5 Tips to Remember When Telling a Candidate they have been Rejected
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Regardless of how experienced, confident, skilled, or understanding one is, being rejected in a job interview is still quite disappointing or hurtful. Although a candidate may know that many factors are at play in an interview, it is quite instinctual to link their selection in an interview to their capabilities.

Therefore, it is tricky to inform a candidate that their application will not be furthered. Regardless, what needs to be done has to be done. 

Many organizations use emails or messages to convey the news. However, communicating with candidates over a phone call can not only indicate your genuine interest in their candidature but also help in creating a great candidate experience.

Let us look at some aspects to be mindful of while informing candidates about their rejection.

5 things to be mindful of while informing unsuccessful job applicants over a phone call

Making that dreaded phone call is not going to be easy. However, it does not need to be hard, either. 

There are a few things to keep in mind before you pick up the phone and tell an applicant that they haven’t made the cut: 

#1 Be prepared

Sharing feedback in any space needs preparation. When you know what to say and are prepared with how to say it, the process of sharing feedback is relatively simplified. Preparation is also needed to gather facts and observations that have been factors in the rejection. 

Whether the fallout was because of a simple discrepancy like location or experience or a skill mismatch, you need to know the reasons behind the rejection. You can also anticipate any questions to answer them correctly. 

#2 Be empathetic

 It is important to understand the candidate’s feelings about not getting the role or the opportunity to apply for a role. Of course, you don’t hold the responsibility of making the candidate feel better, but it is definitely in your purview not to make them feel worse. 

#3 Be authentic

It is possible that you feel bad for a certain candidate, knowing their need for the job. However, it is necessary to be authentic and honest while sharing feedback. 

Being constructive in your feedback is also a great practice to follow. This will help the candidate understand their areas of improvement and perform better when they attempt another interview (either at your organization or any other). 

#4 Be open to listening

 If the candidate wants to express themselves during the conversation, be open to listening to them. You could use your discretion to filter out any feedback for you, the interview process, and/or the organization.   

#5 Be prompt (at least relatively)

As a recruiter, you are swamped with work. The rejected pile of resumes may not be your priority, but it is important to close the loop by informing the candidate. Often, this task is automated when the rejection happens in the earlier stages of interviewing. However, if the candidate has progressed through many stages, it is important to share feedback within the week. 

Check – Cold Calling Scripts for Recruiters

3 Sample phone script templates for notifying unsuccessful job candidates over call

Following are some sample scripts that can be used as guidelines to reject candidates at various interview stages:  

#1 Sample Script  – When the candidate is rejected at the screening level

  1. If the candidate doesn’t match your criteria at all

You: Hello [candidate’s name], this is [your name] from [your company name]. Is this a good time to speak with you? 

Option 1: Yes, Go on.

You: I would like to speak to you regarding your application for the role of [designation]. 

Firstly, thank you for your interest in the role and our organization. However, we were looking for some specific criteria for the role. I am afraid your application cannot be processed further. 

We wish you all the best in your job search.

Once again, thank you for your time.  

  1. If the candidate doesn’t match your criteria at the moment or is a partial match.

You: Hello [candidate’s name], this is [your name] from [your company name]. Is this a good time to speak with you? 

Candidate: Yes, Go on.

You: I would like to speak to you regarding your application for the role of [designation]. 

Firstly, thank you for your interest in the role and our organization. However, we were looking for [reason – lack of experience/skill or location or (constraint)]. I am afraid your application cannot be processed further [at this moment/for this role/for this location]. 

I hope you would like to consider other future opportunities in our organization that are better suited for you.  

Once again, thank you for applying.  

Note: 

  • If the candidate has questions about the criteria, you could answer them.
  • If the candidate seems suited for your organization, you could consider their profile for other roles. You could also encourage the candidate to keep in touch with the organization’s website or other social media presence for opportunities.        
  • If the candidate is busy and cannot talk, you could also offer feedback to be sent by email.

#2 Sample Script – When the candidate gets rejected at the initial interview stages

You: Hello [candidate’s name], this is [your name] from [your company name]. Is this a good time to speak with you? 

Candidate: Yes, please.

You: I am calling to share feedback about your interview for the role of [designation] at our organization. 

Firstly, thank you for your interest in the role and for meeting us for an interview. It was nice to get to know you better during the last few interview conversations.

You could start with what went well in the interview. 

I appreciate your knowledge of [domain/technology] and also felt that your understanding of [skill] was good/great/excellent. 

What was expected from you was to have more hands-on experience and understanding of [domain/skill/criteria], which is a major aspect of being successful in this role. I wanted to let you know that, unfortunately, at this moment, we will not be moving forward with your application. 

Brushing up on basics/ gaining experience in the areas will help you feel more confident and be better suited for such roles not only in our organization but also in the industry. I hope you would like to consider and be on the lookout for future opportunities on our website.

Once again, thank you for applying.  

Note:

  • Depending on who conducted the interview, you could change the pronoun to I/We/They.
  • If you have taken the interview, then you can share detailed information. If the candidate asks for instances of why they have received constructive feedback, you could share examples. However, you would need to take notes during the interview.
  • If the candidate has been through a couple of interview rounds, you could share collated feedback.
  • If you are sharing feedback on behalf of another interview, let the candidate know.

#3 Sample Script – When the candidate gets rejected at the later stages of interviews

 

You: Hello [candidate’s name], this is [your name] from [your company name]. Is this a good time to speak with you? 

Candidate: Yes, please.

You: I am calling to share feedback about your interview for the role of [designation] at our organization. 

Firstly, it was great to get to know you as a professional through our interview conversations. Your confidence and preparation for all interviews are commendable. Unfortunately, your profile has not been chosen for the role at this moment. 

Candidate: Oh! I am so disappointed. I thought I had done well. 

You: You did well in the interviews. However, you know that expectations from the candidate increase with every interview level. Would you like some detailed feedback?

Candidate: Yes, I would like that.

You: Let me start with what went well and was impressive to the interviewers.

Your profile was a good fit for the role, and your qualifications are impressive. You seem to have a good deal of knowledge and practical experience in [domain/technology]. Your responses to questions in the domain familiar to you were detailed, and you were quite confident answering those questions.

Also, your approach to challenging situations was quite good/excellent/mature.

Due to your experience, you seem to have excelled at [soft skill/functional skill/interpersonal skill]. You were able to justify your approach with relevant examples. 

Candidate: What didn’t go well?

You: The selection process was highly competitive, and what was expected for the role was a hands-on experience in [skill/domain/technology]. Although you seem to be a quick learner, the role needed someone who was more plug-and-play.   

You could also consider getting some more experience in [soft skill/functional skill/interpersonal skills].

With more practice experience, you will feel more confident and be better suited for such roles not only in our organization but also in the industry. 

Candidate: Thank you for the detailed feedback.

You: I hope you would like to consider and be on the lookout for future opportunities on our website. We would surely love to have someone like you working with us. (Say this only if you mean it!)

Once again, thank you for choosing [name of the company] and investing your time in applying for the role.

Note: 

  • If there is an expectation of higher skill, expertise, or experience with specific domain/skill/technology, you could mention that.
  • If the candidate is not a culture fit, you could just mention that their association with the organization doesn’t seem to be mutually aligned.      
  • A candidate who is rejected at a later stage deserves detailed feedback. Ensure that you have enough information to share with them.
  • If the rejection was due to constraints of immediacy, salary, or simply a fit into the team, you could mention those as well. However, ensure that you phrase it appropriately after acknowledging their skills, time, and effort. 

Wrap up

Usually, recruiters find phone calls better suited to sharing pleasant news and prefer emails or messages for rejecting profiles. However, talking to a candidate about their rejection can often be reassuring if the conversation and feedback are constructive. 

By sharing feedback over the phone, you can subtly influence many factors, like creating a positive employer brand and great candidate experiences, as well as set a solid reputation as an ‘invested’ recruiter!    

FAQs on Rejecting Candidates Over a Call

Does every rejected candidate need to be informed by phone?

Many organizations have set protocols to share feedback with rejected candidates. Depending on the hiring volume, hiring processes, time to fill, etc., many companies choose their mode of communication with candidates. 
Many companies also choose to share detailed feedback over the phone only with candidates who have reached the later stages of interviews. 

What are the challenges in sharing feedback by phone?

Some moments when sharing feedback by phone can be a challenge are when:

– The candidate is unreachable.
– The candidate is across geographical locations.
– The candidate is defensive or resistant to accepting rejection.
– The recruiter has a high workload.
– The recruiter is not skilled in sharing feedback.

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