Rejecting hopeful job applicants is one of the worst parts of any business owner or hiring manager’s job. No one likes telling an enthusiastic candidate that things aren’t going to work out, especially when you’ve spent time getting to know someone’s background and skills.

The alternative, however, is much worse. Recruiting experts warn that companies should always provide closure; in fact, failing to clearly reject a candidate can hurt your company’s reputation in the long run.

How to Ensure a Stress-Free Candidate Rejection Process

But rejecting candidates doesn’t have to be stressful. You can use this article to take the guesswork out of communicating with candidates you decide not to hire.

1. Use a Script

It’s natural to procrastinate on tasks that are unpleasant, ambiguous, or confrontational in some way – and rejecting job applicants is no different. You might find yourself in a stressful cycle of opening an email to deliver the bad news, only to put it aside in favor of simpler tasks.

But the longer you delay, the worse the candidate might feel. If you aren’t going to offer a candidate a job, you can always make it your mission to provide prompt closure so the candidate can move on to other opportunities.

One way to stop the procrastination cycle is to use a script. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends creating a standard rejection letter that all rejected candidates receive.

This approach can help you send those rejection emails more promptly by taking the guesswork out of the process. It’s also fair, ensuring that all candidates are treated with equal care and respect.

SHRM also points out that a scripted response can be vetted by your company’s legal team in advance, greatly reducing the risk of a hiring manager saying something that could get your company in legal hot water.

There’s no shame in using a scripted rejection email, and your company might even reap new benefits.

2. Personalize Rejections for Final Round Candidates

Still, there are situations where a scripted rejection might seem odd or even insulting. If you’ve carried a candidate through multiple rounds of interviews and invested time in getting to know them, you may want to add a personal note to the scripted rejection.

Glassdoor suggests 5 key components of an effective rejection email:

  • Thank the candidate for their time.
  • Explain that the role was highly competitive.
  • Briefly summarize why they were not selected for the role.
  • Wish the candidate luck.
  • Provide ways to keep in touch, if you’d like to.

This approach is effective because it combines the disappointing news with encouragement and gratitude.

You should especially consider using this approach if you anticipate that you will be posting new job opportunities in the next six to twelve months. If a candidate is committed to working with your company, they may be willing to stay in their current role until new opportunities surface.

Although no one enjoys being rejected, most candidates will appreciate the closure and direct, prompt feedback.

3. Never Ghost a Candidate

Of all the options you have after deciding not to hire a candidate, ghosting is by far the worst. When ghosting occurs, a hiring manager cuts off communication with a candidate, providing no closure or insight into the hiring process.

Although many people find this approach rude, it’s surprisingly common. More than one-third of job applicants (36%) say they received no response the last time a company rejected them.

Candidates often interpret ghosting as a sign of disrespect, but the reality can be much more complicated.

Hiring managers are often subject to internal politics that could halt the hiring process, budget changes, or even busy schedules that lead to emails being lost in the shuffle.

To prevent unintentional ghosting, you should:

  • Develop clear lines of communication. When one hiring manager or HR representative truly owns communication with candidates, it’s easier to ensure nothing is lost in the shuffle.
  • Automate communication. Many application portals allow you to automatically send rejection emails to candidates once you remove their applications from consideration.
  • Work with a recruiting partner. If your company struggles with recruitment, hiring a partner may help. Recruiting firms have tools that help them build highly responsive relationships with candidates to match them with the right employer.

Taking simple steps to improve communication with standardized processes can eliminate ghosting and ensure that no candidates are left in the dark.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

For every employee you hire, you’ll be forced to reject dozens of other applicants. Although it will never be easy or pleasant, you can take steps to streamline the process and reduce the stress associated with it.

Most candidates appreciate direct, honest feedback that’s delivered as soon as you come to a decision. Scripted rejection emails can make the process quicker – and more legally sound. Plus, they’re easy to personalize for candidates who reach the final rounds.

Above all, you should always avoid ghosting and provide much-needed closure to candidates.

With these steps in mind, you can tackle rejection emails with confidence and deliver the news in the most respectful manner possible.

Our guest author, Michelle Delgado, is a content developer and marketer at Clutch, a leading B2B ratings and reviews firm. She reports on the latest trends in workplace technology and human resources.

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