As a recruiter, the greatest day is finding an A-player candidate ready and motivated to take the next step in their career.  The worst day is when you have invested time and effort in preparing a candidate for an interview, only to have them come back and tell you they want the role. You feel a sense of hope and anticipation, thinking this might finally be the breakthrough for your candidate. However, that hope quickly turns into disappointment and frustration when you receive an email from your client stating they are not interested in moving forward with this individual.

While this situation is particularly disheartening because it involves multiple layers of disappointment, it burdens the recruiter heavily.  How do you reject your great candidate without ruining your relationship with them?

Whether you realize they’re not fit on your initial screen because they’re over budget, missing a critical software skill, or after they’ve interviewed with the hiring manager. They must include something the company is looking for; you want to be transparent with them. A genuinely great candidate will appreciate your transparency and feedback. To continue candidate engagement with your A-Players, communicate honestly and consistently through your Applicant Tracking System.

Tips for Rejecting a Great Candidate

1. Transparency

If there is something they “messed up” in the interview, tell them so they can improve for the next company they interview with. While it may be hard to hear for the candidate, they will appreciate that you were willing to walk them through the rejection process with trust.

2. Timely communication

Be sure to deliver the good news. If they’re a great candidate, they’re probably interviewing other places, and you want to ensure you have opportunities for them. Please give them the bad news followed by your constructive feedback as soon as possible so you can get them in front of other hiring managers to interview.

3. Compliment sandwich

While you want to have transparent communication, you also want to continue building your great candidates up and ensure they know you want to continue to present them to other clients for similar roles. Tell them something extraordinary about their skillset or how they handled the interview, give them constructive criticism, and end the conversation by highlighting something great again.

4. Get all the information

Could you talk through the interview and their research on the company and learn as much about their background as possible? All of these things will show your candidate that you care and genuinely want to help them find a fantastic role, and they will also help you find the next part to talk to your candidate about. A solid ATS with features and tools to store this information and help you communicate with your a-Player is critical to positive candidate engagement.

5. Move forward

After you reject your great candidate, I want you to please not end the conversation on a negative note. Talk about how you want to continue to work with them, tell them about clients you think would be interested in their background, go through the other roles you’re currently working on, and tell them about openings that could be coming up.

This re-direction will ensure the candidate wants to stay in touch while you continue to source future positions.  This will also help ensure the candidate’s experience with your employer brand remains positive.

As a recruiter, you always want consistent candidate engagement, especially with great candidates. To create candidate engagement, you should strive to have a cadence of communication with your top candidates. Check in with them on how their job search is going; keep them informed about available job openings. If they’re genuinely a rockstar candidate, they probably have several recruiters in their inbox, so to have continued candidate engagement with them, you want to be the recruiter they remember.

SmartSearch offers tools to keep recruiters accountable during the hiring process, such as our Trak feature. SmartSearch’s Traks can create automated tasks to send out a check-in text message or email to candidates or send the recruiter a reminder to give their top candidates a quick phone call. Implementing automated tasks from your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) into your recruiting best practices can help your candidate engagement reputation as a recruiter and ultimately help you place talented professionals in significant new roles.

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