Most candidates, when they discover they didn’t get the job you interviewed them for, will want to know: “Why didn’t you hire me?” While some applicants will accept the polite rejection letter or e-mail that you send, and only ask the question of themselves, some will want to ask you directly. While that is understandable, you need to careful in how you reply.
Try to strike a balance between being firm yet polite in your rejection, saying things like:
- ”Your experience and skills are impressive, but…”
- “We’ve decided to go in another direction.”
- “We found a candidate with more specific experience.”
If an applicant contacts you and presses for more information, such as “what other direction are you taking?” or “what more specific experience do they have?” don’t feel you have to answer those questions. Keep your response polite but vague and try to end the questioning with: “I really can’t go into detail about other candidates, but we do appreciate your interviewing with us. We will keep your resume on file for any other opportunities your skills and experiences might match.”
If a candidate persists, try something like “Our recruitment process and selection criteria are confidential, so I can’t comment on what did or did not go well in your interview process.” Again, promise to keep their information on file for future consideration.
The more detail you go into, the more potential liability you open up to you and your company. Some HR managers and recruiters refuse to respond to such requests for this very reason.
One HR manager says “I never tell a candidate the reason for his/her not being hired. I simply say, in a letter, that even though his/her credentials are impressive, we have hired another candidate whose background is a better fit for the position. If you tell someone the specifics of why they were not chosen, they tend to want to argue the point. Why open a crack where they can fit the crowbar in?”
However, you should always contact someone you interviewed in person, whether by phone call (especially for upper-level or management positions) or e-mail. This allows them to move on, not having to wonder whether they are still under consideration. Be sure to sincerely thank each applicant you interviewed and wish them well in their job hunt. If treated with respect and courtesy, that rejected applicant may refer future employees to you or someday even become one of those employees themselves.
Send an email to those who sent in resumes who were not hired, and encourage them to continue to check our website for new job openings for which they might be qualified. If they receive an acknowledgment that their resume was reviewed, then another advising them of the hiring decision, they feel they have been given consideration. Ignoring applicants or worse, interviewees, is what leads to the questions most interviewers would like to avoid.