Providing a good hiring experience matters: learn how to reject candidates gracefully

When you’re recruiting for your tech team do you send out the same general e-mail to every candidate you decide not to hire?

Imagine the following scenario: you interviewed a candidate with little experience, but who showed a lot of enthusiasm towards the position and made you feel like they would fit nicely in your tech team. 

The problem?

You need someone with more technical experience. Perhaps in a few months, when the senior you want to hire now is settled, you could consider hiring this candidate you just interviewed. 

The chemistry was there… but it wasn’t good timing.

If you reject candidates with a cold copy-pasted message – or worse, if you reject them by not saying anything – that will make them feel disappointed and unhappy. 

But, if you treat them with respect and provide them with a pleasant recruitment experience, they won’t hold hard feelings instead, they might even turn into your brand’s advocates.

In this article, we will start by giving you 3 reasons why the way you reject candidates shouldn’t be just a general e-mail that you send to every single person who sent you their CV. Then, we will share with you a few insights on how to do it right, based on the experience of KWAN’s recruiters.

3 reasons to provide your candidates with a good hiring experience

Even to the ones you already subconsciously decided you’re not going to hire.

1 – They’ll tell their peers about you

According to Talent Board’s research, 81% of candidates will tell their friends, family, and coworkers about their positive candidate experience, encouraging them to apply for your company’s vacant positions.

And guess who developers are friends and colleagues with (because, well they studied or work together).

Exactly, other developers! Perhaps that senior you’re still looking for is currently your candidate’s coworker.

2 – They’ll write about you online

Not only your rejected candidates will talk about your recruitment process… but they will also write about it. 

According to the same study, 51% of candidates with a positive recruitment experience will write about it on company review websites, such as Glassdoor, and on social media.

They will pretty much boost your employer brand for free.

3 – They can even become customers

Imagine that before applying for your job vacancy, your candidate has never heard about you. But after the interview, they know about the company, the products or services you sell, and the faces behind the brand. Because you rejected them so thoughtfully, they have no hard feelings towards the company and actually enjoyed meeting you. So they go explore a little bit further your social media posts and your website, and actually find something they would like to buy.

According to a study by the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute, candidates with a positive recruitment experience are twice as likely to become customers of the hiring company when compared to candidates with a negative experience. 

…and because it’s the right thing to do

Even if you think your rejected candidates will have 0 impact in your employer brand.

Even if you think you’ll never see that person again.

Still, it’s the right thing to do (and what goes around comes around!).

How to reject the candidates you’re not going to hire

Now that you know why you should dedicate some time to figuring out how to gracefully reject candidates, it’s time to learn about how to do it the correct way.

Replying to all candidates is the number one rule. 

And, unless you interviewed thousands of candidates, you should be able to send a personalized message to each one.

By working with KWAN, you won’t have to interview and reject thousands of candidates simply because our team of recruiters (we call them Ambassadors of KWAN, would you like to know why?) will provide you with a list of candidates already interviewed and shortlisted. So this task becomes easier but not less important…

Check out our tech team simulator and find out how much it would cost you to have our team of ambassadors hiring specially for your project and according to its needs.

Provide feedback

By receiving your e-mail or phone call, your candidate will feel respected, as you took the time to carefully give them the bad news. 

Here’s how we do it at KWAN:

We give our candidates transparent feedback. We believe they can only improve if they know exactly what they should work on, to develop themselves. Whether it’s a technical or a soft skill, we identify those areas of improvement and advise them accordingly: from doing technical training, soft skills training, a certification, coaching, learning a new language, etc.”Inês Frade, Ambassador of KWAN

Tell them why

Remember to be careful about how you’re going to speak about your candidates’ flows, so they see it as constructive criticism, instead of a personal one. 

Start with a compliment, then explain what they are missing and finish with an improvement suggestion. 

Here’s an example:

We appreciate your strong drive to learn! You clearly enjoy coding and solving hard problems. We also think you don’t fulfil the technical criteria we’re looking for in a candidate for this position. Namely, your fundamentals in Java, so we encourage you to continue to expand your knowledge, perhaps by taking a specific training in this stack. 

Ask for feedback

Asking for your candidate’s feedback regarding your hiring process will show you’re not just being nice – you actually care about your candidate’s opinion.

When doing so, consider asking not only to rate the whole experience but also to point out what worked best and what needs to be improved through open questions, so the candidate can give you feedback you can actually work on.

Invite them to keep in touch with you on social media

So you politely rejected your candidate. You explained why and asked for feedback. Then, you finish your e-mail with ‘Don’t forget to follow us on social media!’.

You just want one more follower” – your candidate might think.

Instead, send them a LinkedIn invitation from your personal page. That won’t look self-interested but as a real desire to keep in touch!

Invite them to your recruiting newsletter

Make sure to share your company’s job opportunities with rejected candidates – perhaps there’s another opportunity in which they would fit better?


By adding their contact to your e-mail database.

But do it nicely (and legally!) by asking first.

Providing a good hiring experience matters: final thoughts

Providing a good hiring experience to your candidates not only will help you find your next employee but will also help you find several new brand advocates. Therefore, knowing how to reject the candidates you’re not going to hire by providing them feedback, asking for their own feedback on your recruitment process, and trying to keep in touch through social media are the three main steps to ensure those candidates won’t hold hard feelings because you didn’t hire them.

Plus, because of the talent scarcity in the IT industry, the odds are that you’re going to hear about them again in the future. Perhaps their LinkedIn will come across your search when you’re hiring again for your tech team.

That’s what happened to us regarding our KWANer Carlos Santos!

I had my first interview with KWAN back in 2019 but I was looking for a project in my hometown and, although I enjoyed interviewing with KWAN, there was no project available for me back then. About a year later, an Ambassador of KWAN got in touch with me (after a recommendation of a friend) and by that time I was looking for a job opportunity in Lisbon. This second interview was awesome, even better than the first. And the client I was matched with was just what I was looking for! I’m very glad KWAN reached out a second time!” – Carlos Santos, KWANer and Web Developer

The good news is, according to the study by IBM Smarter Workforce Institute already mentioned, if they had a good recruitment experience, 80% of rejected candidates will very likely reapply.  

So, remember that junior developer you loved but had to reject because of the lack of experience? Making sure they reapply in a couple of years, when they have the experience you need, it’s in your hands.

But no worries, we’re happy to share that responsibility with you! Count on the expertise and experience of our ambassadors to recruit (and help you reject candidates) for your tech team. 

Fill in the form and let’s start assessing the needs of your team together!