How to Source Candidates You’ve Interviewed (and Rejected)

Sharlyn Lauby

In today’s competitive recruiting market, organizations need to keep their options open when it comes to sourcing talent. In a survey produced by the Society for Human Resource Management, 68 percent of HR professionals are having difficulty recruiting candidates for full-time openings. Companies can’t afford to turn off their pipeline to good talent.

One source of candidates that we so often forget are people who have interviewed with us before. Not every candidate who is rejected is a terrible fit. Maybe another candidate has more experience. Or the candidate is awesome but the company doesn’t have an opening. These candidates have skills we’re already aware of (because they’ve been interviewed). And they know a few things about the company (again, because they’ve been interviewed).

5 Steps to Sourcing Previously Interviewed Candidates

If you find yourself saying, “I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast this morning, much less remember the candidates who interviewed weeks or months ago”, keep in mind that you don’t have to remember everyone. Just consider building these five habits into your recruiting process.

  1. Ask the question. When you’re selecting candidates, ask the hiring manager, “I understand this candidate isn’t being selected for the job opening. But before we move on, could you see them somewhere else in the company?” Get managers to start thinking beyond the current opening.
  2. Set expectations. When the company informs candidates that they’re not being selected for the current opening, there’s nothing wrong with adding that they’re welcome to reapply. This leaves the door open for them to stay in touch and possibly find another job they’re interested in.
  3. Think internal and external. “Rejected candidates” doesn’t only mean external candidates. Look at internal candidates who have previously expressed interest in promotions or transfers. Maybe they need to be reminded that they can reapply for opportunities as well.
  4. Use technology. Check your applicant tracking system (ATS) for skills matches. The candidate may not have interviewed in the same department for the same position, but they have the transferable skills to qualify. Make sure your career portal, social media messaging, and talent network know that former candidates are welcome.
  5. Inform your network. It’s not necessary to remember every candidate. If you use collaborative hiring, remind the other members of the recruiting team. They might remember someone that they’ve spoken to in the past. All team members should be sharing the same message.

By adding a couple of small steps to your existing recruiting routine, recruiters can build former candidates into the sourcing process – either by remembering them or by the former candidate remembering the company.

Don’t Lose a Great Candidate Because They’ve Interviewed Before

It’s true – not every candidate is a perfect fit for the company. Deep down, those candidates probably know that too. But in many situations, qualified skilled candidates get interviewed and turned down (because there’s only one opening to fill). There could be other opportunities for these talented job seekers.

The key is finding ways to keeping previously interviewed (and rejected) candidates engaged so the organization can consider them at another time.

Contributing Author
Sharlyn Lauby Author, Writer, Speaker, Consultant of HR Bartender

Sharlyn Lauby is an author, writer, speaker, and consultant. She is best-known for her work on HR Bartender, which has been recognized by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) as one of the top five blogs read by HR professionals. And her personal goal in life is to find the best cheeseburger on the planet.

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