This post was updated in February 2020.
Many think the only purpose of the interview is to evaluate candidates. It’s great if a job seeker has the skills and traits required. If not, that individual receives a rejection letter. While that mindset results in organizations reaching their goal of filling empty positions faster, it ignores what a candidate wants.
Top talent is looking to find the right company and role for them. And it can be incredibly frustrating for them to be told they’re out of the selection process without knowing why. They never learn how the interviewer or hiring team reached their decisions, what they did right, or guidance on how they can improve. Without this information, it’s difficult for them to strengthen their interviewing skills and ensure they do well in the future.
However, when organizations take the time to provide valuable interview feedback to candidates regarding their performance, even rejected applicants walk away with valuable information.
If you want to create a better candidate experience and build a stronger employer brand, start giving candidates interview feedback throughout the hiring process. Here are four expert tips to help you deliver praise and advice to job seekers:
1. Treat them like people, not resumes
Do you remember when you were last denied for a job and didn’t receive interview feedback? How did that make you feel? Feedback improves the candidate experience because it helps them know where they are strong and where they need improvement. It also helps them learn what the employer sees when they look at their candidate profile.
I try to give feedback throughout the hiring process, not just when it’s over. Keeping a steady communication flow is how you show someone you care about them as an individual, and providing feedback is a great way to build further on that rapport. I’ll even critique their resume in our first call and work with them to improve it.
You’re dealing with real people, so treat them like you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. Try always to leave the conversation on a good note so as to keep future opportunities open for both sides.
2. Don’t be overly critical
Feedback is important. Whether feedback is from a colleague, friend, family member, or potential employer, it’s something that can result in a constructive change to address any kind of shortcoming. Interview feedback provides the potential hire with a great platform to understand where their weaknesses and strengths are.
Being overly critical is something we should definitely avoid as recruiters. I’ll often include a piece of constructive interview feedback, but I make sure that both before and after this feedback, I praise a part of the interview.
For example, something like, “I really did enjoy our interview today. You were very prepared, did some research on the company, our goals, and values, and really had a great understanding of the position you were interested in. If I could offer some constructive feedback, try to be a bit more relaxed during your next interview with my colleague. I understand the interview process can be stressful, but you really have nothing to worry about, just be yourself. Other than that, I really believe you did well and that your credentials will be valued to any employer that wants to bring you on board.”
This is a great formula and leaves the interviewee with a sense of confidence and a very attainable goal to achieve for their next interview, whether that be with us or another employer.
3. Focus on facts
Feedback, delivered correctly, helps candidates improve and grow, regardless of whether or not they’re hired by your company. Everyone, including you, benefits from this. The candidate can improve their circumstances. You get to see how he or she responds to feedback. Plus, you leave the candidate with a positive impression that they’re more likely to share with others.
The best time to give feedback is during the in-person interview, especially when it’s a hands-on interview. During the hands-on interview, a candidate does sample work to demonstrate that she can do the job (versus just telling you she can). You then give feedback about her sample work and allow her to continue that work. This provides clear evidence of her willingness to accept feedback and how quickly she can incorporate that feedback.
Remember to focus on facts, not emotions. How? Share what you saw, heard, or experienced, since your experiences are indisputable. This makes your feedback credible and valuable.
4. Aim to improve the overall applicant pool
Think of giving feedback to candidates as a ‘Pay It Forward’ experience for you as an employer. The only way to improve the overall applicant pool is to give solid and constructive feedback when you encounter a candidate who, while not a fit for your organization, shows signs that they are a coachable individual.
Think about the point of your feedback and keep your contributions positive, constructive, and focused. Are you considering bringing this person into your work family? Then give them feedback that will guide them to improve and change in ways that will help them be an even stronger fit for your organization. If the candidate is clearly not a solid fit, then consider providing feedback that will allow the candidate to leave with the next steps for improving themselves for their next potential employer interviews.
Give feedback at any point in the hiring process that you feel feedback benefits the candidate. But always ask for permission to offer insights before giving feedback, correction, or coaching. Close your session with a positive word and thank the candidate for their willingness to engage in an open dialogue.