Creating Fans with a Rejection Letter

Most recruiters and hiring managers don’t have any idea how many of their candidates are actually customers or potential customers. “Treat your candidates like customers” isn’t just something fun to say; quite often, candidates and customers are one in the same.

A candidate experience isn’t an extra step; it’s a completely vital part of the recruiting life cycle. Creating a thoughtful and pleasant candidate experience fosters talent pools, brand ambassadorships and loyal customers.

First consider how many applications you will receive for the average listing. That number represents X amount of chances to create fans out of applicants, whether or not they get the position. Your final interaction with these opportunities/candidates (except for one) is the rejection letter. It better be good!

Move the rejection letter up on your to-do list.

This isn’t an after-thought; the rejection letter should be as timely as you can make it. You never know what a candidate’s situation or frame of mind is. They may be depending on this position more than you know. Let them know as soon as possible that they did not get the job. HR pro and Inc. contributor, Suzanne Lucas goes so far as to say that if a recruiter has asked a candidate to come in for an interview, and then doesn’t bother to send a rejection letter, that recruiter should be fired. Lucas also said:

“Once someone has taken time out of their day to come in to your office, you owe them a response. Remember that the candidate who isn't exactly right for today's open position may be perfect for tomorrow's open position. Simply by not responding, you may have lost that candidate forever.”

Let’s get real here, with the software that recruiters have at their disposal, there is no reason that automated rejection letters shouldn’t be a part of the process. To make things even easier, there are a ton of great templates out there to riff off of. Here’s a good one from Inc.

The more you ask of a candidate, the more you should give in return.

Sometimes the candidate’s expectations aren’t in line with what recruiters are actually able to deliver, as far as a tailored experience and feedback. When we consider that the average corporate listing will pull in about 250 applications, it is simply not possible for recruiters to deliver the experience that some have come to expect.

That being said, as quality candidates move up through the process, attend multiple interview rounds and use their own resources to be involved, they should leave the process feeling as though they were appreciated and that the organization valued their time. For these such candidates, the rejection letter should be personalized, tailored and provide them with feedback and plenty of thanks for their participation.

Let the candidate know that you have them saved in your database and ask for permission to contact them in the future, should a relevant job become available.

Some will contend that said database is merely a black hole where applications go to die, but your database is what you make of it. If a ton of qualified, relevant candidates applied to a position, you should be contacting them in the future, instead of wasting resources to find more and simply start a collection of information that you’ll never use. Applicants aren’t Beanie Babies, they’re assets. This is why an easily searchable system with customizable fields makes a great deal of difference.

Just a few things to keep in mind when crafting your rejection letter. Again, each candidate is an opportunity for the organization; small efforts don’t make a big difference in your individual processes, but they can make a large difference in the organization’s reputation and reach.

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