Why You Must Rethink How You Reject Candidates In 2016

December 22, 2015

A recent job seeker survey on CAREEREALISM shows that over 40% of candidates who don’t hear back from an employer say they’ll never apply to the company again. Why? They assume that if the company didn’t bother to let them know they weren’t selected, then they must not qualify to work there at all.

In short, no response at all still sends a message. Can your company afford that kind of talent reaction to your lack of response?

Let’s do the math and find out...

No Response = Poor NPS (Net Promoter Score)

The average job posting gets 200+ applicants these days. However, the average recruiter only submits 3-6 applicants to the hiring manager for review. That gives candidates a mere 2% chance of getting their application being seen by the person who can give them the job. Which leaves 98% of candidates sitting by the computer, waiting to hear if they got lucky.

Now, multiply that by every job you’ve posted throughout the year. All of a sudden, the number of people who didn’t have a great candidate experience with your company grows quickly. What are the chances those candidates will encourage other people to apply to your company? Or, use your products and services?

Rethink rejection to save money

Lars Schmidt of Amplify Talent and co-founder of #HROS - an open-source HR platform says this is exactly why rethinking rejection should be at the top of every company’s task list in 2016. Schmidt explains:

"How companies deal with the delicate topic of rejection says a lot about their character. It's time for more organizations to infuse empathy in their hiring process. What many companies don't consider is applicants are often times customers. If you don't respect and honor their time and interest during the interview process, you may lose more than an applicant. There is a real monetary impact to getting candidate experience right.”

Makes sense. If you can’t let them know they didn’t move forward in the process, why should they promote your business? Especially, since the experience they had didn’t really display signs of good communication with potential business partners.

Hootsuite: A case study in rejection done right

Recently, Schmidt worked with Hootsuite to help them revamp their approach to rejection. Hootsuite’s VP of Talent, Ambrosia Vertesi says the company sees it as a way to stand out in the market:

"Candidate experience has been a strategic differentiator for Hootsuite as we've hyper scaled over the past 5 years. It is critical to a strong employer brand, something we leverage along with social media to keep our referral rates high and our cost per hire down. Internal candidate experience is our main focus right now with nearly 1,000 employees in 10 countries. Rejection seems to be a place organizations don't iterate as quickly so we want to ensure we are keeping it top of mind."

As a result, Schmidt and Vertasi looked at the entire applicant process and found several key places where they could manage the expectations of rejected candidates. Below are links to the case study, and templates for their job descriptions, applicant response and decline emails implemented to reframe the rejection experience.

So far, Vertasi and Schmidt say the results are positive, including comments from rejected candidates who respond with thanks for receiving such a helpful rejection letter.

How to build a better rejection process

My company, CareerHMO works with thousands of job seekers on a daily basis. We hear about the companies that have failed to respond to their applications and left them hanging. I can assure you, these candidates, while sad about not getting the job, greatly appreciate closure. And, if you can sprinkle in some helpful advice, you can really earn their trust and respect. Here are three things I think every rejection strategy should include:

  1. Be upfront in the job description about the volume of applicants you get. When candidates understand the odds, they won’t wonder why you didn’t have time to contact them. The auto-generate response is better than nothing when they know the volume they’re up against.
  2. Be clear about whether they should apply to other roles now, and in the future. Many candidates assume you keep their application on file and will look through those first before posting another job. If you want people to re-apply, you need to tell them.
  3. Find some company-approved resources to help them with their job search. Introduce them to some online tools and resources you think provide good insight into how they can better prepare for the next time they apply to your company.

This kind of helpful information is greatly appreciated by candidates. And, as Vertasi pointed out above, it can help your company’s candidate experience stand out.

Remember: Active applicants talk to passive candidates

Don’t let candidate rejection hurt your recruiting efforts in the future. The above ideas aren’t expensive or difficult to implement. Given the growing skills gap and talent shortage, can you really afford to ignore this critical opportunity to define your company’s employment brand to candidates? Active applicants talk to passive candidates. It would be terrible to think the top talent you need won’t apply because they heard from a colleague your company is careless in its candidate communications.

As Schmidt points you, "Candidate Experience is no longer a “nice to have” effort within your talent strategy. It’s imperative and needs to be iterated and enhanced regularly. It’s time for the conversation to shift from “why” to “how”.

PS  – If you are a recruiting professional, let’s connect on LinkedIn. I’d love to meet you. Also, I invite you to come learn more about my company, CAREEREALISM’s *free* Recruiter Directory and how you can get featured to 1,000,000+ job seekers. Additionally, we hold weekly "Top Recruiter" contests that can help you get even more exposure for your open positions. Learn more.

*Image from Death to the Stock Photo

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