Even though many candidates would love feedback from employers following unsuccessful interviews, we know from research that most employers avoid giving feedback to unsuccessful candidates. This shows that there’s a serious disconnect going on in the hiring process between candidate and employer which is frustrating many candidates.
However, when a recruiting agency is involved in the hiring process, they are often the feedback facilitators; after an on-site interview, the recruiter asks both the candidate and the client how the interview went to provide their feedback to each other. The candidate might mention how comfortable they felt with their interviewers, how interested they are in the company or role, or potential concerns they have if they accept an offer. Similarly, it’s useful for clients to mention to the recruiter any potential concerns they had with the candidate.
In a perfect world, both parties provide their recruiter with timely and appropriate feedback. As it turns out, that is not a world we live in. In fact, many clients are guilty of not giving feedback about a candidate to their recruiter in a timely manner, or worse: they might completely go dark on their recruiter, and by extension, the candidate.
When this happens, relationships can be damaged. The candidate begins to question if they should continue to work with the recruiter, and in turn, the recruiter is completely lost about what happened on the client side that caused the “ghosting” to occur. Did they end up hiring an internal candidate? Did the recruiter not understand the exact specifications of the role? Did we send them a candidate who was not right for the role? If any of these things occur, it’s crucial the recruiter gets that valuable feedback; if not only so the candidate will have peace of mind and/or gain constructive feedback to improve, but also so the recruiter can change focus on what’s most important for the client in the future.
The advantages of timely and effective feedback
In defense of the client, it’s understandable why most don’t provide unsuccessful candidates with feedback after interviews when a recruiting agency is not facilitating the relationship. Information that an employer directly provides candidates regarding feedback could be open to misinterpretation, and increases the possibility of legal implications should discrimination become a factor. (If anything, an employer taking advantage of a recruiting and staffing firm can mitigate legal risks since the recruiters take over the responsibility of giving feedback to the candidate.)
Candidates who receive constructive and developmental interview feedback will feel like they have had special treatment; they will want to share this positive experience on social media and on employer review sites, such as Glassdoor, which can enhance employer brand. Also, if a candidate was strong but simply not the right fit for a role, the reception of feedback can solidify a good working relationship with them, essentially turning some rejected candidates into a future talent stream.
By providing meaningful and constructive feedback that is targeted around developing a candidate’s weaknesses, employers will be actually be grooming the candidate to be more suitable for their organization. Who knows? In a year’s time, a rejected candidate may have progressed professionally thanks to your feedback, and could make a great potential employee at your business.
However, to truly succeed at providing feedback, whether it’s to the recruiter to pass on to the candidate or the candidate directly, it must be effective. Just as a refresher, we’ve compiled a few do’s and don’ts around providing effective feedback.
Thank your candidate for the effort and time they took to attend the interview. They may only be in front of you for an hour or so, but they most likely spent an additional hour round trip attending the interview and might have even used a day of their paid time off to attend the interview.
Use a standardized set of interview questions for each candidate and clearly document each candidate’s answers against key competency areas to provide more meaningful and objective feedback later on.
Be specific when providing feedback; vague, generic feedback not only makes your organization seemed detached and impersonal, but it gives the rejected candidate no insight into what when wrong or right, making it more frustrating than helpful. Being specific involves rating their performance on several key competency areas for the job.
Provide negative feedback in a constructive format in order to minimize upset and give candidates hope that they can improve. Some examples of constructive feedback are:
- “Panel was not convinced by the pitch, but by improving their product knowledge, the candidate could be much more effective in this area.”
- “Candidate lacked appropriate knowledge and needs to improve product knowledge substantially in areas X and Y to be deemed competent in this area.”
Automatically provide feedback, as there could be candidates who don’t want it and you may be giving your business an unnecessary work burden. Instead, offer feedback to candidates in their rejection letter and provide it to those who request it.
Take too long to provide feedback, as lengthy delays can further frustrate an already disappointed candidate. 3 to 5 days is the ideal time span in which to provide feedback.
Give cliched reasons with no substance, such as “there was another applicant who we felt was stronger for this role”; instead, provide constructive and mindful feedback on weaknesses they can improve for future interviews (hint: refer to your notes) which can encourage candidates to re-apply for another job opening at your organization or when they have improved soft and/or technical skills.
- “Underplayed strengths and achievements.”
- “Failed to translate experience into language that could excite the interviewer.”
- “Failed to read the room and establish some kind of relationship with everyone present.”
- “Appeared too reserved and did not sound excited by the role.”
Use polarizing words such as terrible, unforgivable, pointless, etc., as these can be provocative and are likely to invoke a defensive/hostile reaction in an already emotional candidate. Instead, use emotionally neutral words and a conciliatory tone, e.g. lacked sufficient skills in X or did not make persuasive enough arguments.
Refer to something that could be construed as discriminatory, such as race, marital status, gender, disability, or sexual orientation, as you will increase the chance of legal action against your firm.
Providing feedback is an important but complicated process which few organizations manage to do effectively. However, if you can give effective feedback to candidates who request it – and get a reputation for doing so – you’ll enhance your brand and find it easier to attract talent in the future. And as we mentioned earlier, if you want to provide interview feedback to candidates but simply don’t have the time and resources to do it, then the best way to make giving feedback easy is to use a recruiting agency so they can give the feedback for you.