Giving Feedback to Job Candidates: Can Employers Do Better?

Today’s job candidates can face lengthy vetting processes, including multiple interviews, requests for portfolios and sample work, and a myriad of skills and personality tests. Often, employers keep the results close to the vest, so job candidates, even those who make it to the final round of interviews, never get feedback and the benefit of knowing how they might improve their opportunities. In the worst-case scenarios, employers go dark on final round candidates, leaving the applicant to learn of the hiring decision on social media after the new hire is announced.

Why are many employers reluctant to give feedback to job candidates and what benefits could feedback provide both employers and potential employees?

Imagine you are applying for a senior-level management position at a reputable company that matches your skills and interests. You are excited when you receive an email from the recruiter inviting you to the first round of screening. You ace the phone call and then must complete two skills tests online. Over the next several weeks, you meet with the hiring manager and two other senior leaders, including several one-on-one interviews. You are among four candidates invited to a group interview. When you ask about the timeline for the hiring decision, the answer is vague, “when we find the right person for the role.”

You follow up with a thank-you email, expressing your interest and enthusiasm, but days turn into weeks, and you hear nothing from the company: no feedback, update, or explanation. You start to wonder what went wrong, what you could have done better, or what they are looking for.

Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. According to a survey by LinkedIn, 94% of job seekers want to receive interview feedback, but only 41% receive it. This means that more than half of the candidates who go through the hiring process are left in the dark, without any information or guidance on improving their chances for future opportunities.

Is the lack of communication unfair? Does it leave people feeling burnt? What would be the cost of providing direct, meaningful feedback to people who’ve advanced to the final round? How could it make a difference?

Why Employers are Reluctant to Give Candidates Feedback

Employers are often reluctant to provide job candidates with feedback for various reasons, such as:

Mutual Benefits of Constructive Candidate Feedback

Establishing a formal feedback loop with guidelines is a demonstration of transparency and a reflection of values, including continuous improvement and empathy. Consider these win-wins:

Best Practices for Giving Job Candidates Feedback

Giving feedback to candidates can affect the candidate’s experience, the employer’s brand, and the quality of future applicants. However, giving feedback can also be challenging, requiring tact, honesty, and professionalism. Here are some best practices for providing feedback to candidates:

  • Ask for permission. Before giving feedback, ensure the candidate is open and willing to receive it. You can do this by asking a simple question like “Would you like some feedback on your interview?” or “Are you interested in hearing how you can improve your chances for future opportunities?” This way, you can respect the candidate’s preferences and avoid unwanted or unsolicited feedback.
  • Be timely. Be sure to give feedback quickly, as the candidate may lose interest or forget the interview details. Ideally, you should provide feedback within a few days or a week after the interview while the experience is fresh in both your and the candidate’s minds.
  • Be specific. Avoid vague or generic feedback that doesn’t give the candidate any value or direction. Instead, focus on concrete examples and behaviors that illustrate the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, instead of saying, “You need more experience,” you could say, “You demonstrated good knowledge of the industry, but we were looking for someone with more hands-on experience with the software we use”.
  • Be constructive. Don’t just point out the flaws or mistakes of the candidate, but also offer suggestions on how they can improve or overcome them. For example, instead of saying, “You were too nervous during the interview,” you could say, “You seemed a bit nervous during the interview, which affected your communication skills.
  • Be positive. Try to balance your feedback with compliments and appreciation for the candidate’s efforts and achievements. Highlight what they did well and what impressed you during the interview. This way, you can boost their confidence and leave them with a good impression of your company.

No Feedback Delivers a Message

Every interaction with your business makes an impression on someone and reflects your company’s values. A polite letter of declination inviting an applicant to apply for future jobs may be enough to build trust with people early in the job search process, but is it sufficient for individuals who’ve engaged more deeply with you, perhaps revealing their goals, desires, strengths, weaknesses, and more?

What’s at stake is not just your employer brand but the opportunity to build relationships among those expressing a serious interest in someday being part of your team. If handled correctly, a feedback loop can be a precious tool for the employer while demonstrating integrity to the job candidate.

About Equiliem

Equiliem (www.equiliem.com) believes in empowering success. It’s our job to cultivate relationships that connect people and employers in a way that is inclusive, intelligent, and allows both to thrive. 

Across the U.S., leading companies in healthcare, government, light industrial manufacturing, professional services, and energy rely on us for their workforce solutions. Our recruiting and HR services include contract and direct hire staffing, Payrolling/EOR, Independent Contractor Compliance, and Managed Services.

Since 1995, we’ve helped shape our industry. Today, we continue to research, ask questions, and continuously enhance the candidate journey and client experience.