Candidate feedback: A waste of time or the key to good recruitment?

Candidate feedback: A waste of time or the key to good recruitment?

Have you offered honest feedback to a job candidate as part of your regular hiring process? If the thought of sharing any words of advice to a candidate freaks you out a little, you are definitely not the only one. Susan Heathfield, human resources expert for The Balance shares why this is a sticky subject. First, it’s not a legal requirement, therefore most companies send out their carefully written rejection letters and move on. Then there is the aspect of time. Hiring managers have a lot on their plates and therefore can’t actively pursue candidate feedback for everyone who comes through looking for a job. Another concern is if in giving feedback to a candidate he or she feels discriminated against, they might pursue legal action. 

These are all valid reasons why some hiring managers avoid providing direct feedback to a candidate. But, for every one of these arguments, there are dozens of positive reasons to offer and gather candidate feedback. There are benefits on both sides. Hiring managers can learn from candidate feedback themselves to improve the interview process. On the candidate side, they receive valuable information they can use to put their best foot forward next time. And as a bonus, they’ll likely leave the interview feeling more respected and seen by the company which will improve the candidate experience. So next time you plan for an interview, think about collecting and giving constructive feedback and see how it can supercharge your talent acquisition process.

Why does candidate experience matter?

In recent years, with staffing shortages and competition for talent at its most difficult, employers have had to think outside the box when it comes to attracting great candidates. One strategy that quickly gained traction was to improve the candidate experience. In most cases, candidates want to know what they did right, what they did wrong, and how they can improve their chance of getting hired in the future. A study conducted by Lever indicated that, 83% of talent say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once liked, while 87% of talent say a positive interview experience can change their mind about a role or company they once doubted.” 

Candidates want transparency about employers and they won’t hesitate to visit one of the many business review websites to gain further insight. Candidates share their experiences with various employers freely and objectively at the interview phase. Why not capture some of this by taking a quick survey of candidates about their experience interviewing with your company? And in addition to learning about a company upfront, a positive candidate experience stays with an individual if he or she gets hired. This is critical when it comes to onboarding and retaining new employees, especially since 20% of turnover happens within the first 45 days at a new company. A candidate who had a negative experience is less of a safe bet when it comes to long term retention.

It seems that more employers should become proactive about this stage of the hiring process, and start participating in the conversation to improve the candidate experience and provide interview feedback. 


Why is feedback important?

Giving feedback to candidates is important for a number of reasons. It gives the candidate some direction in terms of the skills he or she needs to develop to interview more successfully. And remember, this feedback should be constructive. For example, letting a candidate know that their use of a cell phone to text during the interview was distracting and didn’t give you a chance to engage in a real conversation. Other feedback can include advice on their resumes if there was a typo or phrase that stood out to you as a recruiter. Plus feedback doesn’t have to be negative. If a candidate wowed you with their answer to a particular question, let them know. Not only does that make the candidate feel better about their performance, but they’ll walk away feeling positive about the company too. 

From a business standpoint, giving and seeking out feedback helps to set the tone for a positive employer-employee relationship (if the person gets hired). It also can help the unhired candidate to understand what’s expected should he or she decide to re-apply in the future. Candidate feedback can open up the doors to better communication and a better interview process. Asking for feedback can reveal problems that need to be corrected, and helps to reduce the number of potentially negative reviews posted public. In a similar vein, setting candidates up to walk away with positive stories of the company also helps feed the organization’s employer brand which is another necessity for a strong talent management program.


Best practices for managing candidate feedback

There are some simple measures that can make asking for and giving feedback more productive. When approaching candidates, make sure it is the right time — after a job offer is made candidates might shift their feedback to be more accommodating to protect their new position. A simple way to collect feedback from the candidates is to utilize an online survey system (like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms) to create a simple feedback survey. Ask candidates to participate in this voluntarily as your organization’s of improving the candidate experience. Use a rating system and ask candidates what you could do better. If you go the survey route, make sure there’s space for the candidate to add in their own comments, too, to get a more personalized view of what your interviews are like from the candidate perspective. 

To give feedback, if all possible it’s best to do this face to face or by virtual meeting. Focus only on communicating feedback in a positive and constructive way. You can create a brief report card that details this feedback. Use statements like, “I enjoyed the fact that you used great eye contact when you met with me,” or “It was very helpful that you listed out the full contact information for all of your references.” If you need to say something that points out something negative, again phrase it in a positive way, such as, “It’s always helpful when candidates provide me with the full contact information for their references. Do you think you and I could work on that right now?” If a meeting isn’t possible, and if you have a stack of candidates to go through it might not be, then consider adding a few sentences into your rejection email to let them know what they did well, where they can improve, and that you appreciated them taking the time to interview with you. A little respect goes a long way in the recruiting process and as the talent pool shrinks, you never know when a candidate you passed over might come around again. 

Using technology to streamline the candidate experience and feedback process

It is possible to make candidate feedback a standard process included in your talent acquisition strategy. From the time candidates encounter the career section of your website, include a screen-pop that asks them if the content is appealing to them (and a scale to rate it). Once a candidate has completed the job application process, ask for feedback when they receive their confirmation email. You could ask something like, “When do you prefer to hear back from a recruiter once you’ve completed an application?” In the next email, give some feedback to the candidate about how complete their application was or how well-designed their resume is. It’s these little touches that can make the experience more personal and pleasant for candidates. Technology tools like AI-driven applicant tracking systems, chat bots and email automation make all of this possible. Look for technology that integrates easily and works together for a seamless candidate experience. 

So next time you invite a candidate in for an interview, think about how you can give and receive feedback. The more you know about your own process, the better experience you can create for job seekers. And remember, it’s not all about the negatives. Even if a candidate isn’t going to get the job, a little good feedback can go a long way in terms of leaving them with a positive perception of your company.


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