A recent poll we conducted showed that 46% of companies have “ghosted” candidates: ceasing all communication without any apparent warning or justification, and maybe going so far as to avoid any attempts by the candidate to re-establish communication. This frequently happens when a candidate has not been offered the position. You might not want to have to deliver the bad news, or you might not know how to properly say it.
It is important, though, for companies to give feedback to all candidates, regardless of their suitability for the position. Shifting from ghosting to giving feedback offers many benefits, not only for the candidates but for the company itself.
Internal benefits of feedback
Companies should shift from ghosting to offering feedback for multiple reasons. First, many BIPOC candidates may be first-generation professionals. By failing to offer constructive feedback, companies are upholding and perpetuating exclusionary systems.
Second, feedback will strengthen the hiring process. A structured system for gathering and delivering feedback gives your company a systemic way to sort through thoughts about candidates. All parties in the hiring chain can share their thoughts and be heard.
Third, a systemic feedback process will help your company identify hiring weaknesses. For example, if you find that you are continually giving feedback on candidates’ lack of experience, this may indicate that the job ad does not make the requirements clear enough.
HR teams might currently skip giving feedback because of third party outsourcing, time and capacity, or a fear of being sued. However, ghosting candidates can actually hurt companies in the long run.
External benefits of feedback
There are many long-term benefits of offering candidate feedback. One is employer PR: word of mouth and personal recommendations are some of the most effective marketing tools for an employer’s brand. Candidates who know their efforts will not be ignored will be more likely to engage and apply.
Feedback also provides an example of common courtesy. Candidates spend a lot of time preparing their application documents as well as rehearsing for interviews, along with any other tests your company may require candidates to complete. It is important to recognize this time and effort.
Candidate experience should also be considered. Nearly 4 in 5 candidates say a strong experience indicates how a company values its people. 83% of candidates say that a negative candidate experience has changed their mind about a company. A company’s reputation does not exist in a bubble, and satisfied past candidates will pass their experience along to potential future applicants.
Finally, offering constructive feedback during the hiring process will benefit your pipeline. Candidates who receive concrete feedback are more likely to return when they have acquired the skills mentioned, thereby helping your company secure a tailor-made future employee.
Examples of constructive feedback
Feedback should be specific, not general, even in the positive. Rather than “You showed a lot of initiative,” point out exactly what the candidate did that caught your attention: “We really liked how you looked up our annual report and talked about our Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.” When offering advice on how to improve, it can help to imagine the candidate taking your advice and then returning once it has been followed. What, specifically, would you like to see in the future?
Always lead with positive feedback. The interviewee is looking for constructive criticism, yes, but this does not mean a list of shortcomings. Show the candidate where they are already succeeding so they know what not to change and what has already made a good impression.
Avoid opinions or feelings when giving feedback. An emotional connection with a candidate can negatively influence your hiring practices. Biased hiring opinions can invite legal action.
Be as transparent as possible. Be as truthful as you can without disclosing any proprietary or incriminating information.
Focus on what can be changed. Stay clear of feedback that touches on personal factors. Focus instead on behaviors, such as “You should have arrived on time for the interview or called ahead to let us know you’d be a few minutes late.” Again, keep in mind the difference you would like to see if this candidate followed your advice and then returned for another interview in the future.
Avoid comments in writing. Speaking to a rejected interview by phone can be a better way to communicate feedback. It reinforces the personal touch. Actually speaking to the candidate can also help you to remember to frame your comments positively and offer specifics.
Companies that establish these feedback practices will strengthen their hiring process, internal processes, and external reputation. It is time to stop “ghosting” less-than-ideal candidates and implement constructive feedback.