Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news. It’s not easy to reject someone, which is why, during the recruitment process, many unsuccessful candidates never receive any feedback following job interviews. Instead, some employers expect that the applicant will simply take the hint following a period of protracted silence.

This is not a good look.

Failure to give feedback is deeply unprofessional, not only reflecting poorly on the individuals in charge of the hiring process but also on your company’s brand. Over time, it can be very damaging to your organisation, impacting the hiring process and making it more difficult to attract the right applicants.

Providing feedback to candidates is not only the right thing to do to help those individuals and communicate effectively why they are being rejected – it is also necessary for your organisation’s reputation.

Why Interview Feedback is so Important

In our research, we have found that over 70% of candidates expect detailed feedback without having to ask for it, and a lack of feedback was one of the biggest complaints from our respondents. Its clear that receiving feedback is very important to the candidates you’re interviewing. Providing unsuccessful applicants with information about their performance as part of your interview process is valuable to their job search, helpful to their own career development, and vital to their understanding of why they were rejected.

But providing feedback is also valuable to your own business and hiring process – shining a light on areas that can be improved during the hiring and interview process, and necessary in determining what exactly it is that your organisation is looking for from a candidate in a specific role. It can help employers to weigh up the pros and cons of individuals and make more informed decisions.

How to give interview feedback

Honesty and transparency are key, and you also need to manage applicant expectations. This means being clear on timescales for feedback. Explain upfront if you have a lengthy recruitment process, and if possible, also explain why it is so lengthy. And if you can’t or won’t provide feedback unless its requested, communicate this as clearly and as early as possible. Clarity in communication will help candidates to better understand your decision-making process.

That level of honesty is also going to be valuable in communicating exactly why a candidate was rejected. You need to keep the feedback as closely and clearly related to the job description and the required skills and experience. Explain to them how and where they fell short and why they are being rejected, but ensure this feedback is constructive – there is no need to be overly negative when the situation does not demand such a level of criticism.

Remember to consider the emotional journey that a candidate takes through the process of applying for a role, and the time and effort they put into that application and the interview process. Provide feedback in a way that respects that journey – use authentic, positive, human language where appropriate, explaining why the individual was not right for the job.

You also need to make sure that you cover the entire hiring process – if your interview process requires numerous steps including various rounds of interviews, tasks, etc., make sure that the feedback that you provide includes every stage and the candidate’s performance.

Finally, you need to get the timing right in terms of how you provide feedback. Too soon and the candidate will still be processing their own feelings on the interview. Too late, and you’ve sent a candidate on a negative journey, and left them hanging. Twenty-four hours after the interview is the usual recommended timeframe.

How not to give interview feedback

For all that we have said about the importance of giving feedback, it is true that for some candidates, it is not what they want. All people are different, and some simply prefer to move on following rejection. So in the spirit of openness and transparency, also ensure that the candidates are open to receiving this feedback. This is something that could even be automated earlier in the recruitment process by allowing applicants to fill out a questionnaire with their preferred outcomes.

Further, when explaining to someone why they did not get the job, avoid comparisons to the candidate who was hired. This type of comparison does little to help a candidate improve. Instead, stay balanced with a combination of both positive and negative comments. Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean making an applicant feel bad about themselves – this is an opportunity for them to learn and grow.

Using an Applicant Tracking System

If you can use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) or recruitment CRM, you will be able to provide automatic emails to candidates throughout their journey with you. This can help you to not only ensure there is clarity and transparency in terms of what they can expect, but it also helps to get that timing right for providing feedback.

Automating emails can, at the very least, help to avoid the so-called ‘black hole’ of recruitment.

Automating your communications with an Applicant Tracking System can save vital time and resource. It also ensures your candidates have consistent touchpoints with your brand throughout their recruitment experience. And when it comes to feedback, with an Applicant Tracking System, you can record all your thoughts within the system itself – especially useful if a panel or group internally are overseeing the recruitment process.

You can also configure notifications to remind Hiring Managers, or other stakeholders, to submit their feedback by a certain date after the interview. Reminders can be set to provide candidates themselves with feedback.

Using an ATS, you can also set reminders for hiring managers to complete tasks – such as providing interview feedback – by certain dates. With Hireserve’s Applicant Tracking System, you can also use the Hiring Manager Portal, which has been designed to be simple and intuitive, allowing employers to login, review candidates, and share their thoughts on their performance during the interviews.

There is no easy formula to reject people. But this is not a step you can skip. After unsuccessful interviews, employers have a responsibility to provide more beyond a simple rejection letter or email. Remember to be human and to treat others with respect and dignity. Whether you have recruiting software or not, manage people’s expectations and acknowledge the time they have devoted to applying for the role. Break the news to them in a timely manner, and, give them actionable feedback as to why they were not chosen for the role.




Are you looking for more insights into how your candidates think, feel and act during the recruitment journey? From research to attitudes towards online interviews, we cover it all in Candidate Behaviour: The Big Report – one of the most comprehensive research reports in the industry.

Created in partnership with Monster, we asked jobseekers across the country, of all ages and working in a wide range of sectors, to tell us how they act, think and feel during the hiring process. So, for a deep dive into your candidates and how they feel, download your report today!

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.