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Rejecting employee referral candidates the right way

Rejecting employee referral candidates the right way

Employee referral is one of the best ways to hire quality talent. Given the potency of hire that you receive, it is important that you understand this channel thoroughly and implement best practices to make the most out of it. One of the critical elements in the best practices in dealing with rejections. Put differently, how do you reject candidates that have come through referrals.


Employee and candidate experience are both critical in an employee referral channel. An employee refers his/her friends for roles in your organization and expects them to be treated with a certain courtesy. Given that it is a warm introduction, the least they expect is a proper response on the progress both to them as well as their friend. 


Let us assume that you have got a referral and are not able to go ahead with their candidature for some reason. How do you deal with such a scenario? 


Typically there are two reasons to reject a candidate 


  1. You’ve evaluated an individual’s profile against the position, but have found a better candidate. 
  2. The role is no longer open. The job is either closed or canceled.


Let’s now look at each one in detail.


Scenario 1: Cases where an employee referral candidate is not fit for the role


You evaluate a referral against an open position to discover that the candidate is not the right fit for various reasons. Please communicate this to both the employee as well as the candidate with proper reasons for rejection. This will increase the credibility and transparency of your referral program and employees appreciate it very much. Now to have this done correctly, it is important that you have the right mix of maturity across the recruitment team and hiring process. 


For example, a rejection reason can vary from the candidate not having sufficient experience for the role to a salary mismatch, notice period mismatch, or the candidate not willing to relocate, etc. There are cases where the organization deems that the candidate is not fit for the role and then cases where the candidate feels they are not a good fit for the organization.  It is important to distinguish between these two rejection reasons and showcase them differently. Also, having a standard list of rejection reasons ensures uniformity and that the messaging is handled sensitively. 


Scenario 2: The job role is no longer open or canceled


Many times there are jobs that are open for 45 days or more. Even though you have found a candidate and made an offer or close enough to make one, you continue to receive profiles for this role. While this adds sufficient candidates to the funnel, it is practically impossible for a recruiter to evaluate every candidate in the channel and consider them. Such candidates are likely to get rejected. Worst case, they get rejected en masse. 


In such a scenario, it is better to notify the employee that the position is closed and you were unable to process the candidate’s profile. This is better than saying ‘We evaluated your friend’s candidature and he/she was not good enough for the role’. Having a standard boilerplate rejected response saying we have rejected your candidate and will consider them for the future, is not a good facet. Instead, it's better to say that the position is no longer open and as a result, we have been unable to process your friend’s candidature. 


This brings up another critical question. Should you send an active email to an employee when their friend is rejected? This one is tough. If your culture is that of complete transparency, we recommend that you showcase the rejection status in your employee referral system /employee dashboard. 


But, we consciously recommend you avoid sending emails to employees every time their buddies get rejected. Communicate bad news proactively but do not share rejection emails proactively. 


It leaves the recruiter with the flexibility of processing all the rejected candidates and do a bulk rejection en masse on one day. This way, employees do not receive a series of 5-10 emails from the recruiter on the rejection of their buddies. 


To summarize, always provide a status update on a referral. If you have to reject:


      • - Differentiate between a candidate rejecting the organization and an organization rejecting the candidate 
      • - Call out cases where the jobs are just no longer available. 
      • - Have a standard set of rejection reasons. 
      • - Do not share or communicate rejection over emails. Display it on your employee dashboard/referral system.
      • - Communicate proactively to candidates that their candidature will be considered in the future.


Would love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions you may have on this series. 


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