The candidate experience can have an outsized impact on your bottom line; this isn’t surprising news. When applicants feel respected and their time and talents are valued, they tend to enter the relationship with a higher opinion of the company, and this pays off over time. New employees are happier, more loyal, more deeply invested, and more willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt during future disputes and misunderstandings. First impressions matter, especially when they mark the beginning of a long-term partnership.
But what about the candidates who are NOT ultimately hired? No need to worry about their feelings or their impressions because they aren’t sticking around…right? Wrong. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you interact with all of your candidates: those you hire and those you reject.
Your workplace brand doesn’t stop at the door.
If you treat rejected candidates with disrespect, they walk away with a sour impression of your business. Their feelings are just as meaningful and their voices are just as loud as those of your hired candidates…but unlike your new hires, you won’t be able to make things right or correct course with them in the future. If anyone asks what they think of the company, they’ll answer. And if a negative message takes hold, there will be little you can do to temper or counter it.
Give respect and you’ll get respect.
Your candidates won’t base their opinion of the company solely on the outcome of their applications. You may think that a yes will make them happy and a no will leave them sour…but people are not that simple. If your treat applicants with respect and consideration, they’ll appreciate it, offer or no offer. The reverse is also true.
No outcome is permanent.
You may say no to a candidate today, only to have them successfully reapply to a different department at some point in the future. You may say no today and find yourself asking your rejected candidate for a favor, a grant, a contract, or an opportunity two, five, or ten years from now. Someday you may even find yourself asking them for a job. The world is unpredictable. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.
Feedback can’t hurt (usually).
If your rejected candidate is forthright enough to ask why you made your choice, you may assume it’s wiser and more diplomatic to simply say nothing. But this isn’t always true. Again, most people appreciate honesty and recognize respect when they see it. Sharing the (carefully worded) truth may work in your favor. Explain that your chosen candidate just had a little more to offer, or that the company had reservations about a specific skill gap in the rejected candidate’s resume. It’s possible to be diplomatic and honest at the same time. Adapt your decision to the circumstances.
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