June 21, 2018

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Candidate Rejection

Let's face it, when a candidate rejects your offer of employment - it hurts. Even though rejection is a normal part of the hiring process, it's never easy to accept. When a candidate rejects an offer, it can feel like a setback and blame tends to fly. Your ability to pick up the pieces and quickly refocus your interviewing team's efforts is critical to overall hiring success.

Rebounding from the loss after a candidate rejects an offer should be your primary focus. It's no easy task as recruiters and hiring managers work hard to get a candidate hired. The process is rarely short and simple. A lost candidate can symbolize months of lost effort. It's imperative to keep in mind that rejection is a fact of life in recruiting. Regardless of the rejection, you still have a job to do. Remember, after a candidate rejects an offer, all is rarely forsaken. Though it may appear that you'll have to reinvent the wheel, this is rarely the case. The contacts and experience amassed in the initial hiring exercise will put you ahead as you recruit a replacement.

As for your hiring team, it's important to help them rebound from the setback as well. No one likes to be rejected and the group will have its doubts. Questions like "What went wrong?" are sure to surface and the tendency will be to point fingers and lay blame. For the sake of the hiring effort, its vital to display leadership and refocus the team on constructive actions from the get go. If they have questions, offer solutions, not just explanations. Be proactive and present a plan of action to get new candidates on board. Refocus the team from the loss of the former candidate to the goal of filling the position and completing the job.

Analyzing all available candidates should be your foremost concern. Recycling one of the alternates from the interview pool might be suitable, but only if the choice among candidates was close. If the team was split between two people, they might be accepting of the second choice. In which case, you need only make an offer. However, if the alternates did not sit well with the team, your best bet will be to recruit a few fresh faces. After a "thumbs down" is rendered by the team, it is very difficult to sell them on a candidate's merits. Your time and energy in situations like these are likely better spent on recruiting new candidates.

Another important contribution you can make is to document the case. Though your first focus should be on reviving the hiring effort, you should also document the facts of the hiring snafu for later analysis. A rejected offer represents a real financial loss for the company. To help management identify trends and pinpoint flaws in the hiring process, document reasons such as compensation, culture and benefits for reasons why an offer was not accepted. Documentation can lend insight into why offers are being rejected, and hopefully activate corrective action that supports a greater success rate down the road.

Your main perogative when it comes to handling candidate rejection should be damage control and fast recovery. Crying over the spilled milk of a lost candidate is unproductive when a position still needs to be filled. Your ability to be proactive in a time of confusion, and to turn your teams' energy around, is critical to getting the hiring effort moving in the right direction. There will be plenty of time in the future to ask questions and to analyze the reasons behind the missed opportunity. Document the rejection, compare it to other similar cases, and recommend changes in the hiring process to avoid repeat situations later down the road.

Good Hunting!

- Shawn Upchurch

Shawn Upchurch designs customized hiring programs for companies of all sizes, as well as providing direct recruiting services. Shawn can be reached at 888.830.1904 x208 or

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