What do you tell unsuccessful job applicants? Five ways to improve your game

07.09.2011 Kompania Piwowarska biurowiec FOTO: Tomasz Jodlowski tomaszjodlowski.com +48 601 427 702 all rights reserved

What do you tell unsuccessful job applicants? If you’re like most organisations, the answer is probably: nothing. You might not even be emailing them to let them know they’re unsuccessful.

According to a recent Robert Walters survey of more than 600 Australian jobseekers, 80 percent of unsuccessful job applicants don’t receive post-interview feedback from employers, even though 98 percent say it’s something they’d find valuable. On the flip side, 30 percent of employers admit they don’t give feedback to each rejected candidate they interview.

The reasons for this are complex, varied and legitimate. Many hiring managers simply can’t afford the time to provide feedback. Some may not know how to best package that feedback. And, understandably, some recruitment staff may fear that giving feedback will yield a difficult conversation if the candidate gets upset.

But being forthcoming with feedback has myriad benefits to both parties in the equation.

Consider that many of the candidates that you’re rejecting could be potential candidates for similar roles in the future. Communicating well with candidates through every step of the recruitment process will help establish your organisation as an employer of choice, leading to higher quality applicants in the long term.

Further, there’s evidence to suggest that not giving feedback to unsuccessful applicants can adversely impact your organisation through poor word-of-mouth and negative association.

If you’re concerned about how best to provide feedback, research suggests it doesn’t matter too much how you do it – an email, a phone call or even a text message – as long as you do. But if you want to do it well, here are five tips to get you started:

  1. Don’t sugarcoat the truth

Trying to be ‘nice’ rather than honest to the unsuccessful candidate is neither valuable nor constructive. Though it might disappoint them to begin with, candidates will appreciate candour in the long term – it will hopefully provide some insight on how to best move forward in their job search.

  1. Sincerity and empathy go a long way

Don’t approach the delivery of feedback as an obligation – offer it out of a genuine desire to help the candidate improve. But do so gently and remind them the rejection isn’t a statement on who they are as a person.

  1. Ensure your feedback is constructive and clear

Feedback doesn’t need to be long, as long as it’s clear.

For candidates who weren’t shortlisted for an interview, an email – whether to each individual or to the whole group – is usually enough. While a group email might not be personal, it can still provide general, helpful tips to the many unsuccessful hopefuls. Can you explain the broad areas where candidates fell short?

For candidates who’ve made the time to come in for an interview, a short explanation of how their skills, experience or cultural fit differed from the successful applicant can be incredibly helpful. This can be as little as a sentence or two in an email, or a quick phone call.

  1. Offer practical tips

If you’d like to go further, you might like to offer some practical tips for how they might improve. Were they lacking experience? Suggest they boost their skills by volunteering for a relevant organisation. Didn’t seem interested enough? Let them know – they can take that information forward to their next interview.

  1. Stick to the facts

Be mindful of focusing on what a candidate can improve rather any personal shortcomings. If you just didn’t like them, that’s obviously not helpful to share!

One fact that’s easy to share – and can give candidates a real insight into what they’re up against – is how many other people applied for the role. Job-seekers have no other way to know how many other people they’re competing against, and they’re often surprised by this fact. Almost every job-seeker will get some rejections, and reminding them that they’re not the only one can be some comfort.

Do you provide feedback to unsuccessful job candidates? How do you go about it? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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