Ask Barb: Delivering Negative Feedback to Candidates

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Sep 21, 2011
This article is part of a series called Ask Barb.

Dear Barb:

I had a candidate go out on an interview for a Director level position. She is a person who has held similar roles in the past. The client had already completed a phone interview with her and was excited to meet her. After the interview with three separate people, the client was unanimous in stating there was no way they’d bring her into the organization.

Some of the things the hiring manager told me…

  • Her demeanor was odd, distant, dreamy, and she sometimes had difficulty focusing on the question.
  • There was a point of conflict between her and the hiring manager when he asked her to answer the same question three times and she always tried to answer a different question.
  • She lacked any kind of interview technique.
  • Bashed her former employers.

I spent about 45 minutes prepping her the same way I prepped two other candidates I sent to the same interview group. Those two are getting offers. If I present this as stated to the candidate I am sure she will just reject the feedback and become defensive. How would you go about delivering this feedback in a way that coaches the candidate and maintains a professional relationship between the candidate, myself, and the client?

Rebecca Y., St. Louis, MO 

Dear Rebecca:

You have to be subtle in your approach but tell her she has been screened out. Explain that you pressed for information that could help her in future interviews and found out the following:

It is my job as your Career Agent to get feedback for you – to help you. Interviewing is never easy unless you interview for a living – which you don’t.

Explain that what you are going to share is the perception and opinions of this one client. It’s not important to agree or disagree with what they say, but possibly fine tune your interview skills.

The client shared three reasons for screening you out:

    1. You talked negatively about former employers  (this is almost always a knock out factor with employers)
      In the future, just refrain from any negative remarks about past employers
    2. They felt you were not listening. The hiring manager asked you the same question three times and rather than answer the question that was asked you tried to answer a different question.
      He did not give me a specific example – but that is what he said.
    3. You seemed distant and unfocused during the interview. It appeared to them that you had a problem focusing on the questions they were asking.
      If a questions in not clear, ask the interview to repeat the question for clarification.

 You are helping her by providing this feedback. If she does not take the constructive criticism well and change how she interviews – walk away!

Barb Bruno, CPC, CTS

Would you like to Ask Barb a question? Email her at Each month in The Fordyce Letter print edition, Barbara Bruno answers questions from individuals in the Recruiting Profession. We will bring you some of these Q&A responses from Barb each week on

This article is part of a series called Ask Barb.
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