Reverse Rejection

As an executive recruiter, I have a very interesting vantage point from which to observe an interview process. I intimately see both sides and the emotions each experience. I’ve noticed something that is consistent in candidate behavior, and I wanted to share it with those who are in a position to hire.

As time passes after an interview and there is no feedback given, candidates develop a defense mechanism that I call Reverse Rejection. When the interviewing momentum stalls, the candidates start thinking of all the reasons that they don’t want the job. In anticipation of being rejected, the candidate starts unconsciously rejecting the company. Here are a couple scenarios of when I have seen Reverse Rejection:

At the Beginning of the Process: When a recruited candidate gives a recruiter permission to share their resume, which they just invested a few hours in updating, they expect a quick turn-around. Except for extreme cases, most everyone gets to their emails in 24-48 hours. I usually see candidates getting antsy and wanting to know where things stand after 72 hours have passed. If they call the recruiter after three days and there is no feedback from the company, I see them starting to back off from the excitement they had initially. They ask themselves, “If they aren’t interested, why am I?”

Often, a person’s only perception about a company is generated while interviewing. In many ways, a recruited candidate can gauge how organized a company or a manager is by how quickly they react to seeing their resume. Also, candidates get a sense of the speed of business at a company through their experience in the interview process. When there isn’t a quick turn-around, I see candidates starting to develop negative feelings about the company, and start talking themselves out of being interested.

At the End of the Process: Well-prepared and well-intentioned candidates go into final interviews with the highest of hopes. They’ve spent many personal hours making sure they represent themselves in an accurate and professional way. The interview goes smoothly, yet at the end of the interview they learn they’ll hear back in two weeks. The candidate hears “two weeks,” understands “two weeks,” but they are unprepared to emotionally handle waiting “two weeks.” Again, as we hit the 72-hour mark after the interview, candidates start getting hungry for some form of feedback. When the recruiter and candidate hear nothing but radio silence from the company, I notice candidates starting to compensate for their lack of power.

Of course, I’m a recruiter, not a psychotherapist. I can easily see, though, when companies don’t deliver timely feedback to candidates, they begin to feel powerless. When that sinking feeling of powerlessness sets in, I then see candidates compensate for this feeling by grasping for power. The only way they can balance the scales is to start rejecting the company before the company rejects them.

Why It Matters: There are three reasons why it matters. The first reason is great companies know that candidates are people – not applicants. Great companies realize that these people gave much of themselves throughout the process and deserve timely feedback. The second reason is that the best companies understand that some people’s only perception of their company was created by interviewing with them. That perception, whether it be positive or negative, is going to be shared. Regardless of whether the candidate gets the job or not, the premier companies make sure the experience is pleasant. Timely feedback is a major contributor to candidates having a positive take away feeling, even if they don’t get the job. The third reason is that the companies who have the best talent have it because they won it. The top companies aren’t trying to close candidates who have been mentally rejecting them for over a week. Time allows talent to wiggle off the hook by letting doubt and competitors to creep into the picture. A steadily moving interview process with timely feedback attracts the best talent. Not only does it attract the A-players, it wins the A-players.

I hope this information helps ensure that your interview process is attracting and landing top talent. Furthermore, I hope this article helps your company avoid the potential for Reverse Rejection. If you have any questions about this topic from a recruiter’s perspective, contact me anytime.

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