The Candidate Breakup: 3 Recruiter Tips for Staying Friends

No one likes breaking up. Whether it is with a significant other or a prospective candidate, you should handle the situation with respect and dignity. When it comes to giving a candidate bad news, I stick to core fundamentals of what I envision the “Ideal Candidate Experience” to be. Here are three tips when calling runners-up:

  1. Do it as early as possible. Don’t save all your break ups until the end of the process. It should not be the last thing you do before closing out that req in your ATS. It should be something you do when you find out the news in real time. If a candidate is a definite “no,” then it is what it is. As hard as it can be to deliver the bad news, candidates will appreciate you being upfront with them instead of stringing them along. Many times, candidates are applying and interviewing for a few positions at once, so an answer from you may help them determine if they should accept or decline another offer.

    On the other hand, candidates can also always use feedback on how to tackle their next interview at a different company. It’s important to provide candidates feedback from all team members who interviewed them. If this type of honest, quick communication remains a top priority for you, your candidates will leave with a much better feeling of your organization and actionable insights on how to improve at their next interview.

  1. Lay the groundwork. Most candidates I break up with take it well, especially if I followed up when I said I would and delivered the message in a clear fashion. I try and let everyone I speak with know from the start that if they are not chosen, I will reach out to them immediately and tell them why.

    When it comes to a phone call versus using e-mail to break the bad news, if a candidate has spent more than two hours with us, they deserve a phone call. Think about it: a candidate spends a few hours prepping for their interview, reading content on Glassdoor or socially stalking their interviewees. They spend another 10 minutes to an hour (or longer) getting to the interview and another three plus hours onsite only to receive a generic email saying they weren’t chosen for the job. That’s not cool. Calling goes a long way, and you owe it to the candidate at this point in the relationship.

  1. Be honest. Not only is honesty part of our DNA at Glassdoor, it’s also something that every candidate appreciates. It’s important to keep honesty at the core of your company values to keep you human. To me, not being transparent with a candidate is wrong – it’s your job as a recruiter to give the candidate the honest truth.

    Most of the time, when I break the bad news, I learn the candidate already had a gut feeling about where they failed and expected to hear “no”. Take this opportunity to provide coaching on where and how they can improve for future interviews.

    Other times, candidates have no idea what’s coming. I’ve experienced candidates who think that we got it all wrong. Sometimes, to be fair, we do get it wrong. And sometimes, we don’t. For example, we have a new hire starting in a few weeks who was an original “break-up call”. I initially called him to give him the news that we were moving on with other candidates and explain the reasons why. During this conversation, he delivered solid rebuttals and explained where he could leverage his other skills into “gaps” that we revealed. This hire never would have happened unless this candidate knew why he was a pass and had the gusto to question our logic. I also found out that he’s a great guy, and I’m really happy it worked out for him – and us!

When it comes to the breaking up basics, I try to stick to these tips. Often, I have 25 people to give bad news to, so I’ve learned to come up with a process to handle it. While it isn’t perfect, I am constantly putting myself in the candidate’s shoes, hoping to lessen the awkwardness of an uncomfortable situation. We have all been candidates at some point or another, so create the candidate experience you would want.