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Recruiting is without a doubt a busy profession. But considering rejecting candidates is a huge part of being a recruiter, you would think it would be a more refined and honed practice. The reality is, of the countless recruiter job postings I’ve seen on LinkedIn recently, the vast majority say nothing about having a rejection process in their daily tasks. And this often contributes to the already very prevalent suggestion that never hearing back from recruiters is the job seekers’ fault.

So, even when we know it’s a huge part of the job, why do we continue to neglect candidate rejections in our recruitment processes?

It’s time to start paying closer attention to rejection processes and treating all candidates more kindly. After all, even those you don’t place into a job can determine how well you and your organization succeed in the business.

What Your Rejection Process Says about You

In a recent post on his recruitment-based blog page, author Greg Savage writes, “We think of ourselves as ‘recruiters’ but what is the ratio of candidates we actually do recruit into roles, compared to the number we screen, interview, or even submit?” In this way, Savage suggests that in many ways, recruiters are equally, if not even more so, rejecters rather than recruiters.

And seeing as it’s such a huge part of the job, it’s time for a bit of introspection. (By now, you surely know how much we hear at Workwolf love a good self-assessment!) Find out what kind of recruiter you are based on your rejection process.

Ghosting most applicants

Probably the most popular kind of recruiter, the ghoster simply neglects to contact those they cannot place into a job. Many do so thinking that silence is itself a sign that candidates didn’t make the cut or get a job placement. But in many cases, job seekers will continue to cling to any bit of hope they have that they might soon get a job.

And even if this is not your intention, often this kind of ‘soft-rejection’ tells candidates they don’t matter to you.

So, if you can’t place a candidate to a job, let them know as soon as possible. That way, they don’t waste their time waiting around for good news. And, of course, they don’t resent and possibly bad-mouth you and your organization for making them wait longer than necessary before looking elsewhere.

And while nothing will please a job seeker quite like a good job placement, the next best thing is a customized rejection letter within a reasonable time frame from their initial application.

Blanket statement/blank form letter

Maybe the second-worst offender (then not responding at all), the blank rejection letter writer is the recruiter who puts very little effort into their rejection process. To these candidates, this rejection process means that they are just one of many who didn’t make the cut.

So, to add insult to injury (making candidates feel unimportant and unwanted for a job), this approach will probably also discourage candidates from reaching out to you again for future opportunities. And this means you’re lowering your candidate pools directly and in-directly by candidate word-of-mouth, too.

To avoid this, make sure you’re replying to all candidates with a customized rejection letter—even if it’s simply their name and the job(s) they applied for.

Too little too late (or even too early!)

Of course, writing back to candidates with a customized rejection letter isn’t just about beating the clock. It’s also about making well-informed decisions and making candidates feel fairly considered. And if you reject candidates point-blank based on a lack of keywords on their resumes, for example, they’re going to feel your rejection was a snap-decision and not a well-informed one.

And crucially, if you’re using an applicant tracking system (ATS) to process and mass-reject candidates, chances are your decisions are not necessarily well-thought through. After all, who has the time to look through and seriously consider every single candidate to the extent they deserve manually?

The good news is, we have a solution that makes this seemingly unreasonable task possible!

Putting the human back in human resources

The last kind of recruiter we’re offering here is the Workwolf recruiter (not to toot our own horn, but it really is the best in our opinion!). This is because the recruiter on the Workwolf network filters their candidates based on soft skills that can better determine whether or not a candidate would be a good fit for a given position long-term than a resume alone might.

This automated filtration process is informed by over 40 years of research into factors that make employees successful in specific work settings and duties. So, even if you don’t pour over each resume manually, you know your filtration will be accurate for long-term job placements.

As well, with the Workwolf platform for recruiters and employers, rejections are simple and customizable with pre-written templates and an easy-to-use messaging system.

So, even if your candidates don’t make the cut, you can still show appreciation for their applications by treating them like real human beings with real stakes at hand. As well, if your candidates aren’t a good fit for any positions at the time being, you can also easily transfer them into a different candidate pool for another position.

Applying for jobs isn’t easy, and receiving rejections time and again is definitely no different. But showing you’ve put care and consideration into your rejection, even if all the heavy lifting is done by us, will make all the difference in candidate experience.


Make Them Glad They Applied

In our opinion, the true marker of a good recruiter is not just making candidates happy with their job placements. It’s also making candidates happy with even rejections. This may seem impossible, but when you offer candidates value for their application, they will feel you and your organization value their time and efforts, and will be more likely to reach out to you again in the future.

So, to make sure candidates have a good experience with you and your organization even when you can’t place them in a job, make sure to always consider the following.

1. Getting back to them in a timely manner

As previously mentioned, remember to take your time considering your candidates (even through automated processes, but ones that fairly and equitably consider candidate soft skills)! Then, when your decisions are made, get back to all candidates, whether or not you have good news for them.

As well, this LinkedIn article even suggests calling candidates within a few days of their application to show appreciation for applying. This is because phone calls can feel more human than an automated (even when customized) email. This might be particularly practical for smaller businesses or companies with lower numbers of applicants.

Either way, remember that rejections still matter to your organization. Putting in the time and effort will always pay off in the long run, even if it’s just ensuring you and your organization have a good reputation for caring for their applicants.

2. Offering a rejection with value

On a similar note, the time and effort you put into a rejection doesn’t only have to do with how you reject candidates. You can also reflect your efforts in a candidate’s rejection by offering them value in return for their application. For example, if after interviewing candidates, you decide to reject them based on their interview skills, tell them where they went wrong (but respectfully!).

This way, they can learn from their mistakes and hopefully do better in the future. Of course, offering criticism and doing so kindly and respectfully can be a tough balance to strike, so check out how Workable suggests doing so here.

3. Keep in touch if you see potential

Lastly, make sure to never sever ties with candidates, especially who show potential in a different position. Maybe they need to brush up on certain skills before you place them in a job. Maybe they need to improve their presentation or interviewing abilities. Or maybe the time just isn’t right for either one of you. But if you do see promise in the candidate, make sure to keep in touch.

On the Workwolf network, you can easily transfer candidates from one pool to another. That way, you can reconsider their talents in other contexts. As well, you can save their information for when another, more suitable job comes along.

With this said, never offer false hope to a candidate. If you really mean it, let them know you will seriously consider them for another position in the future. But if you don’t, let them down gently and let them move on to find a better fit elsewhere.


Do you have any good practices for rejecting candidates we missed? Leave a comment on any of our social media posts for this article to share your ideas with us and our audiences! And if you’re impressed with what you read in this article, sign up for your very own Workwolf business account here.


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