Feedback in Recruitment

Code932: 10 Years of Friendship and Good Work Andrei, About Serres Rally: Why Does It Have To Be Hard?
This is a job announcement that we used in a past recruitment campaign.

Recruitment is a long and difficult process in the IT industry. It’s really hard to find candidates, it is hard to get them to talk to you and it is pretty hard to hire them.

At first you make a special and different job announcement because you know that no one will stop and read it if it’s dull and ordinary like all the others. Then you start to post it here and there, on Facebook, LinkedIn, job platforms and other websites where you know that the candidates that are suitable for the job are looking. And you wait. Sometimes nothing happens, most of the times you receive some CVs that have nothing to do with the profile you’re looking for. But sometimes you hit the jackpot and you receive a job application that suits your needs. Or you’re lucky and someone you know can recommend you someone they know. You can also go headhunting and you convince them somehow to take your job proposal into consideration. I personally don’t agree with headhunting and I do not practice it because I find it unethical, impractical and destructive especially for a small community. Moreover, keep in mind that if they’re going to do it for you, chances are they will do it to you later.

Me and my interview partner look like this when sharing opinions about a candidate.

Everything runs smoothly as long as the candidates come to the interview, you like them, they’re fit for the job, they like you, you make them an offer, they accept it and you hire them. But this process can be interrupted at any point from both sides, maybe they don’t like your company, they don’t like you or your company’s projects, you don’t like them, they don’t have the knowledge and experience they wrote in their CVs, or maybe they want more money than you can offer. In any case, there has to be feedback involved from the company’s side as well as from the candidates’ side. The problem is that we all know we should do it, it’s common sense, really. But most of us don’t. I keep hearing these stories from people who wait for a promised feedback they’ll never receive and from companies who wait for an answer from their candidates who seem to have disappeared from the face of the Earth.

When a company rejects a candidate

No, it is not enough to tell them ”We’re sorry, you’ve been rejected.”, that is not feedback and neither is ”We decided to select someone else. Good luck!”. These standard messages that you find when you search Google for ”how to reject a candidate” lack meaning. They don’t tell the candidate more than the fact that you just don’t wanna hire them. They don’t know why, how did you take that decision and they don’t learn anything from this experience. Moreover, you leave them with unanswered questions about their abilities, about their performance or even their personality.

This is my view on my favorite feedback technique.

Not even the message ”We found someone more experienced than you.” will help them unless it is followed by some details about how and why was the other candidate better. A candidate who doesn’t receive feedback from you will most likely change their opinion about your company and so will their friends, family and other people who will listen to their story. I get it that maybe you didn’t click, or they seemed unsuitable for your team, or even they didn’t really have the skills and knowledge declared in their CVs, but they did their best to convince you that they deserve the job, they offered you two, three or even six hours of their lives to attend your interviews, tests and assessments. And it is nice to help them with some feedback. First of all, it doesn’t hurt anyone, it doesn’t take a lot of time to write down your opinion, it’s not like you need to make research for hours in order to provide feedback. You know very well why you reject them. And most importantly, it ensures a continuity with that candidate. Maybe you wanna contact them in the future or refer them to another company, you never know.

Being honest is always better than ignoring your candidates. And no one said that you have to break it to them cold-hearted. Certainly there was something you liked or appreciated about them. So you can use the sandwich technique in giving feedback because it is always a safe choice. It works like this: first you say the things you liked about them, then you tell them the reason(s) why you reject them and at the end you mention something positive, it may be other things you liked or a positive direction for the future (like a piece of advice or personal insight)

This is what comfort does to you - it keeps you away from all the magic.

There is one more essential aspect about this feedback, keep in mind that you tell them your point of view because you evaluated them in the context of your team and company. So you focus your feedback on compatibility, not on their personality. Don’t give them the impression that you judge them as a person. This mistake is very easy to commit. So instead of making this about them by saying: ”We like the fact that you are honest and friendly. However, you are too energetic and we believe you would get bored fast...”, make it about the relationship between you and them: ”We like the fact that you are honest and friendly. However, our team is much less energetic than you are and so is the nature of this job. So we believe that we would lack compatibility here...”.

And last but not least, do not forget to thank them about taking the time to participate in your recruitment process and also leave a door open for the future. You never know when you will meet again.

When a candidate rejects a job offer

As I mentioned before, not every time the communication is interrupted by the company. Sometimes the candidate is the one that decides to give up on a recruitment process without notice. Most of the times the reason is that they have accepted another offer, but this is not always the case. There can be various reasons, just like a company doesn’t like something about a candidate, a candidate may not like something about the company, the recruiter, the team, projects, money, work environment and so on. Many choose not to offer feedback about why they give up maybe because it is not very comfortable to say ”No”. But no one said that everything has to be comfortable. In fact, comfort doesn’t teach us anything :)

When you want to reject a company’s offer, you don’t have to be that careful about how you give feedback, it’s enough to give it really. Because a company is an entity, it is not a single person. So it cannot take things personally :) . A company develops on criticism, it doesn’t harm them like it could harm a person. For example you could only tell them something like: ”I loved the fact that you have a really nice work environment, but that is not enough for me to accept your offer. I believe that your projects are not too challenging for me.”. Your feedback should also be about compatibility.

In conclusion, you should not ignore this part of the recruitment process if you wanna be a true professional, no matter which side you’re on. You help the other part realise something about themselves, you keep a good relationship that could count in the future even after a rejection and more importantly, you give a good impression and you prove that you are serious about your work. And if you don’t provide feedback, it’s not that you don’t get these advantages (which by the way, count a lot!), you get the opposite: questions left unanswered, bad reputation and no positive relationship in the future. Value the feedback, it’s not something you should leave aside.

It’s not hard to take the time to give feedback. In the same way you would like the other side to do it for you… somebody needs to start. Don’t forget that what goes around comes around. Be the better person and start giving feedback. This is how you start changing something and you make the world a better place.

"We all need people who will give us feedback.
That’s how we improve."
Bill Gates
Code932: 10 Years of Friendship and Good Work Andrei, About Serres Rally: Why Does It Have To Be Hard?