Standard Rejection Lines in Recruitment

By Sarah Freiburger

In the course of day to day recruiting activities, many enjoy the high points of the job, such as informing a candidate they are going to be hired, letting the client know the candidate is accepting the position, or even landing a new search you know you have a few good options for. A standard low point of the job is the rejection line to a candidate. You know the one, where you really got to know them when you thought their resume was going to be an excellent fit but then during the interview your hopes started sinking by minute two or three realizing this was a giant time suck as they just were not the purple squirrel you had imagined you were connecting with. Usually, the client passing on them is an easy out to maintain a good relationship and seek out a new opportunity for them, but what do you do as a recruiter when you realize you will not even end up submitting them for the job you just pumped them up for? Here are some of the best options to take down for a standard rejection line to a candidate.

  1. At the beginning of the interview, let the candidate know you have several other interviews and so they are aware, you will only be submitting the top three that are the closest match to the requirements laid out of by the client. If they are not chosen to be submitted, you will work with them on the next opportunity they may be a match for.
  2. Place the blame on the client. Send an email after the interview informing them that the client has chosen to go in a different direction or the requirements have changed. This way, they do not assume you wasted their time or ask for feedback you would only be able to give with a cringe.
  3. Make it about them. Let them know that after getting to know their goals and aspirations, you just do not believe this is the right fit for what is best for them. You will let them know when you believe their best opportunity is opened to you.
  4. Be a representative of the client, not the candidate. In the rejection email, be upfront as positioning yourself as a representative of the client and needing to find the most qualified match for the company. Mention you will not be submitting them for this particular role but will keep them in mind for other opportunities in the future.
  5. Use a white lie to keep the relationship light. Something like, the opportunity is no longer available or I’m sorry we got in a little late. Tell  them they are on your radar and you will definitely keep in touch. Maybe even throw in a smiley face, you know they are a good person just a poor match.
  6. Finally, the safest and shortest line there is, “The company went with an internal candidate.” The one everyone is sure to groan about but understand without much push back.

It seems through listening to other recruiters share these notes many agree that being up front and truthful without being in a position to turn into a career counselor or feedback loop is the route most strive for. Any of the above options should accomplish this to some extent. What are your best rejection lines that you use?


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