Recruitment: When Rejected Candidates Make Happy Customers

For every role we advertise, there will usually only be one successful candidate, and a lot of unsuccessful candidates. However, even if unsuccessful candidates have a positive experience throughout the process, they may still go on to recommend you to other candidates, re-apply when they are more suited to the role, refer others as prospective customers or even become a future customer themselves. If they have a negative experience, they may talk about their experience online, which will be visible to future candidates and customers, and nobody wants negative PR!

So, how can you ensure that your candidates have a positive experience?

  1. Think of it as a two-way process – although in the past, employers typically had more ‘power’ in the process, having more candidates to choose from and not having to worry about bad feedback spreading, that isn’t the case anymore. Candidates are more qualified and/or educated than they have ever been, they have access to more potential job roles and can apply to them more quickly, so it is likely that candidates will have more than one offer on the table. Therefore, your recruitment process needs to ensure that candidates feel valued and not interrogated. The best way to do that is to make it a conversation, find out what motivates the candidate and show them just how amazing your company is. Don’t expect them to have researched the company in depth, tell them what they need to know. Answer their questions, and make sure they feel welcome in your offices.
  2. Guide candidates through the process – we all feel more comfortable in a new situation or environment when we know a little bit about what’s going to happen! This applies to recruiting too. Before you start recruiting, have a little think about the best process to find the right candidate for you – will you have a telephone or face-to-face interviews? Who will you ask them to meet? What do you want to know about the candidates? If you share this with candidates from the beginning, they will have an idea of how long the process might last and what hoops they will need to jump through. Before an interview, let them know who they will meet, how long it will take, what the purpose is, any prep they should do, and logistics about attending your office. At the end of each stage, just remind them about what will come next, e.g. we will notify you within XX days of the outcome. The next stage will be XX. If there are any delays, keep candidates in touch with a holding email. You are more likely to keep candidates engaged in your process (and not looking for alternative roles) if you have been upfront about the process.
  3. Be upfront, honest and fair – although commonplace, failing to tell candidates whether they have been successful or unsuccessful will not help your reputation. If a candidate wasn’t suitable, then be honest with them. If you are honest with people, it is likely that they already knew that might be the reason they wouldn’t get the job, and will accept your assessment. Knowing and sharing the true, criterion-based reason for rejection (e.g. lack of relevant experience) also means that candidates are less likely to be concerned that your reason is discriminatory or illegal.
  4. Finish on a positive note – in your final interaction with the candidate, typically the rejection email or call, it’s good practice to thank them for their involvement. It makes it clear that you haven’t taken their time for granted, and it makes them feel valued, even if they weren’t successful.

As well as all of the points noted above, there are lots of different touchpoints between you and (potential) candidates – from looking at your website or careers page, to reading the advert and applying. If candidates get a positive impression whilst researching the job, then they are more likely to apply. If they have a positive experience after application, then they are more likely to become referrers, customers or future applicants, and that has broader benefits for the business. We have supported our clients by developing careers pages, creating content for careers blogs, planning and executing effective recruitment processes and training managers in positive recruitment skills, as well as many other things. We could also help you to improve the way you and your team attract and hire new candidates to your business.


If you like to know more about how to get the most out of the recruitment process, then contact us today.