Handle Rejections With Care

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Some of the top builders in America spend enormous amounts of time and money to attract candidates yet fail to recognize the collateral damage created by an impersonal interview process or thoughtlessly discarding those who don't fit the position profi...

June 01, 2004

 

Bob Piper, Principal, The Talon Group

Ever wonder how job candidates truly feel about you, your company and your interview process? Some of the top builders in America spend enormous amounts of time and money to attract candidates yet fail to recognize the collateral damage created by an impersonal interview process or thoughtlessly discarding those who don't fit the position profile.

It's getting harder and harder to find good candidates, so the last thing you need is to create negative feelings through a poor candidate selection process. In their defense, most companies don't even realize they do it. Here are examples:

Builders who test first, interview second: We have nothing against testing candidates. Used in the right context, testing can be invaluable. However, too many builders rush candidates into taking a personality profile or inventory test before they get to know them.

Imagine having asked your spouse to take such a test after you were introduced; chances are you would not have had a second date. But like marriage, employment is one of the major relationships in a person's life. Treat it as such. Spend more one-on-one time getting to know candidates. You might have to invest an additional hour or conduct a second interview, but it's well worth it.

 

Builders who use the Dear John approach: No one likes to be rejected or to do the rejecting, but nothing is more impersonal than a mailed rejection letter. Even worse is when rejected candidates have been cycled through extended interviews, met with several senior managers and perhaps been tested, and then they hear nothing for a few days before receiving a rejection letter. It's much more professional and respectful to call unsuccessful candidates.

Most hiring managers hesitate to make such calls because they don't want to field questions. Try this approach:

"Hi, Bill, this is John Doe from XYZ Homes. I wanted to get back with you regarding our construction manager opening. I'm afraid I have to deliver some not-so-positive news. We selected another candidate who we feel is a more exacting fit.

"Bill, I want you to know that everyone was impressed with you and your qualifications. It was a difficult decision. With your permission, I would like to keep your information active for future reference. Bill, thanks again for your interest in our company. It was a pleasure to get to know you."

If you get the typical "Why not me?" or "What could I have done differently?" questions, just respond: "Bill, it wasn't anything in particular. The person selected was just a more exacting fit for this opportunity."

What transpired in that brief phone call?

  • We used Bill's name often, sending a more personal message.
  • We provided a reason he was turned down (a more exacting fit) without getting into specifics (good or bad).
  • We asked Bill's permission to contact him in the future.
  • We thanked Bill for his interest in our company.
  • We showed Bill the respect and appreciation he deserves for investing time with us.

This is still a rejection, and Bill still will be disappointed, but it's much better and more personal than a rejection letter. This is not just good business - it's good manners. Funny how the two seem to go hand in hand.

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