Rejection isn’t anything new. Even the most suave among us have experienced it at some point in dating or life – whether it be rejection by a potential partner or from a job. While all failure has a familiar sting, the folklore and fairy tales are most  when it comes to rejection in dating. Sitting around the bar recounting dating nightmares, each story just a little more epic than the first, a badge of honor in the ranks of 20 somethings everywhere.  What we don’t realize at that point is that these are preparing us for the inevitable evolution of rejection because it only becomes more severe in nature as we get older and a marriage fails, you’re turned down for a promotion or ostracized by a new neighbor for God knows what.

Slowly but surely, we acknowledge and respect the lessons of rejection. We accept that rejection is an inevitability. It’s one of those fun facts parents never share with us. As we get older and start our own families of children doomed to this same recurrence of rejection, we experience a new challenge – watching our children learn to navigate the torment, too. It’s significantly harder from that second hand perspective and likely why our parents never gave us the heads up about that part of life.

While we want to remain the protector of their youth and innocence, we know that rejection has positive effects, too. We’re reminded of those moments where we, too, sat on the bottom of the totem pole – set back by a crashing tide of “no” – either the singular or the recurring type.  Like the Rolling Stones said, “you can’t always get what you want.”  But we also bring with us lessons where we can change. After 15+ years sourcing, I know exactly where I want to start.

The Familiar Stink of Failure

waiting rejectionHere’s a scenario we’re all familiar with: You are going through the interview process for a job you really want. You know you did well – in fact, you aced it like a teen genius taking the SAT. However, you hear nothing. Not even a “hey, thanks for playing.” Just the long dark silence of the Darkness between the Stars.

Why is it that so many of us interview for jobs (and interview well) but never hear back? It isn’t that the recruiter doesn’t care, though that is what it feels like to any candidate who has lived in this black hole. Little do these poor souls know there’s an answer besides “you suck.” It’s that the recruiter is not being measured by anything except getting butts in seats.

Agency or corporate, commission checks and bonuses are based on how many people are placed. Unfortunately, as Rick Sanchez says, “second place just means that you’re the first loser,” and this is the mantra of recruiters, consciously or not. Their actions, or lack there-of, mirror that mantra.

Knowing that a recruiter’s employment is based on filling open roles, is it any surprise that a staffing specialist works on what keeps them employed? If I take 20 minutes to help someone who was the “first loser”, that is twenty minutes I’m not working towards my career and company’s goals. Twenty minutes I just spent with someone who isn’t going to help me in achieving the immediacy of what I need, which is the golden candidate who will get me to the numbers I am expected to meet every month.

Recruiting: A Rejection Business


But those stuck in a rut of check boxes and quotas have to accept that recruiting is a business of failure. Look at our candidate pipeline metrics – for every hire we make, how many phone calls do we put out? How many candidates fail our first round screen? How about those who fail a tech screen with a manager or bomb the in-person interview?  In a typical scenario, we start with over 200 resumes to narrow down to just one. That’s 199 times using the templated “thanks for playing, but for some reason I don’t even really understand, we’re going to pass” rejection letter. Without question, this conversation can be even harder than firing someone.

At least when someone is fired,  there’s some sort of reason like “you really have to wear pants” or “you can’t call anyone that, let alone a pregnant lady.” On the other hand, when telling someone they didn’t pass an interview – you don’t have as many options. You can’t even use the classic breakup line, “it’s not you, it’s me.”

There are a few reasons I can point to that explain why we may not specific when delivering rejection to a candidate. Most of the time, you just don’t even know why they were rejected. The other major factor? Quite simple, it’s because we feel bad.  It’s soul crushing when you know how bad the candidate needs this job and still have to call and say “Thanks for coming out but you failed.” We hear the excitement when the person thinks they did well. Is it any wonder a recruiter will avoid making this call if they can? And they do. In fact, recent studies show that about 75% of candidates don’t hear back after the interview. So we, along with the majority of other people in our field, simply say nothing and hope they’ll get the hint. It saves us time, right?


Apply Now: Rejection Artist

Despite the feelings and empathy, this doesn’t change the fact that a candidate deserves a phone call (or at least an email) to be told why they are out. Every single person we lead on with a potential opportunity deserves closure. It is a personal point of pride with me to get back to everyone, no matter what. I despise recruiters who don’t get back to a candidate who didn’t make the grade. It’s a poor reflection on our industry, not just them.

So, I am going to try and offer a solution that will satisfy everyone. I want to create a new role (or aspect of someone’s role) to add to a talent team. Rather than describe it, I am going to provide a job description for a role that doesn’t exist. Yet. The purpose? To help a company’s brand, a recruiter’s soul and most important, the candidates who deserve a lot better than we often give them.

Company: An Amazing Global Organization with Offices Worldwide

Role: Candidate Relationship Manager


  1. 7-10+ years Full Lifecycle Staffing
  2. Excellent phone manner and demeanor
  3. Attention to details and data without overlooking the person the data represents
  4. Experience creating talent pipelines

The Day to Day:

  1. Review a rejected candidate’s resume and interview feedback. If there is any role within the firm that might be a fit besides the one they screened, and the feedback implies they are good for the company, make sure they are told about the new role(s) and get them engaged.
  2. If there is no chance of getting them into something else, call (or email) and offer as much closure as you can within what the law allows. If there is anything you can suggest to help them further their job search, do so (even better, ask them if they wouldn’t mind you telling others about them)
  3. Make them feel valued about the time they gave to our company.
  4. Maintain a database we can go back to when the company’s needs change or the person gains more experience.

About the Author 

Jeff NewmanJeff Newman has been a full life cycle recruiter for over 17 years. His staffing philosophy is simple: interview to hire as opposed to looking for reasons not to hire and speak with each person instead of simply pushing paper. He prides himself on always making sure that what he is offering a candidate is an opportunity and not just another job. Currently, Jeff is a technical sourcing specialist at Indeed, the world’s number one job site. Follow Jeff on Twitter @Apikoros18 or connect with him on LinkedIn.