Should you really be giving feedback to failed applicants?

by Nicola Middlemiss22 Jan 2015
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.



  • by Lisa 22/01/2015 1:36:51 PM

    I can certainly see the point of both contributors to this article however I think it is courteous and generally good practice to give concise feedback when asked even if its as simple blanket statement such as 'your application was strong and you interviewed well however the successful candidate had more appropriate skills and experience for this role.' I don't believe there is any requirement to go into any further detail.

  • by Jenny 22/01/2015 3:12:51 PM

    Job hunting recently for the first time in about 7 years was a shock to the system for me. I was amazed and appalled at so many organisations that don't even acknowledge your application, let alone provide any feedback on why you weren't successful.

    I'm a HR professional, I've always done this and always tried to provide constructive advice to encourage applicants.

    I think failure to acknowledge applications and to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants is 'bad business'. It's not the first impression I want my organisation to give. Every organisation should remember that every applicant is also a potential customer or client.

  • by Anon 23/01/2015 12:58:43 PM

    Of course Carol Quinn is going to state that it's a `win win' She's selling the training package to go with it.

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