Being a hiring manager is difficult. Deciding whether an applicant is the right fit for your company is one thing. Rejecting the applicant is another altogether. It’s not as simple as stamping on a big “REJECTED” sign on the application and shooing the applicant away. The way you approach an application can affect your company.
Like a tabletop roleplaying game, your actions can have profound consequences on the future of your company. Reacting one way can cause your company harm, while another will improve your company’s reputation. Here’s how it can play out.
Your company gains an embittered enemy. -2 reputation.
So the applicant was possibly the worst application you’ve ever had to process — incomplete requirements, late for the interview, sloppily dressed. Nothing gives you more pleasure than to reject this poor excuse of an applicant. But whoops, he feels so entitled that he gets angry with your company.
Or, it could be worse! Your applicant’s childhood dream might have been to work for your company. But you rejected her outright because she wasn’t a good fit for the company. It’s sad, but it happens. She didn’t take it the right way. Her perception of the company has now soured. She has resorted to spreading foul rumors about the company.
This is the worst outcome possible. Not everyone can handle rejection. While you aren’t in total control of how the applicant reacts, your actions can either guarantee or delay this. How can this happen?
Even in rejection, you must always be polite. An outright “no” isn’t enough. Rejecting the applicant without telling him/her the reasons why, or giving insufficient ones, will cause your relations to sour.
Most jobseekers acknowledge the possibility of rejection, but some will react horribly. They may tell other potential applicants that the company is a terrible company to apply for, putting your company’s reputation in jeopardy.
You gain a future applicant. +1 reputation and +1 future.
There are different reasons why you have to reject an applicant: lack of experience, lack of budget, or you’ve already hired someone else. As much as you like the applicant’s pizzaz or qualifications, you can’t accept everyone. Your job now is to kindly say “no.”
Properly saying “no” to an applicant is your first lesson in Human Resources 101. This involves a personalized rejection letter, citing understandable reasons for rejection, and ensuring the applicant that her application will still be considered in the future.
When you carefully let the applicant down, you’re saving your company’s reputation as a kind-hearted and just corporation. At best, the applicant will still favor your company for future applications. After he gains more experience, he might apply again to more favorable conditions.
Earlier this year, a seven-year-old girl sent in a job application to Google. As is probably obvious, Google isn’t too keen on violating child labor laws. (And besides, hiring an adorable seven-year-old might do horrors for office productivity.)
Google CEO Sundar Pichai saw the underlying value of this. Instead of downplaying it as a child’s fantasy, he responded in an equally adorable but still professional way — telling her to keep learning about computers and to send another application once her studies are done.
Conversely to the previous outcome, a proper rejection letter might spread favorable comments about your company. In Google’s case, they once again gained massive popularity (and a lifelong fan, to boot). At the very least, your marketing department will love you for the positive feedback.
You match the applicant to another opportunity. +1 talent and +1 reputation.
Here’s the dilemma: you have to reject an applicant for the position he applied for, but you find that he might be a better fit for another within the company. He applied for a back-end developer position, but he has a lot more experience in the front end. What do you do?
A “no” isn’t always a “no.” Sometimes, a candidate who doesn’t fit in the position she applied for is a great fit for another opening in the company. The ability to match applicants with other openings is a testament to your skill as a hiring manager.
Even if the other position is in another company, for example, it will still work to your advantage—the applicant will thank you for it, you won’t cut ties with the applicants, and your company improves relations with other companies.
It doesn’t have to stem from you as well. If the applicant is gracious enough, she’ll see it as an opportunity to pursue other opportunities regardless of your encouragement.
Take, for example, the case of WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton and his application to work for Facebook. After eleven years in Yahoo, Acton tried and failed to get into Facebook. Taking it in stride, Acton took matters into his own hands and created his own company. A few years later, once success set in, Facebook changed its tune and bought the startup for a whopping $4 billion dollars.
Saying no isn’t as simple as uttering a one-syllable word. A “no” can have far-reaching consequences. Your job as a hiring manager involves saying “no” properly, and knowing the consequences of doing so.
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