I want to give candidates specific feedback... but...

Feedback is such a difficult task.

I would love to give exact feedback to every candidate, but unfortunately it seems like anything somewhat specific opens you up to discrimination lawsuits or candidate backlash. I try to be as specific as possible but ultimately it's my job to protect the company.

Candidates who were declined have a tendency to interpret feedback as unfair, "fixable" or something that is up for debate, irrelevant, or discriminatory.

What are some good ways to give feedback or help a candidate improve on their flaws without putting your company's reputation at risk? Thoughts?

Views: 1736

Comment by Pete Radloff on June 24, 2010 at 2:38pm
KISS Method. Use clear, quantifiable reasons for the rejection. I.E. Not enough years of experience on the desired skill ser, or the specific type of experience with the skill set. What I've found helpful is to analyze what the successful candidate had, and point that out.

Many people will be understanding of the feedback and accept it, IF you tell them they will be considered for other roles in the future, and if you've already built good rapport with them. Those that get angry or hostile, or whatever....probably weren't people you wanted in the 1st place.

Just my 2 cents. :)
Comment by Amy on June 24, 2010 at 3:10pm
Thanks Pete! I agree with your comments. I definitely go that route when those are the reasons we decline someone.. But what about more difficult situations where it's one of those "other" reasons.
Things like not being professional in the interview, being negative in responses, etc. You know, those behavioral things that people do. I want to tell them so they can improve for their next interview, but I usually can't find a good/legal way to express those issues.. Ideas?
Comment by Pete Radloff on June 24, 2010 at 3:32pm
Well, that's the tricky part - and probably why you wrote this entry :). I would find some other concrete feedback that you can give, but then also say that in your feedback you were able to ascertain some other potential "learning points" for them, such as how to frame responses, posture and poise in the interview, etc. Again, the right people will take this the right way. And if you get the vibe that the person is not the type that handles the feedback well, then sometimes its best to cut your losses and not provide it.

While we want there to be a 100% consistent candidate experience, sometimes we need to avoid potentially dangerous situations with people who will drag you through the quagmire.
Comment by Greg Inguagiato on June 25, 2010 at 10:12am
Gosh, I've been down this road so many times, I can do it in my sleep. Giving feedback is a situation that must be balanced carefully. When I debrief with a candidate after a hiring-manager interview, I provide direct feedback as to how the interview went and always have a couple of talking points to cover. No matter how hard we try, or how much we fight it, interview feedback will always be mostly subjective. I think no matter what we say, or how we say it, we must allow the candidate to save face, to maintain a high degree of self-integrity, and to let them take something positive from the process. One method that I find particularly useful is that I ask the applicant to focus on the positive, which is that they have now made a connection for possible future roles with my company as future jobs develop. This seems to ice the cake rather nicely!
Comment by Derek Wirgau on June 25, 2010 at 11:55am
A lot of this sounds nice; however, one important item is that I may have another role for a strong candidate in the future. If this candidate previously failed in an interview because of their soft skills, I have not done anyone in the process - future employers, recruiters or the candidate - any favors by avoiding or whitewashing the problems. I always ask my candidates to follow certain rules when they do phone screens and f2f. In these rules are the soft skills. Inevitably, if they haven't followed these rules it will surface and you can get them to admit where they went their own way. If they don't realize it, they hiring company does. Then you can use the info from the company to lead the candidate to discover these points themselves. It takes a little time - but you, other recruiters, candidates and future employers are all better for it.
Comment by Kirk Johnson on June 25, 2010 at 12:56pm
"Candidates who were declined have a tendency to interpret feedback as unfair, "fixable" or something that is up for debate, irrelevant, or discriminatory."

I learned to diffuse this candidacy tendency to defend or debate by giving an analogy: "you're a brain surgeon and they are looking for a heart surgeon".


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