Should you be giving feedback to failed applicants?

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It’s hard enough finding the right person for the job, never mind telling everyone else why they didn’t fit the bill – so should HR really spare the time to give feedback to failed applicants? HRM investigates.

“Failed applicants always deserve feedback,” says Michelle Burke, with WyckWyre Food Industry HR Systems. “They put in effort to apply to your job and took interest in your company. Providing them with feedback will help them learn to better themselves and possibly be a great candidate for another job opening you have down the road.”

But Burke says offering feedback isn’t just of benefit to failed candidates; “Feedback to applicants also improves your employer reputation with applicants and the public. An applicant that didn't get the job but still had a positive experience is likely to report that experience to others, improving your reputation as a company and an employer to the public.”

HR consultant Arlene Vernon disagrees – she says it's not part of the “informal interview agreement” and employers could even open themselves up to accusations of discrimination.

“Candidates ask for feedback […] but frequently start arguing or defending why that feedback is inaccurate or why they still should have been hired – that’s the point where many HR people learn that it's not worth the risk of getting into that discussion with a candidate you're not planning to hire.”

In the past, Carol Quinn has conducted interviewer training for companies hiring high
performers in Canada – she says employers should be less concerned about improving applicant performance and more focused on improving interviewer performance.

“Applicants are typically better prepared and trained on how to ace an interview than many interviewers are at correctly selecting the best,” says Quinn. “We don't need to be helping out applicants (especially ones we shouldn't be hiring) to better ace interviews.  Instead, we need to be teaching the interviewers how to interview better.”

Quinn says if interviewers were properly trained in being able to spot who could do the job the best, rather than being distracted by who has the best interview skills, the need for applicant feedback would be eliminated.

“This formula is the only one that is truly a win-win,” concludes Quinn.

Do you offer failed applicants advice on how to improve? Let us know...


More like this:

Experience says it all – doesn’t it?

How to avoid acquiring a D-player 

Providing a positive interview experience – essential or unnecessary?

  • Kristopher on 2015-01-21 10:55:56 AM

    I could not agree more with Carol Quinn's comments on training the interviewers' to spot the best talent. This is an enormous problem and it sets the company back every time less than the best candidate is hired.

  • Kent on 2015-01-21 11:31:28 AM

    I think providing limited feedback is good. I don't go into too much depth in regards to answers and what we are looking for but if we felt that the candidate was good and we would have considered them then it is good to leave them on a positive note. We had a position where the number one choice was head and shoulders above the rest but the number two candidate we liked. We left it on a positive note and told them to apply for other opportunities. It turned out that our original candidate lasted in the job for 2 months before finding permanent employment elsewhere. I was able to call the second candidate to inquire if they were still interested in working here and hired them right away. We would have had to go through the entire interview process again, instead we had training crossover time and no gap in the position. A win-win situation!

  • Kellie on 2015-01-25 2:30:55 PM

    If someone actually comes in and does an interview, I think they deserve to hear back from the employer. I don't typically give them any advice - I just say that someone better qualified got the position. If they ask me what they could have done better, I typically say they didn't do anything wrong (because I agree with Carol's comment about training people to become better at how to ace an interview) but I at least return their call or email. I also completely agree that interviewers need better skills at finding the right people for the job. But - for the sake of the employer's brand - I think a response is not only appreciated but is respectful. I will say in advertisement that only those selected for an interview will be contacted so that every applicant isn't calling.

  • Joanne on 2015-01-26 1:46:52 PM

    I agree with Kent. Always leave the candidate with a good feel for your company because if the successful candidate does not work out you can go to the 2nd. Quite often there is not that much between the 1st and 2nd candidate.

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