I liked most of the podcast because you started off with the theme of treating the candidate as you would want to be treated.  I am challenging how you offered, "not a fit" as the reason you were not offering the candidate a role, during the role playing portion. My opinion is that it offers exactly nothing constructive.  If I was told I was unqualified, lacked demonstrated consulting experience, had a too strong a personality or even ugly, those I can deal with.  Not a fit however is so vague, and it offers nothing over, "we have decided not to hire you, goodbye."

When I worked at Microsoft, and we made a decision not to hire, we had to give very specific reasons, such as, "the candidate did not complete the programming assignment correctly" or "the candidate could not explain how he would sell the SQL Server Business Intelligence solution against a competitor such as Oracle."  By offering, "not a fit", doesn't it leave open the possibilly for a candidate to believe he or she was excluded to to age, race, religion, etc., if the candidate feels he or she is qualified?

Addtiionally, telling a candidate "not a fit" leaves the candidate no opportunity to improve and as managers, and those promoting our company's brand, don't we want the candidate to improve, if not for us, but for the next opportunity he or she has?

Kevin1's picture

Turning down candidates also has to involve shot across the bow. 

I've found that many candidates want to argue with you about the reasons you give them for turning them down.  (They don't seem to get that arguing with the person whom they want to work for is a bit of a negative.)

Be prepared for a quick exit if needed.  You don't want to get into an argument. 

Kind regards


pucciot's picture
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In 15 Years of hiring, I have always held to a hierarchy of responses when it come to turning down candidates.


* If they applied online or by email = They get an email reply as soon as the job is filled or I decide they are no longer in the pool. (our organization application system helps to handle this)


* If they got to a telephone interview = They get a phone call as soon as the job is filled or I decide they are no longer in the pool.


*  If they got to an in-person interview = They get a phone call as soon as the job is filled or I decide they are no longer in the pool and they get a letter on company letterhead signed by me, reiterating that we have chosen another candidate and thanking them for taking their time for coming in to our interview.


I believe strongly that if they took that time to prepare for an interview and came in to meet us and spend time with us, that the least they deserve from me is a prompt telephone call, and a formal letter of declination and appreciation.


Mr. Smith :

Thank you for your application and interview for our position at [Insitution Name] .  John, Mary and I were glad to have met you.  Based on your qualifications and your interview, you were one of the three finalists we considered for the position. 

We have decided to hire another candidate that more closely fits the needs of the position.

We encourage you to continue looking for openings at as they occasionally become available.

I wish you the best in all of your future endeavors.



Yeah, my High C is showing.



G3's picture

I thought MT did NOT recommend the phrase, ' not a fit.' I could be wrong...

G3's picture

I revisited the cast. They did use the 'fit' phrase.

My undestanding is that this phrasing effectively leaves the door closed on further discussion at that time. The hiring decision maker is communicating as a professional courtesy. They have all the power in the hiring decision. It is rude & a strike against the potential new hire to push back on their decision. The potential new hire simply has NO IDEA nor will they likely ever know all of the factors involved in the decision. Few exceptions may apply.

mrreliable's picture

When we recruit, applicants must be highly qualified to get an interview. Notifying unsuccessful candidates is an important courtesy (it's a small world and you never know when you're going to run into these people again). While the courtesy of a reply is important, I don't feel any obligation to offer explanations.

"You were among several highly-qualified applicants, and we sincerely appreciate you taking the time to meet with us. We wanted to let you know we have filled the position and unfortunately will not be extending an offer of employment at this time.

"Thank you for your interest in the position. We wish you the best in your future endeavors."

There will be some individuals who want to scorch the earth on the way out the door. I see that as nothing more than confirmation we made the right choice by hiring someone else.

We have a two-week paid training/evaluation period for top applicants. Typically 12 people will go through the process and we might hire one or two. We sent out recruiting emails to addresses with an association. One person who had been through the evaluation process three years earlier but was not selected gave a fairly snarky response. She complained that she'd been told what a good job she was doing during the evaluation and assumed she'd be hired, then when she didn't make the cut nobody gave her an explanation. She said she'd like to reapply. The kicker was instead of submitting an updated resume, she said, "You should still have my resume on file." I read that as "I'm too lazy to update my resume. You can dig around in your files and pull my old one." Needless to say, she sealed her fate on her re-application before the first round of interviews.

I guess my point is there are a hundred things to worry about that are more important than an unsuccessful applicant's reaction to not being hired. There shouldn't be an expectation beyond being courteous and respectful. It's not easy to tell someone they didn't make the cut, but it comes with the territory.