Decline 100% of your candidates

Declining candidates is a simple yet impactful opportunity to advance your employment brand. Many of the candidates that you interact with may be a good fit for your company later, or talk about you with their peers.

Decline 100% of your candidates

I recently watched a webinar where Jesse Ryan (Chief Sales Guy @ High Road Human Capital) talks about why declining 100% of your candidates is important. In this article I blend together the topics that Jesse talks about with my own personal spin on the concepts.


  1. Effects of Ghosting Candidates
  2. When you don't decline your applicants, you deny them two primal needs
  3. What type of feedback should I provide candidates?
View the original webinar

Effects of Ghosting Candidates:

If a candidate is not chosen for the position, there are usually two ways companies react:

  1. Let the candidate know they didn't get selected
  2. Ghost the candidate

Both of these actions cause a reaction and feeling in the job seeker.

Candidates that are ghosted are less likely to apply in the future, share positive feedback about your job process, and much less likely to recommend your brand.

On the other hand, the candidates who got a response letting them know they did not get selected are more likely to apply again in the future and recommend your brand.

Looking past the beneficial ROI impact of formally declining your candidates, there are professional and moral reasons to decline the candidates as well.  

When you don't decline you applicants, you deny them two primal needs.

When all come together

You have a moral responsibility to provide your job seekers a good experience. By failing to let them know they haven't been selected, you are depriving them of two essential human needs.

  1. Closure - A sense of resolution of conclusion at the end of an artistic work

    • Many of your candidates are waiting for a response, even when you know you will not be hiring them. Giving them closure lets them know to apply to other jobs and look for other options.
  2. Dignity - The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

    • Job seekers spend a lot of time applying to your job. Having them jump through several hoops only to ignore them at the end is a big hit to their dignity.

What type of feedback should I provide candidates?

Jesse follows a model where the type of decline is based on how far the job seeker makes it in your interviewing process. It is fair to provide a more personalized decline for job seekers who have invested more time into your process.

  1. Decline from resume screen - An automated email is fine at this stage. You should be able to set up an auto decline email inside your ATS. See example email templates here.
  2. Decline from phone screen - The best thing to do from this stage is have the recruiter who performed the screen send a personalized email. Start with a template & personalize it for that candidate.
  3. Decline after face to face - The best way to decline a candidate that has had an in person meeting is usually with a phone call. These calls should be very brief, letting the candidate know they didn't get the offer and encouraging them to apply again in the future.

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