How do you reject a candidate?
While most hiring managers have stopped asking people what their father did for a living and if they plan to marry soon (interview, circa 1950) there are many practices that might need updating-or at least closer examination-in today’s world. The art of rejection is one of these practices.
When it comes to rejecting candidates, make sure that your ideals match your time reality. Perhaps in your ideal world each applicant would receive a personal call or note from someone in your organization explaining why they were not selected and encouraging them to apply again in the future. But, if this is simply not possible from a time or logistics perspective, you may find yourself spending time on something that is distracting you from other important tasks you should be attending to-like training the person you DID hire.
Try this: Set the follow-up expectation with all applicants in your ad. The most frustrating thing to a candidate-besides not getting hired-is not knowing if they are being considered. Applicants may not realize that you have 100 resumes and have conducted 25 interviews and are narrowing it down to 6 finalists-unless they happen to be one of them. You can create an automated response in your e-mail or in your ad that lets them know IF and WHEN they might hear from you, or that they should not expect to hear anything at all. Whatever the case, you can outline it ahead of time so they are not expecting a call if they are rejected. Be clear and direct in your communication and it will at least cut down on the number of angry applicants that burn you in effigy.
Be generic. If you do choose to reject applicants via e-mail, phone call or letter it is a good idea to be generic rather than specific. Your HR department will agree with this advice. The thing about rejecting people on specific grounds-such as stating that someone was not qualified-is that they will probably beg to differ with you. You then have an argument on your hands, and no one has time for that. Instead, say, “We are going in a different direction.” Or simply, “You were not selected as a finalist but we will keep your application on file.” Rejection is difficult for everyone, but it should not be a full-time job.