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How to Tell Your Second-Best Candidate They Didn’t Get the Job


After steering a grueling job search, it’s exciting to finally decide on your top choice. The offer letter is signed and the start date has been set, but there’s still one thing to do before you can relax — let your second-choice candidate know they didn’t get the job.

Letting a candidate down is never fun, but it always stings a little more when you truly like them. Unfortunately, you can only hire one person for the job, so you have to rip the bandage. Find out how to deliver the bad news in a graceful, dignified manner.

Clue Them in Promptly

Waiting to find out if you’re getting a job can make even the calmest candidates extremely anxious, so don’t delay. It’s only fair to reach out to the person as soon as your top choice has signed on. Leaving them hanging is rude, and it presents you as an insensitive employer that doesn’t care about anyone but your top-choice.

Pick Up the Phone

Calling a candidate to tell them they’re not getting the job isn’t fun, but it’s the right thing to do. The person has invested time and energy into the interview process, so informing them of your hiring decision by phone shows respect. You’ve likely corresponded with the person by phone several times and met them in-person at least once, so sharing your decision in an email would be downright cold.

Tell the Truth

There’s no need to be brutal, but being honest with the person about why you chose another candidate can help them in the future. From their perspective, it’s beyond frustrating to be rejected for a job they thought they’d get. Your final pick might’ve been a better cultural fit or had a little more experience in an area essential to the position. Whatever the reason, gaining insights on your thought process will allow them to learn and move on.

Keep the Door Open

The person wasn’t the best choice for this particular opportunity, but that doesn’t mean a position they’re better suited for won’t open up at your company. If they’re a great cultural fit, let them know. Tell them you’d like to stay in touch, and that you’ll be on the lookout for another opening that’s a better match for their skills. When this happens, you already know who to reach out to first.

It isn’t always easy to choose the right candidate for your engineering, manufacturing, or operations management team, so allow MAC Incorporated to assist with your search. Our niche-based recruiting and staffing firm will get to know your company, so we can offer solutions tailored to your specific needs. Contact us today to learn more!

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