Robey Jenkins, HR Manager for Age UK Gloucestershire shares his weekly blog. This week, he talks about how not to reject a candidate.
No one likes making the phone call to an unsuccessful candidate. And no one enjoys getting the call that says they haven’t got the job. But the process is made far worse for both sides when the decision has been made based on the wrong things. Candidates know instantly when they’ve been judged on the wrong criteria. But recruiting managers, in the quest to get through hard conversations quickly and with the minimum of fuss, often fall back on familiar excuses that leave candidates feeling bitter and under-valued and this tarnishes your organization’s reputation and makes the chance of good candidates coming back for another go much less.
So here are three reasons you should never give a candidate for not offering them a job:
- “You’re over-qualified”
Managers often perceive, in highly-qualified candidates, a risk that they would become bored with the role and move on quickly. Or they see a threat in a candidate who is more highly-qualified than they are themselves. But in both cases, this is a subjective forecast of behaviour (becoming bored or becoming ambitious) for which the manager has made no test. In other words, you’re rejecting a candidate by projecting your own assumptions and prejudices onto them rather than through an objective assessment of their ability to perform the job.
A candidate’s qualifications are going to be there for you to see on their application form or CV, so if you think a candidate might not have their heart in the right place for the role, use the interview to test that possibility: find out how they came to acquire their qualifications, what they want to use them for and what their longer-term aspirations might be. Then, if those don’t fit with what you’re looking for, you’re rejecting them on the grounds that the role doesn’t match their expectations and aspirations. You have objectively shown that they are unlikely to be happy in the job, so it’s in their best interests to not put them into it.
If, on the other hand, they can show you that, despite their excellent qualifications, they have a clear understanding of how they will fit in the role and what its place is in their longer-term plan, you can have confidence that their qualifications will be an asset rather than a liability.
- “You’re under-qualified”
As I mentioned above, a candidate’s qualifications should be clearly visible on their application form or CV. If candidates lack qualifications essential to the role, you shouldn’t be interviewing them! By offering an interview, you are tacitly communicating that you consider them to be one of a set of qualified individuals who are interested in the job. The interview is to establish which of them is the best fit to your needs.
If what you mean is that, through the answers they gave to your questions, they showed a lack of professional knowledge of certain essential skills, or that others gave better and more comprehensive answers, well tell them that! If you’ve got a structured interview plan, you should be able to identify the particular questions where they fell short. This will help unsuccessful candidates prepare better for future interviews, improving their impression of your organization, even though you didn’t offer them the job.
- “You don’t have enough experience”
Experience isn’t measured in quantitative terms: it’s a qualitative matter. Candidates should have their experience measured on the basis of what they did and how well, not on the basis of how long they did it for.
Now, of course, those with more time spent in certain roles are more likely to be able to illustrate certain critical experience points, because as time goes by you do more stuff. That’s just how it is. But equally, some people cram a lot into a short amount of time. And some, through self-reflection, learn a lot more from experiences than others.
So instead of asking for a certain amount of experience, ask questions that will get to the quality of that experience. Ask for examples of particular experiences. Find out what people learned from experiences.
Then, when you’re giving feedback, rather than leaving them let down with the “under-qualified” palm-off, you can identify specific experiences that you were looking for where either they hadn’t been able to illustrate it well, or in which others showed more of the learning that you were looking for.
I hope you can see a common thread in all of these points, by the way. The thread is simple: the quality of the feedback you give to candidates is in direct proportion to the quality of the questions that you ask them. If you ask them vague questions that don’t directly pertain to the job in hand, then your results will be vague. You will make a decision based on a subjective assessment, informed by prejudice and assumption. But if your questions are specific and directly related to the job, your results will be equally specific and your feedback, even for the unsuccessful candidates (in fact, especially for the unsuccessful candidates) will be useful.
Not only will this give a positive impression of you and your organization to unsuccessful candidates, but it will also be a vital safety net in the event of an accusation of illegal discrimination. If you can point with confidence to specific areas of competence that guided your decision, then an allegation of sexism, racism or some other illegality will struggle to stand up.
So: better decisions, a better impression for candidates and better protection from accusations of bias. You know it makes sense.
If you like this blog, why not look at previous entries you can find here?