Interview feedback: Why and how you should provide it

Allison opened her inbox to a message she did not want to see. Two weeks ago, she interviewed at Anderson Ltd. She thought the meeting went well and really hoped to land the open position in the marketing department. Instead, she faced a short rejection letter that did not tell her anything beyond the news that the company hired someone else.

Questions filled Allison’s mind. Were my skills not up to par? Did anyone even notice all the effort I put into researching the organization? How did my work experience compare to that of other candidates?

“Getting answers about my interview performance might help reduce some of the sting of rejection,” she thought. Mainly, though, she worried about her future. Interview feedback could help her know why she was an unsuccessful candidate and what she might do to improve her prospects next time.

The case for and against giving interview feedback

Like Allison, many applicants would love to receive constructive interview feedback. Such valuable insight clues interviewees as to what they are doing well and how they could present a more attractive candidacy at future interviews.

Taking the time to provide effective interview feedback makes a company look good. Applicants appreciate the effort. If another position for which they might be suited opens up, odds increase that they will apply because of your positive past treatment during the hiring process.

Interview Bootcamp D

In this era of social media, people love to share their candidate experiences on LinkedIn and other platforms. When job seekers speak highly of you, your employer brand gets a boost. This publicity can help draw more qualified candidates to your potential talent pool.

Looking over job interview notes in order to generate candidate feedback, however, can be time-consuming for hiring managers. They need to think about what constructive criticism will be of use to the person in future interviews. They need to know how to present their findings clearly, thoughtfully, and professionally.

Human resource professionals and others providing interview feedback also must watch that they do not say anything that others could interpret as biased or discriminatory. For instance, commenting on the communication skills of someone who has a strong accent probably would not be a smart move. Many companies find it preferable to simply avoid giving feedback and not opening up their hiring decisions to scrutiny.

Offering constructive feedback

For organizations that choose to provide candidate interview feedback on a regular basis or by request, figuring out what to say generally starts with examining interview notes. Most hiring teams use a template during the interview process. This document serves as an outline of interview questions — ensuring all candidates receive equal opportunity and that all relevant subjects get covered. Interviewers record responses and other pertinent information. Afterward, they often enter this into an ATS (applicant tracking system) to keep things organized and easy to retrieve.

Some places call candidates who have gone through the interview process but are not receiving a job offer. During this phone call, the hiring manager or other appropriate person can ask the person if he or she would like interview feedback (not everyone does). The parties also can set up a time to discuss it at a later date.

More common, though, is an email. The message thanks the person for his or her time, explains that the company has chosen to go forward with someone else, and wishes the applicant well. The tone is respectful, courteous, and professional.

In terms of feedback within the letter, try striking a balance. Positive interview feedback lets the applicant know things he did well. This information assists with the candidate’s next interviews and helps him recognize his strengths. Deliver negative feedback with empathy and the mindset of wanting to help.

Use examples to illustrate and aid in understanding. Comments are not particularly helpful if the candidate cannot take action to improve. Likewise, keep opinions out of the correspondence to put you on firmer legal ground. Telling someone that an interviewer expects a heads-up phone call when you are going to be 15 minutes late is one thing. Deeming the person uncaring or irresponsible is quite another.

An example of interview feedback

Let’s go back to the case of Allison in the opening. If Anderson Ltd. had included constructive feedback in her rejection email, it might have looked something like this:

Dear Allison Meyer,

Thank you for taking the time to interview with Anderson Ltd. We enjoyed meeting you and learning about your skill set. We were fortunate to have a large number of highly talented people such as yourself apply for this position. At this time, we have decided to extend a job offer to a different candidate.

Moving forward, we hope you will consider us again should another appropriate position arise. We appreciate interview preparation, and it was obvious from your thoughtful questions that you spent a good deal of time looking at our website and social media.

Your work history displays a solid background in the communications industry. However, it would have been beneficial to the hiring team to hear more specific examples from your past that directly illustrate your ability to perform the tasks presented in the job description. Also, to enhance your application, you may want to consider acquiring additional technical skills. Experience with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), for instance, proves highly attractive to employers.

Thanks again for your interest in our organization, and best wishes in your job search.


Marla J. Perry

HR specialist

How to ask for feedback

If the company you interviewed with does not voluntarily provide feedback, is it OK to ask for it? Experts generally agree that candidates can, but don’t be surprised if your request gets denied or goes unanswered.

For the greatest chance of success, approach the situation with professionalism and a growth mindset. Candidates who appear angry or come off as seeking justification for why they were not chosen likely will not get far. Rather, establish that you are asking in order to learn and improve.

Politely ask questions such as “What feedback do you have for me?” or “What skills could I add to make me a more attractive candidate?” Thank the interviewer for his time.

Organizations benefit from constructive criticism, too

Online professional networks and company review sites mean word of mouth travels faster and more extensively than ever. Smart companies inquire about candidate perceptions of their interview process rather than first hear about problems when they appear on the Internet. Plus, asking for feedback builds rapport. You want people to have a positive experience, and you care enough to inquire.

Companies can seek feedback at various points in the recruitment process. They may include questions at the end of the initial application that ask about things such as ease of filling out or the clarity of the job description. At later stages, they may ask interviewees their opinion about the responsiveness of the hiring team or what would have made the interview more informative. A mixture of ratings and open-ended questions allows for obtaining both specific information and individual thoughts.

Candidates likely will hesitate to provide truthful information if they think their answers will in any way impact their odds of landing the job. Thus, all surveys, online platforms, and other collection methods must stress confidentiality and anonymity.

Finally, respect their time. These folks are busy with their job search and doing you a favor by providing feedback. Keep the time to fill out less than five minutes, and thank them for their input!