Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lack Of Interview Feedback Is Both Rude And A PR Disaster

I hate when I send candidates on an interview and I cannot get feedback.  There is nothing worse when looking for a job than going on an interview and then hearing absolutely nothing from the company.  It happens all the time. It even happens when we submit a resume and are told, often with no reason, that a candidate will not be seen.

Several years ago, a client from a top ten agency actually said to me, “The trouble with you is that you want feedback on everyone who interviews here and, frankly, I don’t have time for that.”  I tried to explain why a recruiter wants feedback.  I told her that it helps give direction to the search and should save her time in the long run.  She argued with me and then she fired us.

Effective recruiters demand that their clients give feedback.  Common sense dictates that anyone interviewing would like the courtesy of knowing if they were liked or not.  Recruiters like to be able to give constructive criticism to their candidates. And candidates who interview, with or without recruiters, deserve to hear something.

Unfortunately, a huge percentage of clients provide no feedback at all.  Or just as bad, we receive comments which provide no direction or information.  Simply saying that someone was or was not liked really doesn’t help the process. What hiring managers and HR people need to understand is that if the company tells me, “Too tall, to short, too fat, too thin”, I know where to look for them and can also save them time by not sending someone who I had previously thought might be good for the job. 

Sometimes, just in to course of conversation, we receive excellent direction.  Last week, after seeing the first candidate, a hiring manager casually gave me great direction. He mentioned that what he really needed was someone who was very compassionate and nurturing because his client needed TLC.  That was not part of the original job spec (see my Ad Age Article of  August 17, 2009), but gave me an idea for a completely different person.

When the candidate falls into a black hole, it is really terrible public relations for the company.  I received the following email from a candidate who had been interviewed by a president several weeks ago and was told she would be meeting others and then,  neither she nor I ever heard from the agency again.  No feedback, no comment.  Nothing.  This was a very senior executive who was interviewing for the number two account spot in the agency.

            Paul, I hope this finds you well.

            I gather you have yet to get any feedback from [company] as I am
            most certain had you, you would have let me know. I am no longer
            interested in proceeding should they have any interest. Lack of 
           communication, good or bad news, is imperative. I think this reflects
            poorly on the agency and gives a glimpse of their approach    to things.
           I am sure you understand.

She went on to say: 

            I think it important for all involved to remember seeking a job is a two
             way street. I see it as looking for a long term (work) "relationship" and
            hence you need to respect how things are conducted.
            It just has been too long now with no word. Frankly, I don't admire how
           they have kept you in the dark as well. The action just says too much.
          Thanks for understanding. 

The sad part about this for the company is that this very well placed candidate will tell her friends and acquaintances that the agency is rude and ill mannered.

I guess there is no substitute for manners.  And feedback/comments are just good form. Of course I understand that everyone is busy.  But I work with lots of very busy presidents and other senior executives who intuitively understand that a phone call to me - even if it is on my voice mail late in the evening - provides direction to my search.  A short email from the person who did the interviewing or another designated person would have gone a long way towards making the above candidate feel good about the company. Just a simple note.

In my Ad Age column in January of last year, I wrote that agencies should send thank you notes to candidates.  It is so easy to create a template.  And that template would go a long way towards creating good will for the company.


  1. I noted that when I was interviewing for my partners that I always
    Demanded feedback so that we could communicate with the candidate as soon after the interview. Most told me at that point we were one of a very few that did communicate after meeting. My philosophy is treat people the way you want to be treated. It pays off in the long run. Harry Koenig

  2. This is so spot on, Paul. I recently interviewed with a company - 5 seperate interviews. I sent the requisite follow-up thank yous to each. Only one took the time to reply, not even the customer service lead. What does that say about that company? Is it a personal affront - we did not like you!?

    when I was back for another round, I went to the customer service rep and asked if I had his email address correct (I know I did), he said he was so busy and got 100s of emails a day (at the time he was BSing with a co-worker). says a lot about their culture. . .

  3. Hi Paul,
    I think you are spot on here. It is very bad form not to provide feedback and it does have a ripple effect. Just recently a recruiter who I do not know was soliciting names for a position to be filled. It looked to me to be an excellent position for colleague of mine so I passed his name along.

    They connected, a resume was submitted and reviewed with the client. The feedback to the candidate consisted of an email that said "Reviewed with client, no interest." The recruiter was asked for feedback and the response was "none given."

    One thing is certain, I won't pass on any colleagues's names to that particular recruiter again.

  4. Hi Paul,
    Very good topic of conversation; as I tell my clients, for everyone they hire there will be more that they do not. To maintain strong external goodwill for the agency those who do not get the job are best to be treated with respect. Agency people are known on occasion to be hired to join the client side, need I say more?

    If a job or candidate is placed in limbo, that is easy to communicate without hard feelings. If they are not right for the position, simply say so.

    I will get client comment, a candidate is too this or not enough that, which does not always speak to the real reasoning for not going forward. Accurate information, as you said, is great when it comes to recruiting the right candidate, unfortunately not every person hiring can articulate what is really missing. A good recruiter, such as you, if given the time to talk, can help that hiring authority communicate what they really want. This speeds the process with strong candidates.
    Best Regards,

  5. Hi Cameron:

    Funny, I had a paragraph in the draft about not getting feedback when submitting candidates. I took it out because it interrupted the flow.

    That happens all the time. Unfortunately, most resumes are now submitted by email, which does not really allow for dialog. When someone I submit is not seen, it is often very difficult to find out why, which does not do the candidate or me any good. So, it may not be the recruiter's fault. Depends on how much the recruiter pushed them to find out why the candidate was rejected.

    The shame is that those reasons are very pertinent to the search, but many people don't really understand what a good recruiter needs in order to be efficient.

  6. Paul, thank you for posting this! It was enormously frustrating to me during my job search to be left scratching my head after an interview, with no word and no indication if I was even still being considered. Ill manners indeed!

    I had one recruiter who never bothered to get feedback on the occasion where I was told I wasn't being considered...I asked her why I was being passed over and she said "they didn't say". I asked her to find out and her response was "they aren't going to tell me that!" I was beyond stunned.

    Not only did she not recognize why it was important for me to understand where I fell short, she didn't recognize the importance of feedback to her own performance on the search!

    Needless to say, I refuse to ever work with her again, even to fill a spot on my team.

  7. Paul
    This is laser sharp. Your candidate's letter so resonates with me. Unfortunately we live in very uncivilized times.

    You're one of the few recruiters who makes the effort to even respond to an application and after an interview to get feedback and pass it on.

    As to the hiring company, it doesn't create a very positive impression of a potential employer to know how little regard they have for people - ultimately a company's greatest capital. As you know I went through a similar experience last November. I wrote that agency off and would never interview there again.

    Thanks for your continued personal and very common sense insights.


  8. Paul,

    I believe the internet has given many people the excuse not to communicate. For example, just on LinkedIn another recruiter was looking for a certain background and experience, which I certainly felt I fit...quick note off to the recruiter and then the crickets start chirping.

    My feeling is, if you going to "post" for candidates, have the courtesy to respond. To your point, anything is (somewhat) better than nothing.

    If you interview someone, provide feedback, that is your job.

    Second point...how long do you possibly go before you become a "bother?" While I respect your candidates reply based on her situation, I'm activitely looking, so my situation is a little different and need to hold out until I get word one way or the other. Obviously if I'm hired I would be willing to look the other way for the "lack of communications."

    Thank you Paul. Your posts are always spot on.

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