How to Give 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. Understanding how to give interview feedback is an important skill for hiring managers, and it’s a good topic to review often.

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. We will explain how to give interview feedback and its value. We will also outline some best practices for doing it effectively. 

What is Interview Feedback?

Interviews are a fantastic way to learn and grow your career, but it’s not just the interviews that land you the job that can be beneficial. Through positive and constructive feedback, candidates can learn from the experience and help craft their career path and professional development strategy.

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

Why is Interview Feedback Important?

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

1. Professional courtesy

We all know that preparing for an interview is time-consuming 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 professionally.

Not only do candidates want you to view them positively, but your company also needs the skills, expertise, knowledge, and talent 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 or a poor fit for your company, providing candidate interview feedback can 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 where they can improve.

This benefits 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. However, with a little improvement based on your interview feedback, they may become the ideal candidate when another position opens up.

Related: Reasons Why Culture Fit is Important for Your Hiring Strategy

3. Candidate experience

From the outside looking in, giving feedback after an interview improves your candidate experience, which is the blanket term for how candidates feel after going through an interview process. Nearly four in five candidates say a strong candidate experience indicates how a company values its people. In contrast, 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. Having positive reviews or recommendations from candidates who interviewed benefits your company’s reputation as a prospective employer. 

Related: How to Elevate Your Employer Branding to Attract Top Talent

5. Repeat candidates

Repeat candidates can be a great thing for your company. These 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 return stronger and more prepared to succeed as candidates the second time. 

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 clarify which candidate rises to the top of the pool.

Related: Effective Methods of Recruitment and Selection for Hiring Top Talent

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 most 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. Allows recruiter to solicit feedback

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 beforehand, 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 everyone involved in your hiring process delivers interview feedback in the same standard structure and format. This will make compiling a single feedback letter for the candidate much easier. 

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). 

By streamlining your process for interview feedback, you should be able to provide feedback quickly and effectively. It’s important that the conversation is still fresh in the candidate’s mind to be able to implement the changes going forward.

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 will be a lot you liked about them. Spend a few lines sharing positive interview feedback about the strengths you genuinely value. 

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 ‘insufficient experience’ or ‘weak design skills’ are not actionable and can feel condescending.

Instead, focus on citing clear examples that illustrate where the candidate fell short, 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 interview content 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 someone else materialized as a stronger culture fit when you conducted face-to-face interviews. 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/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 most of your feedback focused on this individual and how he or she can become a stronger candidate. 

Offer next steps

The most useful part of interview feedback for candidates 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 also be useful to share here.  

End your feedback letter on a high note, inviting them to apply again (if applicable) and thanking them 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. 

Interview Feedback Examples

Now that we’ve covered the importance of interview feedback and some of the crucial elements of giving that feedback, let’s look at a couple of examples. These can help provide you with a template and help you understand how others provide this essential information.

Examples of areas for job candidate feedback 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?

Positive examples

  • You did a fantastic job of showcasing your technical skills. Your portfolio of work samples proved that you have the skill sets we are looking for to handle the job’s responsibilities.
  • It’s clear from the examples you provided that you have practiced dealing with difficult situations and managing an exclusively remote team. Thanks for walking us through your decision-making process and performance management background.
  • We believe that you would be a great cultural fit with our team. It sounds like your values align well with ours.

Constructive examples

  • After we’ve discussed and reviewed everything, we have decided not to move forward with you as your experience in this field is limited. This role requires in-depth knowledge and experience, but we’d love you to reapply once you have a bit more experience.
  • We would have loved to hear more examples from your experience. In the future, consider using the STAR method to provide a more complete picture of the situations you’re explaining and how you handled them.
  • The interview ended a bit earlier than we expected. We always leave some time for the candidate to ask any questions they have about the role and the organization. In the future, try and come up with some questions to help you learn more about the company and the position. 

Improve Your Candidate Experience for a Stronger Talent Pool

4 Corner Resources is a staffing industry leader 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 nationwide, our recruiting team 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 our staffing solutions can strengthen your talent pool and sharpen your competitive edge.


Why is it important to give post-interview feedback?

Post-interview feedback can benefit both the hiring manager and the candidates who applied. It helps point out strengths and weaknesses and leaves everyone with a good feeling about the organization, even if they were not selected for the job. It’s good to understand how it went once it’s over. 

What are the best tips to give effective interview feedback?

When considering how to give interview feedback, make sure that you have feedback from all parties in the interview collected. Keep it simple and unbiased to ensure the candidate can fully benefit from the information. Use specific examples and some action items they can take to improve.

Is interview feedback always appropriate?

Post-interview feedback is never required, but it is a courtesy, and there are many benefits for both parties. If the interview was a complete disaster, there might not be anything to gain from the feedback, but even a bit of constructive feedback can be appropriate and help the candidate grow and develop.

When is the best time to give interview feedback?

Hiring managers and recruiters who are working on a process of how to give interview feedback should have a standard plan. Gather all the feedback from the participants and then organize the information in a concise summary. Reaching out within a few days is best because the conversation will be fresh in their mind.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn