After reading Suzanne King's blog on Talk it out , the whole issue of feedback bubbled to the surface.

Why is that recruiters are generally reluctant to give honest feedback to candidates?

I worked years ago from a mentor to use the last few minutes to give feedback to an applicant. First the positives e.g. good technical experience, positive communication etc. Then highlighting the main concerns, if any, such as a gap in working with perishable products in a logistics role heavily skewed with exports to Asia.

The candidate then has an opportunity to address any concerns, which then makes the feedback process in the end so much more valuable.

The most useless feedback is that the other candidate more closely fitted the criteria. Which criteria?

How about bring some honesty back into the process?

Or is the real problem that recruiting managers are hesitant to give sufficient feedback to recruiters and thus creating this vicious cycle?

If that is the case, what are the best ways to give feedback?

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I think the problem of honest feedback can be traced to several possible root causes:

1) The hiring authority has a hazy grasp of the position in the first place, thus no real feedback is possible.

2) The hiring authority feels it's a waste of their time to give detailed feedback on candidates they aren't pursuing.

3) The third party recruiter has a hazy grasp of the position, and can't ask the right questions, or worse, they have a hazy grasp on the position, and can't comprehend the detailed feedback they get from the hiring authority, so rather than appear stupid, they ignore or patronize the candidate with some pablum like "it wasn't a fit".

I think the best solution is for the recruiter to persistently ask good questions on the post interview follow up, and MAKE them give you a real answer...and it's incumbent that recruiters realize it's in their interest to be honest with the candidate so they'll keep working with them.
As a Corporate Recruiter, I try to sit in on every interview (though not always possible) so I am not only part of assessing & evaluating the Candidate, but also building/evolving my relationship with the Candidate.

This relationship will help me to Hire or Decline the Candidate, whatever the final decision. If it is Decline, I am much better positioned to give quality feedback because I was part of the interview & assessment. I want to leave a good & lasting impression with any Candidate we interview, so the door may be re-opened to the Candidate in the future.

Information is key! If the Recruiter is not the one actually doing the interviewing, then the Recruiter must ask the right questions of the Hiring Manager post-interview, to generate meaningful feedback.

I think it is the Recruiter's responsibility to "dig-deeper" with the Hiring Manager if the initial feedback on your candidate is "not the right fit" or "lack of chemistry". As a Corporate Recruiter, you better be able to put your hand on a tangible competency or skill that the Candidate is lacking, otherwise you may be putting your organization at risk under EEO laws.
I believe most recruiters (Corporate or TPR) understand the positions that they are recruiting for. I also believe most hiring managers understand the positions that they are hiring for. Or we fine tune it as the recruiting process is evolving. However, when it does come down to "fit.....who they liked better" which is often the case in most hiring decisions, right along with deeper skill set, or skill set is better scoped for the position need/organization, that's a tough one to regret on. I never use "fit" as a regret because it's too loaded from a legal perspective. I do use "scope", "skill set" as it relates to the bigger picture of the position. What else are you supposed to say? When "they liked the other canddiate better.....both skill sets were the same".........you can't use that.

When it's down to the final candidates, there's typically not much separating them. When the process is still in the beginning/screening stages, we regret as we move along the process because it's more obvious as to what is separating them, and often times there IS content to provide the candidate as a comparison to the others. So in closing I don't think it's at all difficult providing candidate feedback. And most often, there really isn't a lot to say other than, this is how this played out. Right!
When turning down a candidate I try to be as specific as possible. This is a lot easier to handle at the back end if you set the tone and expectations on the front end. For example, when pre-screening a candidate on the phone, I address any concerns I have at that point; during the interview, I continue to address concerns (background, lack of job tenure, technical weaknesses, etc.). What has always worked well for me is giving the candidate feedback all throughout the recruitment process. It's terribly unfair to wait until the end of the process to "reveal" the deficiencies. Hope this helps.
What a great debate and enlightening responses from all and I will try and summarize:
(a) Several root causes as highlighted by Thomas, suggesting recruiters do post interview follow up to give a real answer.
(b) It helps if the recruiter is involved with interviews, identifying a tangible gap and Andrew agreed that information is the key.
(c) Providing feedback should not be difficult according to Peter, though at the final stage it may more be scope or fit.
(d) Feedback throughout the process by setting the tone and expectations from the start is endorsed by Greg.
(e) The irony of honest feedback is profiled with candor by Sandra highlighting the real risk of honest feedback being used against the recruiter.

I am not sure how many of you have been involved with any claims of discrimination during the recruitment process? All of the discrimination cases that I have been involved with has been during employment (bullying, harassment etc), as result of employee and managers lodging claims and counter claims against each other. Whilst there is always a potential risk, the way in which candidates ask for feedback is probably the best indicator of self-improving Sally, or litigious Larry wanting to know.

Many of the applicants of today could be potential hiring managers of tomorrow and are expecting to be treated with respect by giving them constructive feedback, even if the truth is coated with a healthy dose of protecting the guilty and the innocent.

Feel free to add any other responses or thoughts!
Charles, I like your summary very much:

"Many of the applicants of today could be potential hiring managers of tomorrow and are expecting to be treated with respect by giving them constructive feedback, even if the truth is coated with a healthy dose of protecting the guilty and the innocent."

Respect and compassion are the key issues here; I've also had instances where the applicant said they wanted to know truthful feedback, and when giving them the "reason" it's not really want they want to hear....what they want (and need) is a job.


Charles Van Heerden said:
What a great debate and enlightening responses from all and I will try and summarize:
(a) Several root causes as highlighted by Thomas, suggesting recruiters do post interview follow up to give a real answer.
(b) It helps if the recruiter is involved with interviews, identifying a tangible gap and Andrew agreed that information is the key.
(c) Providing feedback should not be difficult according to Peter, though at the final stage it may more be scope or fit.
(d) Feedback throughout the process by setting the tone and expectations from the start is endorsed by Greg.
(e) The irony of honest feedback is profiled with candor by Sandra highlighting the real risk of honest feedback being used against the recruiter.

I am not sure how many of you have been involved with any claims of discrimination during the recruitment process? All of the discrimination cases that I have been involved with has been during employment (bullying, harassment etc), as result of employee and managers lodging claims and counter claims against each other. Whilst there is always a potential risk, the way in which candidates ask for feedback is probably the best indicator of self-improving Sally, or litigious Larry wanting to know.

Many of the applicants of today could be potential hiring managers of tomorrow and are expecting to be treated with respect by giving them constructive feedback, even if the truth is coated with a healthy dose of protecting the guilty and the innocent.

Feel free to add any other responses or thoughts!

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