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Breaking the News: How to Deliver Bad News in Recruitment Like a Pro

Delivering bad news is never an easy task, especially when it comes to recruitment. As a recruiter, you have the responsibility of informing candidates about the outcome of their job application, which can sometimes be disappointing. Whether it's a rejection or a delay in the hiring process, delivering bad news can be a daunting experience, particularly if you have established a rapport with the candidate.

So, to help you overcome this moral and emotional barrier, here are some tips for delivering bad news in a respectful and empathetic manner.

Three men in black suits holding an umbrella and envelope while its raining.

Tips for delivering bad news

Be honest and direct:

When it comes to delivering bad news in recruitment, being upfront and honest is crucial. It's essential to avoid any attempt to sugarcoat the situation or provide false hope, as it can lead to disappointment and distrust in the long run. Instead, providing clear and concise information about the reasons why the candidate was not selected for the position can be more helpful.

By being honest and transparent, you can help the candidate understand the situation better and make an informed decision. You can explain the factors that led to the decision and provide specific feedback on areas that the candidate can improve on in the future. For example, you could provide suggestions on how to refine their skills, enhance their resume or cover letter, or prepare better for interviews.

It is also critical to communicate bad news in a timely manner. Delaying the delivery of disappointing news can make the candidate feel frustrated, angry, or confused. Being prompt and direct in your communication can help the candidate move on and look for other job opportunities.

Show empathy:

Try to put yourself in the candidate's shoes and understand how they might be feeling. When delivering bad news to a candidate, it's important to offer condolences for the disappointment they are likely experiencing. You can express understanding for the effort they put into the application process and the time they spent preparing for the interview. This can help the candidate feel heard and validated, even if they are disappointed.

Additionally, showing empathy can also help to build trust with the candidate. If the candidate feels that you genuinely care about their experience, they may be more likely to consider your organization for future job opportunities or even recommend it to others. Conversely, if the candidate feels that their experience was not taken seriously or that their emotions were disregarded, they may have a negative impression of the organization and be less likely to engage with it in the future.

Provide feedback:

Providing feedback is a crucial part of the recruitment process, especially when delivering bad news. If the candidate asks for feedback on why they were not selected, it's important to be prepared to provide specific examples and constructive criticism. This can help the candidate improve their skills and increase their chances of success in the future.

When giving feedback, be specific and provide examples of areas that the candidate can improve on. For example, if the candidate struggled with communication skills during the interview, you can provide feedback on how they can improve their communication style, such as by being more concise or confident. You can also provide feedback on areas such as technical skills, work experience, or qualifications, depending on the requirements of the position.

Feedback should be framed in a way that encourages the candidate to grow and improve, rather than discouraging them from applying for future job opportunities. Constructive criticism should also be presented in a professional and respectful manner, avoiding any language that may come across as harsh or judgmental.

Offer support:

When delivering bad news to a candidate in recruitment, it's important to remember that you're not just ending a particular job application process, but also a potential relationship with the candidate. Even though the outcome may not have been what the candidate was hoping for, it's important to show that you are still invested in their success.

One way to demonstrate this is by offering resources or connections that could help the candidate in their job search. For example, you could provide information about other open positions that may be a better fit for their skills and experience. You could also offer to connect the candidate with other recruiters or professionals in their industry who may be able to provide additional guidance or advice.

Networking opportunities can also be helpful for candidates who are seeking new job opportunities. You could suggest that the candidate attend industry events or job fairs to meet potential employers or connect with other professionals in their field. Alternatively, you could provide information about online networking resources that the candidate could use to expand their professional network.

Maintain professionalism:

It's important to remember that your communication with the candidate not only reflects on yourself but also on your company. The way in which you deliver the news and the tone that you use can have a significant impact on the candidate's perception of the organization as a whole.

Maintaining a professional tone and demeanour throughout the conversation is crucial. This means avoiding any defensive or argumentative behaviour and instead, focusing on being respectful and courteous to the candidate. It's important to listen actively to the candidate's questions and concerns and to provide thoughtful, concise, and honest answers.

Getting defensive or argumentative can cause unnecessary tension in the conversation and may result in the candidate having a negative impression of both yourself and the organization. By contrast, maintaining a professional tone and demeanour can help to demonstrate the organization's commitment to treating all candidates with respect and consideration, even those who are not ultimately selected for the position.


Delivering bad news in recruitment is never an easy task. It requires a delicate balance of sensitivity, empathy, and clear communication to ensure that the candidate is treated with respect and understanding throughout the process. However, by approaching the situation with these principles in mind, you can help maintain positive relationships with candidates, even in difficult circumstances.


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