How to safeguard your brand when rejecting a candidate



No-one enjoys telling a candidate that they haven’t got the job. But this step in the recruitment process is a crucial one to avoid job applicants turning into brand detractors.


A clear rejection is better than a fake promise, according to the late Zig Ziglar – who was probably as famous for having a cool name as for his work as a motivational speaker in the US.

But research conducted by SEEK, which surveys 4,000 New Zealanders that are representative of the workforce each year, suggests Ziglar was onto something. The way a business rejects a person for a job can potentially damage that individual’s perception of the brand.

SEEK spokesperson, Kendra Banks, says that in the research when candidates were asked how they felt about a company after they unsuccessfully applied for a role, a significant proportion of Kiwis admitted it had damaged their perception of the brand.

“Just over half of people (51%) felt the same as before but around a third of Kiwis (33%) said they’d feel more negative about the company,” says Banks.

“Just under half (46%) also felt that they would be less likely to apply to that company if another opportunity came along and 45% said that they’d be less likely to purchase products or services from that company in the future.”

Banks highlights that the research findings are particularly concerning for large organisations that reject hundreds of candidates each year – potentially causing a ripple effect of negative brand impact in the marketplace.

Rejection creates risk


Nigel Smith, Global HR Manager at GCC – global provider of employee engagement, health and performance solutions, and part of the Virgin Pulse family – agrees that poor management of candidate rejection creates brand risk.

“It’s not just the immediate risk of how those individuals are going to feel about your brand in the short-term; you’ve also got to think about the bigger picture,” he says.

“Recruitment is a small industry and you are going to see the same candidates coming up again and again – especially for those more senior roles.

“A candidate may not be suitable for this role but they may be perfect for the next one, and if you’ve left a bad taste in their mouth, they may not be willing to consider your organisation again.”

You’ve got the power


The good news is that organisations can do a lot to manage the way candidates feel when they are rejected.

“When asked about the best thing companies could do to improve how candidates feel about them after the interview process, the most common response was ‘provide me with feedback about why my application was unsuccessful’ (71%),” says Banks.

“This was followed by ‘notify me that my application was unsuccessful’ (62%), ‘offer to keep my resume on file for future positions’ (52%), and ‘provide recommendations on how I can improve my resume’ (37%).”

Treating people like people


The team at The Fred Hollows Foundation – a not-for-profit aid organisation based in Australia – is deeply conscious that they are not just protecting their brand but also the legacy of their much-loved founder, Fred Hollows, and his family – who still work in the organisation.

Trish O’Neill, Associate Director of People and Organisational Development at The Foundation, says its focus on recruitment starts with recruiting the right recruiters.

“Our recruiters need to be able to nurture candidates as people, not just applicants,” she says.

“Very often, we will have a role come up and our team members will pull out an applicant from another role they’ve had in the past and they’ll say, ‘This person would be perfect for that’.

“So they didn’t get the original role they applied for but they stay with us and we consider them for future roles, so it’s very important for us to ensure they have a good experience and remain engaged with our brand.”

Small things make a big impact


O’Neill says basic courtesies are often overlooked by organisations.

“It’s the simple things that seem small but are so huge. Just get back to people,” she says.

“In my career, I’ve seen that employers have given away the general courtesy of simply getting back to candidates.

“We have an automated response if you apply for a role, and we are very good at short-listing quickly and letting people know so they have clarity.”

She says the most important aspect of The Fred Hollows Foundation’s approach to recruiting is its high touch nature.

“We will never, ever send an email to anyone we have seen face-to-face. We will always make a phone call,” she says.

“And we’ll always give feedback; we won’t just say, ‘Sorry, you didn’t get it’. My team will actually chase managers down and find out reasons so they can pass that on.”

Going the extra mile


Australian online bookmaker Sportsbet is an organisation that takes a strong values-led approach to recruitment, and according to Rebecca Powell, Talent Acquisition Consultant at Sportsbet, this has a huge impact on the way candidates experience the brand during the recruitment process.

“Our brand is about bringing excitement to life and we want candidates to walk out of here – whether they were successful or not – feeling like that was a bit fun and a bit different,” says Powell.

“We’ve re-engineered our process to put values first and ensure that the candidate experience is a key focus for us. We ask candidates which of our values they most align with and depending on their answer, we give them a gift at the end of the interview. It’s a bit of fun and even if they know it hasn’t gone well, they leave feeling good about it.”
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About the author

Heather Potter

Heather Potter has been a communications professional for 20 years. She started her career as a newspaper journalist before moving into public relations, media and crisis management, and brand strategy. She has worked for a variety of brands,...

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