Pay it Forward: Candidate Feedback is a Gift
As a recruiting professional, the opportunity to provide feedback will present itself multiple times a day. And, as you grow in your career, you’ll become uniquely qualified to provide meaningful feedback on resumes, interview skills, career tracks, and the overall search process. Many HR programs will discourage real feedback and recommend vague or canned responses. There are options to pay it forward and help someone out without speaking officially for your business or breaking any compliance standards.
Below are some regular feedback opportunities I’ve encountered. While I’m not always able to take the time to address each one, I do work to give feedback directly, especially when the candidate or prospect has been fully engaged in the process.
1. Resume is unreadable after ATS conversion.
If you’re using an ATS and encounter this issue, you owe it to your candidates to make them aware and allow them to re-apply. This can be accomplished with a quick email template to ask for a different version especially if a quick LinkedIN search comes up empty.
2. There’s a glaring and simple mistake on the resume.
This is the resume equivalent of spinach in your teeth. Imagine you’ve been sending in a bunch of resumes and no one is telling you that you mistyped your email as "gnail". Pay it forward with an email or phone call – it doesn’t mean you are considering them but it is a nice thing to do.
3. Unnecessary info such as personal stats or marital status.
Every recruiter reading this just did a head nod. Everyone who never considered listing their marital status said, ‘huh?’. This is an international difference between many countries’ curriculum vitae and the US resume standard. I’ve often given feedback to a candidate to consider removing that personal info when applying to roles based in the US and I’ve never heard any response except ‘Thank you’.
PS – If you’re not willing to have this conversation – make a note in the ATS of your deletion and then remove the info before forwarding onto a manager.
1. You didn’t get the next interview.
If a candidate has spent time with your company, generally considered after the first in-person screen or after a 2nd phone interview, take the time for a phone call to personally thank the candidate for their time. Give them a meaningful piece of feedback if you have something pertinent from the interviews.
2. Silver medalists.
Being runner-up often feels worse than 3rd or 4th. Take the extra time to provide meaningful feedback and be honest if it’s something uncontrollable like the other candidate had specific experience that wasn’t required but pushed them over the goal line. If your company honestly considers former candidates for future roles, let them know and set a follow-up for yourself. Many ATS systems, like Greenhouse, have a CRM function to help you keep in touch with these valuable silver medalists.
3. Zoom background, sound or connection is distracting.
This was a constant encounter for me in 2020. I had several interviews in which the candidate’s background, camera angle, or sound was very distracting. I also started to hear this in feedback from hiring managers when comparing final candidates. My best advice to candidates and managers is to stop the interview and address the issue so you can fully focus on the candidate’s content rather than something superficial.
I realize that recruiters and hiring managers are very busy and all of these things take time. I also know that a little kindness can go a long way for someone struggling through the job search process.
If you’ve ever been out of work, you know the frustration. The time recruiters spend on these small acts of kindness will pay off in an improved employer brand, word of mouth about you and your company, and often a future referral or reconnection with a great candidate.
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