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Rejected Candidates - How to Look After Them and Why They're Important

How do you treat your unsuccessful candidates? Most recruiters understand the need to treat everyone well, but with so many candidates reporting that they’ve been ghosted by a recruiter, it’s clear that a significant minority are falling short. They’re also failing to utilise an important resource. In this article we’ll look how you can harness the power of your unsuccessful candidates to help drive your success as a recruiter.

Why your candidates’ experience matters

Whether they’re successful or not, a candidate’s experience and opinion of you will affect your future success as a recruiter. Your former candidates will talk about their experience with friends and colleagues and write about it on online review sites. They’ll make helpful recommendations, in person and on social media, and in so doing they’ll either drive new candidates to you or your competitors. You may not be aware of it, but the people you helped in the past are part of your brand, and so are the people you failed.

Each role you recruit for will have many more unsuccessful candidates than successful ones, so your unsuccessful candidates are more numerous. This affect is magnified even more because good service generates more “good will” when there’s apparently nothing in it for you – so if you turn them down and still go out of your way to help them, they’re more likely to notice. By concentrating on providing a great experience to your unsuccessful candidates, you’ll make recruitment easier for your future self.

Extending your network

As a recruiter, your job is to connect your clients with the talent they need, and successful recruiters do that using an extensive network of colleagues and contacts. Everyone you interact with in a business context is a potential contact add to your network, and unsuccessful candidates are no exception.

Most will have contacts of their own, or expertise they can share. They may be perfect for the role your best client will tell you about next week – or they might know someone who is. No connection is a waste of time, so it pays to look after all your candidates, successful or not. 

How to make the best use of rejected candidates

Most of your candidates, even the ones who are not quite right for the role you’re trying to fill, have qualities that your clients can use. They have experience that’s relevant to your sector, they’re looking for, or at least open to a new role and you’re already in touch with them. So how do you turn this rich resource into success as a recruiter?

Always reply - this role might just be part of your ordinary workflow, but your candidate’s life could change significantly depending on the outcome. Many will be nervous, and all will need you to keep them updated. Update your candidates at every stage of the process, as soon as possible after decisions are made.

Give detailed, honest feedback – interviewing is a useful skill, but it’s one that most workers don’t get a lot of opportunity to practice. Detailed, honest feedback from a professional like yourself is a rare opportunity to improve, and most will appreciate you taking the time to help them.

Stay in touch with all your “near misses” - Keep a list of candidates who narrowly missed out, and another of those who impressed you but weren’t quite qualified. Connect with them on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter and check in periodically to find out how they are and confirm their availability. Be generous with your time and expertise, share career advice, and let them know you’re eager to help them. Then, when a new role hits your desk, check through your “near misses” for suitable candidates.

If you have questions or if we can help in any way please call our expert team on 01296 46843 or email

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