The way you recruit, interview, and communicate with candidates directly impacts how individuals view your company, whether you hire them or not. Hiring teams should shoot for a quick and smooth candidate experience with frequent and transparent feedback to build genuine relationships with candidates.
Sure, quick rejection emails are easier and often less awkward, but the People Operations team here at Codility has found that giving open and constructive recruitment feedback to candidates is worth the time and effort.
Benefit You and Your Candidates
Yes, there is the potential for legal consequences or social awkwardness in having an open conversation with candidates if not done correctly, but there’s something in it for both of you. While the benefits are numerous, here are the ones I find most valuable:
Carry Out a Human Approach to Recruiting
Think of your recruitment as a dating experience—it’s more similar than you’d think—You exchange a few messages or a phone call (Phone Screen), then go through a series of dinner dates (On-Sites). After a short period of time, you’ll have a good idea of whether there’s long-term compatibility between you and the other person. If, after a few dates, you realize that there isn’t a match, you’d probably reach out within a reasonable amount of time to let the other person know you don’t want to continue meeting up, and you’d likely attach a reason why too. It wouldn’t be fair for you to wait weeks and weeks to respond, and then eventually shoot them down over a quick text. If this isn’t how we would approach dating, why treat candidates in this way? They’ve given you so much time in showing their interest in your company, the least you can do is give them constructive recruitment feedback around why you chose to move forward with someone else.
Provide a Winning Candidate Experience
We’ve all been through nightmarish interview processes. You get super excited about an opportunity, advance partway through the process (and think you’re doing well), wait a few days, then a few more days, then a few more until you ultimately are the one that has to reach out to the recruiting team for updates, only to find that you’ve been rejected. Yet no one reached out to keep you in the loop. Recruiters need to build their constructive recruitment process around the motto of:
“Treat others the way you want to be treated”
Let’s be honest—the wide majority of candidates that enter your pipeline will be rejected. But this means you have a huge opportunity to provide an exceptional candidate experience to everyone, and make constant improvements. Create a quick, friendly, and transparent process from beginning to end, and recruit beyond the rejection call. Stay connected with candidates you don’t plan to hire now—maintain a relationship with them. If they don’t work out for a role they interviewed for this time around, they might be a better fit down the road. Also, candidates that have a great impression of your team and culture will spread the good word about your constructive recruitment process to their network.
Learn and Improve Your Process
No recruiting process is perfect and the best way to make improvements is by being open-minded. You and your team will make mistakes, it’s only human nature. However, understanding these mistakes and proactively acting on them is the most important part. When rejecting candidates, use that conversation as an opportunity to exchange feedback so you (and your hiring team) can improve.
Structure recruiting to encourage feedback
The best way to set your organization up to successfully give feedback is to have a structured recruiting process in place. Be sure to huddle up on a gameplan with other hiring team members to clarify who is asking what questions and when. This ensures your interviews are standardized and that you’re recruiting objectively.
Before delivering any kind of feedback you’ll need to come to a decision to reject or advance a candidate. So make sure you have a clear process to come to and deliver that decision after each round of interviews.
At Codility, we make sure to remove bias in the tech interview process by requiring feedback immediately after the interview to remove any chance of memory bias. We also ensure that each interviewer’s feedback is kept private from other interviewers so that no one is biased before writing down submitting their own thoughts. Once feedback is submitted and you’ve had a chance to sync with the team, try to provide feedback over the phone in 1-2 days to keep the candidate engaged.
Approaches that work for me
But how do you actually give the feedback? How do you actually have that conversation?
The best approach, I’ve found, is to be professional yet empathetic. Get on the phone with your candidates and actually speak with them, even if you’re saying “no thanks”. All of the recruiters at Codility follow these steps to be clear, helpful, and kind to candidates, without opening us up to risk:
1) Call the candidate and ask whether the time you’re calling is a good time to talk.
2) If so, quickly deliver the decision your hiring team has come to. Don’t beat around the bush.
3) Ask whether they to want to hear feedback. From our experience, a candidate has never turned this opportunity down.
4) Don't sugarcoat anything—deliver the additional feedback honestly. Ask candidates how the feedback sounds to them. It allows for an opportunity for them to reflect.
5) Open a window to allow for candidates to give feedback of their own on our process.
Now, do it all at scale
The more candidates you have in your pipeline, the more time and energy you’ll need to invest in giving genuine feedback to candidates. If you have too many interviews, there simply won’t be enough time to thoroughly share your thoughts.
It’s crucial to have a good screening mechanism in place. This will help you reduce the time spent with people who could have easily been filtered out, while increasing the time you have with quality candidates. You’ll be freed up to invest more time treating candidates in a respectful way.
But sometimes interviewers can be the slowdown blocking you from swiftly coming to a decision about a candidate. All recruiters know that the faster they submit their feedback, the better (both to make your process streamlined as well as removing any bias). A good ATS helps collect all the feedback in one, centralized location, find one that works for you.
We’re living in a time when people often take the easy route when it comes to communication. Whether it is a quick text, call, or message, we are removing the very human touch that helps us feel connected. It is your responsibility as an employer to take the first step forward towards fairness and open communication with candidates.
Data from our recent Developer Report suggest there is more work to be done to deliver an optimal candidate experience. If your engineers don’t have time to give feedback to each developer applying for the role, consider using an automatic tool that streamlines giving feedback.