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Strategies for Rejecting Employees

When an employer or business posts a job listing, they may receive dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of responses. While the majority of these applicants will be unqualified, a handful will be brought in for one or more interviews. Still, only one person can get the job, and telling the other applicants, some of whom may have made it deep into the interview/hiring process, will need to be told that they did not get the job.

We spoke to career and hiring experts about the best ways to reject a job applicant:

I have been in the HR business for 21 years and the best way to tell someone that they did not get the job is to be direct and quick about it. The most difficult part of looking for work is the "not knowing" part. One should not wait or delay in providing the news to the applicant[s], as any waiting just prolongs the frustration of not knowing. Talk with the applicant directly [no emails or voice messages], be professional and offer them constructive critique as to why they didn't get the job. And above all wish them success with their future career. A little kindness, professionalism and respect will go a long way and the applicant will remember their honesty.

John Francis
President of HR consulting firms Theonera Inc and ACareerJob

I deal with this a lot because my company is such a positive, upbeat place to work that more people want to work for us than we have room for. With the recent downturn in the economy, we have been flooded with resumes. So here are my two cents on this topic.

When it comes to viable candidates, I am always interested in hiring talent because it is so hard to find. However, I don't always have room on my payroll for talent so when I identify someone who is potentially a good fit, my assistant reaches out to them via email and asks permission to keep
their resume on file for our next opening. Or, if they have made it though the interview process but were not the top candidate, I will personally let them know that I think they are fantastic and I would like to consider them for the very next job that becomes available. I find people really respond to this and I have had a few people take temp jobs to wait until another opportunity was available to come and work for us.

When we have people we are not sure about, we ask them to submit a writing sample explaining why they are passionate about weight loss. Most people do not respond to this which eliminates them from the interview process. The ones that do, usually move up into the "talent" category.

Based on the amount of resumes we receive, we cannot respond to all of them. So unfortunately, we do ignore the ones that do not seem to be a good fit based on work history.

Hope this is helpful for you! Love the story idea! Great job!

*Claire Pearson*
Chief Operating Officer
Metabolic Research Center

As a career consultant, you really hit a nerve with this question:

There are few things more devastating in a job hunt than wondering whether anyone ever bothered to read (or even view) the application you spent hours crafting. Being rejected is less humiliating than being left hanging.

I believe that a well prepared application deserves the courtesy of an answer, even if that answer is via a form, rejection letter. The employment world is on a pendulum: there will be a time again, at some point, when there will be more jobs than qualified applicants, and the people who were cold-shouldered this time around will remember which companies didn't even bother to thank them for applying. Or, said in a more positive way, the good will that a company can derive from treating applicants with dignity will last long after the sting of being rejected goes away.

Please let me know if I can help further.

Cheryl Heisler

As someone who helps people on the autism spectrum get and keep good jobs, and also helps everyone else work better with those on the spectrum, I think it's only courteous for an employer to notify everyone who has been at least phone-screened of the outcome once an offer has been made, finalized and accepted. Prospective employees take the trouble to prepare and stay by their phones -- or, of course, navigate to your office, dress up and actually go there and back in addition to the actual interview, and they do this knowing that any one interview is unlikely to lead to an offer. The least the employer can do is send an email (or, of course, a paper letter or even make a phone call) letting the unsuccessful candidate know the situation as soon as possible. That tells him/her that you appreciate their effort...and it helps mark you as the kind of company they (and their acquaintance, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, etc) may want to work for.

It's bad enough when employers make candidates call *them* to find out they've already been rejected. It's even worse when employers don't even return candidates' follow up calls or emails...and I've seen*that* happen more than a few times!

(And yes, all this holds for people considering hiring independent contractors/professionals of various sorts.)

Yes, I know it's awkward to say "no" to someone. It's much more awkward to be a total jerk and leave people hanging when they spent their own time and often money to talk with you about possibly working for you.

The most outrageous violation took place years ago. A prominent online education company had emailed me asking me to be a subject matter expert for a course they were developing. We emailed back and forth a few times addressing some questions I had. Finally, I asked who else would be on the project...and I knew they still had a couple of days to get someone (presumably me) on board as the SME. The hiring manager snarled back, saying that the other people would be introduced at the first briefing and "asking" if I still wanted the job or not. Quickly after that, another person (who was involved in the group conversation) emailed me the names of the other people. I quickly responded that I'd like to take the job. Then...nothing.

Some days later, I followed up with an email asking what was going on. The person who had responded to me last said they were interviewing other people and would get back to me with the final decision (which was the first time anyone had told me that they hadn't *already* reached a final decision). She went on to say that they were busy, and thus could not respond to me as quickly as I would like and had to ration their responses.

And that was the last I ever heard from them about the SME job.

The second most outrageous variation also took place years ago. I'd interviewed for a full-time debt collection position with benefits, and we hadn't discussed any other positions. The hiring manager called and left a voicemail saying she wanted to make me an offer. So, of course, the moment I heard it I dialed her digits as fast as *my* digits would manage...only to be told that the offer she actually wanted to give me was for a part-time, hourly skiptracing position, no benefits. She'd actually *rejected* me for the debt collection position, and I suspect that because she said during the interview that she likely would make me an offer, in light of her final decision she just wanted to save face: "Look, I said I'd likely make you an offer...and I am!"

And while we're at it, when responding to a candidate you want to interview...please give him/her reasonable time to respond. More than once I've gotten voicemails -- each time, several days after applying -- after 3:30pm, giving me until 5:00 *the same day* to call them back. Since I was working full-time at the time (which of course they would have known) this was impossible. Each time I called back that same night and left a voicemail...and each time the recruiter subsequently lied *to my face* about which day I had responded!

Dr. Jeffrey Deutsch
Life Coach & Consultant
A SPLINT - ASPies LInking with NTs