4 Tips for Providing Meaningful Candidate Feedback in the Interview Process

April 22, 2021
Checkr Editor

With so many time-consuming administrative tasks in the interview process, it may be hard to prioritize giving post-interview feedback—especially to candidates who aren’t selected. However, in the long run, interview feedback is important to your hiring, not just as a courtesy to applicants, but as a long-term investment in your recruitment program. Let’s talk about why.

The first reason to provide interview feedback is to boost your employer brand. In today’s world candidates have many platforms to voice their opinion of a company. A few bad reviews on Glassdoor or LinkedIn could deter other potential applicants from engaging with you in the future. Avoiding this situation can be as simple as ensuring the candidate receives timely updates around the interview process and responses to any feedback questions that may arise.

The second reason to provide interview feedback is to nourish your talent pipeline. Just because you didn’t choose a candidate for a particular role doesn’t mean they won’t be right for a position down the line. Reaching out with feedback as part of your interview process could be a great way to invite them to join a talent community and stay in your company network. You already know the applicant is interested in the company, which is a great starting point for any potential hire.

Of course, there are some legitimate concerns when it comes to providing interview feedback including the bandwidth of your team, company risk, and consistency across communications. You don’t want to overload your team, misspeak, or provide feedback to one candidate but not to another. These are all valid concerns! To help you navigate the best practices for giving candidate feedback, we gathered expert advice from our trusted Talent Acquisition partners at JazzHR, Greenhouse, Fountain, and internally at Checkr

We’ll dive into their advice in a moment, but first, let’s take a moment to step into the candidate’s shoes.

Why is meaningful interview feedback important?

Feedback is more than helping candidates succeed in future interviews, it also demonstrates your appreciation of a candidate’s time: they invested time in your company and now you can show your appreciation for their time and effort with an explanation as to why they weren’t selected. 

Generally, the further along in the interview process the more important it is to take the time to provide feedback. For example, if a candidate is rejected after the initial recruiter phone screening you may simply send an email thanking them for their time, letting them know there was a candidate with experience better suited for the role, and inviting them to join your talent community for updates on future opportunities. However, if a candidate has gone through several rounds of interviews (especially if they have taken the time to perform a skills test), it’s courteous to give them a more individualized explanation as to why they are not advancing in the process. This should include both positive and constructive feedback. Try to be transparent, if the scope of the role was changed or the position was filled internally then say that instead of making the candidate doubt their performance. 

When is the best time to provide interview feedback?

The general consensus is the sooner the better. Prompt feedback means the interview is fresh in everyone’s mind. So what you say is more specific and relevant. That being said, it may be good to take the time to run what you want to say by a team member or internal business partner (especially for written feedback). 

4 tips for improving on your feedback process

1. Keep candidates in the loop

Perhaps you aren’t ready to make individual candidate feedback a part of your process, but a good first step is committing to notifying rejected candidates promptly. At the end of the day, candidates appreciate being kept in the loop even if it’s not the news they were hoping for. Margo Filippi, Human Resources Manager at JazzHR reminds us that our empathy should guide us, as we’ve all been a candidate before:

“Be human! We’ve all been in a job seeker’s shoes at one time. Communicate with respect and honesty throughout the process. Candidates will appreciate your transparency even if they’re not the right fit for the role at this time.” 

2. Connect feedback to core competencies

You are probably used to giving constructive feedback in a team context, but it can feel more challenging when talking to candidates you don’t know that well. You don’t want to say the wrong thing or put your company at risk. Arthur Yamamoto, VP of Talent, at Checkr reminds us that keeping feedback relevant to the core skills of the job description and getting support from your Human Resource Business Partners is always a good idea:

“One of Checkrs’ core values is ‘Transparency’. In that vein, I believe the best, most constructive thing to offer any candidate is honest and transparent feedback. It should always be rooted in the core competencies and skills for the job, rather than telling someone “culture fit” or “personality”. If there is anything you’re concerned can be taken the wrong way, talk to your Human Resource Business Partners first for a sanity check. If a candidate can learn how to improve, even if they’re rejected for the role, they can come out with a positive view on the company and interview experience.“ 

3. Set a positive tone

The feeling of being rejected is generally unpleasant, and it’s normal for candidates to feel disappointed—and to deal with those feelings in different ways. Some candidates would like feedback but others might not be in the right headspace to receive your comments. It’s important to read the situation and tailor the feedback process in a way that’s best for the candidate.  Ariana Moon, Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition and Operations, at Greenhouse shares her learnings in this area:

“A few best practices come to mind when thinking about how to provide feedback to candidates. First, confirm that the candidate is open to feedback (our recruiters at Greenhouse call this getting a “micro-yes”). Second, set the tone by sharing that you’re providing feedback in the spirit of being helpful. Third, when delivering the feedback, focus on skills or behaviors that the candidate would have a clear understanding of how to improve, as feedback that is too generalized or unspecific can often hurt more than help. Finally, recruiters should think of providing feedback as an opportunity to invest in a candidate’s career success, especially because a candidate who wasn’t hired for your role today could still be a hire for your company in the future.”

4. Consider how your feedback policy scales

If you’re getting a lot of requests for feedback, then you may want to investigate any communication gaps that could be happening early in the process. This will lessen your team’s task load and help ensure that you aren’t being inconsistent (sometimes providing feedback and other times not). Jaci Senczyszyn, People Operations Manager, at Fountain shares with us how the need for feedback can be reduced by optimizing job descriptions:

“As a recruiter or hiring manager, you need to be careful with providing feedback to candidates, and decide if it is something you want to do as a company. For one, if you are going to offer feedback, you should be willing to do it for every candidate. We think it is best practice to offer no feedback rather than general (and often unhelpful) feedback at the end of the interview process. We do, however, strive to try to be very clear from the start of the process the skills and requirements we have for the role. It should be hopefully clear early on if there is any mismatch in the skills required, and if there are qualifications the candidate is lacking. Be honest when speaking to a candidate about what you are looking for, and where there may be gaps, and that way (hopefully) if you decide to pass it won’t be a big surprise.”

Final thoughts on interview feedback

One last point to touch on in the conversation of interview feedback is the best means of communication. Some say an email is impersonal, while others say calls are intrusive. Some say written communication can open up your company to risk while others say it makes it easier to stick to the point and formulate your words correctly. How you communicate with candidates should be a point of discussion amongst your team and ultimately you should choose a method of communication that feels comfortable for both your internal team and external candidates. 

Method of delivery aside, ultimately content and the tone in which it is delivered will have the greatest influence on how your feedback is received. Of course, you don’t want to give false hope, but the feedback process doesn’t have to be all about ‘critique’—you can help a candidate understand their strengths as well as opportunities for improvement. Looking at feedback from a positive angle is more helpful for everyone and frames your interaction in a positive light.

Learn how Checkr can help you hire—talk to sales today.

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“Be human! We’ve all been in a job seeker’s shoes at one time. Communicate with respect and honesty throughout the process. Candidates will appreciate your transparency even if they’re not the right fit for the role at this time.” 
Margo Filippi, Human Resources Manager

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