Giving feedback after an interview can be one of the hardest parts of a recruitment process, but also the most valuable to job seekers. While it’s never fun delivering bad news or telling a person where they didn’t quite make the cut, this is an important step you don’t want to miss.

If you’ve been through an interview process and now find yourself in the position of having to provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates, let our latest top tips help you through:

Do I have to provide feedback?
Absolutely! Like we said before, feedback is an incredibly important tool for job seekers, but it’s also really beneficial for your own organisation too. Don’t damage your brand or reputation by leaving interviewed candidates hanging. It’s extremely frustrating from the candidate’s perspective to have put in the effort and potentially taken time off work for the interview, only to be left wondering what happened or where they went wrong.

While it may be tempting to avoid a difficult conversation by simply informing the candidate they’ve not been successful and leaving it at that, most will not be satisfied by this lack of detail. Providing detailed feedback is a courtesy that should be extended to all interviewed candidates – they gave up their time for you, the least you can do is spare a few minutes to let them know why their application isn’t progressing.

How honest should I be?
When it comes to providing interview feedback, be as honest as you can be (without causing offense of course). Always put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and consider how you’d feel to receive these comments. We aren’t saying you should sugar-coat it, but there’s a big difference between constructive feedback and just being rude!

It doesn’t have to be all negative either, it’s really helpful to include positive commentary too. A certain fictional nanny was good at reminding us that ‘a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down’ – and this is the case when it comes to interview feedback. Constructive feedback combined with some positives is a lot easier to process and far more beneficial for a candidate than only focusing on the negative.

What if I don’t feel comfortable telling them the truth?
There’re two answers to this, and it depends a lot on what the feedback is exactly. Are you wanting to avoid the truth because you feel bad about hurting their feelings? Or are you avoiding the truth because the real reason for declining the candidate could get you in trouble?

A quick reminder that you cannot discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity, religion, politics, sexual orientation, disability or current employment status. If your reason for not progressing with a candidate falls under any of the above, you need to stop and have a good hard think about your hiring process.

If you’re avoiding the truth because you’re worried about how it’ll be received, or feel it will do more harm than good, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. We’re often contacted by employers looking for advice on how to have a difficult conversation with a candidate, so don’t be afraid to reach out for a confidential chat with a recruiter or member of the HR team!

What if I don’t have any feedback to give?
Sometimes you genuinely don’t have anything constructive to share with an interviewee. Maybe you had several great contenders and any one of them could do the role, so you’ve had to go by gut feel. If you truly don’t have anything constructive to share with the candidate, let them know that. Don’t forget to share all the positive things regarding their application too, as this is still really helpful for the candidate going forwards.

What’s the best way to deliver feedback?
As tempting as it may be to avoid the awkwardness by sending an email, if you’ve interviewed a candidate for a role you really should be delivering the news to them over the phone.

Interviews are a two-way street, and it may be that the candidate has feedback of their own. Having a conversation with them opens that dialogue and can provide valuable insights for your organisation that may have been missed otherwise.

That being said, timeliness is also key when it comes to providing feedback following an interview. If you’re not able to connect with the candidate via the phone, then it’s OK to leave a voicemail or email them. Just be wary that tone is easily lost when it comes to email, so phrase your words carefully.

Be prepared for a range of emotions and responses:
You can never truly know what’s going on behind the scenes in a candidate’s life, so when it’s time to deliver the bad news, be prepared for a less than positive reaction.

Nobody likes to be rejected, especially if it’s a job they’ve had their heart set on. This latest setback could be the final straw for that person and unfortunately there may be times where you’re on the receiving end of their frustrations – whether justified or not.

On the flip side of that, you may work yourself up to delivering some bad news expecting the worst, only to have the candidate politely thank you for your time and end the call. Bottom line is you just never know how someone’s going to receive the news. Regardless of the reaction you receive, always remain calm, professional and positive. Show empathy and let them say their piece, but try not to get caught up in the emotions of it all.

When it comes to recruitment, remember you’re trying to find the right person for the job and that inevitably means that 99% of applicants will miss out. As long as you’ve run a fair process, you should have nothing to worry about.

How can I avoid it?
If you really don’t feel comfortable having those conversations with candidates, the best way to avoid doing it is by engaging a recruitment agency! It’s a recruiter’s job to manage all communications between you and your candidates and this includes providing interview feedback.

Our team is always here to help with your recruitment needs, including those difficult conversations. So don’t hesitate to get in touch if you do need help when it comes to providing useful interview feedback.

Good luck,
Kirsty and Nikki

Gaining work experience when you’re just starting out