Interviewing

How to Give Constructive Feedback to Unsuccessful Candidates

Rejecting interview candidates is a natural part of hiring managers’ jobs. But how you give feedback to them can differentiate your company from all others. This can be a difficult process.
Daniel Jakaitis
Daniel Jakaitis
Rejecting interview candidates is a natural part of hiring managers’ jobs. But how you give feedback to them can differentiate your company from all others. This can be a difficult process.

Not all of your interviews will result in a hire. Nearly 50% of them will be unsuccessful and you might have to give them feedback on why you didn’t select them for the role.

People generally don’t like confrontation and this includes hiring managers as well. But knowing how to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants is a necessary skill for all hiring managers to have.

Your constructive feedback ensures that the unsuccessful applicants’ time was not wasted even if they didn’t land the job. And that they can get some valuable information out of the process.

We realize that sometimes it may be unreasonable to replay each unsuccessful candidate - given that some companies get thousands of applications for a single job opening. But you should try to at least reply to the candidates who make it to the interview phase.

If you struggle with this aspect of your job – and most of us do, then this article will help you learn tips on how to give constructive feedback to unsuccessful candidates. So open up a Word doc and start taking notes!

What you will find ahead:

  1. 10 tips on how to inform unsuccessful interview candidates.
  2. Examples of interview feedback for unsuccessful candidates.
  3. Unsuccessful interview feedback email templates.

10 Tips on How to Inform Unsuccessful Interview Candidates

Constructive interview feedback has short and long-term benefits.

It helps applicants understand why they weren’t selected for the job. And the positive interview experience helps the reputation of your company and improves the quality of the future pipeline of talent.

Here are some tips to give constructive feedback to unsuccessful candidates

Provide Actionable Tips for Improvement

The most important piece of information you can give an unsuccessful candidate is to tell them why they didn’t make the cut.

For that, begin by explaining what the role requires and how they aren’t a good fit for it right now. Be sure to use clear terms that can help the applicant improve the interview process in the future.

You can give them three or four bullet points of what they can work on. Or point out just a few areas of development that demand the most attention. This might be their resume, experience, soft skills, or anything else specific to their job and industry.

Actionable tips are highly valued by the applicants and improve the candidates’ interview experience with your company.

Be Empathetic But Balanced

Be honest with your feedback but don’t offend the applicant. You should never make personal remarks in the feedback that might be offensive to the candidate.

Give your interview feedback a positive spin by avoiding negative phrases and focusing on the solutions. You can mention the candidates’ strengths and help them understand how to leverage them better for the next time. Be sincere with your words and don’t overly sugarcoat the feedback.

Also, you have to be prepared for the candidate to not take the feedback well. Even then, try to stay as professional as possible.

Keep the Feedback to the Point and Praise When You Can

To make sure that your feedback is constructive, you should stay objective and keep your review specific to the job they applied for and provide examples if possible.

Our biases are very real. That’s why you should always back up any critiques with evidence from the interview process.

It can significantly change the impact of your feedback on unsuccessful candidates.

Preferably don’t use subjective statements such as: ‘I felt that you won’t be able to manage the advanced tech and tools we use in our company’.

Even if that statement is true, say it objectively by pointing out that their experience in using those tools is lacking for now based on what they’ve mentioned in their resume and past experiences. But end that statement on a positive note by saying something like it’s definitely something that you can work on.

Don’t Delay the Feedback

The best time to give constructive feedback to unsuccessful candidates is as soon as you’ve filled the role or decided not to proceed with their candidacy.

No one likes to be kept in the dark. Your timely response can help them get closure so they can move on and apply elsewhere.

72% of applicants will tell others about a bad interview experience. And providing prompt updates can help you make sure your candidates don’t damage your reputation in talent pools and on job boards.

Provide Helpful Resources

An important part of making your feedback constructive is to provide helpful resources to help the applicants’ career development.

You can create resources for general scenarios of why candidates fail at interviews and share them as appropriate. This can inspire the candidate to improve themselves.

Providing resources significantly improves the interview experience. And it goes a long way in boosting your company’s reputation.

Your unsuccessful candidates will obviously be disappointed when they don’t get the job. But getting some valuable resources will soften the blow.

Make Time for Their Questions

This is especially important if the candidate made it past the initial rounds of interviews. The farther the applicants make, the more likely it is that they’ll have questions about why they weren’t selected.

Make time for answering their questions and be professional about it. These candidates might be a part of your network so don’t burn any bridges once the interviews are over.

Always Thank the Candidate for Their Interest.

Just like you spend hours interviewing candidates, the applicants spend a lot of time getting to know your company and coming in for interviews.

Thanking them for their time and interest reflects well on your company. It shows prospects that you value your candidates.

In the end, you can inform them of future opportunities at your company and keep the door open for collaboration down the line.

Personalize the Experience

What you should never do when giving feedback to unsuccessful candidates is send out a generic copy/pasted email that says sorry, you didn’t get the job.

Instead, personalize it as much as you can by using your interview notes and pointing out the specific issues with that candidate.

That’s all the more important if the applicant made it past the initial round of interviews and was a strong candidate for the job. You have to be considerate of their time investment in the process.

Create a System

Write down what you want to say and what points you want to cover during the unsuccessful candidate feedback session. Having only a rough idea of what you want to say is not enough, nor is the right approach for this delicate process.

Systemize your feedback, map it out and stick to your script to keep the conversation professional and constructive.

Automation can help you set reminders of follow-up emails so no candidate falls off the radar.

Never Be Discriminatory

Not selecting the candidate because of their age, race, gender, pregnancy, disability, or other similar factors is illegal.

That’s why point number 3 – keep the feedback to the point is so important. Make sure your feedback is related to the job description and competencies required to qualify for the role.

Examples of Interview Feedback for Unsuccessful Candidates

Bringing all the above-mentioned points together while ensuring that the feedback is constructive can seem like a daunting task for beginners. That’s why we’ve got some candidate feedback examples for you to look at.

Try to deliver this feedback in a five-minute phone call instead of email.

But before you begin, you should jot down some unsuccessful interview feedback phrases that align with your company tone. Then use them throughout the feedback process.

Some positive interview feedback examples include:

  1. We’re looking for a candidate with more flexibility in terms of travel and work hours.
  2. We were impressed with your qualifications, but at this time we’re going ahead with another candidate because of their experience in working with [name some specific tools or equipment].
  3. I just want to inform you that we won’t proceed with your application because your skills in [name a particular aspect from the job description] are not the best match for where our company is headed.

Here, we’ve divided the examples into two categories – technical interview feedback and all other types of interview feedback.

Technical Interview Feedback Example

This example is for verbal feedback that you give over the phone or in person. Carefully read it to see how each step comes together to form constructive feedback that your unsuccessful candidates will appreciate.

Hey [candidate name],

I wanted to give you an update on your candidacy for [role title]. We’ve selected another candidate but want to thank you for the time and energy you spent interviewing with us.

Your previous experience was ideal for the position. And you demonstrated excellent time management skills during the [name of the technical test]. But the team couldn’t proceed with your candidacy due to the lack of creative thinking we observed during the [name of the technical test]. For example [mention how you judged a lack of creative thinking].

The market for [role title] is highly competitive at the moment. And we had a pool of qualified candidates to consider. You made it to the final rounds of interviews and were amongst the top few out of dozens of applications.

I was impressed by how you’ve taken on a managerial role at a young age and have different professional certifications to back your expertise.

However, I would have liked to see more refined problem-solving and strategic thinking skills during the [name of the technical test]. I have a few resources that might help you improve on this front that I can share with you if you’d like.

Please reach out to me on this number if you have any more questions.

I had a wonderful time getting to know you professionally and hope to see you in our company down the line.

Constructive Interview Feedback Example

Constructive feedback can have the most positive influence in terms of the candidates’ interview experience with your company.

The format is the same as for the technical feedback, but here are the tips you must remember:

  1. Focus on solutions and things that the candidate can change or work on.
  2. Describe your observations with examples
  3. Be clear about why you’re giving the feedback, which is to help the candidate improve for the future.

Here’s an example of verbal constructive interview feedback for unsuccessful candidates:

Hey [candidate name],

I hope you’re doing well. So I’m calling to inform you that we’ve filled the position for [role title] with another candidate.

It was a difficult decision for myself and the team as we had many good candidates who each brought something unique to the table.

We went with the other candidate because she has more experience with web design and we felt that is a better fit for the [role title].

Do you have any questions for us?

I want to thank you for taking the time to interview with us. Let’s keep in touch on LinkedIn and again, you were an excellent candidate and you’re doing all the right things with your applications and interview process.

Unsuccessful Interview Feedback Email Templates

You can use email to give constructive feedback to unsuccessful candidates when they haven’t made it too far down the interview process. Otherwise, you should call the applicants and inform them of your decision to not hire them.

Be careful when you design the tone of your constructive feedback email. You don’t want to sound too impersonal, but also you can’t spend too much time describing each aspect of their interview and how that can be improved.

Remember these points when writing these emails:

  1. Quickly tell the applicants they will not be hired.
  2. Summarize the interview points starting from their strengths. You’ll see an example of this in the templates below.
  3. Name one or two key reasons why you didn’t select the candidate. Don’t be too generic here. Provide the exact reasons and personalize this portion of the email.
  4. Provide tips on how the applicant can work on the shortcomings.
  5. End the message on a positive note and wish them well for the future.

Here are some email templates that can guide you on how to give feedback to a failed interview candidate:

Template 1 - Giving Interview Feedback to Unsuccessful Candidates

Subject: [role title] at [company name].

Dear [candidate name],

Thank you for making time to interview for the [role title] at [company name]. We appreciate your interest but we’ve decided to not go any further with your candidacy.

Your experience working with the automobile industry is impressive. But we are looking for a candidate with a diverse work history and experience with sales in different industries.

Please find attached a resource file with information on how you can expand your expertise in different industries that we think you might find useful.

We will keep you in mind for future jobs at our company that are a better match for your skills.

We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. And once again thank you for your time.

Best regards,

[Sender’s name]

Template 2 - Unsuccessful Interview Feedback Email

Subject: Update on your interview for [role title] at [company name].

Dear [candidate name],

It was a pleasure meeting with you and learning about your accomplishments in your past jobs. I want to inform you that we’ve decided to go with another candidate for the [role title]. The reason for this is that they can commit to a flexible work schedule which is what our company needs at the moment.

The entire hiring team at [company name] was impressed by your diverse portfolio and your approach to problem-solving. We plan on keeping your resume on file for future opportunities at [company name].

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about our decision. We wish you the best of luck and want to thank you for investing your time to interview with us.

Best regards,

[Hiring manager’s name].

Template 3 – Positive Interview Feedback Example

Subject: Feedback on your interview for [role title] at [company name].

Dear [candidate name],

I want to thank you for your application and your interest in working with our company.

I’m sending this email to inform you that we’re selected another candidate for the [role title] and so will not be moving forward with your application.

Your internship experience with XYZ Company stood out and made you a strong candidate for the [role title]. But the lack of research experience ultimately made us go with another candidate.

We hope to bring you on board if a more suitable position opens up.

Best regards,

[Hiring manager’s name and position in the company]

The Takeaway

It’s usually not easy to tell someone that they didn’t get the job. So some hiring managers tend to avoid giving feedback. But 94% of candidates want to hear why they didn’t get selected.

We hope our examples of feedback to unsuccessful candidates can help in your hiring processes and ease a rather difficult part of your job.

Automation can help you with this process by arranging the candidates’ information, your interview notes, and much more. Chatkick is an excellent tool to help you do just that. Check out how it works and sign up for a free trial.