Blog: Leaving no bridge burned: Why recruiters should cultivate relationships with rejected applicants

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Leaving no bridge burned: Why recruiters should cultivate relationships with rejected applicants

Many of these rejected candidates perceive a negative experience in the job hiring process and it can dissuade them from applying to that employer again.
Leaving no bridge burned: Why recruiters should cultivate relationships with rejected applicants

Most employers struggle to find the time to respond to every relevant job applicant. However, this mentality is shortsighted and can result in a tangible cost in the long run. Job recruitment has undergone a shift in recent years as we’ve drifted from an employer-centric to a candidate-centric market for seeking talent. With unemployment low, candidates have more agency than ever in the hiring process.

Many times, recruiters find it difficult to identify adequately-skilled candidates to fill positions of need in their company and have to reject the majority of them. Unfortunately, companies don’t often give reasons why they didn’t get an interview or a job offer. This is a mistake. Often the rejected candidate could be a fit some time down the road for the same or a different position. Many of these rejected candidates perceive a negative experience in the job hiring process and it can dissuade them from applying to that employer again.

Therefore, it is vital to cultivate a positive relationship with rejected candidates in order to maximize the potential for both the company and the jobseeker. Employers and recruiters need to adapt to the candidate-driven world or risk being surpassed by competitors.

Helping the candidate expand their skills

A common complaint from recruiters is the lack of adequately-skilled candidates in the hiring process, but rather than letting them know how to develop their missing skills, they often simply rejected them with silence. Hiring decision-makers need to start looking at candidates for what they can potentially bring to the table in the future rather than what they lack in the present and to let them know what skills or experiences would make them potentially attractive as a hire. The short-term outlook of mass, silent rejection can stunt the development of talent pools and further hamstring the hiring process down the line.

In fact, 94% of job seekers look for interview feedback, and they’re four times more likely to consider a company for a future opportunity when they get constructive criticism on what skills they lacked for the job. Negative candidate experiences – lack of response, disinterest shown in interviews, or exasperating application processes – is a lose-lose scenario for both parties. The candidate can’t improve themselves while the company misses an opportunity for a future hire.

While it is hard for recruiters to respond to every candidate, a concerted effort to show that they care that the candidate invested their time into applying for the specific job could go a long way. The best way to approach this is to be upfront with the candidate throughout the process. If it’s a high volume opening, let each candidate know that they may not get an interview and why. When rejecting a candidate, a written communication explaining why they didn’t get the job allows them to know which skills they need for self improvement in order to get a similar job in the future. Even an automated letter for beginning-stage applicants shows that a company empathizes with candidate’s future career aspirations. 

For serious candidates – those in the secondary or final stages of the interview process – it is even more vital to retain a level of courtesy when notifying them of their rejection. If a candidate knows they were the second or third choice for the position, they are much more likely to reapply in the future. Furthermore, the candidate can know which skills they need to improve in order to get the job at the next opportunity. 

There is no downside to being polite during the hiring process. Rejected candidates are aware that there are other people applying for the job and the majority of the time simply want to know how they can improve for the future. When the candidate gains those skills, positive experience during the recruitment process will make them much more likely to reapply as a qualified and persistent candidate.

Improving the company image

Rejected candidates have another valuable use as well – boosting the company’s image. If a candidate has a positive experience within a company’s job hiring process, there is a much greater chance that they share this experience within their professional circle, giving the company free PR. On the other side, a bad experience can lead to a candidate discouraging their circle from applying to or even associating with the company.

In fact, 27% of rejected candidates actively discourage others from applying to a company following a bad experience. While this may not have been as significant problem in the past, with employee experience sites such as Glassdoor now in existence, negative reviews on the site can prove to be a death warrant. Candidates are able to see industry-wide which companies place more stock in potential employees, creating ‘employers of choice.’ In a candidate-centric market, talented jobseekers have the opportunity avoid applying to poorly reviewed companies.

Negative candidate experience can also directly affect a company’s customer base. For well-known companies, many times candidates are customers themselves. For example, Virgin Mobile recently did a study where they discovered that 18% of rejected candidates were Virgin Mobile customers. They found out that two-thirds of these rejected candidates stopped using Virgin Mobile after a bad recruitment experience, costing Virgin Mobile $5 million a year. With customer service directly affecting the bottom-line, Virgin Mobile began to change their recruitment process.

Employers need to stop thinking in terms of databases or binary accept/reject sequences and start thinking in terms of relationships. In order for rejected candidates to truly blossom into skilled workers, a little cultivation and more patience is vital. In this candidate-centric world, the ability to create a best-in-class experience for all candidates is the optimal way to approach recruitment

Topics: GuestArticle, Life @ Work

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