An integral part of the employer brand, the candidate (and employee) experience has become essential when it comes to attracting the best talent.
And all of this has a very human focus: HR directors are encouraged to take the time to meet candidates, to take interest in atypical profiles, to accompany people in the development of their projects, to identify opportunities for evolution or recruitment, and to rethink the quality of life at work. The spectrum is large.
If there was a single moment that many recruiters would prefer to avoid, that would be rejection. In a Human Capital Institute study from 2018, 60% of job seekers never hear back from employers after an interview. However, saying “no” to a candidate should not be avoided and it should not be a source of fear; rather it can be promising, positive and beneficial for the employer brand.
This article provides advice about learning how to say “no.” But before identifying the best practices, we’ll talk about understanding why it matters.
Why give feedback to rejected candidates?
Although dreaded, the rejection stage is nevertheless crucial for the maintenance of the candidate experience and the employer brand.
The mirror effect: Taking your own advice
In simple terms, a good application goes like this: Candidates are invited to demonstrate their aptitude for the position. In order to succeed, of course, they need to submit an original, personal and specific application that meets your requirements. But in a moment where, according to CareerBuilder, most job seekers aren’t interested in spending more than 10 minutes on an application, it’s a difficult proposition.
After the effort they bring to the process, it’s also up to you then to bring the applicants an equally personal and useful response. It’s a question of respect for many candidates; and according to Officevibe, 66% of candidates want to hear more from employees.
Benoit Pacceu, Human Resources Director of Kiloutou explains this very well: “In 2018, we hired 900 people, mostly for at-risk professions or where there’s a strong shortage, maintenance technicians, truck drivers…and today it seems essential to put ourselves in the position of the candidates we once were and to offer them a more respectful experience.”
Beware the boycott: Candidates have the power!
If there’s one thing to beware (and to bring to your leadership team at an upcoming meeting), it’s that many candidates say they’re ready to boycott a company if the hiring process doesn’t go as they hoped, and according to CareerArc’s research, 72% of candidates who have a bad experience tell others about it.
So, “consumer candidates” have a strong lever for being treated better and shown consideration, even more so knowing that the absence of a response is the primary cause for dissatisfaction in the candidate experience.
Because you should never say never
By not responding, the risk is to definitively turn away candidates. According to a LinkedIn study, 87% of talent say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once liked.
According to a LinkedIn study, 94% of talent wants to receive interview feedback, and talent is 4x more likely to consider your company for a future opportunity when you offer constructive feedback. By staying on good terms, it’s easier to maintain a goof relationship and to ensure a smoother process of getting back in touch. It’s also a way to encourage recruiter guidance and advice, as HR directors can redirect talent, notably for harder to fill roles.
You’ve got it: Saying no is part of the hiring process. It’s a key moment, with stakes for the brand’s image (whether an employer or commercial brand) and for business. Let’s forget the temptation to run away and use the opportunity to emerge stronger and more attractive, to ourselves and to our candidates.
How to give feedback to rejected candidates?
Discover our best practices for sharing candidate feedback in an efficient, useful way in your company.
Tip #1: Adapt your response based on how far the candidate advanced
We mentioned this earlier: Applying for jobs takes time. Based on how far along the candidate was able to advance, the type of appropriate feedback won’t be the same.
Before all else, putting in place an automatic email response for the reception of applications brings a frame to the journey. By adapting the email’s tone to your employer brand, you create the first link with candidates and set up a positive, clear relationship.
Then, if the profile doesn’t make it through the first selection phase, an email sent (addressed using the candidate’s name) is sufficient for closure. You can also add, for example, that you remain available to answer any questions, in this way demonstrating your capacity to stay in contact, open and attentive.
If the recruitment process is more advanced, with one or several interviews, it would be better to call or send a well-structured and detailed email to help justify your choice.
Tip #2: Rethink your evaluation grid together with the operational team
To best manage recruitment, it’s essential to define in advance the profile you’re looking for, including expected skills and any pluses.
To do this, many companies create a specific evaluation grid in collaboration with operations teams. Even if this barometer is intended for internal use, you can still share it with candidates, at the start of an interview for example.
This grid can naturally serve as a basis for any debriefing, whether via email or a call. If the job is particularly technical, you’ll have increased legitimacy and all the information necessary to be able to answer questions.
Tip #3: Show that you’re paying attention
“A few years ago, I was looking to change jobs, because the domain I was working in was no longer right for me. I went to many interviews, and each time, what was hard to manage was that I was going all the way to the end of the process before finally being rejected. Of course, the closer you get to the goal, the more you can see yourself in the role, and the more the rejection hurts,” according to Benjamin, data analyst, in his interview for Welcome to the Jungle.
A rejection is obviously a delicate and intimate moment, where the soft skills of your recruiters need to be mobilized at 200%. Effectively, it’s about being adaptable no matter the reaction or situation, which can be difficult to manage or anticipate.
Why not benefit then from this moment to get feedback on your candidate experience? There’s nothing like talking to rejected candidates to understand the positive points and where you can improve. You will then be able to create a more even relationship and engage with the process. Especially since the room for improvement is enormous. According to a Nederlia study, over 70% of companies fail to solicit job seeker feedback. That’s a lot of companies!
Tip #4: Set up a future-facing dynamic
Mohamed Achahbar, instructor at the Ecole du Recrutement makes a nice comparison between recruitment and conversation: “A ‘no’ after an interview is not a door that closes, not in the moment. If we don’t hire someone at a specific time, it’s possible that we’ll hire them in 6 months, or two years. For me, recruitment is a conversation, and interrupted conversations can be continued at any moment.”
With a candidate who’s gone far in the recruitment process, the motivation for your choice is key. In order to create a new, more positive dynamic, take the time to open up a dialogue and express your future needs and the company’s ambitions. You can, for example, agree to speak again in 6 months or a year. In that way, you leave the door open and you give a more positive slant to this delicate moment, both for your HR teams and for any potential future recruits.
Inès Giraud, tech talent scout at Doctolib explains: “A rejection needs to be carried out with a maximum of explanations. But also with perspective, for example, by proposing that they stay in touch about future opportunities or to keep them informed about company updates.”
Tip #5: Get help from technology
Finally, there is a growing number of ATS (Applicant Tracking System) software solutions available to help recruiters. They function to streamline the whole experience, including preselection, evaluation, communication and more, both for the company and the candidate.
Benoit Pacceu from Kiloutou explains, “Concretely, the tool responds to each applicant in a ‘personalized’ way within 72 hours after reception. The message sent to the candidate is different based on the profile (manager, ops) and their role (marketing, commerce), and also based on their history with the company (response to a job posting, spontaneous application).”
It’s software to look at as an investment rather than a cost: By nourishing your employer brand, you gain efficiency in your future recruitment.
These 5 tips help explain how each situation has its own protocol. Based on company context and how far along in the recruitment process a particular candidate is, you have to adapt. What better than to manage a delicate situation, like a rejection, to bring integrity to your employer brand and to make your values tangible.
Because HR is about real, live people, and because a ‘no’ today can be a ‘yes’ tomorrow, don’t break this initial link.