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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 the 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 the public.

Senior 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 8 of the 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.Carol Quinn (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 better.

So what’s fair? What’s ethical? What’s legal? What’s smart?

Here’s the Ross Clennett list of rules for 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 criteria.

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.

Related blogs

Too ugly or too blonde: The dilemmas and traps of looks discrimination

How fools recruit: ‘I’ll know them when I meet them’
Key Selection Criteria: When less is more



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