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

Six professionals holding different colored text boxes

While it is never fun for a candidate to receive word that they did not get the job, there is 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 is 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 will explain the value of giving interview feedback and outline some best practices for doing it effectively. 

What Is Interview Feedback?

As a hiring manager, headhunter, or a recruiter at a professional staffing agency, providing candidate feedback for every interviewee is a crucial component of the post-interview process. Interview feedback is an opportunity for candidates to gain a candid assessment of how they convey themselves as professionals.

Examples of job candidate feedback for unsuccessful applicants (and successful ones) include:

  • Communication skills — Did the candidate communicate clearly?
  • Feedback about their attire — Did they dress professionally or appropriately for the role?
  • Preparation — Were they prepared for the interview? Did they research the company ahead of time and ask informed questions?
  • Engagement — Did they make good eye contact and stay engaged?
  • Professionalism — Did they shake your hand? Did they use slang? Did they provide a follow-up thank you letter or phone call?

Why Is Interview Feedback Important?

Interview feedback is valuable both from a candidate standpoint and an employer standpoint. Here are some of its key benefits. 

1. Professional courtesy

We all know that properly preparing for an interview is a time-consuming process for candidates. Providing timely feedback is the courteous and professional thing to do after someone has taken the time to interview. It shows that you respect them, value their time, and want to help them evolve and improve as a professional.

Not only do candidates want you to view them positively, but your company also needs the skills, expertise, knowledge, and talent that new candidates bring to your open positions. Demonstrating professional courtesy helps your company stand out from others who do not.

2. Candidate improvement

Whether the applicant is the ideal fit or a poor fit for your company, providing candidate interview feedback is a way to help them improve their interview skills and grow professionally. When you provide detailed and informed feedback to a candidate, you help them learn what they are doing well, while also identifying areas in which they can improve.

This is beneficial to your company because a candidate may have a lot of potential even though they are not exactly the right fit at this point in time. With a little improvement based on your interview feedback, however, they may become the ideal candidate when another position opens up in the future.

3. Candidate experience

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. 

4. Positive employer brand PR

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. 

Candidates talk about their interview experiences on websites such as Glassdoor and having positive reviews or recommendations from candidates who interviewed is beneficial to your company’s reputation as a prospective employer. 

Read more about strengthening your employer brand here

5. Repeat candidates

Repeat candidates can be 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. If you give solid interview feedback, they will come back stronger and more prepared to succeed as a candidate the second time around. 

6. Strengthens hiring process

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. 

7. Identify hiring weaknesses

Interview feedback can be a useful tool in flagging recruiting weak spots. For example, if you find that you are consistently delivering feedback on candidates’ lack of experience, it may indicate that your job listings do not 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. 

8. Feedback for a recruiter

Providing thorough, detailed feedback as a hiring manager is critically important when working with a recruiter — the more the recruiter knows, the better their future candidates will be. This statement applies to both positive and negative feedback. It should not just be about what an interviewer did not like about an unsuccessful candidate — it is equally important to know what they did like about the candidate they selected.

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 is necessary to have a system in place. 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 do not 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 is 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 did not go unnoticed. 

Cite their strengths

Interview feedback does not 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 is insincere or overly glowing, like ‘everyone here loved you!’ as it can cause mixed signals. After all, they did not 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 will be a shoo-in for your next open role. That is not 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 is time for the toughest but most useful part of the feedback letter: providing constructive criticism. 

When approaching this part, it is helpful to remember the ultimate goal: to provide feedback that is actually useful and will help a candidate improve for the future. Blanket statements like ‘not enough experience’ or ‘weak design skills’ are not 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 are looking for someone with more than one or two years of client-facing experience.’ This tells the candidate that it is 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 will 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.’  

Do not 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, do not 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 is not 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 is 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 are passionate, knowledgeable and accessible, and we cannot 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.

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the president of 4 Corner Resources, the nationally acclaimed staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. His mission back then was the same as it is today: to do business in a personal way, while building an organization with boundless opportunities for ingenuity and advancement. When not managing 4 Corner’s growth or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his sales and business expertise though public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Hire Calling podcast.