Very few companies give feedback on an interview candidate if they are unsuccessful. Indeed, they may contact candidates to let them know the outcome of an unsuccessful interview, but they will rarely explain why. Worse still, some companies don’t even bother to inform candidates that their application will not be progressing. Instead, they expect applicants to work it out for themselves when they don’t hear anything at all.

There are many reasons for this, with the most common being:

  • Unproductive use of time
  • Hiring managers feel awkward about telling unsuccessful candidates why they are unsuitable for the job.
  • Not wanting to hurt rejected candidate’s feelings
  • Fear of being accused of discrimination

Moreover, where interview feedback is given to unsuccessful candidates, it is often too vague to be of any use. Therefore, this article explains why hiring managers should provide feedback. Later, we demonstrate how feedback can be delivered effectively and when it should be delivered.

Candidate looking confused by the vague interview feedback she has received
Candidate looking confused by the vague interview feedback she has received
Feedback candidates receive is often so vague that they cannot decipher how they can improve their interview skills.

Why Interviewers Should Always Give Feedback to Every Interview Candidate

Interviewers often think that providing post-interview feedback is only of benefit to the candidate. Of course, interview feedback can be enormously useful to candidates. It can also benefit hiring managers and businesses long term. Here are the main benefits of providing constructive feedback as a standard part of your hiring process:

Benefits to the Candidate

Providing candidate feedback post-interview can, of course, help the candidate improve their interviewing technique. Furthermore, receiving positive feedback, even where the outcome is negative, can help improve their chances of getting hired elsewhere. More importantly, the feedback you give may enable them to become a compelling contender for your business in future.

Benefits to the Hiring Manager

Preparing for each interview as though hiring managers expect candidates to ask for feedback can improve the interview process. Furthermore, it can improve the candidate experience and help establish a talent pool hiring managers may revisit in future.

Benefits to the Business

Anticipating requests for feedback can improve your company’s recruitment process, giving your employer brand a boost. Furthermore, structuring interviews in this way can result in fairer hiring and enhance diversity in the workplace.

Candidates are able to leave online reviews just like any customer who interacts with your business. Treating job applicants with respect increases the possibility of them leaving your business a positive review. The better your online profile looks on sites like Glassdoor, for example, the more likely people are to want to work for you.

Candidate leaving positive online review even though they didn't get the job
Candidate leaving positive online review even though they didn't get the job
It is possible to provide candidates with a positive experience, although their interview outcome is not what they hoped for.

How to Deliver Feedback on an Interview Candidate

It is usual for businesses to vary the way they deliver feedback to candidates. Indeed, the level of detail should be appropriate to the stage of the recruitment process they are at. There are no hard and fast rules for the extent of feedback a business should give. Here are a few common examples:

After Rejecting a CV

Many businesses have a policy of not giving feedback to candidates if they are only at the application stage. While some candidates might argue that this is unfair, from a business perspective, this is understandable. Candidates often don’t appreciate that a business can receive hundreds of CVs for every position it advertises. Therefore, providing feedback at CV level could rapidly become someone’s full-time job!

At this stage, many companies send an automatic response to all applicants once they receive a CV. Autoresponders can easily be set up, either by email or through an ATS system.

Autoresponders may simply explain that due to the volume of applications, you do not give feedback at this stage. However, if candidates do not hear from you within a given timeframe, they can assume that they are unsuccessful.

Of course, this is not ideal from a candidate’s perspective. However, at least they understand your position and can rule out your vacancy as a possibility.

Pile of rejected job applications
Pile of rejected job applications
Companies often receive so many applications for each job they advertise that they are unable to offer feedback at this point.

Why You Should Always Give Feedback on a Candidate to Recruitment Consultants

The one exception to this would be where a business employs a Recruitment Consultant to fill the position. If a consultant sends irrelevant CVs to their client, it is usually for one of two reasons:

  • Either, they have misunderstood the brief entirely
  • Or there are no candidates available fitting the business’ requirements. Therefore the consultant is putting forward the best possible candidates available.

In the first instance, a quick conversation can avoid any further waste of anybody’s time. In the second, consultants can report their findings to the client. It could be that the skill set is not available within the market at that time for the salary on offer. Or perhaps, the client expects candidates to have a level of experience that is not available for new technology.

In short, providing recruitment consultants with feedback on every candidate enables them to save you both time in the long run.

After an Unsuccessful Telephone Interview

Candidates do a reasonable amount of preparation for telephone interviews. Upon reaching this point, interviewees have likely put around five hours into their application. That is, taking into account preparing their CV, submitting a tailored application and researching your company.

Given the above, applicants deserve some explanation of why they will not receive an invitation to subsequent rounds. That said, it is perfectly normal for businesses to send a standard rejection email at this point also. Bear in mind, however, that candidates often respond to such emails requesting feedback.

Following an Unsuccessful Second Interview

The terminology presently used at this stage is becoming a little hazy after recent global events. Of course, this would typically be a first face-to-face interview. However, due to the coronavirus crisis, this could be a second telephone interview or a video interview.

From a candidate’s perspective, what’s important is the level of work they put into a second-round interview. Thus, the feedback a company gives at this point should respect that. While an email rejection is still acceptable, its content should be more personal. Moreover, any reasons for rejection should be detailed enough for candidates to improve their interview techniques.

After Further Rounds of Interviewing

When candidates make it to the third round of interviews, they put a great deal of work into their applications. If unsuccessful at this point, the level of feedback should provide a level of detail that conveys the company’s appreciation.

With the above in mind, employers often choose to deliver such feedback by telephone rather than email. However, it is not the method of delivery that is important, but the tone and usefulness of the content.

Young man feeling clueless after receiving useless feedback
Young man feeling clueless after receiving useless feedback
Many companies struggle to provide candidates with decent feedback, but it can be done in a way that candidates find useful.

When to Inform Candidates that their Application is Unsuccessful

There are no set time limits on how long it should take to inform candidates of an unsuccessful application. Some say that for a telephone interview it should be 24 hours and one week for a face-to-face. As soon as possible after the business makes its decision is the best advice we can offer here. Although, how soon that is may vary depending on the nature of your business.

For example, small tech start-ups, with only a few employees, can make decisions quickly. However, within a large corporation where several decision-makers must give their opinion, this process understandably takes longer.

The main thing for companies to be mindful of is that candidates rarely apply for just one role. Therefore, the longer a business delays their response, the more likely they are to lose good candidates. It is, therefore, prudent to give candidates an estimate of when they can expect to hear from you at each stage. Where it is not possible to provide information within that timeframe, systems should be in place to, at least, give candidates an update.

For example, in businesses where post-interview decision-making takes a long time, it is wise to manage candidates’ expectations accordingly. This is easy to do during the interview by telling them what communication to expect and when.

If nothing is agreed upon within the expected time frame, it is good practice to keep applicants in the loop.

Useless VS Useful Feedback

As previously mentioned; hiring managers often avoid giving feedback because they don’t like hurting candidates feelings. Consequently, any feedback they do give tends to be vague and useless. The very fact that a candidate is not getting the job is bound to hurt their feelings. Useless feedback on top of that can often feel insulting.

A common reason for rejection that candidates hear is that interviewers spoke to stronger candidates. If this is the kind of feedback your business offers, try putting yourself in the candidates’ position. How useful would you find this?

To make this feedback more useful, how about explaining why the other candidates were stronger? For example:

  • Had they done more research into the business and therefore appear to have more interest in the role?
  • Did they have more hands-on experience in a particular area? If so, in which specific area is this candidate lacking experience?
  • Did other candidates give a higher level of detail in their answers? If so, maybe they have never come across behavioural questions? Perhaps instead, suggest they read up on this and practice the star technique?
Providing useful feedback on an interview candidate can enable them to be future advocates of your business.
Providing useful feedback on an interview candidate can enable them to be future advocates of your business.
Did the successful candidate do more research into your business and therefore appear more invested in the role? Giving this kind of useful feedback can enable unsuccessful candidates to improve their chances in future.

The Etiquette of Giving Feedback on an Interview Candidate

Treat others as you would like to be treated is a good rule of thumb when giving feedback on an interview candidate. Following the below etiquette will go some way to your company offering a positive candidate experience although they are unsuccessful:

  • Give an estimate of when candidates can expect to hear at each stage
  • Provide feedback within the deadlines you set. Where this is impossible, provide an apology, an explanation and a new deadline
  • Express your gratitude for the level of dedication they have shown
  • Provide encouragement in areas they performed well during the interview
  • Be specific and give examples of how they can improve in future
  • Be genuine — don’t just say you want to keep their details on file if you have no intention of contacting them again
  • Consider GDPR — if you would like to do so, you will need their permission
  • Respond to requests for clarification promptly and politely
  • Wish them well with their future applications

Final Thoughts on Giving Interview Feedback

Some candidates are indeed better at interviewing than others. Although it’s important to remember that interviewing skills are skills just like any other. We all have to start somewhere and can’t learn without guidance from experts.

With this in mind, any pointers you can give applicants will likely benefit them in the long term. Even if they are unsuccessful now, they could become future advocates of your company providing they have a good candidate experience.

If giving feedback on an interview candidate is not one of your strengths, this is an area where a Recruitment Consultant’s services can prove invaluable. Delivering difficult feedback on your behalf is all part of our service. Not only that, but you can be completely honest, even blunt with us. Translating such bad news into much more tactful language that candidates find useful is just one of our skills.



Adria Solutions | IT Digital Marketing Recruitment

Hi there! We are the Marketing Team at Adria Solutions. Here's a curated selection of our articles. You can read more on https://www.adriasolutions.co.uk/