How to Provide Feedback to Unsuccessful Job Candidates

10 Tips for the Employer About Providing Feedback

HR staff can decide to offer a candidate feedback about why he didn't get the job.
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Are you interested in providing feedback to an unsuccessful candidate for your job? Candidates appreciate feedback because they are anxious to improve their chances of getting the next job for which they apply. Some candidates are also genuinely interested in improving their skills and interaction in an interview setting.

In an earlier article, Must Employers Tell Applicants Why They Weren’t Hired?, I covered why the majority of employers don’t provide feedback to their unsuccessful candidates and suggested several reasons why you might want to provide feedback.

One study, referenced in that article, found that 70% of employers don't provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates following an interview.

If you’re in the 30% who will provide feedback, these ten tips will help you provide feedback most effectively following an interview.

  • Tell the truth. If you hide your feedback in a feedback sandwich or minimize, trivialize, or downplay the importance of your feedback and its impact on your hiring decision in any way, you dilute your words. Your candidate may not benefit from your graciousness and kindness in providing the feedback.
  • Treat your candidate with respect. Even if the smell of the candidate’s perfume flooded your company with an unwanted odor or the individual dressed for the interview in a clubbing outfit, you owe the person respectful treatment.

    If your interview committee’s reaction was, “Oh my, whatever was she thinking,” rise to the occasion, don’t sink, when you talk with the applicant. The dig you might secretly like to toss out might be on target, but don’t cheapen your company or your own position.
  • Provide the feedback out of a genuine desire to offer assistance. Feedback is not something that you are required to provide for candidates; you offer the feedback to help improve his chances of getting a job offer. The candidate will appreciate genuineness and sincerity. And, he will remember how he was treated and share this on social media and with his friends.
  • Correlate your feedback with the job description, job posting, and job analysis that you created for the position. When you keep the feedback directly related to the job, you most effectively help your candidate.
  • Make your feedback as constructive and clear as possible. Candidates need actionable, constructive feedback that they can immediately incorporate into their skill set. Don’t beat around the bush or obfuscate; the candidate may never get your message. Remember that successful communication is about shared meaning.
  • Candidates need examples so that they can incorporate the feedback you provide. For example, tell the candidate for marketing director that his answers to questions about what he’d recommend your company consider to broaden your marketing approach (after knowing you for six weeks, exploring the website, and experiencing two sets of interviews) gave no indication that he’d thought about your needs. (Responding that he’d begin to take a look at that and interview department members about their recommendations when he started the job, was a wrong answer.)

    Tell the candidate that her failure to look at the product you sell or your company website before the interview irreparably hurt her chances compared to other candidates. (A customer service applicant who has not taken a look can’t effectively answer interview questions about how she’d contribute.)
  • Stick with factual feedback. Stay away from offering opinions and feelings. These comments will most likely spark controversy and arguments. You don’t need to tell the abrasive candidate who became prickly during the interview that your interviewers doubted he’d have the ability to work efficiently with an upset customer.
  • If a skill test was part of the interview process, tell the candidate how she did on the test. For example, if the candidate had to create a writing sample during the interview for a documentation position, tell he how she did.

    If grammatical and spelling errors and incoherent sentences were present, she needs this information. If a developer is asked to do a white board test so that you can assess her coding skill and problem-solving approach, tell the candidate how she did about your last few hires.
  • Restrict your feedback to activities, responses, and experience that the candidate can change. For example, if an individual is employed, you might suggest the areas that he or she needs to obtain experience in to qualify for jobs similar to yours in the future. While employed, the candidate may have the opportunity to pursue your recommendations.

    If your candidate’s responses to questions during the interview were weaker than the competition’s, point out a few questions and answers that he can strengthen. Tell the candidate if she did not do a good job of highlighting for the interview committee the match between her skills and experience and what they sought.
  • In many cases, your hiring decision had little to do with anything that your candidate could improve in the short term. Sometimes, the appropriate feedback is that you had stronger applicants with more experience and knowledge in areas that you perceive as most important for the job.

    If you can, tell the candidate the areas she should strive to improve. Be prepared, though, because, if you use this response, and you've chosen to provide feedback, the candidate will ask which areas.

Decisions about whether - and how much - the feedback you can supply an applicant must also depend on your sense about how the candidate is likely to react based on your experience of his candidacy.

When you can detail a few simple, solid reasons and suggestions, rather than express feelings, assumptions, or opinions, you have a much stronger case for providing much desired and needed feedback. But, create a policy for your organization and ask interviewers and hiring managers to abide by it, too.

Read More About Hiring:   A Checklist for Interviewing Potential Employees 

Disclaimer

Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice both on this website, and linked to from this site. However, she is not an attorney, and the content on the site, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality, and is not to be construed as legal advice.

The site has a world-wide audience, and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The information on this site is for guidance, ideas, and assistance only.