How do I give feedback to a candidate?
Author: Laura O’Driscoll
“I have some feedback to give a candidate but it’s quite harsh and I’m not sure how to deliver it, can you help?”
How do I give feedback to a candidate? A question recently asked by someone in the team who is on their learning journey with us. So, we sat together and looked over the feedback and agreed on how we would deliver it.
In this environment, I can easily sit and help to coach our team through this stuff so that the candidate gets honest and quality feedback, even if it may feel uncomfortable for them. That got me thinking…. what do others do when they have this type of feedback to give and they don’t have a Head of Recruitment on hand to help them through it?
I guess one of three things:
- They give it a go and hope it lands well
- They give BS feedback so they don’t have to have an awkward conversation
- They don’t give any feedback
Then I thought perhaps I could jot down some advice that I would typically give, in order to try to help those who aren’t sure where to start.
My first piece of advice is to rip it off like a plaster.
This isn’t the x-factor, you are not Dermot O’Leary, and you don’t need to build any suspense. Once you’ve delivered the news to them it means you have broken the tension, so get to it early. A simple “I’m sorry to say we won’t be offering you the role on this occasion” is usually pretty sufficient.
Listening to their tone of voice is important.
The next thing is really trying to feel out your candidate and see how they’re feeling so that you can proceed with empathy and kindness.
You need to keep in mind that feedback is a gift and the best outcome from an interview, aside from being offered the job, is learning something valuable from the process that allows you to go on and do better next time.
If the candidate seems very upset, you can say something like: “I’d really like to be able to provide you with some feedback in order to help you going forward. I sense now isn’t the best time, can we arrange another call so I can help you to understand the decision”.
It is always better to feedback to someone when they’re open to hearing it.
If you sense the candidate is keen to hear why, but the feedback is going to sting, the best way I’ve found is to let the candidate know that you’d really like to be honest with them as that’s the best feedback you can give. You can let them know you’re concerned and you don’t want to upset them. You can also ask for their permission to be really honest with them.
When you deliver the feedback you can ask them how they feel about it.
They perhaps already know some of the things you’ve highlighted and this will mean that you can have a constructive conversation about it. However, it might be new information for them. This means it might be worth having some tangible examples to hand so that you can work through them together, which will hopefully be really helpful.
Ultimately this isn’t intended to be character assassination so you should pick out the most useful points to discuss.
It’s important to recognise that the interview process is often flawed.
It’s a small snapshot in time in a high-pressure situation and as such, you can be open with candidates about the fact that this can lead to a shift sometimes in a person’s behaviour. You can let the candidate know that you hope that the feedback will help them as they reflect in terms of how they approach their next interview, for a more positive outcome next time.
Most importantly, always be sure to thank them for their time through the process. It’s a big investment of time and emotion for a candidate and showing empathy and respect for their time is a nice natural way to close out a conversation.