The importance of feedback in the recruitment process

Written by
Changeboard Team

16 Aug 2010

16 Aug 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Not the right 'cultural fit'?

Imagine being a candidate who has just been through two interview processes and just missed out on both jobs. So thats two sets of research; two briefing calls with recruitment agents; six interviews; maybe two lots of preparation time if the client wants a PowerPoint presentation (very often these days) so about 15 hours of time invested.

Imagine being told at the end of all this by one firm that you werent quite the right 'cultural fit', and by the other firm that you 'were just edged out by another candidate'. Most people would find that rather infuriating.

The importance of honest feedback

Over the last couple of years, market conditions and employer and jobseeker behaviour has changed in a number of ways, as our previous Changeboard article outlined. There has always been an imbalance between the amount of effort and commitment a candidate puts into a process and the feedback (or lack of it) they often get at the end, but this imbalance seems to have magnified in recent times.

As organisations have become more rigorous in their selection processes, the candidates applying for available positions are often expected to do more research; meet more people; do presentations; jump through more hoops. If they're ultimately successful and get the job, then great and good on them. If they are not successful, they will be keen to get something out of the process, apart from the feelings of disappointment and frustration. As one candidate said to us recently: what I really want is honesty, how else can you learn from your experiences if feedback (however harsh) is not honest?

What does useful feedback look like?

The dictionary definition of the word feedback is: knowledge of the Results of any behaviour considered as influencing or modifying further performance.

Being told you are not the right cultural fit is therefore not feedback, it's a cop out (the definition of cop out by the way is 'evasion'). Being told, as one of our candidates was told last week, that: you were great and strong but we don't wish to take things forward is not feedback either.

In fact, this same candidate had three interviews for one firm, was told he was down to the final two and was then told they went with the other candidate and never heard another thing. He is assuming he was the wrong cultural fit.

Reasons for evasive feedback

So why do firms not give better feedback on so many occasions? Here are some possible theories:

  1. The employer switches off when they find the correct employee and deem that mission accomplished? So, they forget.
  2. They dont think it's important and certainly not a priority?
  3. It's too difficult to either get the feedback from the hiring manager, or too difficult to articulate it?
  4. They dont want to give negative feedback in case the candidate gets the hump with their firm?

It is a bit of all of the above. The reality is that a candidate will think more highly of a firm if they give feedback, even negative, than if they dont get any at all. The candidate mentioned above was left with a sour taste in his mouth about a firm he was hoping to join and has really liked until that point.

Good feedback really counts

Another interesting aspect is that when some HR/recruitment managers do give good feedback - and some are very good at it - it really does stand out and makes a huge difference to how the candidate, and the recruitment consultancy involved, views that person and firm.

You really do see which HR/recruitment professionals have been involved in the process and decision making and those that havent; which HR people have a personal view and input and those that havent; which people care about the person and those that dont.

It really is very interesting what you learn about a senior HR person from how they manage a recruitment process and subsequently deal with the fall out from of the process - good and bad.

What does good feedback look like?

Constructive and useful feedback can come in many shapes and sizes, but could include:

  • How the candidate came across and any concerns that this raised with the interviewers.
  • Gaps in experience that the interviewers spotted and have deemed important.
  • Questions they didn't answer well; gaps the interviewers spotted in the candidate's knowledge or research.
  • Skills that other candidates had that put other people ahead of them.
  • Advice as to how they could approach things differently in future interviews.

A candidate will perceive they come across in a certain way and have a view as to how an interview went - sometimes they read it right and sometimes they don't. Knowing what others think of how you came across and performed is invaluable, and any of the above information can help mould future behaviour and really help, as well as leaving the candidate with the feeling that they got something out of the process, even if it wasnt a job.

Feedback please!

At First Counsel, two of us have worked as in-house recruitment managers so we know how difficult it can be to find the time to drag feedback out of line managers and pass it down the line.

However, it's also not easy for candidates to find time to get out of work to attend interviews, do research and write presentations at weekends etc. So when they do find such time they deserve good, constructive feedback.

If you dont like this article, please do tell us, and tell us why. Please dont just say it was the wrong cultural fit, or that you have read better.