How To Give Your Candidate Interview Feedback (Positive or Negative)

October 17, 2019 4 Corner Resources 4 Corner Resources

While it’s never fun for a candidate to receive word that they didn’t get the job, there’s one thing that makes the pill a little easier to swallow: genuine interview feedback. Oftentimes, the most frustrating part of rejection is the lingering question of ‘why?’, especially if the candidate had an interview that generally went well. 

Giving feedback after an interview takes precious time out of your already-busy day, but it’s more than just a show of kindness to candidates who went to the effort to prepare for interviews while navigating through your hiring funnel; it can actually help strengthen your hiring process. Here, we’ll explain the value of giving interview feedback and outline some best practices for doing it effectively. 

Why Is Interview Feedback Important?

Interview feedback is valuable both from a candidate standpoint and an employer standpoint. 

From the outside looking in, giving feedback after an interview improves your candidate experience, which is the blanket term for the way candidates feel after going through an interview process. Nearly four in five candidates say a strong candidate experience is indicative of how a company values its people, while 83% of candidates say that a negative candidate experience has changed their mind about a company. 

A positive candidate experience contributes to a strong employer brand. It helps you spread positive word of mouth reviews among the talent pool and increases the likelihood that strong candidates will come back to interview again in the future. 

Read more about strengthening your employer brand here

Speaking of repeat candidates, they’re a great thing for your company. Repeat interviewees have already been qualified as a potentially good fit for your organization, which saves you time in the vetting process. And if you give solid interview feedback, they’ll come back stronger and more prepared to succeed as a candidate the second time around. 

Giving interview feedback also helps refine your hiring process. A structured system for gathering and delivering feedback gives you a systematic way to sort out your thoughts on a pool of finalists and share them among all parties in the hiring chain. It can bring clarity on which candidate rises to the top of the pool. 

Finally, interview feedback can be a useful tool in flagging recruiting weak spots. For example, if you find that you’re consistently delivering feedback on candidates’ lack of experience, it may indicate that your job listings don’t make the requirements clear enough. If a majority of candidates are missing a certain critical skill, this might mean you need to tighten your pre-screening process to weed out candidates who lack this skill before they make it to the interview phase. 

How To Effectively Give Feedback After Interviews

Follow these steps to give feedback after interviews in the most effective way. 

Streamline Your Process

Before you even begin putting together candidate feedback, it’s necessary to have a system in place for doing so. Who will be the point person for gathering and assembling feedback? How many people will be involved in the process? What medium will be used? In what time frame?

If you don’t think these things through ahead of time, it can result in an endless email thread of stakeholders throwing out comments willy-nilly, which is neither effective nor efficient. 

Consider implementing a scorecard system where all of the people involved in your hiring process deliver interview feedback in the same standard structure and format. This will make it much easier to compile into a single feedback letter for the candidate. 

Additionally, implement a policy where individual feedback is submitted before it’s discussed amongst the team. This will prevent bias from creeping into feedback (i.e. an off-handed comment from one person coloring the feedback of everyone involved). 

Say Thank You

Always begin feedback letters with a warm and sincere thank you. Recognize that the candidate took the time to prepare and show up for one or more interviews with you and cite that you value their investment in the process. 

If the candidate took extra measures to participate in the process, like traveling a significant distance, this is a great time to show that it didn’t go unnoticed. 

Cite Their Strengths

Interview feedback doesn’t always have to be negative. In fact, if a candidate made it all the way to the interview phase, chances are there’s going to be a lot you liked about them. Spend a few lines sharing positive interview feedback about the strengths you genuinely valued. 

A few cautions here, though. Avoid giving positive interview feedback that’s insincere or overly glowing, like ‘everyone here loved you!’ as it can cause mixed signals. After all, they didn’t get the job. 

Also, avoid making statements that could be misconstrued as a guarantee for future employment, like ‘the only thing you were missing was skill X.’ This could lead a candidate to believe that if they go out and acquire said skill, they’ll be a shoo-in for your next open role. That isn’t necessarily the case due to all sorts of external factors, like other candidates in the finalist pool, budgetary considerations, etc. 

Use Clear Examples

Now it’s time for the toughest but most useful part of the feedback letter: providing constructive criticism. 

When approaching this part, it’s helpful to remember the ultimate goal: to provide feedback that’s actually useful and will help a candidate improve for the future. Blanket statements like ‘not enough experience’ or ‘weak design skills’ aren’t actionable and can feel condescending.

Instead, focus on citing clear examples that illustrate not just where the candidate fell short, but why it matters to you and how they could make a stronger showing in the future. For example, ‘this role requires a heavy amount of interfacing with clients without oversight from management, so we’re looking for someone with more than one or two years of client-facing experience.’ This tells the candidate that it’s not just about putting in more time at their job, but specifically focusing on client-facing activities and opportunities to show leadership in this area. 

When delivering constructive criticism, in most cases you’ll want to keep it tied to tangible skills and the content of the interview rather than citing things that could be perceived as subjective, like ‘you came across as nervous.’ Or, you could spin this kind of feedback into more actionable terms, like ‘this role requires negotiating a lot of high-pressure, high-stakes situations and we got the sense that you might not have dealt with many of these situations yet. Building on this skill could make you a stronger candidate in the future.’  

Don’t Compare

Sometimes, the simple fact is that a candidate was great, but another one was even better. Or perhaps they checked all the boxes on paper, but when you conducted face-to-face interviews someone else materialized as a stronger culture fit. Whatever the case may be, don’t fall into the trap of making ‘we had a stronger candidate’ the only explanation you give a rejected candidate. 

While they might appreciate knowing they were beaten out by someone with more experience/more specific skills/what have you, this knowledge isn’t beneficial and can lead to frustration on the candidate’s part (and, in turn, a negative candidate experience). Instead, keep the majority of your feedback focused on this individual and how he or she can become a stronger candidate. 

Offer Next Steps

For candidates, the most useful part of interview feedback is the action items. These are concrete next steps he or she can take to make themselves a stronger fit for the role and a more marketable candidate overall. 

Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. What might they be unaware of that’s affecting their chances? Are there skills they don’t realize they lack? What insight could give them a leg up? Industry credentials, credible training programs, and professional organizations can be useful to share here, as well.  

End your feedback letter on a high note; inviting them to apply again in the future (if applicable) and thanking them once again for their interest in your company. If your organization uses a candidate feedback survey, this is a great place to link to it and ask for their input on their interview experience. 

Improve Your Candidate Experience For A Stronger Talent Pool

4 Corner Resources is a staffing industry leader in helping companies like yours develop strong talent pools. More qualified candidates to choose from means a better chance of selecting the perfect person for the job. Need a hand in building your talent pool?  Our headhunters can help. 

With more than a decade of experience sourcing and recruiting the best talent around the nation, 4 Corner Resources has a broad and diverse network of candidates to fill roles at every level in your company. From technical skills to culture fit,  our recruiters and headhunters will zero in on the qualities that matter most for success in your role and use our cutting-edge tools to identify a candidate who meets your requirements. 

We’re passionate, knowledgeable and accessible, and we can’t wait to learn more about your company. Contact us today to learn how the staffing solutions from 4 Corner Resources can strengthen your talent pool and sharpen your competitive edge.




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