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The candidate feedback debate

I imagine that many of you are rolling your eyes at this very moment, thinking to yourself that there are just not enough hours in the day to give each and every candidate feedback. So, allow me to begin by saying I'm not here to debate that fact in the least. I think we can all agree, that it is a universal truth! However, I've embarked on this endeavour to see what the pros and cons are and to ascertain whether there is some way to reap the benefits without being crushed under the weight of your workload.
Most recruitment professionals agree that it is necessary to send a letter of regret to those candidates who have been rejected. Many people consider it an act of common courtesy to inform any candidate who has been for an interview of the outcome. With recruitment systems like Placement Partner and others you can generate a regret letter with all the candidate’s details at the click of a mouse, or you can send a group of regretted candidates a personalised SMS all in one go. Unfortunately many people are not aware of how much pressure recruiters are under and many candidates will resent companies and recruiters who never bothered to inform them of their rejection.

Approximately 70% of recruiters will send regret letters but choose not to give candidates a reason for why their application was unsuccessful, or any other feedback. There is no legal obligation to do so either. Beyond these obvious reasons, there are a few additional risks and potential drawbacks to consider -
  1. There have been cases in the past where feedback has been misconstrued by a candidate, giving rise to legal battles over discrimination in the workplace.
  2. Though a software system like Placement Partner can generate a formal regret letter automatically, it cannot give feedback or advice for each individual candidate. This requires a lot more effort, knowledge, expertise and time from a busy recruitment specialist.
  3. Rejecting a candidate is an undeniably uncomfortable situation for both parties. Many people do not respond well to rejection at all and this can make it very difficult for recruiters to remain impartial and professional. There is also a risk of reputational damage if a disgruntled candidate chooses to take their frustration out on the company.
Marie-Louise Harrison from Helderberg Personnel raises a few very interesting points to consider when examining the negatives and reminds us that it is important to evaluate the impact on your candidates and clients as well as the business when giving feedback -

“Providing constructive feedback is not only a good reflection of the recruitment company, it also helps the candidate to understand where their strengths and weaknesses lie. In doing so recruiters must consider the individual and keep in mind that candidates may internalise negative feedback and perceive it as personally hurtful. A lot of jobseekers are in a bad space, feeling very negative and depressed, and feedback which is perceived as negative can easily contribute to this. Furthermore, if the feedback is something that they cannot change, it is bound to make them feel discouraged. The candidate may also confront the client directly about the feedback they receive from you and this could negatively impact the recruiter-client relationship too.

"In my opinion, the resolution is to be kind and treat every candidate as an individual. Look at the specific situation, decide what would be in the best interest of the candidate and be as positive and uplifting as possible.”

With all of that being said, it may seem counterintuitive to open yourself up to these risks, but in an increasingly competitive business environment many recruiters are choosing candidate feedback as a means of differentiating themselves in the market. Here’s the how and why:
    Customer satisfaction - For recruiters, the core ‘product’ is the candidate and one of the main contributing factors to the quality of that product is candidate experience. Some recruiters believe that candidates who feel valued as individuals are more likely to be well-adjusted starters who find their feet fast and stay for the long haul.
    Candidate experience - Putting in a little extra effort with your candidates can leave a lasting positive impression which translates to great word-of-mouth advertising and builds brand value.
    Corporate social responsibility - Recruitment is one of those age-old processes which requires of us to follow standard procedure and conduct oneself in the appropriate manner, but no one ever receives a formal education on what is expected. Most of us learn by trial and error. Recruitment professionals have a unique knowledge base and could spare candidates a lot of time and energy with their expert advice. Some companies feel that this small gesture makes a profound impact on the community at large.
MD of Green Grass Consulting, Tascha Herman, explains the central premise of this view -

“I honestly feel that my candidates are just as much my customer, as my hiring clients are. They should both be treated with the same amount of respect. Debriefing the client and the candidate are essential to provide the best service to both parties.

"It’s important to provide honest feedback to the candidates, as much as possible, and in a diplomatic, helpful way. If they don’t get this feedback, they will keep on making the same mistake, and will never be able to secure a job. Our job at Green Grass Consulting is not only to find people employment, but to provide mentorship where possible and required. It’s our way of giving back to the South African community. Rather help them, motivate them, prepare them, guide them – don’t just say ‘you have been regretted’. Not everyone understands that the ‘Business Culture or Business Ethics’ part of our job, is to explain to candidates that they need to remember that they are entering a business environment, where professionalism and first impressions really count.”

By now, you may be thinking that the benefits of providing candidate feedback are just what your company needs. Alternatively, you may be reeling at the idea of the additional work it would require! The most important thing is to do what’s best for your business. If you do decide to implement a feedback policy, we’ve compiled a list of top tips to help you maximise on benefits and mitigate any potential risks:

  1. Develop a clearly defined feedback policy - ensure that everyone in the company knows what is expected of them so that they are clear on the legal and ethical parameters to be operating within.
  2. Be honest - if your feedback is generic or watered down, it loses its efficacy and you could end up wasting the candidate’s time as well as your own.
  3. Keep it brief and specific - choose one or two main points to focus on and give candidates specific actionable items to work on.
  4. Be tactful and professional - no matter how insurgent the candidate, it’s vital to bear in mind that you are representing the company in a business transaction. Also, try to remember that this is most likely a stressful situation for the candidate.
  5. Stick to the facts and leave out the feelings - correlate your feedback to the job description and analysis. Avoid expressing opinions and comparisons of candidates.
Lynette Hobson of Dynamic Talent Acquisition offers another useful piece of practical advice regarding what to base your feedback on -

“I strongly believe that candidates deserve objective feedback. Often clients don’t give detailed feedback, however, if we as recruitment agents have interviewed a candidate for a position and did not shortlist them, then there should be some detailed, honest feedback to give the candidate. This brings up another question! How effective is our assessment procedure? If our assessment procedure is effective, then we should be able to give constructive and objective feedback to our candidates.

"In summary - my starting point is always to ensure that my candidates get communication, whether they have been successful or not. This is important to maintain a good relationship with our candidates, but our goal is to ensure that our assessment procedure is even more effective so that we can give the detailed constructive feedback that our candidates deserve!”

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Now matured to version 6.4, Placement Partner is a complete candidate tracking and recruiting software system, supporting integration with major job boards and any existing company website.