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Why is it important to give feedback when it’s a “no”?

More often than not, the biggest frustration for candidates is not getting any feedback when it’s a “no”. And it’s no surprise: candidates worth interviewing invest a great deal of time into interview preparation, researching an organisation, their future employer, the role and the context. So after all of that time, effort and expense, not getting any feedback whatsoever can leave a bitter taste in the mouth.


We’re all busy people, and sometimes we forget to pass on feedback to unsuccessful candidates – even I’ve been there. But, there’s a difference between forgetting to pass on the feedback and wilfully not passing on the feedback when it might actually help a candidate improve their performance next time around.


Naturally, no one really wants to hear a “no,” and because of that, it’s also hard to give one. But I believe that when deciding not to take forward a candidate, it’s important to respect the time and effort they invested, and explain why you’re not pursuing their application.


Furthermore, I feel that the feedback should match the level of investment a candidate has demonstrated. For example, if I send a bunch of CVs to a client, I wouldn’t expect any feedback as to why they weren’t shortlisted. If candidates submit a cover letter with their CV, by way of application, I’d expect one or two remarks on why the unsuccessful ones weren’t shortlisted. At first interview stage, I’d expect a more detailed feedback, based on how the candidate presented, the lows and highs of the interview process, and how they could improve. If a candidate gets through to the second stage, then I’d expect much more feedback, whether they were successful or not.


Most interviewers take copious notes, including scores for each answer, as well as any presentation or task that candidates are asked to undergo. A few minutes to relay to any unsuccessful candidates how they could improve their performance is invaluable, and usually met really positively, in the spirit in which it is meant.


I know that the more feedback I receive for my candidates, the happier I am. If you’re not going through an agency, I’d suggest you still follow up with them directly – and here are three reasons why post-interview feedback might benefit you, the employer…


It’s all about the PR


When Oscar Wilde quipped that the only thing worse than being spoken about was not being spoken about, he wasn’t thinking of recruitment. To me, recruitment is more than filling a vacancy, it’s also about selling your organisation and building a competitive employer brand. A positive interview experience with an organisation, coupled with constructive feedback on the recruitment process demonstrates that you care about the people who work for you as well as those who show an interest in your organisation. A candidate treated with respect during the application process is likely to tell their friends and colleagues that yours is a company worth applying for.



It’s a small world after all!


Candidates who make it through to the latter stages of the application process are potential collaborators for the future. In other words, if you decide not to hire someone, it is quite likely that another organisation in your sector will. Always keep in mind you may be facing someone you might meet again – or even do business with. Giving quality, constructive feedback whilst working on senior appointments has won me countless new clients, impressed by the recruitment process I’ve organised and the honest criticism of their interview performance – and I’ve built scores of lasting, valuable connections during a good recruitment process.



Feedback can save you money!


If you’re bold enough, establishing a two-way debrief outside of the interview process may well open up new and different opportunities with an unsuccessful candidate. If they’re truly keen to work for your organisation, they may take your feedback to heart and reapply at a later date, once they’re better able to demonstrate their strengths. Again, using examples from my own experience, in delivering feedback, there are often times when I realise that the candidate is perfect for another role for which I’m recruiting – a case of “right person, wrong time”. I always create talent pools of candidates who are open to receiving feedback, since they will usually perform better in future interviews…



A thought to end on…


In 2016 Princeton University published Johannes Haushoffer’s CV of failures: fellowships, awards and positions he did not secure. Haushoffer is an accomplished Princeton professor despite having a long list of rejections. “Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible.” Haushoffer penned. Failures are hidden and often forgotten, but we all have them.


We can all learn a few things from a “no”, and that’s surely a good thing. Here at I Am Recruiting we’re constantly trying to improve the world of recruitment – so if you’d like to do the same, feel free to call Julian Smith, Director on (020) 7148 6749

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