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Q. What’s the right way to deliver interview feedback? A. It depends

In the last post on this subject, I looked at what I consider to be the wrong way to inform someone that they haven’t got the job, i.e. by not saying anything at all and hoping they get the message.

One of the comments on the last post referred to this “method” of giving feedback as a “cop-out” which is a sentiment I totally agree with.  I don’t like template driven responses but I do think that they’re better than no reply at all!

I’ve previously said that the “right” way of telling someone that they haven’t been successful in their application can depend on a number of things but it can be determined by the level of direct contact you’ve had with the candidate.

#1 Candidate is via an agency

If the candidate has been put forward by an agency, the chances are you had your first contact with them on the day of the interview.  That does not mean that you should just say “it’s a no” to the agency and leave them to creatively invent feedback to pass on to the candidate.  The agency needs feedback just as much as the candidate does, otherwise how will they know why that person did not fit your criteria.

Although it is usually the case that you can be more candid with your feedback to the recruitment agency, you must be sure that you can trust them to “soften” the blow when speaking to the candidate.  It has been known for the agency to repeat the employer’s feedback verbatim to the candidate so be warned and choose your words carefully!

#2 You’ve had little direct interaction with the candidate

It does happen that someone applies for a job, you acknowledge receipt of their CV and they don’t respond.  Your next interaction involves practical arrangements for interview and that’s it.

That does not mean that you can send them a templated response thanking them for attending the interview and advising that they have not been successful on this occasion.  Well, if you must but it’s not ideal.

However, it does mean that written feedback via email is likely to be the most appropriate form of contact.  That is the established method of contact and, to be frank, if you call that person shortly after interview, they could be forgiven for thinking that you’re calling with good news.  Rather than having to extricate yourself from a difficult situation over the phone, it’s probably more appropriate to let them know via email.

#3 You and the candidate are on first name speaking terms

If you have a lot of direct applications, you’ll find that one or two stand out.  They are the people who reply to your emails promptly, thank you for contacting them, ask you questions and generally interact with you.  They might joke with you or be so polite and friendly that they stand out from other applicants.

For those people, you instinctively know that a “we’re sorry that you haven’t been successful” type email is not going to cut it.  That would be rude and you know it.

So, what is the right answer when you’ve had over and above the “usual” level of interaction?

Giving interview feedback over the phone can be risky.  I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that it’s not always a good idea to give feedback over the phone.  My issue with giving feedback over the phone is that people don’t always listen to what you say.  They are disappointed that you’re saying no to them and focus on the “no” rather than the reasons.  Also, unless you’ve got a very clear idea of exactly what you’re saying, it’s very easy to go off on a tangent and inadvertently say something you shouldn’t.

My preferred method of giving feedback would be by email.  However, the kind of email I’m talking about is light years away from a template reply.  It should be:

Personal – make reference to the person’s specific experience and background

Well-thought out and considered – think about the impact of your feedback and how it may be perceived by the candidate

Relevant – give examples from the interview itself

Remember that stock answers can be just as insulting as no answer at all!  If you need help with putting together some decent, constructive interview feedback, get in touch on 01487 815720.

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