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How to Make the Best out of Turning Applicants Down

Posted by Jessica Miller-Merrell

turning applicants down

When it comes to selecting a candidate for a role you’ve been tasked to fill, you are likely to consider multiple applicants. Some will be qualified and some will not. Some will be a good fit for the position, while others may have attributes that make you wonder, despite their qualifications, if they would fit well into your work environment.

Whatever the case may be, whether you select someone for a role or send them packing, it’s important to maintain a good relationship with every candidate you consider for a job, or even just interact with. You never know when that person might be a good fit for a different role down the road. And remember, whether or not a person is selected, if he or she has a good experience during the interview and selection process, the applicant will be more likely to speak highly of your company, and potentially even send other qualified candidates your way in the future.

Be Relational

When it comes to recruiting and interviewing these days, there are a lot of technological advancements like applicant tracking systems, video interviewing technology, automated emails, and so on. However, it’s important to not get so caught up in the technological capabilities that we lose the personal touch that allows us to leave a lasting good impression on candidates. While technology can be impressive, human interaction is more important. A personal touch, whether through a face-to-face interaction or a phone call, lets you get to know a candidate more comprehensively. It also helps the candidate get to know your company better than any video or piece of technology could.


When a candidate is treated respectfully as an individual throughout the process, it softens the blow of not receiving a position, and leaves your company looking good despite the candidate’s rejection, as described in this article by Lotus Yon on LinkedIn. Things like communicating effectively and in a timely manner, having respect for the applicant’s time, and treating him or her as a valued individual, whether in small or grand ways, can go a long way toward keeping the whole experience a positive one.

Your Brand

Just as your company is branded, your recruitment and hiring processes should reflect the culture and image you want to project. Recruiting is an aspect of your company that directly faces the public. In HR, you deal directly with lots of people who can share their experiences, both positive and negative, with countless others. Before people have their first interview or even apply, you need to imagine what you want the process to look like. Do you want to appear welcoming and respectful, or rigid, cold, and distant? Think about the environment you’d like to portray, and how you want potential candidates to perceive your organization through their interactions with you. From there, it will be easier to figure out what needs to be done in order to create that kind of perception, so you can start building that good reputation and attracting high quality talent.

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About Jessica Miller-Merrell


Jessica is listed as the 2nd most influential recruiter online and as the 8th most powerful woman on Twitter. She is the author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, a how-to business guide for Twitter users. She also writes for a number of leading publications, including Fortune, HR Magazine, SmartBrief, and HR Executive Magazine.

3 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Melinda Larson April, 20, 2015

    Choosing the best, most appropriate person is always difficult. Sometimes you plan to interview ten people, but you decide to choose the best person in the middle of the list. Half of the people on the list are still waiting for an interview, and here it is important not to show that you already have some preferences.

  • Cindy Zimmerman April, 22, 2015

    A new position is always a desirable thing, especially when it is a higher position. Different people would like the advantages it can give, but not all people estimate the burden they want to accept. Try to show the position from both sides, and don’t raise its value. If you speak with clever candidates, they will see whether or not this position is what they need.

  • Claire L. April, 23, 2015

    During a discussion with a candidate, try to help them find their way. Give a precise assessment of their skills, and explain which of these will be suitable for a position you offer and which will be more useful in some other field.


Guest April, 23, 2015