Feedback to Failed Applicants

Arlene Vernon

Arlene Vernon In January, I was quoted in an article on HRM Online, a Canadian HR news site, that presented several sides on the issue of: Do failed applicants deserve interview feedback?

Here’s the link to that article: should-you-be-giving-feedback-to-failed-applicants.

Of course, when I respond to writers on a topic, I always provide more information than they can possibly use. Here’s a tweaked version of how I responded to Nicola Middlemiss, the author of the above article.

To me the question is whether “deserve” is the correct verb in question. My first thought is the movie quote “you can’t handle the truth.” Many candidates ask for feedback, and I agree that it would help the candidate in the future if feedback is given. But frequently the candidate starts arguing or defending why that feedback is inaccurate or why they still should have been hired. That’s the point where many HR people learn that it’s not worth the risk of getting into that discussion with a candidate you’re not planning to hire.

Instead, if we do call candidates to inform then that they’ve not been selected, we tend to tell them that “the person we hired was better qualified for the position.” Of course, that’s obvious, since we hired the other person.

One of our fears in providing feedback is that we give too much information which could result in setting the stage for potential discrimination. And just like with HR’s response to a request for a reference on a former employee, it’s safer to say nothing or stick to the basic “name, rank and serial number” of the former employee’s experience with the company than risk legal action.

Another point regarding the term “deserve,” I really don’t believe that candidates “deserve” feedback. It’s not part of the informal interview agreement that you interview with us and we give you feedback on the interview. Many companies struggle with giving honest feedback to their employees (which is an entirely different subject), never mind giving feedback to non-employees. And in our busy HR lives, it isn’t our priority (or job) to help candidates succeed at another interview or company.

On the other hand, if it was a close race between two final candidates and I’ve spent considerable time with the candidates conducting multiple interviews, assessments, etc., I would be more likely in this case to share a little more feedback with the runner up. However, I’m still very cautious to protect the organization from potential discrimination charges. Sad, but that’s always in the mind of HR professionals.

So, I’ll throw the question back to you. What are you doing in your organization regarding giving feedback to candidates who aren’t hired?

©2015 Arlene Vernon

About Arlene Vernon

Arlene has provided HR consulting and management training services to over 500 organizations since starting HRx, Inc. in 1992.

If you’re seeking a hands-on, practical HRxpert to assist your organization with employee relations, policy development, strategic HR activities or fun/doable management training, call on Arlene – Your HRxpert.

If you’re planning a conference, seminar or special event, Arlene specializes in keynotes, seminars and workshops to meet your talent management needs. And if you’re seeking a more lively entertaining activity, Arlene’s custom songs and musical-inspirational keynote may be perfect for your organization.

HRx, Inc., Eden Prairie, MN 55344, 952.996.0975 ww.HRxcellence.com. Arlene@ArleneVernon.com

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