Responding to Rejected Candidates

Right now human resources professionals are inundated with candidates they can’t hire. While this situation is not new, the volume is increased and candidates seem to be more sensitive to how they are treated. Last month, the Boston Globe ran an interesting article on candidates’ reactions to the manner by which they are rejected. The challenge for many HR professionals is simply responding to all rejected candidates.

Why don’t applicants get a response?

There are a number of factors that have made it difficult to respond to all applicants:

  • Technology enables an overwhelming amount of employment inquiries. Email and online submission processes make it easy for job seekers to quickly apply for numerous open positions. On the other hand, employers need time to evaluate and screen each of those submissions.
  • The down economy and higher rate of unemployment means more candidates are applying for positions.
  • HR departments are stretched thin. Many organizations cut back on HR resources to weather the recent recession and are ill-equipped to handle the current workload.
  • Intercompany communication can lag. Sometimes an HR manager doesn’t know what to tell the candidate because they have not heard back from key participants in the hiring process.

Return on investment: why it is worth the effort to create a process and culture that ensure all candidates receive a response

Availability for future positions: The candidate you reject today might be perfect for a future opening; treat candidates well today and keep them interested in your organization.

Referrals: While the candidate might not be right for your company, if you treat them well they still might refer other people.

Candidate gains new skills: The candidate you reject today might go on to gain new skills and be desirable to you down the road.

Public relations: Being unresponsive to candidate can really generate intense bad feelings which can hurt your employment brand as well as your overall brand.

What should employers do?

Employers should develop a process that ensures all candidates that apply to your company get a response. The process may define who responds and how they respond depending on how deeply the applicant went in the interview process. For instance, if the applicant went on three rounds of interviews, you may want a senior person to have a live phone conversation with them explaining why they were not selected. On the other hand, it might be acceptable to send a standard email to an unqualified applicant who applied online to a job board posting.

In addition, employers need to create and maintain the proper culture which values treating candidates with respect and adhering to the process.

While responding to rejected candidates can be time consuming, in the long run I believe it is time well spent.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

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