The issue of providing feedback to unsuccessful
candidates was highlighted in an article last week on HC online. Greg’s Savage’s blog that I referenced last
week also covered this topic. Here’s a few snapshots from those two sources:
Michelle Burke (WyckWyre Food Industry HR Systems): Failed
applicants always deserve feedback. They put in effort to apply to your job and
took interest in your company. Providing them with feedback will help them
learn to better themselves and possibly be a great candidate for another job
opening you have down the road. Feedback to applicants also improves your
employer reputation with applicants and the public. An applicant that didn’t
get the job but still had a positive experience is likely to report that
experience to others, improving your reputation as a company and an employer to
Candidate (as quoted in The Savage Truth): Just recently I
went for an interview with one of the larger insurance companies. Interview
went extremely well (well I thought). Long story short they never got back to
me or returned any calls/emails. Poor form. So I cancelled all of my 8 policies
I had with them.
Arlene Vernon (HR consultant): Candidates ask for
feedback […] but frequently start arguing or defending why that feedback is
inaccurate or why they still should have been hired – that’s the point where
many HR people learn that it’s not worth the risk of getting into that
discussion with a candidate you’re not planning to hire.
(Interview trainer): Applicants
are typically better prepared and trained on how to ace an interview than many
interviewers are at correctly selecting the best. We don’t need to be helping
out applicants (especially ones we shouldn’t be hiring) to better ace
interviews. Instead, we need to be teaching the interviewers how to interview
So what’s fair? What’s ethical? What’s
legal? What’s smart?
Here’s the Ross Clennett guide to
providing feedback to candidates:
Rule #1 : Acknowledge all applications.
Rule #2 : Applicants who have not been chosen for
interview require only a notification that they were unsuccessful. No specific
feedback is required. Under no circumstances should you state in a job ad
‘Only candidates selected for interview will be contacted’.
Rule #3 : All interviewers should use behavioural
event interview (ie evidence gathering) questions for the four or five key
selection criteria. Effective use of these questions provides the interviewer
with the necessary evidence of how one candidate was able to demonstrate their
suitability ahead of the other candidates in at least one of the key selection
Rule #4 : Applicants that have been interviewed,
and were unsuccessful, are to be contacted by telephone and advised as such.
Choose one key selection criteria where the gap between them (the unsuccessful
candidate) and the successful candidate was the greatest. Explain the gap in a
short, simple sentence to the unsuccessful candidate (eg ‘The major
difference between you and the successful candidate was that they had a greater
competence in new business development with large corporates’). Please
don’t use the expression ‘You were not a cultural fit‘ to unsuccessful
candidates. This annoys them and leads them to suspect that merit was not used
to decide the successful candidate. Under no circumstances should you email
a candidate who has been interviewed to advise them that they were
unsuccessful. This is poor etiquette and makes the interviewer look cowardly. Leaving
an explanatory voicemail message is acceptable although asking the candidate to
call back so you can explain in a live conversation is preferable, and recommended.
Rule #5 : Don’t argue with a candidate . A
vast majority of candidates will accept their rejection with good grace,
regardless of how unhappy they may be. Occasionally a candidate will want to
argue and/or make themselves look like a complete tosser (‘get your
moronic finger out of your a#@e and let’s talk about this role or take the time
to do your job properly…’ was just one line in an extraordinary email
received from a rejected candidate by NZ recruiter Jeremy Wilson recently). If
the candidate wants to argue, don’t give them any oxygen, simply acknowledge
their unhappiness and let them know if anything changes with respect to the
recruitment of that position, and they can be reconsidered, you will contact
them again (which is 100% the truth). In many cases the candidate’s emotion is
more a reflection of pent-up frustration with their unsuccessful job search,
more than with you, personally (although occasionally your actions, or
inaction, will be the cause of the candidate’s diatribe).
My final advice (Rule #6 if you like): You
fail to apply all six rules at your peril .
Social media is immediate, public, can spread like
wildfire and creates a digital footprint that may be to your short term and
long term detriment.