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Mar 13, 2019
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Do you give all your candidates feedback that you screened? What about candidates who interviewed? Sometimes, giving candidate feedback can be the most daunting part of any recruiter or third-party recruiters tasks. No one wants to deal with angry candidates who disagree with you, especially when you’re just the messenger and not the one making decisions.

I tell candidates, “I will push you forward as much as I can, but there is only so much I can do. In the event I fail I will provide you feedback that I received.” Most of the time my candidates get rejected is because someone else was hired or the candidate’s tenure wasn’t desirable. Whenever giving feedback, good or bad, the key is letting them feel their emotions and venting to you. After all, they probably aren’t going to tell their friends about this company that rejected them. They want to look good. So be there for them when you are delivering bad news.

Honesty is Everything

Honesty goes a long way in giving feedback, but also be cautious if the feedback is something personal like an internal referral spoke poorly about them. Talk about how it wouldn’t be a good “culture fit” and that you want to get them a job where they can thrive. Being as honest as possible without crossing the threshold of the client’s trust can earn you a placement. I gave feedback to a candidate once that spoke about his communication ability. English was his third language, and he used that to get the job. I was floored, and pleasantly surprised.

Sometimes we can’t tell the whole story to protect our client or company we work for. That’s Okay. Finding a way to deliver feedback and setting up the candidate for success in the future is what’s needed though. Did they show up to an interview with fingernails longer than six inches and cuts on his beard from shaving? (Yes this happened to me once). Naturally stating, “The client is looking for an executive office professional that can deliver to the Board and feels you’d be better in an Accounting role” will suffice. It can deliver the message of “Dude see a stylist” without asking the awkward, “What did you wear/look like?” question.

Sometimes feedback comes after you profile them, and the feedback is they aren’t a fit for the role. Explain this to the candidate. They can use the information to make themselves appealing to you in the future. In my cases, it’s a lack of experience around a project. These candidates went and got that experience at their current employer and hit me up a year or two later and I placed them. Sometimes it’s emphasizing the desire of corporations to hire terrific tenured individuals. Tell them that! Say “Whatever decision you make next, stay there for at least three through five years so the next time the company won’t discriminate based on your tenure.”

Delivering Feedback

Candidates love feedback. I make a point to deliver all my feedback on Fridays, and I tell candidates that (so call me on Fridays for feedback or email me). I’d suggest blocking out a time during the week for you to give feedback to candidates and clients. It gets your more business and referrals. When you go out of your way to explain, the candidate goes out of their way too.

In my experience, delivering feedback is rare in and of itself. Providing feedback that’s tactful is even better. I’ll tell the candidate if I placed the person who got hired and I will explain why that individual was chosen. This rarely happens, but when it does, I tell them the truth. Plus, now I can take that candidate to the company I just recruited from. “But why did they want to leave that company?” the candidate may ask. I’ll be honest and tell them if they get the interview, screen them for the issues that may arise.

Delivering feedback is important. However, you don’t need to do it right away. I usually get feedback within the same day to a week on a candidate. I may usually wait a week before giving that feedback, depending on the situation. Ego is a big thing when it comes to people, and sometimes it’s our job to protect it. Sometimes, when we crack it with honesty, they appreciate it and become better.


If you’re dealing with bad candidates, who don’t take feedback well, explain to them that you did the best you could and you’re providing this feedback for them to know for next time, but you can’t give them the next time if they don’t understand where you’re coming from. It puts them back in “getting recruited mode.” Let’s be honest here, sometimes candidates our clients reject, others would hire, so explain that and how you’re doing your best to get them somewhere else to go. Be on their side. Just as the client is the one who pays you, the candidate is the one who accepts the job. Treat them like you would a client, and you will be golden.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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