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Do's and Don'ts for Recruiters When Giving Feedback to Rejected Candidates

When recruiters give feedback, it helps people improve upon their weaknesses so they can be more successful in the future. As such, candidates will often come back to you after being rejected for a position requesting information about how they could have improved in their resume or their interview.

There are mixed opinions on whether or not HR departments should provide candidate feedback to their rejected applicants. On one side, it opens you up to legal risks as the perturbed person may mix up your words and could accuse you of discrimination. On the other side, though, providing them with such details can be good for business, especially with the power of social media.

At the very least, treat your candidates like you would treat your customers with good customer service.  Send a simple note to everyone letting them know that you have filled the position. Even those who submitted a resume and didn’t get called for an interview.  This is just good and courteous business. There are tons of forums filled with rejected, bitter applicants seriously hurting the reputations of good employers. There are also posts by loyal followers who continue to promote a brand even though they didn’t get the job. In which thread would you rather see your name?

If you’re a recruiter who knows you want to provide feedback but are looking for a bit of guidance, consider these dos and don’ts when providing candidate feedback:


  1. Choose who will receive specific feedback. When you receive 100 resumes or interview 25 people, it’s not a good use of your time to call each individual. Perhaps you only give specific details to those who ask or you only make that time for the top 4-5 applicants.

  2. Start with positive. Ensure the candidate knows that you recognized their strengths and give them the confidence to continue searching for new opportunities.

  3. Match feedback about skills to the job description, indicating exactly where the applicant was lacking.

  4. Provide specific feedback rather than generalizations. Tell the person exactly where in the interview you were impressed and exactly what they need to improve, otherwise it comes off as though you’re just giving boilerplate information. A tip is to keep good interview notes so you have something to reference.


  1. Avoid putting detailed feedback in writing. As noted, there are some legal risks to giving feedback, so it may be safer to do over the phone, where it’s harder for your words to be used against you. This also adds a personal touch.

  2. Eliminate opinions, emotions and feelings. Saying “we felt a closer connection with the other candidate” opens you up to too much criticism. Stick with the facts about how they did not qualify.

  3. Don’t insult the candidate. No matter how much you’d like to tell the person how rude they were in the interview, take the high road, have some tact and consider your phrasing. If this is a job seeker who’s been on the market for a while, they may already be down and a little sensitive. While you should give them some advice on the topic, there’s no reason to tear them apart in a hurtful way.

  4. Don’t make false promises. Sometimes hiring managers will give a line like “we may have a position for you in the future” in order to make the candidate feel better. If this is a lie, don’t say it. It will give them false hope and it will back fire when they keep following up.

  5. Don’t wait too long. Give candidates news as soon as you know you will not be moving forward with their application and quickly schedule a meeting when they ask for feedback. This way your thoughts will still be fresh.

The golden rule is to treat everybody with respect. Bear in mind that anybody you interview took time out of their day and paid for transportation to meet with you, so be sure to thank them and show your appreciation. Finally, in the spirit of improving, ask the candidate for feedback to learn if your processes can be more candidate-friendly.

Does your company have a policy on providing feedback to rejected candidates? What details do you include? Share your knowledge with our readers in the comments below.