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Company v. Candidate: The Battle for Feedback



Companies are not trying to create the most perfect process for you. They are trying to hire — ideally efficiently, cheaper, and effectively. This is about their goals, not yours.”— Gayle Laakmann McDowell

In a perfect world, every company provides useful, meaningful feedback to every candidate that takes the time to interview with their team. In a perfect world, every candidate takes an organization’s feedback, learns from it and leaves the interview process feeling good, gaining insights into what they can work on for the next time. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world.


The concept of employee feedback after an interview is a highly debated issue. On one hand, it can be the single most frustrating aspect of the job search. “How can I learn what I am doing wrong with no constructive criticism?” On the other hand, organizations must weigh the risks of providing feedback to the risks of not providing any kind of response at all. To most organizations, these risks are not even debatable.


To truly provide insight into this topic, we must first seek to understand the perspectives of all parties involved. For many, there is no middle ground. What side are you on?


The Candidate

As a candidate, not getting any feedback can be downright infuriating. The longer the job search continues, the more desperate a candidate becomes for a reply of any kind. Any chance a candidate gets to hear constructive criticism can truly make all the difference in the world. After all of the time and effort the candidate put into this process — taking off from their current role, researching, travelling, even dressing up — many candidates end up hearing no feedback whatsoever. This can be a demoralizing process. Worst of all, it can become a repetitive process with multiple companies.

We often hear things like this from frustrated candidates:


“After all I went through, they can’t even call me to tell me why I didn’t get the job?”

“How am I supposed to learn how to interview when I get zero feedback on what I did wrong?”

“I took all that time out of my schedule and they sent a two-sentence email saying I didn’t get it.”

“I reached out after the interview, never heard from them.”


The Company

From a company’s perspective, every decision is about mitigating risk. Most attorneys will recommend companies provide little to no feedback post-interview. Why is this? It’s simple — they do not want to get sued for discrimination. Even if they have great, useful, constructive feedback to share, sometimes the company policy does not allow it. A recent survey of the top 100 most admired companies in the US indicated that 70 percent of these employers did not provide feedback to candidates that were not hired (Heathfield, Susan). Furthermore, an argument can be made that providing feedback has very little chance of being beneficial to anyone. To elaborate, a hiring manager at Netflix recently shared his experience with providing feedback. He claimed, “Candidates would become defensive, challenge what I was saying, blame the interview process, or the interviewers. I was frustrated, and worried that I had not been helpful to them in any way.” (Amatriain, Xavier) In many ways, providing feedback to candidates actually causes a big headache that, at best, might create a slighter better candidate experience. However, at worst, it will open up the organization to lawsuits and potentially ruin the candidate experience all together.


If it was your name on the outside of the building, would you want to take on this risk?


Creating an Effective Feedback Policy

Any logical, rational thinking professional will understand the two perspectives above. However, I would be shocked if anyone who went through an entire interview process and was left with zero feedback would not be emotionally charged by this. Regardless of your career level, it ALWAYS will leave an impact on you. I feel an organization must ask themselves certain questions prior to creating an effective feedback policy.


Do you trust your recruiter’s ability to conduct such sensitive conversations?

Most employers simply do not want the burden that comes with having these difficult phone conversations. If you are a leader of a talent acquisition team, I would first focus on your recruiter’s abilities to handle what happens when these conversations go south. If a company does not trust these employees handling such sensitive topics, it may not be worth the risks.


Do you have a timeline for your teams to provide post-interview feedback?

A recent study found that if you were to wait beyond two days to give feedback, it can only hurt your candidate experience (regardless what the feedback actually is). However, if you gave feedback within 24 hours, 46% of candidates would be more likely to recommend that employer to a friend or colleague. That number drops to 29% within 48 hours (Measurology). What does this tell us as recruiters? If you are going to provide feedback, do it quickly! Anything beyond two days post-interview is worth next to nothing.


If you are trying to provide feedback, are you focusing on “useful” feedback?

If you do decide to provide constructive criticism, be sure to fully prepare yourself prior to the conversation. Take time to clearly explain why they didn’t get the role. Use notes from your interview or debrief with the hiring team, and keep feedback solely related to the job description. Thus, avoiding any potential discriminatory practices. Instead of speaking in generalities, try to be specific and think of examples that may actually help the candidate for the future. Finally, try to stay balanced during this conversation. Feedback should answer two questions:

  1. What does this person do well that makes them effective?

  2. What is the one thing, looking forward, they could change (or, do more of) that would make them more effective?


Say “thank you”.

As recruiters, we often forget that every person who interviewed took time out of their day and put a great deal of effort into the experience. People forget how a simple thank you can make a big difference. Continue to act as if you were recruiting for your company, not just any company.

© 2020 Nine to Five

Design by Jessica Morrow Design

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