The Candidate Experience Doesn’t Have to End in a Gut Punch

Most job candidates rationally know that if they made it to the final rounds of an interview and didn’t land the position, the decision wasn’t a personal slight by the company. The hiring manager simply went with the candidate who they believed fit better into the specific budget, culture, or demands of the role for which they were hiring.

But no matter how much a candidate knows that the hiring manager’s choice was a business decision, finding out they didn’t get a job can feel like a gut punch. After all, they’ve spent weeks (sometimes months) in discussions about the role, even taking  “doctor’s appointments” or hiding in their employer’s conference rooms during business hours for interviews.

By the final round, candidates have also spent hours on nights and weekends researching the role and working on assignments that demonstrate their work. They’ve often taken “sick days” or vacation time to travel to and attend marathon interview days. And potentially the most heartbreaking, candidates start to picture themselves in the role, talking to family and friends about the opportunity—even if they know better. When the rejection comes … gut punch.

No matter how politely the hiring manager phrases the rejection, it can be understandably difficult for the candidate to hear. Each rejection creates reputational risk for companies.

I’ve recently seen this first-hand. I have a friend who was a finalist for a job at a well known social media site. The interview process went for seven rounds over two months, capped by a sales presentation that required significant work and original ideas. When he didn’t get the role, his entire opinion of the company soured drastically. He deleted his account and now months later still bad-mouths the organization to all who will listen.

My friend’s experience is not unique. A 2016 study by CareerArc found that among candidates who’ve had a poor experience, nearly three quarters have shared that experience online or with a friend. The recent $1.2 billion sale of Glassdoor shows the real value in good (and bad) reviews of employers and potential employers.

That word-of-mouth can be particularly damaging when those sharing a bad experience are highly qualified, vetted candidates who’ve made it to the final rounds of your interview process. These are candidates, after all, who are likely to land high-profile jobs within your industry, and who may never apply to work for you again. The rejection story they share might also discourage other potential future candidates from applying to roles at your company.

Reputational risk isn’t the only issue. Disappointed candidates can hurt not only your future hiring prospects, but also your sales bottom line. Like my friend who deleted his social media account, rejected candidates might decide to end their relationship with you and encourage others to do the same.  A few years ago, British cable and mobile provider Virgin Mobile calculated that it lost a whopping $5.4 million per year due to rejected candidates who’d cancelled their monthly subscriptions.

Future business is also at stake. A recent IBM report found that those who’d had a good experience with a potential employer were more than twice as likely as those who’d had a bad experience to become a customer of the hiring organization.

There are many ways that companies can improve the rejection side of the interview process. We believe Finalist is one of them. Working with us to provide a soft landing for the best candidates you can’t hire can lead to an improved reputation, stronger sales, and better candidates in the future.

Interested in learning about Finalist? CLICK HERE to read how we’re redefining talent acquisition or contact me at

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