How to Boost Your Rejected Candidate Referral Rate

By Richard Mosley

If you are doing your employer branding well, there are bound to be rejected candidates. For every candidate you hire, dozens, hundreds, or even thousands more are rejected. Every single one of these candidates is a potential source of candidate referrals and is a potential brand advocate or detractor.

For these two reasons, and others not mentioned here, you need to invest some time, effort, and resources in creating a positive candidate experience (CX). Part of your focus in creating a positive CX is to generate rejected candidate referrals (RCRs). Here are a few suggestions on how to increase your RCR rate:

  • Treat all candidates with respect and compassion. The application and selection process is very emotional. Express your appreciation for the time and effort they invested in applying for the job, answer any questions they have, and respond from a position of empathy.
  • Manage expectations on your career website and in your job descriptions. If your company typically receives hundreds or thousands of applications for the jobs posted or for a particular position, include this information on your career site and in the job description, so applicants have a realistic expectation of their odds and will be more understanding if they receive an auto-generated rejection letter.

Consider setting up a system that automatically responds to applicants after they submit their applications and presents them with FAQs about the application, review, and interview process. This is an easy and automated way to manage expectations and help applicants understand the process the moment they apply.

  • Keep candidates posted regardless of the decision. Candidates who don’t hear back from you are likely to write off your company. They won’t apply for future openings, and they certainly won’t do you the favor of referring talented candidates your way. Send rejection letters or emails informing them of your hiring decision.
  • Let them down easy. Rejection is emotionally deflating. Let candidates know that they’re valued even though they’re not your candidate of choice for a particular position. Remind them of the stiff competition for the job. Let them know whether you plan to keep their applications on file and consider them for future openings.
  • Ask them for candidate referrals. You’ll get rejected candidate referrals only if you ask for them. Encourage rejected candidates to monitor your career website for future openings, apply for any they’re qualified for, and refer other qualified candidates to your career site.

The online transparency available through social media, including LinkedIn and Glassdoor, makes it easy for rejected candidates to publicize and amplify both positive and negative candidate experiences across various channels. That’s reason enough to create a positive CX for all applicants.