Why You Should Say No To Every Candidate You Pass On


Years ago I was interviewing with a startup to become a VP. I was meeting with the CEO late Friday in his office.

We were having a good conversation, but it was clear I wasn’t exactly right for the job. The CEO looked at me and said, “I don’t think you’re right for the job.”

I’d never had someone directly tell me during the interview that they weren’t going to go forward with me.

The CEO wasn’t mean about it or disrespectful in any way. Instead, he was just stating a fact that we both knew.

I asked the CEO, “You could see by my resume that I wasn’t exactly a fit, so why did you meet with me?”

“Because sometimes you don’t know what isn't on someone’s resume,” he said.

We shook hands, and I left his office. I felt exhilarated.


I’d just been turned down for a job, but I’d come away from the interaction with a huge amount of respect for the CEO. And, I’d learned something important about not being afraid to tell people the truth.

I remembered the lesson I learned from the CEO when I started my own company. One of the things we tried to do with every candidate we met with was to tell them whether we were going to go forward with hiring them. I’d love to say we were perfect at this, but I’m sure we screwed up a few times along the way.

Our hiring criteria was pretty tough, so we told nine out of every ten candidates we interviewed that we were passing. That’s a lot of people to say no to.


Our thought process was treating candidates with respect was the right thing to do.


Every once in a while, we would have candidates we passed on recommend us to friends of theirs. Therein lies the other important lesson:


Treating people well isn’t just about doing the right thing. Treating people well makes good business sense too.


Every interaction you have influences your reputation. You may think there’s no downside to not communicating with a candidate once you’ve decided they are not right for you, but it’s a small world.

For more, read:   How Do You Know It's Time To Fire Someone?


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