Candidate Feedback: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Candidate feedback is a tricky thing. It’s ALWAYS good to give, but sometimes doing so can be difficult and a bit awkward.

You should make it a habit to give feedback to each and every candidate (if possible), whether it’s good or bad. The candidate will be expecting to hear back regardless of if they made it all the way to an interview or simply sent their resume in; it’s not fair to keep them waiting in limbo when you know where they stand. Here are some tips on delivering that feedback:

The Good

This is an easy one. Say exactly what you think, set them up for an interview, move them through the process, or offer them the job!

The Bad

This is where it gets a bit tricky. A lot of companies don’t give negative feedback, at all. Instead, they simply hope candidates get the message when they don’t hear anything back from them. As awkward as it may be, giving truthful and complete feedback as to why you are not moving forward will be the best thing for the candidate in the long run. He or she can then work on improving for future interviews, and will be more likely to eventually succeed in finding a job. When the reason they’re not moving forward in the process has to do with not meeting the requirements or having stronger candidates, your feedback can be pretty straightforward:

  • “Thank you for your application to the Sales Manager position at Company X. After reviewing your resume, we have decided not to move forward in the process as it seems you do not have the required five years experience for this position.”
  • “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about the opening at Company X. After our conversation we have decided not to move forward. This is due to your lack of expertise with Salesforce.com, which is required for this role.”
  • “Thank you for coming in to meet with the Sales team last week. Unfortunately, we have decided to move forward with another candidate who had more experience within our industry.”

The Ugly

It’s when the feedback has to do with the person’s skills or personality, on the other hand, that it can be most difficult to give. Often, when it comes to this, hiring managers or recruiters will lie and say something similar to the statements above — that doesn’t do the candidate any good, however, as they will not have the chance to fix the issue in the future. Here are a few suggested alternatives to consider:

  • “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on Monday about the Sales Manager role. Unfortunately, we will not be moving forward at this time as this position involves speaking to current and potential clients on the phone, and I felt your tone was a bit too casual for what we would need.”
  • “Thank you for coming in to meet with the team at Company X. We appreciate you taking the time off work to interview with us. At this time we will not be moving forward with you for this role as we felt you were not able to effectively sell us on the products that you had worked with in the past. Also, it would have been appreciated if you had dressed more appropriately and worn a suit to the interview. We wish you the best in your job search.”

No matter what, complete and accurate feedback is always the best way to go. In most cases, the candidate will appreciate your honesty. Impersonal, generic rejection emails are fine for applications, but generally not acceptable if the person took time out of their day to speak with you, and especially not if they came in for a face-to-face interview. Those candidates deserve to know why they were not chosen to move forward.

Meghan Maher
Meghan Maher
Senior Talent Manager, Engineering

Meghan Maher is Senior Talent Manager, Engineering, actively recruiting top talent for OpenView and its Portfolio Companies. Her tech background has helped OpenView hire for nearly 20 IT and engineering positions. Meghan began her career at AVID Technical Resources, where she was a Technical Recruiter for two years.
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