How to Break Up With Your Candidates — Without Closing the Door

Posted by The ConveyIQ Team

We’ve all been there: the candidate break-up call. No matter how smooth and streamlined your interview process, letting candidates know that they won’t be receiving an offer is always tough. But approaching the conversation in a transparent and honest way can keep the lines of communication open once the hard part is done. An added bonus? Maybe they’re not the right fit for this role, but they got this far in the process for a reason, so this conversation can be a great way to build a long-lasting relationship and ultimately help you build out a robust talent pipeline to keep good candidates in the mix in case other opportunities come up. 

Here’s how to keep the conversation friendly, while giving your candidates the feedback they need. 

Set up a time to talk to the candidate 

There’s nothing worse than a drawn-out break-up and that applies to business relationships as much as personal ones. Rather than delaying the process to avoid an awkward conversation, schedule some time with the candidate as soon as you know that they won’t be moving onto the next step. Don’t string them along. This is a great way to show candidates that you respect their time and that you value them enough to have a real conversation. Although it may not feel great in the moment, the payoff can be huge — for both parties. That was certainly the case for Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s vice president of Global Talent Acquisition. In a recent article from LinkedIn’s Talent Blog, Browne explains how getting rejected from a company years ago has shaped his recruiting process in his current role. After receiving a phone call telling him that he would not be moving forward, Browne was disappointed but appreciative of the way the message was delivered. “[It] stung a little bit, but I had nothing but respect for the fact that it was delivered clearly,” Browne says, emphasizing the importance of personal communication when you’re letting candidates down. 

Offer feedback whenever possible 

It may seem counterintuitive to provide feedback when rejecting a candidate — after all, you don’t want to hurt their feelings — but research shows that 94% of candidates want interview feedback regardless of the outcome. Plus, candidates are four times more likely to consider another opportunity with your company if they receive that feedback in a constructive way. Before making the call, ask the hiring managers involved in the process to offer some actionable tips you can share with the candidate, and weave those into your conversation. Focus on what they do well as well as areas where they can improve, and deliver those comments in a sensitive and thoughtful way. This is a great way to show candidates that you value what they brought to the interview process and that you truly care about their candidate experience and future prospects.

Keep the relationship going

Once the hard part is done, let the candidate know that you appreciate their efforts and would love to stay connected in case other opportunities come up. “There’s a fairly good chance if they’ve made it that far in your process, they’re quite talented,” Browne says. “And there’s a good chance you may want to hire them in the future.” To keep the lines of communication open, add these candidates to your talent community and stay in touch with them on a regular basis. The best way to do this is by sending out monthly emails with company updates, key wins and new job opportunities. Once you have an opportunity that could be a good fit for one of the candidates you turned down in the past, reach out to them directly and invite them to apply. This is a great way to make the recruitment process more personal while letting candidates know that you remember them and the skills they can bring to the table. 

Although turning down a candidate is never fun, it doesn’t have to signal the end of the relationship. By being respectful, transparent and showing candidates that you value them, you can create an ongoing connection that could pay off big-time down the line. The key to making it work is taking a thoughtful approach to the conversation and being committed to staying in touch once you’ve let them know of your decision. 

Want to improve the recruitment process at your company? Learn tactics to help you achieve your diversity and inclusion goals and how to build a high-impact campus recruitment strategy.


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