A Modern Recruiting Fairy Tale: Staying Connected With Rejected Candidates

Once upon a time, there was a cool recruitment marketing team that worked diligently to build impressive employer brands that their clients could take pride in…

At this point, we‚Äôve all gotten the employer branding rundown from various talent industry professionals. But in this chapter of the narrative, we are flipping the script and talking about the actual recruiters who are tasked with keeping the employer branding magic alive during the hiring process.

Whether it’s candidate engagement, relationship building, or ultimately landing talent a job, as a recruiter, you are there for every success and roadblock they experience throughout the recruiting process. With each success, comes good news – and with each roadblock… well, that’s where the bad news comes into the picture. Kind of like when the clock strikes midnight and your ATS turns back into a pumpkin.

 Let‚Äôs spell it out.

Bad news = your candidate didn’t get the job, and now it’s your responsibility to deliver the message.

That’s right folks. As a recruiter letting great candidates down is never part of the fairytale ending you want for them. Every day you literally have to tell the talent that you’ve spent a lot of time cultivating connections with that they aren’t the best fit for your roles…ouch. But this doesn’t have to close the book on your relationship with talent. Rejecting candidates with poise is part of creating that positive candidate experience we strive to deliver with every interaction. And when done right, this rejection can help you enrich your client’s employer brand, resulting in a healthy talent pipeline that you can pull from for the next gig.

Because everyone deserves to find their prince charming if the shoe fits – right? Well, get ready to list fairy godmother next to your recruiting title on your business cards. We are here to tell you how to let candidates down easy so that you can keep them in your network for exciting future recruiting opportunities!

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Reject candidates ASAP‚Äì Don‚Äôt keep their hopes up that they will eventually be asked to the ball when you know it‚Äôs not happening. This is 2018, and candidates mean business, I mean just look at how hot the job market is! Don‚Äôt lead your talent on if it‚Äôs obvious that this isn‚Äôt a glass slipper kind of fit. If you know that the hiring manager has better options or prefers another candidate, TELL THEM. The faster you can inform them that they aren‚Äôt the right fit, the sooner you can work your magic to find them another great role.
  • Personalize your communications‚Äì This should be obvious, but don‚Äôt blast them with a generic, ‚Äúhey you didn‚Äôt get the job‚Äù email template. We aren‚Äôt asking you to send a town crier to their door to relay the bad news, but remember that there is a real person behind those electronic communications. Here‚Äôs an idea‚Ķ pick up the phone and call them! Let‚Äôs show some respect and be honest with Jim. Jim deserves better than a drive-by rejection, and you know it.
  • Give honest (and useful) feedback‚Äì Along with giving Jim a personal note about not getting the role, being specific in that communication about why he didn‚Äôt get it will help him improve on whatever he was missing or didn‚Äôt highlight well enough. If Jim needed a particular type of certification for the role that the hiring manager was looking for, tell Jim to go take that class so he can build his resume up for the next position you try to place him in.
  • Ask for feedback‚Äì Sounds weird right? Yes, let‚Äôs ask talent for their feedback. Make them feel included in the conversation and learn how you can improve your recruiting game in the future when walking new candidates through the process. Think of it as your invaluable inside look at the candidate experience and don‚Äôt forget to take detailed notes!
  • Cultivate your connection ‚Äì This is a great way to grow your talent kingdom far and wide. Don‚Äôt disappear after you reject your candidate, stay in their good graces to maintain this hard-earned connection. Find an excuse to catch up with them every quarter, whether it‚Äôs to talk about an open role, resume tips, or even a mutual interest. The most effective way to keep in touch with talent is by connecting on social media so that you can easily congratulate them when they land a promotion or comment on pieces of work/news they share.
  • The ATS is your friend‚Äì We know that you had 500 things to do before you even made your first cold call this morning, but you must keep track of rejected candidates so that you can one day meet (and recruit) again! You know that fancy ATS that your company pays for? It is as good as a magic wand when it comes to staying organized and up-to-date on previous recruits. Use this tool to engage, or re-engage, with those standout candidates that didn‚Äôt get the offer in the past‚Ķ if they took your feedback to heart they may just be your new all-star candidate!


The way you turn down strong candidates can decide the fate and reputation of your client’s employer brand – wouldn’t you like to be a key factor in its overall success? Follow these tips to ensure that each star candidate stays in your network so you can help them find their professional happily ever after.

Who knows – maybe they’ll even let you stay in the castle.


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