience thats suited to this position.
What Not to Do
Dont include typos if youre writing a letter. Nothing adds to the sting of rejection than when the company cant even spell the candidates name right.
Dont leave a voice mail with the bad news.
Dont waste the applicants time on small talkget to the point. The applicant wants to know the answer.
Dont lead applicants on. Dont tell them to apply for the next opportunity if you have no interest in interviewing them again.