Regret letters are valuable
Words by Francis Kahihu
Drafting and receiving regret letters is arguably one of the most difficult experiences for both potential employers and employees respectively in the recruitment process. Having gone through a face to face or telephone interview with a candidate, the interview panel finds itself at a position where it has to make a decision on the best of the candidates to hire and how to communicate the results to the not-successful candidates.
Depending on institutional policies and practices, there are those organizations that ensure regret letters are sent to all who participated in the interview while others do not bother to communicate. The assumption for the latter is that candidates who do not receive communication from the panel within a certain timeline should consider themselves unsuccessful. This is however not the best way of treating potential employees.
As employers fight for space and recognition among the highly skilled human resource pool, it is necessary for every employer to be concerned about the image they create ‘out there’. This image is usually built one candidate at a time hence the need to be careful on how they handle the persons who express interest in working with them. The fact that a person had shown interest working with a certain company implies the person would talk about the company and its products to others.
Instead of keeping candidates waiting days without end, it is helpful to send out the communication as soon as a decision has been made regarding the persons who have been considered for the position. As the successful candidates get to know the results of the interview, let the unsuccessful ones also get to know the way forward. This helps the candidates free their minds to either move on with their job search or settle in their current jobs. It is a real show of respect and value for the candidates when employers send out well drafted regret letters.
Conscious thinking should go into the drafting of regret letters. The letter should ideally appreciate the fact that the candidate had positive aspects, the reason why they would have been invited for the interview. Seek to highlight the positive aspects and indicate that the candidate may not have been selected since other candidates that best matched the expectations of the opportunity have been found. Try never to compare the candidates. Always seek to compare the candidate’s performance with the expected functions of the position. This helps the candidates feel appreciated and measured against a more objective benchmark.
On the part of the potential candidate, receipt of a regret letter sets you free to move on with life. Receiving the regret letter should however not be the end of your engagement with the potential employer. In professional recruitment processes, the panel drafts notes on each of the candidates and should be available for a chat with any candidate who cares to know why they were not successful for a certain job. Always take the regret letter as an opportunity to pursue a diagnosis of your capacities. Follow up with a member of the panel or the HR department to identify reasons for the failure to clinch the job. This helps in future preparation and focusing on the kind of interviews you would go for. Always remember that a regret letter is an indication of lack suitability for the position and not necessarily a criticism of your capacity.