How to Lose a Candidate in 10 Steps

While the labor market is still tight, suitable candidates are looking for their next opportunity.  According to Trending Economics, the unemployment rate increased in May, reaching the highest level since October 2022. Despite this uptick, the jobless rate remained historically low, suggesting the tight labor market. What does this mean for recruiting? It means nothing has changed, and the hiring managers, recruiters, and HR Professionals must work in lockstep to meet their hiring needs.  

With a tight labor market, the opportunity to lose a candidate is even greater. How we work with a candidate has everything to do with the success of that recruitment effort and any future recruitment efforts.  Let’s dive in and talk about how to lose a candidate in 10 easy steps to help you ensure your process is not turning away candidates.


1. Relying too heavily on AI

Many recruiting systems tout the latest in recruiting AI.  That means that the system can auto-select a candidate based on keywords in the search. It can also reject candidates based on lacking these keywords.  The recruitment process has much more gray than that and is full of give and take.  You may say a bachelor’s degree in a specific field is “nice to have,” but what if someone has an unrelated bachelor’s degree but has years of experience in the same role at a competitor?  If you rely on AI, you may miss out on a great candidate.  


2. Ghosting candidates

We’re not talking about candidates that disappear but about the company not getting back to candidates.  Your process needs to include regular touchpoints with a candidate, from when they apply to when they are hired or rejected.  The candidate’s experience affects not only that one candidate or that one role but other candidates and other roles in the future.  Ensure that your process includes responses (they can be automatic) upon application, when you decide to move forward or reject them, and so forth.

When I work with hiring managers throughout the process, we have an agreement on day one. They must respond within 24 hours of reviewing a resume, interviewing, screening, etc. If they don’t, I haunt them. If you wait too long, you will miss out.


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3. Too many interviews

I remember being extremely exasperated when I came in for my seventh interview for a company, and they wanted me to meet with one more person.  I almost gave up but was excited about the opportunity because I knew I could make an impact.  When your interview process is lengthy or involves too many people, it’s a risk. The candidate can only come up with so many excuses for missing work, and it looks like you can’t decide quickly.  

If candidates need to meet with the team, or several decision-makers, try to combine those meetings. Make it more enjoyable by taking them to lunch or having a round table discussion with direct reports.  Having a candidate meet with several people over several days also draws out the process.

When creating the requisition for an opening, talk with the hiring manager about who needs to interview the candidate and the process.  This will help you ensure the process is streamlined and consistent for all candidates.  This also allows you to question the process and clean it up.
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4. Messy process

Similar to the last bullet, a messy process will send a candidate running away.  Let’s start with the application. The candidate is not buying a house, so why is the application lengthy and messy?  Make it easier for the candidate to apply and remove any barriers, like having to type in their resume when they uploaded it or requiring a login.  Let’s face it, log-in requirements only exist so candidates can get updates. This step is unnecessary if you communicate with them via phone, text, or email.

In addition, not having and being able to articulate a transparent process can have the candidate concerned.  In phone interviews, people frequently ask me about the next step. Communicating the process can open the door to a transparent conversation about the timeline and other opportunities the candidate may have.


5. Making candidates wait

The candidate experience starts the minute a candidate applies and needs to be effective throughout.  When a candidate shows up for an interview in person or online, they’re putting their best foot forward.  But, frequently, this is where we fall short.  Having candidates wait for an interview when they show up on time is catastrophic to the process and the candidate.

Think about the worst waiting room experience you’ve had.  For me, it was at my doctor’s office. I waited for the doctor for about a half hour before I got up and left. Now, I’m a patient person, so your candidate may not have the same tolerance level.  Ensure your candidate is greeted and given something to drink.  If it’s virtual, ensure the candidate is welcomed and invited to grab some water, coffee, or tea.  Once that happens, the interview should start on time, as planned.

6. Inconsistent messaging

It can get confusing when candidates get different messages from different interviewers throughout the process.  Also, having all interviewers ask the same questions can be frustrating for a candidate.  Meet with the team that will be interviewing ahead of time to ensure the team is aligned on the role, the culture, the critical requirements of the job, and who’s focusing on what aspect in the interview process to avoid redundancies.   


7. The waiting game

Taking too long to decide can be detrimental to retaining a candidate.  It can be hard when you see a candidate first who seems to check all the boxes, but you want to see more candidates or ensure you’re meeting your DEI commitments.  Staying in constant contact with the candidate during an extended process can help, but you will need to call a truce and make a decision at some point.


8. Failure to show receipts of DEI

A lack of concern for diversity throughout the process is evident to a candidate.  Candidates want a healthy workplace culture, which includes feeling heard, valued, and included.  Leaning in and listening to the candidate and meeting their needs during the interview process can make all the difference.  Diversity is everything that makes someone unique, so it has to be individualized.  Asking a candidate on the phone screen if there’s anything they need during the interview process to help make it a great experience is one way you can do this. For example, everyone comes in different sizes. Something as simple as providing a chair with no arms can help someone with a larger stature feel accepted and welcomed.


9. Taking the human out of it

Recruitment is a process, but it’s a process that includes humans.  Being transparent about the process and leaning in to listen to the candidate will set you apart from the competition but will also help you engage more with the candidate instead of just the process.  Many of the previously discussed issues occur when we take the human out of it, and you lose the candidate.  


10. Failure to have a great candidate experience

The culmination of these points is to offer a great candidate experience.  Starred talks about the importance of the candidate’s experience.  Not only are candidates sharing their experience on social media, Starred states, “Candidates are often able to choose from a variety of possible employers, and are often applying to multiple companies at once. This makes it more difficult for your company to stand out as the employer of choice. Good Candidate Experience can establish trust and loyalty with your applicants, who will become promoters of your company and enthusiastically boost your reputation as an employer, even if they were rejected for a position.”