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April 19, 2022

Taking A Pass? How to Handle Candidates You Don't Hire

Whether you’re interviewing for one position or a hundred, you will undoubtedly run across job candidates you don’t want to hire. It’s important to your brand to handle these applicants respectfully. Here are three reasons why:

  • They talk. Candidates who feel they were rudely treated during your recruiting process may tell people. You could lose future great candidates if they hear about it.
  • They post on social media. Job applicants who were ghosted, strung along, or just not handled well in general can post it on social media where thousands of people could see it. This is bad for your company reputation.
  • They leave reviews on job boards. Hopeful job seekers often research a company’s reputation before they even send in a resume. A bad rating on the many company review sites could decrease your high-quality responses.

Another thing you need to think about are the valid reasons not to hire someone. Here are six situations that may happen during the hiring process that would cause you to take a pass on a job candidate.

Late. Rude. Sloppy. NOPE

A good guideline is to assume the job candidate is going to look, act, and perform their best during the interviewing process. This means if they’re late to the interview, rude to anyone they encounter, sloppily dressed or lacking in hygiene, you can expect them to be that way on the job. Do you want to deal with that all the time? No, no you don’t.

Unenthusiastic About the Position

Lackluster answers, few insightful follow up questions, and passive body language can signal they aren’t excited about your company or the position. None of these are signs of stellar future performance. Keep searching until you find someone who shows passion and eagerness for the opportunity.

Bad Fit with Company Culture

Protecting your company’s positive culture is essential. If you detect attitudes and behaviors during the interviewing process that aren’t in line with your culture, it would be a big risk bringing that person on.

Sluggish to Respond to Follow Up

If you candidate takes days to get back with you, if you send multiple texts and emails with no response, or if they don’t send requested follow up items in a timely manner, do you really think they’ll meet their deadlines once you hire them?

Background Check Issues

Even if the candidate aces your interviews, there could be behavior that shows up on the background check that gives you pause. Criminal convictions, spotty employment history, and issues with the education they claim to possess are all reasons you might pass on an applicant.

Unreasonable Demands About Salary or Benefits

Candidates are entitled to ask for what they believe they’re worth, but that doesn’t mean you must fork it over. If their requests are beyond your budget, finding someone whose salary and benefit expectations are more in line with yours is within your right.

Handling Candidates You Aren’t Going to Hire

Treat everyone with respect and professionalism, whether you’re hiring them or not. Here are three go-to ways to manage applicants you aren’t hiring.

Communicate transparently. Yes, delivering bad news is uncomfortable. Keep in mind that nobody likes waiting and wondering about a hiring decision. Instead of being awkward about telling them no or ghosting them, reach out via email or by phone and give them the news as soon as you make the decision. This gives them closure and allows them to move on.

Refer to the original job description. If they ask “why” you made the decision, try keeping your response positive. Highlight and compliment them on the skills they did offer, but constructively point out that you found a candidate that offered certain skills they did not. If they seemed distracted or showed up to the interview late, gently remind them of that, too. It may be the wake up call they need to stop it from happening to them again.

If the background check is the reason, follow adverse action procedures. Employers must be careful since there are federal and state laws when using a CRA for background checks. When ordering a background report from a third-party, you need to know and understand state and federal requirements when denying employment.

When employers decide against hiring someone based on whole or in part on the candidate's background check report, the FCRA requires that employers notify the applicant, and send them a pre-adverse action letter. Follow up with a final “Notice of Adverse action letting the candidate know the information in their background report adversely affected them from being hired. Give proper time (usually five-business days) between the “Pre-Adverse Action” letter and the final letter. There have been recent lawsuits by job candidates who were only given a three-day window, so don’t get in a hurry and send the final notice out too soon.

Thoughtfully handling the candidates you don’t hire is an important part of protecting your brand and mitigating the risk of discrimination lawsuits. By knowing the acceptable reasons for taking a pass and having a plan in place for handling the unchosen candidates, you can manage the entire process thoughtfully and professionally.


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