Creating brand ambassadors by rejecting applicants.

Brand Ambassadors

Do you think you can’t make a rejected applicant into a referrer for your next best hire? Or that someone you turn down will hate your company and never use your product? I think you can do something about this, and the solution might be surprisingly easy.

The #1 frustration of a job applicant 

What is the main frustration of someone looking for a job? Getting rejected off course! But there are many different ways of being rejected, and some are more frustrating than others. A simple Google search will tell you that being rejected by receiving a standardized rejection email is considered one of the worst ways. (The only thing that is worse is not receiving any response at all, but I will not consider that a rejection in this post) People find it frustrating to receive something which hasn’t noticeably cost any time or attention, while they have taken considerable care in finding the company, reading the vacancy and writing an application. These frustrated applicants vent this frustration on their social media. I am sure you all know what I am talking about, since we all have friends and family who do this from time to time. It will often result into comments that say the possible employer is the worst organization ever and that said organization is not aware of the immensely talented person they have just rejected. Whether this is true or not, the organization is now considered to be evil and we have certainly not created any new brand ambassadors.

Why brand ambassadors matter

When I use the term brand ambassador, I am talking about any person that is very positive about a brand/organization. The person is so positive he or she recommends it to others. Any business person will tell you how important it is to have people promoting your brand, and its even better if they do so because they believe in it instead of being paid to do so. In marketing it is also referred to as promoters. By promoting your brand these brand ambassadors will convince others to buy your product or work for you.

How to turn an applicant into a brand ambassador

At TOPdesk, we make sure that we treat every applicant with respect and try to give them a clear explanation on how the process from applicant to employee is organized. In order to find and recruit talented people, it is very important to respond quickly to an application and follow up on every interview accordingly (HR can learn from Sales here!). But here is the catch: We don’t just do this to make sure we hire the talents before other companies do, we do this to create brand ambassadors out of the people we don’t hire as well.

Obviously not everyone that is turned down will become an ambassador. But if you treat them right they won’t think you’re an evil company and maybe even remain positive after the process. We have had several occasions where we turned down a nice applicant in a proper way, who would than suggest a friend to apply to the same vacancy who was hired instead! Or instances where rejected applicants become customers working with our product afterwards. That is pure gold for any company, and the best thing is: it is nice to treat people decently!

Basic things every recruiter should do

  1. Give a bespoke response to every applicants which has taken the time to send a resume and write a motivation letter. If you reject the application you should explain clearly why you do not see a fit. If you can, you should provide tips and suggestions for other applications (instead of laughing like a recruitment-snob at certain lines in a resume, help the candidate by suggesting a different approach).
  2. Provide decent feedback after every interview in a timely fashion. We try to make sure we call every applicant within a day or two after their interviews to minimize tension and keep the process up to speed. Waiting endlessly on a phone call hoping for a job, and not hearing anything from the company can be devastating. I can’t imagine leaving an applicant in the dark about their possible job after you have spend an hour and a half getting to know them and talk about their career and future. Just call the person and explain why, providing some tips for future interviews. Trust me, it is worth it.

You might point out that this approach takes time, but any business person will tell you it is very important to get brand ambassadors instead of people hating on you on social media. All it takes is some time and dedication to give applicants the respect they deserve and make them feel like they are worth something (you know they are!). You might even get a ‘prize’ as well:

Dutch certificate awarded for a good digital application experience by “Digitaal Werven

The future of recruitment

Peer reviews on internet about companies are starting to take off. An international website like Glassdoor allows people to rate companies they have work(ed) for, and where they have applied. This might still seem strange in The Netherlands, but I am sure this will be much more common in a few years. I am really happy with these developments as it will hopefully lead to more people working for the decent companies (we strive to be one of those) and less people applying at the companies who treat people badly. And that will most certainly lead to world peace in the end ;).


What do you think is important in an application process? Do you have more tips for a recruiter looking to treat people nicely?