A Rejected Candidate Asks for Feedback: Should You Provide It?

  • A Rejected Candidate Asks for Feedback: Should You Provide It?

    A Rejected Candidate Asks for Feedback: Should You Provide It?

    On the whole, we’re starting to see more candidates take a proactive approach to personal improvement and request feedback after their interviews.

    It sounds reasonable enough, but what’s the hiring manager’s move, here? Should you provide feedback as a professional courtesy? Or should you avoid investing time in rejected candidates?

    It’s a professional courtesy

    At its core, we consider this push towards candidate self-awareness a positive thing.

    We all know what’s it’s like to receive that “thanks but no thanks” email during the application process, and it’s discouraging to get rejected without having any idea why. We’re all for applicants reaching out to recruiters and hiring executives for a little insight about where they came up short.

    Sure, busy executives may not always have time to provide detailed rundowns to every applicant—but if one goes out of his/her way to request it, we like to think of it as a professional courtesy.

    But you need to be sincere about it

    A quick note on sincerity: If you’re giving feedback, you need to go all the way with it. Vagueries like “You spoke well” or “You did a good job preparing” don’t give the candidate anything actionable to work with. They’re unclear about specifics, and as positive feedback, they don’t describe where an applicant could have improved. And worse yet, this type of blanket praise nearly always sounds insincere.

    Tips for clear and actionable feedback

    There should be two key aspects driving your feedback strategy when applicants come calling.

    • Don’t shy away from negative feedback. Research published in the HBR shows that while few of us enjoy giving feedback, nearly all employees value hearing it. Some even prefer it to praise!
    • Be focused, direct, and sincere. Provide specific examples of both negative and positive aspects of their interview, and offer at least one concrete goal for improvement.

    For example, if an applicant emails you post-rejection and asks you where he/she went wrong, you might be tempted to offer them a stock response: “You were great… but another candidate better met our qualifications… we’ll keep your application on file… blah blah blah.”

    You might be tempted to say this because, well, it’s the truth. The decision may have been as simple as that. But we’re willing to bet that you noticed one or two things about the candidate’s application, interview, or communication style that moved you one way or the other. And if so, this is the time to open up.

    Going back to our above example, consider how the hiring manager could have answered the question more sincerely: “You seemed knowledgeable, but your responses were unfocused. I’d suggest using the STAR approach when answering questions in the future (Situation, Task, Action, Result).”

    In this case, the interviewer gave the applicant something concrete he/she can take away, work on, and apply toward the next application.

    The value of constructive feedback

    For the sake of personal improvement, we’re all for providing feedback. But it’s not just to the benefit of the applicant—you might find that your own recruiting processes improve as well! When you’re asked to itemize reasons why one candidate won out over the other, it can help you refine your own decision-making rationale beyond your gut instincts or on-paper qualifications. Give it a try the next time someone asks! You might find that both of you benefit from the conversation.

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