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6 Steps to Make Candidate Rejection Less Bitter


We’re all painfully aware that since mid-2020 pandemic-perpetrated mass redundancy has seriously bitten many businesses. 

It continues to bite some sectors, such as hospitality, travel trade, and retail, particularly sharply.

An alarming example of unusually high job application volume made national news last July, when Manchester restaurant 20 Stories received over 1,000 applications for an admin job vacancy.

Carol Cairnes, the Director of People for D&D London which owns the restaurant said on the BBC News website,

On Monday we placed an advert for a receptionist role for our 20 Stories restaurant in Manchester. The next day, James, our Head of Talent, went to look at applications and was amazed to find that in less than 24 hours we had 963 people apply. Normally for such a role they'd expect at that stage to receive about 30 applications Going through the candidates who applied, we could see there were a lot of very talented and highly-qualified people that applied for the role, including some restaurant general managers."

Due to high levels of redundancy there’s been a swift exponential growth in the volume of jobseekers which represents a double-edged sword to recruitment professionals. You might experience up to a 200%+ increase in the number of applicants applying for your vacancies.

But that doesn’t necessarily equate to a 200%+ increase interest from ideal candidates who are genuinely excited about your job vacancy or qualified or suitable for the role on offer. In today’s challenging and competitive job market, it’s sad but true that a high % of applicants are applying for any job.

Let’s cut to the chase, a potential 200%+ increase in job applications translates into a seismic increase in the amount of candidate rejection letters recruitment teams need to manage and deliver at the relevant touchpoints.

If you don’t get it right, you risk creating a bad reputation for your business. You only have to consider the posts on LinkedIn we all see regularly, by disgruntled candidates who aren’t receiving any communication from potential employers.

It’s a turbulent time for the thousands of job seekers who are understandably anxious about securing employment. Can you blame them for having a poor opinion of you if you don’t even deem them worthy of a ‘thank you for taking the time, but unfortunately’ for their troubles? Or you ghost hopeful shortlisted candidates after interviewing them?

In this article we’re going to skim beneath the surface of a good and bad candidate rejection process. Looking at how your Applicant Tracking System can help make or break you during a period of unusually high application processing per vacancy.


The benefits of a positive candidate rejection process

A worthwhile candidate rejection process is an intrinsic part of your employer branding. How the outside world perceives you as an employer. It’s not about your products or services. It’s peoples’ opinions of your standards and behaviour, your principles of right and wrong, your ethics as an employer.

Think about candidate rejection from this angle and you’ll understand exactly why meaningful candidate rejection of those who don’t fit the bill per vacancy is crucial to your employer branding.

If rejected candidates feel they’ve been treated unethically or shoddily by you, they certainly aren’t going to buy from you in future or recommend you anybody they know.

Depending on the depth of their disgruntlement, they might even actively and publicly denounce your business. People listen. It’s a small world with six degrees of separation and mud sticks.


Six steps to make your candidate rejection less bitter and more sweet

If you take the following six steps as the ‘golden rules’ of candidate rejection you won’t go far wrong. You’ll optimise your chances of retaining a good reputation in the eyes of your unsuccessful applicants, despite their disappointment. You’ll do your business justice, taking the appropriate steps at the right times.

So, despite the volume challenge, always send candidate rejection letters -  

  • With timeliness – Keeping intrepid applicants on tenterhooks for an unnecessarily long time shows a complete lack of empathy. Especially to shortlisted candidates you’ve interviewed. Even if it’s not the news they’d hoped for, do the right thing and put them out of their misery. 
  • With recognition – Don’t just fire out rejection correspondence impersonally headed with Dear Sir/Madam or similar. Its soul destroying for rejected applicants who are made to feel unworthy of being addressed by their names. 
  • With appreciation – Manners cost nothing. Use them and say thank you to unsuccessful candidates for the time and effort they put in to applying, and for their interest in your business.
  • With reasons – Individual feedback isn’t possible or necessary for applicants who aren’t shortlisted. But it’s courtesy to provide constructive feedback to candidates who made it through to interview stage. They don’t need War & Peace from you. But they’ll be grateful for any hints and tips you might be able to offer them that they can put to constructive use in future interviews. 
  • With encouragement – If you’ve got a careers site, ask your rejected candidates if they’re agreeable to their information being retained. Just because you weren’t the best match with each other this time doesn’t mean you might not be on a future occasion. 
  • With goodwill – End candidate rejection letters positively with your genuine best wishes for their job search and future career success.


An Applicant Tracking System does more than make your candidate rejection credible

Imagine having to manually sift through a 200%+ increased volume of applications to filter a shortlist for interviewing. Where do you even start without the automated screening help an Applicant Tracking System gives?

Even worse, imagine the time needed to spend on candidate rejection admin. Even with an Applicant Tracking System, your workload is naturally increased. But it’s manageable and streamlined. If you’re still using manual and paper processes, the sheer volume of candidate rejection letters might be more than you’re resourced to handle.

Vacancy Filler’s Applicant Tracking System is purpose-built to make lighter work of the unprecedented application volumes recruitment professionals are facing. Yet the capabilities our Applicant Tracking System empowers you with go much deeper than slashing your admin time. 

In addition to that, the positive impact an Applicant Tracking System has on your recruitment process helps protect your company’s reputation. Which is priceless.

We look forward to speaking with you and arranging a complimentary tailored software demo to walk and talk you through our Applicant Tracking System.

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Jack Hardy

Digital Marketing Consultant for Vacancy Filler.

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