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A Guide to Turning Unsuccessful Candidates into Brand Ambassadors
7 min read

A Guide to Turning Unsuccessful Candidates into Brand Ambassadors

Believe it or not, you can turn unsuccessful candidates into ambassadors for your brand! Just look at Virgin. A complete overhaul of their underwhelming customer experience strategy turned losses of 4.5 million pounds a year due to their poor performance into an increase to their NPS of a whopping 68 points.

Learning they are not hired can be disappointing for applicants, and with reason. They invested over 4 hours on average in their application and interview and were hoping for a better outcome. But their involvement with your company doesn’t have to end there.

Candidates are a bit like customers. They tend to share their recruitment experiences, negative or positive, with their network. And as we know, information spreads fast online. Needless to say that negative experiences could hurt your brand. So treat your candidates well and you might just gain brand ambassadors, even despite not hiring them.

Ambassadors bring benefits.

A poor candidate experience can have negative repercussions:

  • candidates can share their bad experience online, with screenshots
  • fewer applications from desirable candidates, cooled by what they hear
  • financial loss as applicants could stop consuming a product

An excellent candidate experience might trigger no reaction. It’s the worst that could happen. The best that could happen is an improved reputation, better sales, and more top talent wanting to work for you. As you can see, you have everything to gain.

In this article, we leverage our research to help you craft rejection letters that will leave your unsuccessful candidates satisfied and sharing their great experiences with you. We conclude by providing rejection email templates you can adapt and feedback we received from candidates for a recently filled position.

Confirm reception of their application

Before we get into rejecting a candidate, let’s make an important point first: you should always send a confirmation email to the candidate when they apply. And that email should be as comprehensive as possible. This includes providing information about the next steps and what you look for in a candidate.

Why is this relevant to rejecting a candidate?

The answer is: it’s absolutely relevant in creating a positive experience for rejected candidates starting with their initial contact with a company. If the experience starts on the right foot, candidates are more likely to accept an unfavorable decision and still decide to share a positive opinion of the company.

Now, let’s turn to the rejection emails.


Prepare personalized rejection emails

Let’s start by getting one thing clear: you should always send a rejection letter as soon as you know you will not move forward with a candidate. Some companies take 2-3 months to send this email; others never do. That leaves the candidates thinking they may still be in consideration and can create false hopes.

Writing these emails certainly takes time, and having templates ready is a good idea. You should aim to have several templates, one adapted to each of your most frequent reasons for turning down a candidate.

Keep the tone as positive and human as possible. It will help candidates keep a good image of your brand.

The templates will give you personalized messages you can send to your candidates. It takes extra time to build this system, but it’s the kind of attention that will be noticed and contribute to turning the unfortunate candidate into a brand ambassador.

Generic emails are entirely impersonal and are not generally appreciated. Candidates deserve more. As a side note, this process should be applied for internal applications as well.


Give a reason for rejecting a candidate

Giving a reason for the rejection is what gives meaning to the email. Candidates deserve full transparency as to why they were not selected. Honesty will bring more value to a company’s reputation.

Our research shows that a lack of transparency is one of the main points of dissatisfaction candidates give about a recruitment process. It also reveals that one of the most frequent suggestions for improvement rejected candidates make is that they would like to receive feedback on how they can improve.


Tips on structuring your templates

Rejection emails should include a reason for ending the process with the candidate. To help you, we’ve listed the 5 top reasons for rejecting candidates. You should adapt this list to the reality of your industry or company.

  1. Lack of experience within the work area or industry
  2. Inadequate educational background for the role
  3. Too much experience for the position
  4. Motivations for the job not clearly outlined
  5. The CV didn’t illustrate the competencies and past experiences or results

If you reject a candidate after the CV evaluation stage, your email could follow this structure:

  • thank the candidate for applying
  • explain why you didn’t select them by providing at least one clear reason they can understand and use to improve; do this easily by focusing on the job selection criteria and making it clear that other candidates were a better match
  • invite them to keep in touch and reapply in the future if you want that

If you reject a candidate after the interview process, you should call them first to explain your decision. As this may catch them by surprise, they could forget to take notes, so send them an email to confirm your conversation. It could follow this structure:

  • thank them for attending the interview and taking your call
  • say something positive about their candidacy and interview
  • give the main reason that explains your decision (or two if you can, but don’t focus only on their flaws)
  • provide constructive criticism on how they can improve
  • invite them to reapply in the future

If they were a strong candidate and you would like to keep their profile for future opportunities, mention it and ask for their permission.

Share information on the selected candidate

“1 out of 4 candidates would like to know more about the profiles of the candidates invited to interviews or hired.”

Not being selected for interviews or not getting hired is disappointing, especially since applying is so time-consuming. But while rejection is a natural part of the recruitment process, you can make it more transparent.

If you can, share information about the profile of the candidates selected for interviews or hired. Not only is it respectful to unsuccessful applicants, but it also constitutes their benchmarking data. The details can be brief and general but should be objective and can include:

  • level of studies
  • experience (years and relevance)
  • languages spoken
  • technical proficiencies
  • existing or previous company employee
  • compelling cover letter
  • strong CV

Knowing this information can give unsuccessful applicants better insight into the outcome, their competition, and how they can improve. Avoid subjective feedback, such as commenting on an applicant’s fit with the company.

Keep in touch with your candidates

Rejecting a candidate means the application process is over for them. But you can still keep in touch. They might be regular consumers of your product, admirers of your brand, and they might want to apply again in the future. Keeping the lines of communications open is a useful way for your company to maintain its network.

Applicants often want to know if they are welcome to reapply in the future. If you would like this, mention it. You could also ask for their permission to keep their profile information for future opportunities.

You can share useful resources or links on preparing a CV, a cover letter, or an interview. If you have a job alert or a recruitment newsletter, you can invite candidates to register. Finally,  you can share links to your social media channels, but be careful not to force them upon the applicants.

Ask for feedback

When you have told the candidate why you are moving in another direction, ask for feedback. You evaluated the candidate and provided feedback, so it’s only natural to let the candidate do the same.

This step is critical because it shows candidates you care about your recruitment process and want to know how they experienced it. It also provides you with invaluable information and comments on your performance.

The feedback you received is the opinion of someone who actually went through your process. As internal company employees, you know your process, but you don’t experience it. The feedback you receive can help you adapt it and improve the candidate experience.

Recap: reject in a positive and transparent way

As we have seen, the purpose of the rejection email is to provide the unfortunate candidate with a final positive experience. The end of an applicant’s participation in a recruitment process should not be the last contact between the applicant and your company.

Designing a transparent rejection process ensures that their story will be positive if candidates decide to share their recruitment experience. Your brand will benefit by retaining a potentially loyal customer. Word will also spread that you treat your employees and candidates well, ultimately helping you attract top talent.

Our research also demonstrates that sending a clear email to candidates after receiving their application will make them more likely to accept the negative outcome. They will have had all the information they needed from the start and the process will have been transparent. They may be disappointed, but they are very unlikely to be frustrated at you.

So start polishing your rejection process and gain brand ambassadors!

‍[FREE DOWNLOAD: 9 Rejection Email Templates]‍