Even though it should be a standard part of the selection process, giving feedback is often disregarded. We won’t talk about the exact numbers, but they are not encouraging.
We get it, providing personal and unique feedback for a position that has dozens and even hundred applicants, can be tough and time consuming. However, there are cases when candidates earn a place in the top five, get rejected, and still get left out without proper feedback. In the worst case scenario, they don’t get any. No detailed explanation. “You are rejected and that’s it, best of luck with future endeavours, bye”. That’s not feedback, it’s just a display of not respecting the candidate enough.
Alright, so, the first two important steps in giving proper feedback are:
Until more employers understand the value of feedback, we’ll try to help those who already get it.
Yes, truth can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow. Even so, it can be delivered in a way that won’t have a harsh impact on the candidate. The applicants will be able to read through you if they get a slightest hunch that you are not being completely honest. The opposite would do only harm to their future job seeking and career in general. They won’t know what needs to be improved.
We all seek reason in why something bad happened or why someone rejected us, right? Then, don’t just say “You are not a good fit” or “You are good, but there were more qualified and better candidates” and leave it like that. Why isn’t that candidate a good fit? What makes him less qualified than the ones who got the job or made it to the next round of the selection process?
Explain yourself in detail, but try to be precise. Let the candidate know what he/she needs to work on, and give advice on how to do it. Your rejected applicants will appreciate the fact that you’ve given them personalized feedback, instead of sending a template message.
The best way to give constructive criticism is through examples. Focus on something a candidate did or said during the interview, that lowered their chance of being hired. Is it a minor mistake due to lack of experience, or something serious that will pose a problem for them in the future? Regardless, explain how they can avoid being in the same situation again, or handle it better.
Feedback is not necessarily negative. There will always be something that you can praise a candidate for. It will make the impact of being rejected and negative feedback smaller, and help them know what they did well, so that they can continue doing it.
Imagine the situation: You have to choose between the top five candidates. According to their skills and experience, almost nothing makes them different. One of them gets the job, the other four leave disappointed.
However, you might change your mind in the near future, about the new hire. Or, there will be a need for a similar or the same position shortly after the initial hire. Why waste time looking for new candidates, when you already have four proven ones available?
We’ve discussed this in our “How to handle the runner ups” article and suggest that you give it a read.
Body language and tone are equally important as the feedback itself. While criticizing, try not to give an impression of someone who is too shocked or annoyed by the candidate’s mistake. Think through what and how you are going to say/write to a candidate, for it will have a lot of influence on them.
Saying: “We will keep your resume and contact you in the future” or “Work on your java skills a bit longer and you’ll get another chance”, while not really meaning it, won't bring the candidate any good. You will just guide them towards another disappointment, caused by false hope. Remember, honesty is the best policy.
Avoid giving detailed comparison of how other applicants were better. The candidates can consider it rude, and gain no benefit from it. They are not interested in other’s degrees and skills. How can they be sure that you are telling the truth? In most cases, candidates won’t know a thing about each other, let alone meet.
Choose your words carefully. Especially in written feedback, candidates can misinterpret your feedback to be discriminatory. Have a colleague read and approve your feedback before you send it, to make sure that there’s no space for something to be misunderstood.