Lean, Just-in-Time Recruiting!



Telling them they are not getting the job . . .

One of the toughest things to do as a recruiter is telling a candidate they are not getting the job, especially in this economy. This becomes even a bigger challenge when:

  1. A hiring manager does not provide objective reasons for not selecting them.
  2. There are multiple positions to fill, so you will continue to source candidates after you have rejected them.
  3. They are just super nice, friendly, etc.

Of course it should go without mention (but I will mention it) that if there are objective, technical/skill related reasons for not selecting them – - you should address them in your debrief with the candidate. Examples:

“In this role, we need someone that has experience developing new JAVA software”.
“The selected candidate must be a CPA.”

But what if the reason they were not selected was because of personality, demeanor/disposition, attitude, etc. Those squishy “soft skills” are tougher to address, and let’s be honest – - can open you (and your organization) up to litigation.

I know I have often tried to honestly address these type of issues with candidates, only to have it turn out to be a “he said, she said” argument with them denying my “allegations”.

So what can you do to objectively, politely decline a candidate for consideration?

In your debrief discussion with the candidate after the interview, weave these questions into the discussion:

“If you were the hiring manager, why might you not select yourself as a candidate?”
“If the hiring manager does not select you, why might you think that would be?”
“Playing devil’s advocate – - what competency/skills might you be lacking that the hiring manager really would like the person hired to have?”


98 times out of 100, they will objectively identify a few things that they might be lacking, did or didn’t say in the interview, etc.

This information can be used to politely decline them as a candidate if/when you get to that point. The closing conversation might go something like this:

“Remember when you told me that the reason you might not be selected was because you didn’t have Java, well unfortunately – - you were right. With the tight deadline, he needs someone to quickly come up to speed on the project.”

Use the most objective information they provide in the debrief session during this conversation. To make sure you are doing everything possible to make the right hiring decision, you can also use this information with the hiring manager. When they say “I will pass on Dave” and you ask “Why?” and they say “I just don’t have a good gut feeling” . . . you can mention some of the things the candidate said to see if it helps to objectively “close the loop”.

While in a perfect world, we would always have very objective reasons (based on competency/skills) to decline a candidate for consideration, the reality is that it is often times difficult.

This tactic might help bring closure when providing bad news in a difficult economy.

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