Using Rejected Candidates as a Referral Pool

September 6, 2016 at 6:00 AM by Rob Stevenson


If you, or anyone you know, would be interested in this role, please let me know.

Hopefully, you’ve never committed this cardinal sin of candidate outreach. At best, it’s a sign-off that will go ignored. At worst it’s a short sighted, ham-fisted request for a person you’ve never spoken to do work on your behalf. Either way, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

But at the same time, referrals often make up for around 50% of candidate pipelines. While typically these referred candidates come from current employees, no recruiter is going to say no to a warm intro. Here’s the truth: great professionals know other great professionals, and a recommendation from them goes a lot further than a cold email, no matter how cheeky your subject line is. Thus, I implore you to think outside the box when it comes to where you’re sourcing referred candidates –  specifically, your pool of rejected candidates.

Now, I’m not suggesting you reject a candidate and attempt to syphon their network in the same breath. There are a few times when it’s appropriate to try the no-hire referral, all of them a variation of the scenario where a candidate has had warm, positive interactions with the team but doesn’t want to move forward. Perhaps they aren’t ready to relocate, or change companies, or it turns out the role isn’t quite a perfect fit.

Part of the reason people often don’t blindly pass a colleague of theirs on to a recruiter is because they don’t know what they’re getting them in to. In making that connection, they put a sliver of their own personal reputation on the line, and without the assurance of a positive experience, it’s not worth the risk.

Once they’ve had a chance to evaluate your company and go through a positive candidate experience, they may feel comfortable about recommending the company and process to a friend or colleague. To assess their experience, recruiters can send a quick email to candidates about their feedback on the hiring process. Did certain aspects impress them? How can the team improve their approach or communication? At Entelo, this takes the form of an anonymous post-interview survey.

Once you’ve arrived at an amicable decision to not move forward with a candidate, and you’ve received positive affirmation about the candidate’s interview experience, pulling off the next move still requires a degree of tact on your part. Suggest to the candidate that you should stay in touch as their career progresses and the organizational needs change. Since they now have an idea about the pace and expedience of the hiring process, company culture, and the ideal candidate, suggest that if they know anyone who might be a good fit, they put you in touch.

The “if you or anyone you know” line is shameless, lazy, and worst of all ineffective. If you truly want access to the networks of impressive people, only ask once you’ve earned their approval and consent.

Recommended articles:
The High Value of Personalized Outreach with Entelo Engineer James Hwang
9 Companies Getting Branding Right and What Talent Teams Can Learn From Them
Implement Interview Load Balancing and Never Give a Candidate a Bad Interview Again

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