June 9, 2016

Scared to Give Your Candidate Feedback? That Hurts Your Recruiting Efforts


Most recruiters are used to speaking to tons of people with diverse backgrounds and personalities and a daily basis. They love to tell candidates how amazing their experiences and skill sets are, how awesome their resumes reads, and that they killed it in their face-to-face interviews.

If it’s positive feedback that recruiters have to share with candidates, they are all over it.

So why is it so difficult for those same recruiters to give negative feedback to candidates?

1. Recruiters Just Don’t Know How to Say It

It is hard to tell someone where they were lacking during the interview and selection process. Recruiters don’t want to be seen as know-it-alls, and they sure don’t want to be perceived as rude or arrogant. Recruiters don’t want to have potentially difficult or delicate conversations for fear that they will be poorly received by candidates.

But chances are the candidate will just say, “Thank you for letting me know that I wasn’t selected. I appreciate the feedback.”

It is the fear of the unknown that gives recruiters the heebie-jeebies. What if the candidate wants more information? What if the recruiter gets flustered and says the wrong thing? So much can happen, and recruiters don’t want to risk sullying their reputations.

2. Recruiters Don’t Have the Information They Need to Give Feedback

Unfortunately, this can be a frequent occurrence for recruiters in all industries and fields. The candidate interviews, and the hiring manager decides not to move forward with them. The recruiter tries to gather feedback from the hiring manager about why the candidate wasn’t selected. Sometimes, all they get is “The candidate just wasn’t a fit for this position.”

It can be difficult to translate that into meaningful feedback that a candidate can take with them in their pursuit of a new position. It gets even trickier when the hiring manager or interviewer states that a candidate just wasn’t a cultural fit. At that point, it can prove even more difficult to explain to a candidate exactly why the company decided to move on without them.

3. Recruiters Can’t Figure Out How to Turn the Negative Into the Positive

TrailTransparency is the best policy when providing feedback to a candidate, but it is also important to ensure the relationship with the candidate remains intact for the future. If a candidate is lacking a particular hard skill requirement (e.g., knowledge of a specific programming language), the feedback doesn’t have to be completely negative. Turning what could be perceived as negative feedback into a positive is the best way to proceed here.

In such a situation, a recruiter could say something like:

“Unfortunately, our programming team is looking for someone with a strong proficiency in Ruby. You have amazing PHP experience, but this is a position where we need to hire someone who can hit the ground running on day one. In the near future, we will be looking at the possibility of adding someone with your background. We’d be more than willing to train you on the programming languages and tools we utilize at that point. I’d love to stay in touch, and if there is anything else I can help you out with in the meantime, please let me know.”

At the end of the day, there is no such thing as negative feedback. The giver of feedback in this situation (that is, the recruiter) is the only one beating themselves up over the negative.

If a recruiter is afraid of providing feedback to a candidate, then it can lead to no feedback at all. This is an absolute no-no. There’s nothing candidates hate more than when recruiters suddenly disappear on them.

Learn how to provide constructive feedback to your candidates, even when they are being released from the process. Most candidates agree that any feedback is better than no feedback at all.

Kristina Evans is the director of HR and recruiting for Exactor.

Read more in Recruiting Tips

Kristina Evans is a veteran-turned-recruiter-turned-marketing content writer with Phenom People, a leading HR and recruiting technology company based out of Horsham, P.A. Over the last 5 years, she has recruited across multiple industries, including tech, education, manufacturing, and logistics. Kristina also holds bachelor's and master's degrees in human resources. She is passionate about and well-versed in the HR, talent acquisition, and recruiting spaces.