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Giving Candidate Feedback

Common courtesy goes a long way in business. There are always things you don't have to do, such as providing unsuccessful candidates with feedback, but not doing so is both 'poor form' and can very quickly give you a bad reputation as an employer and harm your brand.

One of the things that nobody likes doing, but do it you must, is giving candidate feedback to people you have interviewed but who will not be progressing further down the road to employment with you.

Why you must give candidate feedback

It might seem a chore, even be uncomfortable for some, and you might well have more important things to be getting on with, but giving candidate feedback is an essential aspect of the recruitment process.

Perhaps putting yourself in the shoes of the rejected candidate will help? That person has taken the time and spent a lot of energy applying for your job. They have researched your business and role, probably rehearsed answers to your questions, completed application forms, and possibly even undertaken psychometrics and skills tests.

Furthermore, they've likely had to take time off their present job to come and see you and paid money for transport as well!

The very least you can do is to take two minutes of your day and extend the courtesy of telling them why they have, in this instance, failed. They'll feel disappointed enough as it is without the snub of never hearing from you again.

Constructive feedback will help them understand how they can improve their chances of success in future interviews elsewhere. And who knows – one day you might want to hire this person for a different role, or they may be interviewing you (it has happened)!

What methods should you use to deliver candidate feedback?

Of course, if your hiring needs are taken care of by a recruitment specialist like Aaron Wallis, you won't need to give candidate feedback. The agency will do all that leg-work for you unless you choose to do so yourself.

There are the usual ways to communicate your feedback: letter, email or a phone call. Your feedback rather depends on the stage of the recruitment process that your candidate failed. If they didn't even make it to an interview and you rejected them based on an application form, LinkedIn profile, or a CV, then a standard letter might be suitable. Of course, you can tweak the circumstances and the individual (perhaps they missed one skill or necessary qualification). Crafting a rejection letter is simple and can save you a lot of time while still serving its purpose.

You can also use email to communicate the reasons for rejection, but these are impersonal, and the nature of a short email can be misinterpreted. An email can be sent in seconds, so a letter feels far more worthy; it communicates that you've taken the time to write, print, and post it.

A phone call is by far the best way to give feedback, especially to candidates who have reached the interview stage. It's personal; it shows you care and, when done well, it will help the rejected candidate and protect your business.

How to give candidate feedback successfully

A candidate wants to hear why they won't be getting the job. You must be honest and highlight the areas of concern that ultimately led to someone else getting the position.

You can only do this with any sense of sincerity if you made effective notes during the interview. Hopefully, you take notes already but get into the habit of making bullet points straight after the meeting, so you've got a ready-made document to refer to when calling the candidate with feedback.

Be careful not only to list what went wrong or concentrate solely on the candidate's shortcomings. Instead, make your feedback a mix of what was good and not so good, what you felt went well in the interview and what was less successful. In doing so, you might suggest ways the candidate can improve at future interviews.

Far from feeling angry or dejected, the majority of rejected candidates appreciate good feedback. Attending interviews is stressful and nerve-wracking for many people, so getting helpful advice from recruiters is well received and keeps them motivated to succeed next time.

Top 20 tips for providing feedback to candidates

  1. Provide feedback as quickly as you can after the interview.
  2. While it is very British to start a conversation with 'How are you?', try not to. Potentially you are about to ruin their day. Instead, start with' Thanks for meeting with me yesterday, but I'm afraid I am calling with bad news.
  3. Explain that a decision has been made and ask whether they would like to hear feedback (NB many candidates do not want feedback and simply want to move on).
  4. Plan the call beforehand with key objective bullet points.
  5. Keep it positive, constructive and to the point.
  6. Follow the agenda of 'thank you for your time in attending – I'm afraid it is a 'no' – detail what went well and what could have been better – ultimately, why they were unsuccessful and finish on advice for the future, then thanks again.
  7. Don't undermine the candidate's confidence, and be tactful with the language that you use. 
  8. Be encouraging when you can and provide positive, beneficial feedback to develop their interview skills for the future.
  9. Unless you mean it, don't say that you will keep their CV on file or give them hope with language such as 'we'll be looking to hire again in a few months and will contact you then.
  10. Make notes in every interview and use objective criteria for why they were unsuccessful. Ideally, score against competencies and explain that regrettably, other applicants provided greater evidence in their answers and, therefore, overall scored higher.
  11. If you interviewed with a colleague, ask for their objective thoughts and weave this into your feedback.
  12. While valid to mention experience and attributes where the successful candidate was more suitable, be aware of undermining the candidate's confidence. If it was a group interview session, try not to confirm specifically the successful candidate.
  13. Try not to use the comment 'we thought that the chosen candidate was a better cultural fit for our business'; this can be misconstrued and is subjective.
  14. Give them something back – for instance, you could offer to pay their travel expenses, provide a small thank-you gesture for attending and if you have used psychometric personality questionnaires, then provide them with a copy.
  15. Provide a balance of positive and negative feedback and use a 'sandwich technique' to ensure that you finish on a positive.
  16. Always say thank you for all the effort they made in being part of your recruitment process.
  17. Try and avoid the call being at all confrontational. Stay calm, considered and do your utmost to stop it from becoming a 'debate' between yourself and the candidate. Reiterate that you hear what they are saying, but a decision has been made.
  18. Be very aware of being discriminatory and keep your personal bias to yourself. In particular on things like clothes, hair, tattoos, perfume/aftershave, jewellery. 
  19. While most employers will look at a candidate's social media profiles, never, ever admit that what you viewed formed part of your decision. In fact, never admit to looking at any candidate's social media profile, except perhaps LinkedIn.
  20. As with most things in business, keep it simple.

Giving feedback to safeguard your brand reputation

Although it may not seem important at the time, failing to provide feedback will harm your reputation and, therefore, your brand over time, particularly in the Glassdoor era. If they've had successful feedback, even rejected candidates will recommend your company, perhaps to a future star recruit or customer.

It's all part of being communicative, open, and honest, something you're hopefully doing as a matter of course with your staff, customers, and suppliers – so why not with rejected candidates?

Think about the times you have made an inquiry to a business but heard nothing back. What's your impression of that business? Not very good, undoubtedly, and the chances are you won't bother with them again. The principle is the same for potential recruits.

And finally

Don't ever take anyone for granted. Extend the courtesy of feedback to others, just as you'd like to receive it yourself. Once you start giving feedback, you'll get better at it.

The truth is, the vast majority will appreciate it, be grateful and listen intently. Very few will challenge you or be angry and rude. And the one or two who do? Well, they've just confirmed your decision was correct not to hire them!

Date published: 29th February 2024

Rob Scott, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, Author Photo

About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

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Rob is a true recruitment professional that goes the extra mile that I have never experienced from any other recruitment agency before. If you need sales people call Rob or someone in his team, as they really are experts in sales recruitment.

Sales Director, Inside Business

George came recommended by a colleague and has been a pleasure to work with. He was great at updating us on his progress and ensured a great experience for both client and candidate.

HR Manager, Annapurna Recruitment Ltd

Understood the type of person we were looking for and good follow ups - not too frequent.

Managing Director, bigHead Bonding Fasteners Ltd

I found Aaron Wallis to be very professional and efficient, taking time to understand the role and the type of candidate we were looking for. The candidates they put forward met our criteria and were of a high standard. The service they provided was exemplary and I would have no hesitation in recommending them, and will certainly consider using them again in the future.

HR Assistant, Fischer Connectors Ltd

Very professional service and will certainly be in contact for future recruitment.

Director, Blakedown Sport & Play Ltd

Since joining DSGi, Rob has been a supplier of permanent staff and has performed to an extremely high standard, successfully filling 98% of roles he has worked on. If anyone is looking for a good sales and marketing based consultancy with an informal yet professional approach, I would recommend Rob.

Senior Recruitment Consultant, DSG International

Thanks for all your help during the recruitment process. I have been extremely impressed with Aaron Wallis especially when compared to other agencies we have dealt with. I really felt you grasped the type of person we required and found strong candidates.

UK Sales Manager, Nexcom

Really good service. Just the right amount of contact and easy to deal with.

HR Manager, Zircon Software Ltd

Aaron Wallis has continuously provided us with suitable candidates that have been proactively sourced. Having used countless recruitment companies, Aaron Wallis are the only company that I can count on to deliver.

Managing Director, JARK Healthcare Recruitment

Generally good standard of candidates. Especially liked the personality profile. Overall good value for money and will certainly use you again.

Managing Director, Medicash

George is a joy to work with, and I'd recommend him to anyone seeking that unicorn hire - he found me mine, and I'm delighted!

Director, Education Support

I have used Aaron Wallis to fill a number of our Sales Development Manager roles and I have found them to provide a very professional service. I will use their services again in future recruitment campaigns.

HR Business Partner, Greene King

We were impressed not only by the quality of candidates you found for us but also the level of information, preparation and qualification you put into the process. You continually kept us informed of each person’s feelings about the process, which is very important but often overlooked. I am looking forward to working with your company again in the future.

Commercial Director, Incentive Facilities Management

Thank you for your dedicated help during the recruitment process - we came to you after unsuccessfully searching elsewhere, and hired, not one, but two! Quick response times, and a really personal approach, without being pushy.

Managing Director, Accora Ltd

Giles Phillips is a rare find in the minefield of sales recruitment; an honest and thoughtful recruiter who considers the needs of both the client AND the candidate to create perfect role matches. I look forward to working with him again in the future.

Marketing Director, City of London Police

Giles is highly professional and was a pleasure to work with. He achieves excellent results through his personable skills and tenacity. I have no hesitation in recommending Giles to anyone who considers employing his services.

Commercial Director, G4S Government & Outsourcing Solutions

George is a rare find in the world of recruitment - communicative without being pushy or over-bearing. He listens and understands what the customer needs as gets to know the business to ensure he provides fully competent candidates who fit.

HR Manager, Big Dug

Sophie did a great job at understanding our business and our needs, she is extremely professional and we hugely benefitted from her experience and expertise.

HR Manager, The Data Privacy Group Ltd

I just wanted to thank you for your help with our recruitment process which went very smoothly and has – we hope – found us just the person for the job!

Managing Director, Citrefine International Ltd

I could not suggest anything I would like you to do better. The service you provided materially exceeded my expectations. I would especially like to commend Simon Bonner; he is easily the best recruitment consultant I have ever dealt with. I particularly valued his advice and guidance throughout the recruitment process. 

UK Sales Manager, BTS Holdings Limited 

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Chief Financial Officer, Alphametrics

In an industry where people over promise and under deliver, Rob and his teams have consistently provided a high-quality service. It is great to deal with someone that has an excellent understanding of UK industry, and a passion for sales.

Sales Manager, TR Fasteners

As always we were extremely impressed with Rob's understanding of the role and our specific needs.

Managing Director, Speck & Burke

I have always found Rob to be very knowledgeable about our industry sector, and it is refreshing to see after all of these years that Rob continues to quickly and accurately understand my requirements.

HR and General Manager, THK

I can't fault Sam or AW! Sam was a pleasure to work with and provided great support from the start. Sam always provided me with timely updates when required and provided outstanding candidates!

Director, Waste Managed Ltd

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CEO, Friday Ad Online Services

I really liked the YouTube presentations which made the service seem both simple and accessible. The company came to see me, and my management team, at short notice to present their service and I liked the support and advice that I received about maximising the results from the applicant.

Managing Director, Leisuresec plc

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The most professional recruitment agency I've ever worked with. Robert Scott was extremely proactive and send me a detailed briefing before each interview, ensuring I was well prepared.

D. Bermant, Candidate

Simon was knowledgeable on his clients history, background and what their requirements were and he worked around time zones, holidays and a pandemic to get the right result.

J. Tooze, Candidate

A great recruitment company to work with. Excellent experience with Aaron Wallis through the entire recruitment process. The team was really professional and extremely helpful. Darren was a pleasure to work with. He was friendly, supportive and gave me great advice. Thank you very much!

A. Bauchet, Candidate

The Recruitment agent I used, Simon, was extremely helpful and really went the extra mile to ensure all of my questions were answered, and that I felt as comfortable and prepared as possible. Very professional company and would definitely recommend to others. Thank you Aaron Wallis!

A. Callaby, Candidate

Aaron Wallis is an outstanding recruitment agency specialising in high calibre sales positions. I was working directly with Darren Dewrance who went above and beyond my expectations in sourcing me my perfect role. I was kept in regular communication with Darren and he worked extremely hard to secure my dream job. Highly recommended and Thanks Darren for all your expertise and hard work.

R. Sealy, Candidate

I have to say coming across and having dealings with Aaron Wallis proved to be very successful. Being highly experienced did not seem to count for much during my job search bit a conversation with Robert Scott gave me a real confidence boost and enabled to get a position at the age of 63. Great service!!!

D. Burgess, Candidate

Rob was really helpful when I was putting together a presentation for the second stage interview. Overall their communication was great and kept me updated of any progress

J. McGrattan, Candidate

Very good advice and support was given during the course of the interviewing process. Potential job seekers would be well advised to use this company whilst looking for their new career.

R. Speakman, Candidate

Wanted to say a huge thank you to Simon Bonner who has just helped me secure my new role. He was one of the most professional recruiters I have ever worked with.

J. Marcinkiewicz, Candidate

Sophie helped me secure a new role I have been searching for. She took her time to explain clear and concisely all I needed to succeed at the interview stage. Thanks again Sophie!

O. Oladejo, Candidate

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S. Bartlett, Candidate

Sophie contacted me about a role explained the details clearly and made sure I was ready for the interview. She kept in touch every step of the way till I started the job. Thank you Sophie for a great experience.

S. Powell, Candidate

Managed to get me placed within a week! Really friendly and easy to deal with. Always available for a call and my biggest challenge was I was in work at the time I was looking for my next opportunity (which is stressful) but Sam made that easy.

P. Fitzsimons, Candidate

I have to say using Aaron Wallis Recruitment has been nothing but an absolute pleasure. I've used many agencies over the years as the client and the candidate and its not always been a pleasurable experience!

L. Knowles, Candidate

Aaron Wallis (and in particular Rob Scott) have been fantastic throughout the recruitment process, and even a few months down the line, still continues to care. Rob clearly cares about each individual and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise, which shows in the work he does. Each candidate is not just a number, and the support received from Aaron Wallis has helped me get a career which I truly enjoy.

M. White, Candidate 

Fantastic customer service, communication was brilliant, happy polite people to talk to, made everything a lot easier and smoother. Thank you for all your help getting me back in the work force, Keep up the good work :-)

K. Everitt, Candidate

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C. Caine, Candidate

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A. Brown, Candidate

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A. Van Der Mescht, Candidate

The staff at Aaron Wallis were fantastic. Throughout the process, they maintained excellent communication and I always knew where I stood.

M. Owusu, Candidate

I had a very good experience with Aaron Wallis. The company itself is offering great content for all things related to the hiring process. I definitely recommend.

J. Ostermeier, Candidate

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S. Akers, Candidate

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D. Bretherton, Candidate

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J. Parnham, Candidate

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D. Pinder, Candidate

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M. Crisp, Candidate

Wanted to say a huge thank you to Simon Bonner who has just helped me secure my new role. He was one of the most professional recruiters I have ever worked with he was supportive really quick at replying and really put me at ease.

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K. Craggs, Candidate

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M. Wyer, Candidate

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George above and beyond to make sure I had everything I need to secure my new role. Outstanding Professional.

A. Kirkland, Candidate

George Humphries was a complete professional at every point, from our first phone conversation to his “good luck tomorrow” text on Sunday before I started in my new role.

E. Fry, Candidate

The detail put into the preparation for interviews and the detail of the job description was first class. Rob and Simon in particular are amongst the best I've ever dealt with.

K. Peacock, Candidate

Professional and responsive from start to finish. I would highly recommend. Special thanks to Sophie J for her help and support throughout.

N. Leney, Candidate

Excellent experience. Knowledgeable staff and really went the extra mile. Found my ideal position and I couldn't be happier. Special shout out to Sam and George: who made the process smooth and easy for me. Highly recommend.

K. Pearce, Candidate

Sophie has been fantastic and always so attentive, highly recommend.

T. Ashbourne, Candidate

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C. Hoy, Candidate

I would highly recommend thank you to Darren for helping me secure my new job role! Excellent service all round!

G. Thompson, Candidate

For anyone looking for work, I can't recommend Aaron Wallis highly enough.

C. Rockliffe, Candidate

Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment are a very friendly and professional recruitment organisation who listen to your needs, work with you and act on your behalf which sets them apart from many of their competitors who in my experience are willing to throw anything at you. We discussed my history, my preferences and my wishes - one opportunity was introduced. It was perfect. I start at the end of June.

R. Buckley, Candidate

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R. Houston, Candidate

The service provided by Aaron Wallis has been just great. I was constantly informed about what was going on with the process interview and the agent has always been supportive and kind to me.

L. Colagrossi, Candidate

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