How to Answer Tough Questions from Rejected Candidates

How to Answer Tough Questions from Rejected Candidates

These days job applicants are often counseled by career sites, life coaches and well-meaning friends to press for feedback from a prospective employer when they have been informed they didn’t get the job they sought. The questions they pose, like the confrontational “Why didn’t you hire me?” to the softer, “Will you tell me what I might improve in order to do better next time?” are fraught with danger in these litigious times. You and your hiring managers need to guard your tongues when answering such questions or potential liability or risk damage to your firm’s reputation.

The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, wherein an employer can not reject an applicant based on ace, sex, age, ethnicity, or disability, leveled the playing field for all applicants, but it also constrained employers about what type of information they share with potential candidates. Any allusion to an applicant’s age, no matter how mild –“Our staff is made up of 20-somethings because we really can’t afford someone with your impressive experience” is an invitation to a lawsuit. Unless the employer s the US Military so is the observation that “We’ve never had a woman in that job.” Such direct—albeit truthful–answers to a rejected candidate’s question about why they failed to get the job are therefore to be discouraged.

The safest answer is the positive one—leaving no room for negotiation and hopefully closing off further discussion. Such answers are, “We’ve decided to go with a candidate who we think will be a better fit” or “The company has decided to go in a different direction.”

You should never tell a candidate they did poorly on testing and that was the sole reason for their rejection (they may demand to try again), but you may choose to tell them if they failed a background check. They have the right to correct any erroneous information or cases of mistaken identity—an all-too common occurrence.

You should always assure the rejected candidate that their resume will be kept on file for a year. Tell them, too, if you foresee any other positions opening soon for which they might be qualified and will be considered. You should then thank them–sincerely–for their interest in your company and wish them well on their job hunt. Then end the conversation politely.

In the case of a rejected applicant, who may be hurt, bitter or angry, discretion truly is the better part of valor.

To facilitate your search for the proper to candidate to accept to fill your position, Peoplelink, a full service staffing and recruiting firm, stands ready to help. Contact us today.

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