· Features

Recruitment: beware the rejects' revenge

Have you ever applied for a job and been rejected? If so, how did it make you feel? Many of us who have been through this experience will answer somewhere between ‘mild disappointment’ and ‘seething resentment’. The truth is that it all depends on how the rejection was handled.

If the reason why you were not appointed was fully explained to you, and you'd been treated fairly throughout the selection process, you might be inclined to take it on the chin and accept the decision.

However, if you never really found out why you were not appointed, or if you didn't feel the selection process was objective you might still be holding a grudge against that particular organisation.

In any recruitment process, it's easy for an employer to become overly fixated on their chosen candidates. After all, these people are going to be future employees and you want to create a good impression with them right from the start.

But what about everyone else? If 50 candidates apply for five roles then 45 of them will come away disappointed. Every organisation rejects many more applicants than it recruits, yet still we all talk about it being a 'recruitment process'. A better way of looking at this would be to think of recruitment as a 'rejection process'.

Why? Well, think about how it feels to be rejected. If the way you are turning applicants down is leaving a bad taste in their mouths, it can have a seriously detrimental impact on your employer and consumer brands. Not only can your 'rejects' refuse to give you their custom in the future and that can be costly enough but they may also 'bad-mouth' you to their family and friends. With today's social media channels and career community sites, such as Glassdoor, The Student Room and WikiJob, disgruntled applicants can discredit your organisation to a lot of people very quickly.

All of this can be avoided by taking a few precautionary steps. Of course, you need to understand the key competencies you are looking for in prospective employee but you also need to design an engaging candidate experience. With graduate recruitment, your aim might be to pick out high performers who have the potential to develop into future leaders. Or, if your organisation attracts many applicants, your aim might be to sift out unsuitable candidates fairly and consistently. Either way, it is easy to get side tracked with processing applications, reviewing candidates, identifying the good from the bad, and scheduling and conducting interviews. Do you really have time to give every applicant a positive experience, regardless of whether they will actually be selected?

Fortunately, technology can help you to communicate with candidates at each stage of the process and the 'automatic reporting' functionality, available from many assessment companies, can be used to give each candidate feedback. If they have been unsuccessful in their application, you could highlight where they were strong against the required competencies and where they were weak. You could even suggest some development points to help them improve.

The essential point here is that every organisation should treat its job applicants with the same level of courtesy and respect as it would treat its customers. In many cases, your job applicants will be your customers. So, design your entire selection process from the applicant's point of view. Think about what steps you can take to make sure they feel engaged at every stage. And when it comes to rejecting candidates, make sure you do it with care and consideration.

Steve O'Dell (pictured) is UK managing director of assessment provider Talent Q