Browse Adzuna Blog »

How to keep rejected candidates happy – and why you should

Technological change is at once making recruitment easier and more challenging.

If this sounds contradictory, think about the early stages of finding the right candidate for a role. Thanks to search engines, websites, and social media, we can attract hundreds of applications at the click of a mouse. Yet, that means hundreds of applications to sift through, and ultimately hundreds of individuals who will be rejected before we find the ideal person.

So, what happens to the 99% who don’t make the cut? And, does it really matter?

The answer is, yes, very much so.

The business case

Ensuring rejected applicants have a good candidate experience – one that is reasonable, meaningful, and leaves them with a positive impression of your company – is about much more than being nice. It makes solid business sense.

Rejected candidates who feel acknowledged and valued are more likely to:

  •         Apply for a role in the future
  •         Continue to be customers  
  •         Refer a friend
  •         Reinforce your employer brand
  •         Re-enter your talent pool

At the least, an unsuccessful candidate who has a poor experience may decide to stop using your product or service, or grumble about their treatment to a friend. In the social media era, it doesn’t take much for a disgruntled opinion to go viral.

We’re not getting it right

Despite this, many companies are not putting enough effort into providing a positive experience.

Only 70% of organisations stated they had given a rejection message to every unsuccessful candidate, according to the Good Recruitment Benchmark Report 2018*, and the true figure across all industries is suspected to be much lower.

This means that many candidates aren’t receiving the bare minimum in courteous communication for bothering to apply.

Many of us have been left with a sour taste in the mouth when you’ve taken time out of your life to attend an interview, only to never hear back. While that may be at the extreme end of bad practice, we suspect it’s quite a common experience.

Improving candidate experience

So, how do we improve the situation? As most recruiters are already dealing with a deluge of information, adding more time-consuming processes isn’t practical or desirable.

The trick is a tailored approach, designed to deliver maximum results, based on what stage of the recruitment process the candidate reached.

Stage ReachedAction
Application onlyBrief rejection message via email
Candidate has undertaken assessmentsEmail with summary of assessment findings, including why the candidate did not reach the next stage
Candidate has had a phone or face-to-face interviewFollow-up phone call to discuss the process, why they were not selected, and what they could do differently in the future

Overall, the level of resources and time devoted to follow-ups should depend on how far the candidate got through the process, as well as how much time and effort they have made. Ideally, no candidate should be left wondering if their application went straight to the spam basket.

Taking the long view

Keeping rejected candidates happy is a win-win for business – it makes it easier to fill future positions, potentially saving time and money.


Written with Dawn Gibson of Dawn Creative Media.