It’s not just good manners. Whether you’re HR, the hiring manager, or a recruiter, building relationships with candidates when recruiting new talent for your organisation is essential. Taking good care of candidates at each stage conveys a positive impression of your brand, your professionalism and reassures them of the integrity of the recruitment process.

However well you hire, the fact is the majority of candidates will be unsuccessful. One of the hardest parts of the job for those of us in a recruiting role is delivering the bad news. You’ve built trust and confidence with a candidate, then you’ve got to let them down.

Candidates are in a vulnerable position when the news of an unsuccessful application is received. Often they may have had all the appropriate skills, the right level of experience and worked in a relevant sector. In their mind they ticked all the boxes, but they didn’t get the job. In this case it usually comes down to ‘not right cultural fit’, ‘not right for right now’ or ‘not right for where they see this role or their organisation heading’.

As a recruiter it’s my job to analyse a candidate’s suitability, dig deeper into their work preferences and motivation. What makes us great at our profession is the ability to do all of these things, while establishing open communication with a candidate. So how can a ‘thumbs down’ be presented as a positive?

Think about rejection as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with a candidate; maintain their confidence by coaching them on the path to future success. Providing constructive criticism with detailed feedback will have ripple effects that counteract the inherent disappointment we feel when we’re told we are ‘unsuitable for the role’. It could mean the difference between getting the next job or continuously failing without knowing the reason why.

Here are my top tips for providing feedback to unsuccessful candidates:

  • Feedback is often vague, which can be perceived as ambivalent – be tactful in your approach, but be upfront about where there are areas for improvement and provide constructive criticism
  • You can’t offer the job, but you still have plenty to offer – are there other opportunities that may be more suitable within your company or could you connect a candidate with relevant contacts within your network?
  • Continuous rejection has major implications on a person’s psyche – with coaching and direction, most candidates will become successful, so make sure they don’t lose confidence in their abilities
  • Consider the impact on your business – ensuring candidates have a positive experience with your organisation when seeking employment means they can continue to be brand advocates and may return at a more appropriate time in their career

What’s your approach to providing feedback? Have you received feedback as a candidate that’s helped you to become successful in your career?