During my HR career as a specialist in-house recruiter, I interviewed approximately 10,000 candidates. There were a lot of unsuccessful candidates.  By its very nature, I rejected more candidates than offered jobs. It wasn’t the most rewarding part of the job, however, a really important part of the process. It was one of my missions to influence the business to take the management of all candidates seriously (regardless of the outcome).

Reasons for not providing in-depth feedback post-interview

In July’s People Management, Helen Goss, an employment law partner at Boyes Turner, John Lees careers expert and former chief executive of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals, and Karen Dykes, a partner at Anne Corder Recruitment discuss the possible reason’s recruiters are not giving in-depth feedback post-interview.

  • Not wanting to give bad news
  • Too many applicants to respond individually
  • Lack of time and resources
  • Administrative burden (on smaller businesses)
  • Fear of the legal consequences

How not to give feedback to unsuccessful candidates

Giving bland feedback isn’t of any value to the candidate.  It implies the company doesn’t really care much about their applicants. Giving vague feedback doesn’t demonstrate a well designed or thought through interview process either.

There are a number of potential reasons for not offering feedback to unsuccessful candidates. It could be viewed as too time-consuming or too much effort.  There could be a perception that giving feedback is legally risky.

“Not the right team fit”

“The successful candidate was a better fit”

“We offered a candidate that was a closer match to our criteria”

Even before advertising, the interview process should have been designed and in place ready to go.  The recruitment process should never be designed around the candidates.  The job should be based on the requirements of the business.  As much as possible the feedback should be objective and against the criteria for the vacancy.

It shouldn’t be about personal opinions or feelings (liking or disliking).  Although, I’m not naive to think this isn’t an important part of the decision making for hiring managers.  Hiring managers do base their decisions on face fit, personality fit, and team fit and therefore, it’s human nature to select on personal preferences.  

How Do You Answer; What Are Your Strengths And Weaknesses?

How Do You Answer; What Are Your Strengths And Weaknesses?

Answering “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” is a chance to showcase your self-awareness, honesty, and fit for the role. By preparing thoughtful and strategic responses, you can turn this challenging question into an opportunity to highlight your qualifications and demonstrate your commitment to growth and improvement.

How to manage feedback

Most recruiters will agree that it’s just not possible, practical, or workable to provide in-depth feedback to all applicants.  A recruiter can receive hundreds of CVs and naturally that would be time-consuming.  Even with a sophisticated applicant tracking system (ATS), it’s still time-consuming processing the short-listed applications.

If you have a well designed structured interview process it’s real easy to give feedback.

  • Each question will have well-defined indicators (positive and negative).  
  • Each answer will be measured against these pre-determined criteria.

And, there’s your feedback factored into the process!

It’s good practice to deliver the outcome first.  If a candidate was genuinely interested in the vacancy they may well be disappointed. Once you’ve delivered the outcome and had a brief conversation, then offer more in-depth feedback.

Arrange another date and time to talk through the in-depth feedback. If the candidate is disappointed it won’t be a good time to talk through views and opinions on the same day as delivering the “bad” news.  This will give them some time to process the decision and reflect on their interview performance.

  • Deliver the outcome of the interview first (unsuccessful)
  • Offer feedback and arrange a separate date and time to go through the decision in more detail
  • Explain how the decision was made and how they performed during the interview

Always explain that all decisions were made from the information shared during the interview.  Therefore, it’s not possible to determine if they are competent or not.  It might be their interview skills or techniques.  They may not have provided enough information (evidence) to make a reasonable prediction.

A business case for giving candidates feedback

Businesses often talk about reputation and its importance. It’s difficult to measure the potential damage of poorly managing a candidate, so why take the risk.

Employer Brand & an Employer of Choice: An opportunity to contribute to the brand

Public Relations: The recruitment process is a Public Relations (PR) exercise

Talent Pools & Pipeline: It’s important to keep the metaphorical door open to talent.  A chance to build that all-important pipeline of candidates.


“No…..” Is that all you’re telling unsuccessful applicants?


Take the opportunity to manage all candidates positively throughout the interview journey.  It really will make a difference in building your brand in the market.  It will also build a pipeline of talent, helping you to future proof the business. Article in People Management July 2017