High Potential Rejects: The Power of Engaging with Rejected Applicants.

Hiring is Hard!  Most of us are really bad at it.

We post our jobs, hope and pray and then hire the best of the worst from the hundreds of people that apply.

Isn’t the goal to get the best people to apply to our jobs?

But what about the candidate’s that are almost there?  The ones we “won’t” hire today but will in time?

So often we make the mistake of thinking that a candidates we won’t hire today is a candidate we can’t ever hire and we treat them the same.  This is a huge mistake!

These diamonds in the rough, the people who need a little time to mature and get what we need are the answer to our recruiting problems.

Treat them right and they’ll be there waiting for you when you’re ready.

Treat them wrong and you’ll lose them forever… up to 40% of them will never apply to you again and they’ll probably tell everyone they know how badly you treated them and that can’t be good.

Here is an incredibly effective and super easy tactic that I teach my corporate client’s to engage with candidates they won’t hire today but would love to keep in touch with and hire them down the road.

I call it the “3 I’s”
Don’t ignore them! Send them a personal message. Your auto responder that says, “Thank you for your application.  We will only be contacting candidates we’d like to interview.” is an insult. It doesn’t count as a personal message.

What if you sent them a message that said something like…

Name, I’d like to thank you for your application for the (job name).

Your resume is really strong and you have some excellent experience, however we were very fortunate to have some very strong applicants for this position.

Your experience is really close to what we are looking for and I’d love to revisit your application in another 12 months once you have some more experience in (name niche area: conflict resolution, business partner with senior leader, sales, high volume operation – whatever just be super specific).

Now that you’ve differentiated yourself from the other companies out there by send a message that isn’t just personal it shows you’ve taken the time offer an honest reason they weren’t considered and what they need to do for the next time. Heck, you’ve even told them when they should re-apply!

Now you need to create a place a “holding tank” for all of your “high potential” rejects.  A place where you can easily keep in touch with them, keep them engaged and interested so they don’t forget about you!

It doesn’t matter where your “holding tank” is.  They key is to make it a truly “exclusive” club. Don’t invite or accept just anyone! It’s better to have 10 really great people than 1000 people you will never hire!

Only invite the people who you see could be great in your company in the next 6, 12, 18 or 24 months and make them go through some sort of “application” process so they feel special and honored!

Getting them to apply is easy.  Just included a closing line in your rejection email like this?

“In the mean time I’d really like to keep in touch and invite you to join our invite only/top secret/insiders network (make it sound sexy).

Link to your network:

Thanks again and I look forward to seeing your progress in the months to come.”

Now the fun work begins!

Once they “apply” and you accept them into your exclusive network or “holding tank” feed them information about your company that people on the outside won’t get.

Take pictures and talk about real things (good and bad) that are happening at work.  Give them “real life” insight into what it would be like to work at your company.  Make them feel like your “prepping” them for when they get hired.

YES, it will take you a little more time and effort in the beginning.  BUT it will transition into a small group of high potential raving fans faster than you can imagine.

What would you rather do?

Post a job and sift through 100’s of people you can’t or won’t hire with no option but to hire the best of the worst?


Have a small group of qualified candidates who have seen behind the curtain, are familiar with your company and are chomping at the bit for their chance to join you?

Let me know your thoughts or strategies by leaving your comments below.



If you’re addicted to your inbox and measure the “success” of your sourcing and recruiting efforts by how many people apply (regardless if any of them meet your needs) and if you “make a hire,” this won’t make sense to you.  Keep using old, ineffective recruiting methods and spending the bulk of your time on the wrong people.

BUT, if you measure your success by how many of the right people apply, how many of them you hire… make this shift.

Love the candidates in the middle! Treat them right (you can learn more about how to do that here: High Potential Rejects: The Power of Engaging with Rejected Applicants) and the next time you have a job to fill they’ll be lined up

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