As a recruiter, handling lots of vacancies usually also means dealing with a lot of candidate rejections. It’s certainly not the best part of a recruiter’s role and it can be uncomfortable, particularly if the candidate is already feeling vulnerable or had high hopes of getting the role. But how you treat the candidates who didn’t make it is not only important for each individual candidate, it can also have an impact on your reputation, future role recruitment, and even your client’s brand.

So here are some tips for ensuring you act with empathy during candidate rejections.

#1 Act quickly

It’s critical to let a candidate know that they haven’t been successful as soon as possible.  We all know ourselves, when we are really hoping for something and building anticipation around an outcome, it’s easy to get caught up making plans or decisions around something that hasn’t happened yet. For example, your candidate might receive an offer for another role but hold off on accepting because they really want your role and believe they are in with a good chance. Letting them know as soon as possible means they can make decisions with the certainty that your role isn’t in the mix.

#2 Use empathetic language

Even if you are using automated communication tools to work with large candidate pools, you can still create communication that displays empathy. One small, simple way to improve your communication is to personalise it – receiving a rejection that says “Dear Candidate” or “Dear Applicant” can simply add insult to injury.

It’s also worth acknowledging the time and effort a candidate has put into applying and thank them for their application. Giving a reason why they were not successful can be helpful, but only if it’s honest and based on their actual application – the old “We’ve received a number of impressive resumes” suggests theirs wasn’t one of them, and maybe this is true, but it’s feedback that is best given as part of a discussion rather than in a blanket email.

#3 Give the candidate an opportunity to connect

Of course, it’s fairly common to offer candidates feedback in the latter stages of the process, but doing so in the early stages can help candidates deal with the rejection better and increase your candidate pipeline for future roles. It can be as simple as offering the opportunity to set up a phone call to discuss any feedback from this application and find out what they are looking for to see if you have any roles that match.  For the candidate, this may be helpful on a personal level, and you might even find they are the perfect candidate for another role on your books.

You can also invite them to stay connected by more passive means, like LinkedIn. If you run events or webinars, or have a newsletter ask to add them to the list.  It will help job seekers to feel in the loop and grow your candidate base at the same time.

#4 Consider your own experiences  

We’ve all received application rejections in our own careers, and reflecting on what worked for you as a candidate and what didn’t can be really helpful to determine how you should manage this as a recruiter. If it wouldn’t make you feel good about yourself, your application, or your job prospects, don’t send it.

#5 Remembering you are talking to a human  

Even if you are sending an automated rejection response, remember that it is going to be read by a human on the other side – someone who has emotions, hopes, and dreams, someone who may be more vulnerable, particularly if they aren’t currently employed – so talk to them like a person not a robot.

Rejections aren’t the most pleasant part of a recruiter’s role, but done right, they can be an opportunity to grow your candidate base and stand out in an industry that’s not always known for its communication.  When it comes to candidate rejections, a little empathy really can go a long way.