Latest Findings on Giving Feedback to Candidates Show Missed Opportunities

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Sep 14, 2022

For today’s job candidates, getting employers to offer feedback during the recruiting process is almost as hard as getting them to offer a job. Come to think of it, snagging a job offer is probably easier in the current market.

But giving candidate feedback has not always been something in recruiting’s wheelhouse. Employers are usually hesitant to give candidates feedback, even with finalists where it can have the most positive impact on the candidate experience. 

Nearly 71% of North American candidates, 69% of Latina American candidates, 60% of EMEA candidates, and 53% of APAC candidates said they never received feedback of any kind regarding why they weren’t moving forward in a company’s recruiting process, according to Talent Board’s 2022 soon-to-be-released candidate experience benchmark research. 

Talk about a lack of closure!

Unfortunately, the situation shows no signs of improving. This is a shame for two reasons. First, candidates crave feedback more than ever. And second, providing feedback pays major dividends to employers.

Why Candidates Crave Feedback

A solid decade of Talent Board research reveals that, year after year, candidates have had one enduring expectation during the recruiting process, particularly during the screening and interviewing stages: to receive feedback.

Some talent professionals question whether this is really true — especially when the feedback is negative. Fair question. But the answer is, unconditionally, yes. The vast majority of job candidates want to receive feedback, particularly at the screening and interviewing stages, and especially when they’re not going to be pursued beyond these stages. They consider even negative feedback a boon when it’s delivered appropriately (constructively and not too harshly).

This practically universal desire for feedback is easy to understand. Successful candidates want to know why they succeeded in getting the job. Unsuccessful candidates (the overwhelming majority for any given position) want to know what they can do better in the future, either with the same potential employer or with another. 

In a terrific ERE piece titled, “Candidates Deserve Feedback, Not Excuses,” ERE strategy columnist Mary Faulkner cogently describes the candidate’s struggle when feedback is denied: “Serious job-seekers are left to wonder what they’re doing wrong in the process. Is it how they interview? Is it a lack of preparation? Did they make a comment that rubbed someone the wrong way?”

Faulkner then identifies the common reason many employers avoid giving meaningful feedback. “Companies have a ‘strict’ policy that they will only verify dates of employment and title because they think anything else will put the organization at risk for a potential libel or bias lawsuit. Even if policy doesn’t restrict feedback, recruiting departments lack a strong point of view around providing feedback and don’t establish guidelines, so no one knows quite how to respond. So they don’t.”

And they really, really don’t. 

Talent Board’s 2022 research indicates that 57% of North American candidates received zero feedback after being rejected during the screening and interviewing stage. (Among the rejected candidates who said they did receive feedback, only 37% indicated the feedback was useful.) While 37% of candidates did receive feedback at the interviewing stage in 2022, 22% was general and not specific. 

Also, 35% overall were notified from a “do-not-reply” email address, merely stating that they were no longer being considered. Only 33% received a personal email from a recruiter or hiring manager; just 18% received a phone call; and 2% received a text message.

While employers’ concerns over the potential legal risks of providing feedback are understandable, a modest amount of training for recruiters and hiring managers can greatly mitigate these risks. Every employer should consider making this small investment in training because, as noted earlier, the benefits of providing feedback to candidates can be substantial. The highest rated companies in Talent Board’s research every year are providing some level of candidate feedback, especially to finalists. 

Providing Feedback Pays Major Dividends

Researchers have found that candidates are up to four times more likely to consider a company for future employment when they’re offered constructive feedback. That’s an important incentive, considering the talent shortages that more and more companies are facing. But it’s also far from the only incentive.

Talent Board’s research found that candidates’ willingness to refer others to an employer increased by 53% when they were given specific feedback during the interview stage, and their willingness to increase their relationship with that company (e.g., apply again to future jobs, rate that company highly on social media and employer review sites, and purchase the company’s products or services) increased 22%. 

In other words, providing feedback to candidates at this stage was not only good for the company’s employer brand but for its bottom line, as well. While not direct correlations, these relationships are always strong every year in the research, and employers that give candidate feedback are usually strong communicators throughout the recruiting process. 

Giving feedback is also a best practice when looking at the top 10 companies that delivered the highest-rated candidate experiences of 2021 (CandE Award-winning employers). All of them provide feedback at various points across the candidate experience, at least to finalist candidates. Providing feedback sets these companies apart by demonstrating how much they value candidates’ interest and the time candidates took to participate in their process. Multiply the goodwill impact of feedback by the dozens or hundreds of candidates who get turned away for each job opening and you can see why savvy employers don’t allow legal concerns to get in the way of giving feedback.

If providing feedback to candidates feels risky to your organization, think about investing in some basic training for your recruiters and hiring managers. Then think about all of the dividends you’re missing out on if you keep playing it safe — dividends that accrue a multitude of times over each of your job openings and that impact your company’s candidate experience, employer brand, and bottom line. 

And if all of that isn’t enough, think about your own experiences as a job candidate. If you do, you’ll agree that giving candidates feedback is just the right thing to do. 

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