Specialist Recruitment and Consultancy
1st Feb 2016 | by: robsteed

So, you’ve advertised a role, shortlisted the applicants, taken them all through a lengthy interview process both on the phone and in person, and you’ve got a candidate who meets all of your defined criteria. But you think they won’t fit into your team, so you reject them.

I’ve heard plenty of subjective reasons for rejection; too quiet, too loud, too old, too young, might be a bit annoying, not “nice” enough, too humble, seems to lack commitment or motivation, and so on. And of course the old favourites “I just didn’t like them very much” and even, “did you see what they were wearing?”

Depending on the role and the circumstance, these can all be valid reasons for not offering someone a job (they can also be really poor reasons, but for the sake of this article let’s assume the former). But how did they get this far through the process before you figured it out? It’s an important question. Recruitment takes time and time, as we all know, is money. Add up the time spent responding to candidates, setting up a phone interview, doing a phone interview, arranging a face-to-face, conducting that first interview, perhaps a second – it racks up pretty fast.

But can you save time for both you and the candidates by getting it right earlier in the process?

I believe that it’s all about getting it set up properly in the first place. If you define your criteria properly before you start the “attraction” part of the recruitment process and use it throughout, you will minimise the number of times you get into this situation. Really take the time to figure out what you want. If you’ve already decided on valid reasons not to recruit someone, then you need to be explicit about it throughout.

Your communication needs to reflect the qualities you’re looking for, whether that’s through an advert, a forum, speculative email or phone call. If you’re going to place an advert for the role, make sure your language and tone reflects that of your criteria. If you’re looking for a lively, bubbly candidate to come and work in your vibrant, buzzing, town centre office, you need to use lively, vibrant and exciting language in your advert. On the other hand, if this is a lone-working role in an empty, out-of-town, office without much excitement, you should use language that reflects that.


Buzzing start-up that’s really going places WLTM marketing grads bursting with ideas and energy. You’ll be grabbing campaigns with both hands and giving them a good shake – think surprising, think different, not just outside the box but leaving it for dust! You’re social media-savvy, smart and switched on with have a passion for all things tech.


Following a period of rapid expansion we are looking to recruit graduate trainees to join our marketing team. Working both above and below the line, you will need a working understanding of diverse communication channels. You will need to demonstrate the confidence to put forward innovative ideas, the analytical insight to develop feasibility studies and the communication skills to devise persuasive rhetoric.

OK so this is an extreme example, but you’re probably warming to one more than the other – and which one will always depend on your own personality. If your advertising fits the role and defines the person you’re looking for, the response you get will nearly always be a closer fit with that ideal.

Of course we’re working in a time when applying for a job is as quick and simple as one mouse click, so some candidates will still apply without reading the advert properly (TIP: these ones are probably not right for you). So, think about adding in a shorter, quicker way of assessing them – it could be a technical exercise, a generic email asking for more information, or even a psychometric test. A short, well-put-together phone interview can often draw out most of these issues before too much time is invested. Remember to keep referring back to the initial criteria, which defines all of the key measures. (Now you’re realising just how important that step is, right? And it is. Always, always know what it is you’re looking for – otherwise it’s almost impossible to find).

If the candidate has progressed through all of these steps, and you’re still unsure if they’re right for you – they’re probably not. However, it’s important to make sure that the reason you reject someone is due to fit with the company, not you personally. Remember that you, or someone in your organisation, has to work with this person – but not live with them or socialise (much) with them – so they have to be “nice enough” for one, not the other. Equally, make sure you’re assessing against company values, not your own – I’ve always been adverse to employing anyone who supports Peterborough United Football Club, but have come to realise there aren’t many of my clients who share that value, so have to grin and bear it when I interview them. We all have to compromise at some point, but make sure the basics are right before you get too far.

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