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Talk to any job seeker vying for that coveted spot in your organization and listen to their almost universal reaction: “I wish I had a clue what I did wrong during the interview … I know I could have done that job.”

Why should you care? Well, here is a bit of irony. HR budgets are allocated for all sorts of initiatives to attract talent, yet one of the most powerful ways to select great candidates is often bypassed: offering quality feedback. Consider the ROI in workforce planning if honest, practical feedback was given to high potential external candidates.

This is not a blanket promotion of providing more extensive feedback for every job seeker you encounter. Some candidates are simply a mismatch to the experience, chemistry or cultural fit needed. In those cases, a timely, professional email response will suffice.

Others are peak performers who get eliminated because they simply are not skilled in the art of interviewing. Candidates hold THE responsibility to manage their careers, including being “interview ready”, but is there any reason we shouldn’t help them prepare? You decide.


1. What’s wrong with sending our standard “no thank you” email for candidates no longer being considered? We let people know where they stand and stay out of legal trouble.

If you’re getting back to candidates in some fashion, that’s far better than ghosting them following a face-to-face interview.

HR serves as the custodian of and ambassador for a company’s fair selection process. Internal recruiters work in tandem with hiring managers and must be legally compliant in matters of talent acquisition. To safeguard best practices, additional training specific to the messaging to candidates may be needed for anyone in your organization’s recruiting role. By expanding the level and quality of your “no thank you” message, you can stay both legally compliant and provide a response that better informs a candidate.

2. What’s the point? There’s no upside in giving feedback to candidates who feel they’ve been wronged. They’ll only dismiss our comments.

This is a valid concern. Be aware of the dynamics happening post interview in which “stakes are high, opinions vary and strong emotions are involved.” The dialogue will be much more productive, using techniques addressing this situation as described in “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler and Stephen R. Covey.

Review how you currently respond to candidates and consider a change.

Standard Feedback: “Thank you for your interest in our company. Your background, while strong, does not meet the qualifications needed for this position. Good luck in your future endeavors.” (delivered via email)

An improved way to communicate was designed by LeeAnn Renninger, co-founder and CEO of LifeLabs Learning, using her four-part formula. Think about delivering this message in a 10-minute phone call.

  • The Micro-Yes – Start the conversation with a simple question to the candidate: “Do you have a few minutes for some feedback on the interview?” They then have an opportunity to accept the call, creating buy-in for what is about to be shared. This step also gives the candidate a sense of autonomy.
  • The Data Point – Be specific about what you heard the candidate say by eliminating confusing words. Instead of saying, “It seemed like you weren’t at the right management level we were looking for.” Try this: “When asked about your management style, you talked only about the team effort and didn’t give any scenarios demonstrating leadership skills. While we were impressed with your collaborative approach, we also needed to understand the specific role you played in the ERP system implementation project.”
  • Impact Statement – This statement informs the candidate of the effect of their answer. “Because you focused primarily on being inclusive of everyone’s contributions, we failed to understand the role you played. In the future, don’t be afraid to take credit for what you did while also acknowledging others or you’ll be perceived as more tactical than strategic.”
  • End with A Question – “What are your thoughts?” You have now set expectations for the job seeker to actively do something with the feedback you’ve given them.

3. There are just so many hours in a day. Why should I spend them communicating any further with candidates I’m no longer interested in?

Determine the level of communication appropriate for each candidate. Standard email responses may be sufficient for the majority. Consider those job seekers who passed initial screening with a great resume but failed to effectively deliver their story during the interview. Are they worth a 10-minute follow up call? If your recruitment team has conducted a post-mortem, matching selection criteria to candidates, then sharing objective feedback should be a relatively easy thing to do.

This one simple step may give them a better chance if they re-apply later. You may have not only maintained the interest of someone with good potential, but also found an advocate for your company as a good place to work.

4. I have several KPIs as a recruiter and my reviews depend on them. How does giving feedback help me meet my performance goals?

Here are the top 5 KPIs according to Consider the effects of improved feedback vis-a-vis these KPIs.

Time to Hire – Could you decrease the time to fill a position by offering sound advice after the first face-to-face? A small amount of feedback could help that candidate with a great resume and the potential to make it to the second round.

Quality of Hire – You may have taken a pass on a credentialed candidate who passed through several steps of the initial selection process. Could they have progressed to the finish line with more or improved feedback?

Candidate Experience – Today’s social news feeds offer an efficient channel for candidates to express their reactions to the interview process. Consider the power of converting a potentially negative reaction to a positive one and take advantage of the good will. Think Glassdoor reviews.

Sourcing Channel Efficiency – One of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to fill the funnel is through employee referrals. Individuals will be less motivated to continue to refer friends and colleagues if their referrals express dissatisfaction with the process. You may also have inadvertently turned a great source of candidates into a demotivated employee.

Adverse Impact – Consider a possible unintended consequence of narrowing the talent pool by virtue of eliminating members of a more diverse population. A negative experience with your organization could echo through their community, discouraging others in their demographic to apply.

You may be limited in modifying your company’s current feedback process if employed within a highly regulated organization or one with communication protocols specific to feedback. If you do not have those restrictions, consider giving more feedback than the standard email only to those candidates who just were not at the top of their game and failed to nail the interview.

If you are still not convinced of the need for feedback, here is more food for thought: One day you, too, may be a job seeker expecting the same consideration from HR.

Feeding it back is a great way of paying it forward! Seize the opportunity.

Barbara Schultz is an HR executive turned career coach, writer and co-author of “Adulting Made Easy(er): Navigating from Campus to Career.” She has held senior leadership roles in entrepreneurial settings and gives a unique perspective to job seekers from a life spent on “the other side of the desk.” She is Founder of The Career Stager, which helps people successfully navigate their careers.