Your Candidate Anti-Engagement Strategy

Job Candidates, Employment Offers, Retention Strategies and Letters of Rejection

Job Candidates, Employment Offers, Retention Strategies and Letters of Rejection

An excellent friend of mine had an interview earlier this week for a multi-location long-term care company’s HR Director position. Tammy was having her second interview for a job when I spoke with her, and she seemed optimistic about getting hired. She even asked with assurance about the timeline for making decisions and the next actions. The management group reassured her that there was no set decision deadline and that they were still in the early stages of the final decision-making process.

They weren’t quite honest, though.

The Ultimate Interview Rejection Letter

Less than twenty-four hours later, Tammy walked to her mailbox and was surprised to receive a standard form   letter of rejection  addressed to her from said company.  And while I applaud the company for getting back to her after the interview at all since 50% of companies admittedly don’t engage candidates in any form, the rejection latter  was a slap in the face.

I call tactics like these candidate anti-engagement strategies.  These are seen as a snub in the face of the candidatewho are treated as second class citizens who are the junk mail of the employment and applicant tracking world.  Companies are conflicted and uncomfortable to deliver bad news to job applicants, so instead they employ a common managerial tactic — avoidance, aloofness, and unavailability.  You know what I mean — ring twice and go to voice mai. Or, as in Tammy’s case, send the standard employment rejection letter.  And it’s treatment like this that leads candidates to fill the grapevine with candidate experiences that are angry, bitter, and hurt.  This anti-engagement strategy leaves the candidate with one too many unanswered questions and lots of material to vent to other future candidates

Poor retention strategies are similar to that sales person who I contact asking them for a quote on marketing materials.  We chat for a few minutes, promise to return my calls, and I never hear from them again.  Except I’m the one paying the marketing company and the job candidates are the ones receiving payment.  It’s like dropping off my dry cleaning never to pick it up.

Reject Qualified Employment Candidates with Continued Engagement, Not Cold Rejection

Tammy is more than qualified to be the senior human resource position at the company in question.  Often times in situations like this where there are multiple candidates who meet the minimum qualifications, it comes down to subjectives like culture fit, personality, and gut feelings.  So why do these intangibles give us an excuse to treat our remaining employment candidates like second class citizens?

Companies should be building relationships with their employment candidates regardless of their status.  It’s piss poor customer service, an anti-engagement strategy that eventually will lead to a company with egg on their face.

For every candidate, hired or not, companies should always:

  • Send an email at minimum. Failing to do so is like going on a first date and then never calling back.  It’s rude and ridiculous.
  • Provide your candidates job search resources. Want to build a community that supports you even if they don’t land the job?  Provide them with resources like a job seeker toolkit or a best practices check list.
  • Keep your promises. If you promise to follow up, then do it.  It could be in the form of an automated email sent directly from your ATS or a quick phone call.  The things that we avoid are often the most important.
  • Treat your job candidates like human beings. Because they are and they deserve to be treated as such.  Showing some basic human decency shouldn’t be the minimum expectation.  Imagine how impressive you’d look in the eyes of the candidateeven as they read your letter of rejection.  Rockstar company. . . with very little effort.

If you are a corporate recruiter, hiring manager, or human resource professional, I know what you are saying,  “Jessica, I get 500 applications for one single job.  I don’t possibly have time.”  And to you I call bullshit.  Providing your candidates an engaging experience doesn’t to be time consuming.  It is in fact just good business.

It’s Not Employee Retention, it’s Good Will Retention; Avoid the Venting

With the economy improving good candidates will once again be in short supply.  Older workers are counting the days and months till their retirement, but the younger workforce are like elephants — they never forget.  Treating your candidates like second class citizens may not hurt you today, but it will in the future, and with sites like Glassdoor, JobVent, and the SimplyHired Forum, it’s really only a matter of time.

Never heard of Glassdoor, JobVent, or Simply Hired?  Here are a list of more employment venting sites to get you started. Want to know more about candidate engagement?  Kevin Wheeler (@kwheeler) has a great article from 2008 on ERE.


Think I’m full of crap or maybe you agree with me?  I encourage you to leave a comment below.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Lenora Wood says

    I wholeheartedly agree! Perceived bad treatment from any company representative is bad marketing . Those people will tell 10 others and so it begins. These are potential customers and the treatment you give them today will definitely be remembered.

  2. Kevin Brown says

    Shame on companies (especially those that are on the best places to work lists) who do not treat candidates with respect.

  3. Shawn Craig says

    “Well said”!

    I decided to re-connect with those companies/job finds that rank highest on my priority list, with a request for an deselection explanation without sounding off like “soar grapes”.

    The verdict is still out! I’ll let you know how it goes…



  4. Brett says

    I found this site while researching the Job Vent website, and this post came up.

    I completely agree that companies should be building relationships. It’s like a person who comes into a store but doesn’t buy. That doesn’t make the person less valuable to the store — in fact they could buy from them in the future, especially if they are felt welcomed and valued.

    Same thing interviews — it’s been determine the interviewee has some value to the company or they wouldn’t have been interviewed in the first place. The company may need to hire again in the future, or just good networking to keep up with pervious candidates.

    Can you imagine the great reviews a company like that would get? They would never be at a loss for finding great, quality candidates in the future.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says


      Thanks for the comments. I’m glad we agree and I believe that their are companies who are getting the memo. Job seekers and candidates are not a disposable commodity. The sooner companies realize that the more powerful of a community they will build.


      • Brett (re: JobVent, etc.) says

        You’re more then welcome Jessica.

        I think job venting sites like Job Vent, etc. may get companies to realize a change is needed, although I can also see companies getting their back up if the comments are overly critical — which of course can happen when an employee is ready to let loose (although it happens on Facebook every day).

        However when both sides — candidates and companies, see it as a win-win to keep in touch, I think we’ll start seeing a change. In the end, it’s all networking, which is good for *both* companies and candidates.

        Thanks Jessica. Looking forward to checking out more on the site!

  5. I Used to Feel Human says

    I totally agree with you. I recently underwent two simultaneous hiring processes. One company claimed to be waiting for confirmation from the VP for my next round of interviews for a period of two months. Of course it’s a lie. The other company claimed my background was an eye opener on how much more the position could be and that they would modify the position to better exploit my generalist experience. A few weeks later I received a rejection claiming they found a candidate with more technical acumen. inconsistent? Needless to say I never got reimbursement for my international travel expenses, never heard back from any of my thank you letters. I even wrote thank you letters after the rejection for having interviewed me regardless of the outcome and not a peep. Honestly we are loosing our humanity in corporate America.


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