Employer Branding Talent Acquisition

The Secret To Successful Candidate Feedback

Forgetting to give candidate feedback is one of the most common mistakes made in the recruitment industry, more often than not it’s not even considered a mistake. In fact many employers just hope that their candidates will ‘get the message’ when they don’t hear anything a few weeks (or months) after the interview, but guess what? They don’t.

A silent rejection leaves candidates to make up their own assumptions as to why they were decided against, which may not seem so bad until you think about the additional implications. Not giving your candidates any feedback says a whole lots more than a simple rejection, it says “we don’t value your time” or “we don’t value our fans”.

Having gone through the process of finding, applying and attending interview, it’s a given that some form of candidate feedback is needed to close the book and not just the deal. Those who didn’t make it to interview deserve recognition for the time they invested preparing their cover letter and CV. Why? Because your candidates are your fans, and your fans help your business prosper.

So, in order to make sure none of us ever make this horrible mistake ever again, we’re going to have a look at the most simple and useful ways to deliver candidate feedback successfully. Remember, even if your candidate is a total flop during interview it’s no reason not to send them a rejection letter, after all who knows who they know? A little common courtesy can go a long way!

Successful candidate feedback:

First off, time is of the essence. After applying for a position, most candidates gage about 3-4 weeks before losing faith in a reply. So if you think it may take longer to process your applications say so in the job ad. There’s no harm in adding a little sub note along the lines of:

Please note: Due to a high volume in applications it may take several weeks for us to get back to you. Thank you for your patience.

Simple, right? This way you give yourself a little leeway to process your applications without making any enemies at the same time. If it so happens that you get totally bogged down with applications, send a top-up email to calm any fraying nerves. Once again it doesn’t have to be complex, just try something like:

Due to a high amount of interest in this position it will take a little longer to process your application. We thank you once again in your interest in the company and appreciate your patience.

As long as you do eventually get back to your candidates, these two simple steps will pave the way for several weeks of worry free applicant processing, which brings us to the next step…

Initial rejections:

For every sterling candidate there will be several others who just don’t make the grade, whether it was a spelling mistake or employment dates that don’t quite add up. For one reason or another you will end up with a sizeable No pile following your first round of processing.

Now, you could just dump them in the trash, or you could draft out a nice, polite email that will kindly but firmly let those candidates know that they didn’t quite cut it. For the sake of politeness and your employer branding, we’ll go for the latter:

Dear Beatles,

Thank you for your application for the position of Rock Band. We’re sorry to say that we won’t be taking your application further at this point, but we appreciate your time and interest in Decca Records and wish you all the best for the future.

Kind regards,

Tony Meehan at Decca Records

Feel free to copy and paste that by the way, just don’t forget to change the names – unless of course you are actually addressing The Beatles as Tony Meehan from Decca Records.

The next round of processing will generally filter out those candidates which you would like to bring for a final interview – this may involve phone interviews, a task or questionnaire. Either way it will involve more input from your runners up, in which case it’s nice to include a little more information as to why they don’t get invited to the final interview.

Let’s take another look at The Beatles who, for those of you who didn’t know, were rejected by Decca Records in 1961 because “guitar groups were on the way out”.

Dear Beatles,

Thank you for your application for the position of Rock Band. Unfortunately we have opted for another band who we feel is more suited Decca Records and to the role in terms of sound.

We’re sorry to say that we won’t be taking your application further at this point. However, we appreciate the time you’ve invested in Decca Records and wish you all the very best for the future.

Kind regards,

Tony Meehan at Decca Records

Get the gist? A few words can make all the difference! Your candidates know where they stand, plus they’re 10 times less likely to bad mouth you to friends, family or the rest of the world via There are also times when you’ll be completely torn between your candidates and might find yourself in the unenviable position of choosing between several great contenders. Naturally only one will eventually make it through.

So, how do we go about letting the others down?

Well, first off, you could send them one of the examples above, it’ll do the trick. However, as mentioned it’s worth giving back what your candidates put in. They may not be perfect for this role but it isn’t to say they’re not ideal for the next. So take the opportunity to line up an excellent contender for a future position.

To let your candidates know that they did a great job and that you would love to keep them on your books, try adding a sentence along the lines of:

We were extremely impressed with both your skills and performance and, with your permission, will keep you in our talent pool for future positions.

As well as keeping a great candidate, a little flattery will soften the blow considerably.

READ MORE: How to Reject Job Applicants Without Making Enemies

How much is too much?

When it comes to candidate feedback there is, of course, a fine line between what is and isn’t appropriate to say. Some argue that giving specific details will help job seekers to improve their applications and interview performances. On the other hand, not everyone would appreciate being told that their dress sense was too casual, or that they didn’t seem enthusiastic enough, or that their personality didn’t fit the team…

Constructive criticism does run the risk of coming across as outright criticism, and therefore it’s often easier for employers to stick to tried and tested lines. However, it doesn’t mean you need to rule out the option completely.

The trick is to keep candidate feedback factual. You could, for example, include test results or give examples of skills which need development. Perhaps your candidate just doesn’t have the sufficient work experience? It’s ok to let them know that. Nobody can argue with hard facts, plus the extra feedback will mean that your candidate will not only understand the reason behind their rejection, but it will help them improve their game.

What’s the true secret to successful candidate feedback?

At the end of the day, the secret is not only to give candidates feedback in the first place, but to treat your candidates as you would anyone of your valued clients.

True, not all candidates will walk away joyous in the face of rejection, but you can at least save your company from getting slammed on Glassdoor and you might just bag yourself a great future candidate or two while you’re at it!

Do you have any further tips? Let us know in the comments below!

By Selina Kerley

Selina Kerley is a blogger living and working in Berlin. She spends her days researching the world of online recruitment, in order to bring the latest news, hints & tips and hiring strategies to the world. Selina is currently working for recruitment software specialists softgarden.