As a candidate, you were looking for a job, you saw an interesting position and you applied for that role. And then you waited and waited. After a few weeks, you just stopped expecting any feedback from that company, agency or recruiter. Sound familiar to you? If not, you are lucky.
But many people, including myself, have faced similar situations many times before and have had a similar experience every single day. And it doesn’t matter if you replied to an advertisement, if you were approached by a company or agency recruiter, or if some headhunter gave you a call. Sometimes the application and interview process seems like a black hole, where you try to get an answer or some feedback, and the only thing you get is total silence.
And yes, this sucks!
Every single company and recruiter will tell you “it’s a candidate-driven market and you need to treat your candidates as customers,” and that is a true statement. And for us companies, our candidates are our customers and partners during the interview process, period.
But why are many companies/recruiters not treating them like that? Is it because of a lack of time or a quality ATS (Applicant tracking system) system, a wrong process in the company or just because of laziness?
In this candidate-driven market, it’s kind of unbelievable to still see an automatic response with the text, “If you do not receive a response from us after 2-3 weeks, your profile was not selected,” when you apply for the job.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think it’s a bad thing to send an automatic reply as a confirmation that your ATS/company received the candidate’s application. But to be honest, this sentence drives me crazy, it’s ruining the candidate experience and shows candidates that you basically don’t care, or that your ATS is one big Excel file that you are filing manually and you don’t have a time to give a feedback.
If you are getting hundreds of resumes per week and you don’t have an ATS in place, you should start to think about implementing one. Because candidates are spending a lot of time on applying, as a recruiter we should spend some time giving feedback. Modern ATS’s offer a number of ways to reject candidates or to update them that your position was filled, canceled, etc. I know that sometimes it’s hard to give an update to everybody, but we should still try. Because “I don’t have time for this” is a pretty lame excuse these days, especially when you are using any modern ATS.
It is hard enough having to tell someone you are not going to give them a job. It’s even harder explaining to them why you are going to take away their potential source of income, with which they could take care of themselves. But sadly, the first part is very important for you to do. The second part, telling them why, is what many organizations avoid doing.
Why most employers don’t give feedback
A lot of organizations avoid giving feedback for numerous reasons. Oftentimes, many HR personnel give the excuse that the overwhelming number of candidates are too numerous and personalized feedback would just not be beneficial, considering the fact that these candidates are not going to be of any contribution to their organization.
And that’s why many ATS’s offers to create personal answer templates so every candidate can get some feedback. And what many don’t realize is that even if a certain person is not going to be of immediate usefulness, they can do a bit of damage to the organization’s brand. It is very simple; applicants today have platforms that amplify their thoughts, and that is called social media. If a candidate has worked very hard to excel at the interview stage and you leave them in the dark as to why you are not selecting them, they may call you out on social media, and that’s not something you want to deal with.
Yes, people may forget many things, but trust me, they remember how you treat them. A candidate will remember how you make them feel, long after they remember what you said, or what you did. And in the candidate-driven market, how you treat your candidates is going to influence if they are going to apply next time to some other position that you posted. Or how they are going to react when you approach them after some time or reach out to them on LinkedIn. Giving any answer/feedback to candidates, even if it’s just an e-mail template, needs to be common courtesy, because it’s important to give feedback to all applicants that applied, but it’s even more important to do so after an interview.
Secondly, many organizations, especially large ones, are afraid of potential litigation cases that may arise from telling a candidate why he or she hasn’t been selected.
Why giving feedback is important
Giving feedback is very important. First, it helps create a positive outlook of the organization’s brand when you are able to justify objectively why you are turning down an employee. Secondly, it creates some form of goodwill between the candidates and the organization when constructive feedback is given. This is because the candidates will see it as a way to improve, and also note that all their efforts have not just gone into a black hole that is sucking all the excitement out of their life without giving anything in return. Thus, it creates a positive image and strengthens the connection with rejected candidates, which can increase the number of brand ambassadors that an organization could have.
Giving feedback could also help a candidate that is rejected today become the star of tomorrow if the feedback is constructive enough and the candidate makes it a point to improve the mentioned areas. Also, giving feedback shows your organization has manners. If an applicant takes the time to apply for a position in your company, it is only polite that you let them know that you are not going to take them and why. You should not let them assume that they have been successful when in actual fact, you tossed their application in the shredder weeks ago. The truth is, when some people feel that their interview is successful with you, they may not take up job offers elsewhere and may even stall on other applications because they are hoping that they have a future with your organization. It would be terrible leaving them hanging!
How to give feedback
Feedback can be given via two standard channels; email or phone call. Whatever medium you choose will depend on the stage of the interview. For example, if you are slashing off a number of applicants early on in the process, then it makes sense to use email. If, however, they have gotten to the latter stages of the recruitment process, then it only makes sense that you place a call to them, as this is more personal and direct and is often more felt than an email, obviously.
Good feedback will be constructive, have a soft tone, and will be nice and concise. It should also be done promptly without unnecessary delay.
This is how you can do it: First of all, thank the candidate for their interest in joining your company and let them know that you appreciate the time and effort they have put into the application process and even in the interview (if they got to that stage). Then state the good things you love about the candidate: their qualifications, experience, education, or personality. After this, get quickly to the point where you explain the areas where they are found wanting, and why you would not be able to further proceed with their application because of the reason(s) you have identified. A statement like, “We are looking for candidates who are more experienced in nanotechnology” is good enough. You must not be negative in your tone. It won’t make sense after you have already dropped the bombshell on them.
Also, do not be discriminatory or say something like, “We only hire people who graduated from Cambridge or schools in the District of Columbia.” That won’t go down well with many people, as you will be labeled as discriminatory and that can affect your brand. If a candidate wants to make inquiries regarding the application process, ensure that you respond to them promptly, and keep it on a very professional level and in line with your organization’s policy on communicating with applicants.
Also, let a candidate know about other openings, current or future, and that they can apply again for your next opening; share links on your Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook company page so they can become your company fans. Let them know you are interested in them. Don’t burn bridges. Finally, wish the candidates all the best in their future endeavors. This shows you care about what happens to them.
My personal experience
When I was looking for a job may years ago and applied to a few advertisements, even after those years I can remember the name of the company that never responded after I called them. I asked them for an update about three times during my search, because I really wanted to work with them. It was a great company, interesting products, etc., but even when I tried I got nothing; no e-mail, no call, no answer. So I joined another company with a bittersweet experience from the interview process of the company that I wanted to join. And after five years, they called me to offer a position with their team, but you probably know what my answer was. I just don’t want to be another number in the process and end up with the “no answer, no feedback” again.
In conclusion, giving feedback to applicants is not the best of tasks, but it has a lot of advantages for the organization. A final tip, though! Giving feedback also gives you one big advantage; if you are giving feedback and your competitors don’t, candidates will appreciate your approach and this will influence your future pipeline. And, understanding that a lot of applicants will want to know the status of their application, it is very important to make sure you give feedback as soon as you can. And while doing so, make sure to keep it nice and concise. No extra stories about how much you love their plaid ties or stellar CVs. Keep a list of what you want to communicate and keep it very short. If you get calls, try to answer sensible questions as long as you can. Keep an eye on the time. 10 to 15 minutes seems a good amount of time and should be enough to give sensible and constructive feedback.
Note: Every company has multiple recruiters in a team, so please don’t judge the whole team based on your experience with one recruiter. If some team members are not giving you feedback, that doesn’t mean that others are doing the same thing or that it is the company policy; well, some companies probably have this in a policy, but not every company has this policy.