How much feedback do you expect after a job interview?
December 4, 2014 2:06 AM   Subscribe

If you go in for a job interview, and don't get the job, how much feedback do you expect? Or, if you're the person doing the hiring, how much feedback do you give? Do you expect/give the news over the phone or in writing? I know there are plenty of wrong ways of doing this, but is there no one universal correct way of turning down a candidate after an interview because it varies by industry, company, culture, and individual personality?
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper to Work & Money (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
In hiring staff for my high school, I've never given feedback to candidates, even those I hired. When we decide not to go with someone, I'll send them an email thanking them for interviewing, that the position has been filled and wish them well in their job search.

My understanding is often applicants aren't notified they didn't get a position, but that has always seemed pretty cold to me. I feel like they took the time to prepare and meet us, the least I can do is thank them for their effort.
posted by kinetic at 2:28 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't expect any feedback, although if it is helpful feedback, I would appreciate it. I would expect to be told that someone other than me is being hired, although that is not something that is always communicated. I expect that news to come in a letter; a phone call means I'm getting hired.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:26 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Zero. Maybe a general "we don't think you'd be the right fit" or "we decided to go with a candidate with more experience in X." Sometimes a "we thought you were a great candidate, though" when applicable. Anything beyond that would be bizarre and potentially insulting. Not only did you not get this job you wanted/needed, perhaps desperately, but let's talk about all the ways you didn't measure up! It's like dating; it's just not polite to tell someone why they're not being chosen, and it's usually not helpful, especially since once you get to the in-person meeting, it often comes down to intangible things that aren't even flaws.

The only exception is if it's an interview arranged through a third-party recruiter, and the recruiter is the messenger. But even then, it's usually not done.

I do expect to hear about being turned down. It doesn't always happen, but if you make it to the interview stage they should extend that courtesy. Email is fine, but I've gotten the news over the phone.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:48 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I expect zero feedback, even if I make it to the next stage. When I did a little hiring years ago, I was told by HR that even the blandest of feedback to a candidate that did not get the position can open us up to lawsuits. "Not the right fit" can be read many ways.

While I'm not 100% she was right, I bet many hirers feel the same.
posted by kimberussell at 3:58 AM on December 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Occasionally in intern/graduate recruitment type situations, there's informal feedback at the end.

It's typically 'tips for next time'-type advice, given by experienced interviewers verbally, and not 'this is why we didn't hire you' - for example, 'talk more about your thought process as you work through technical problems.' It's never comments on 'fit' or 'not right for this role', or anything that isn't likely to be helpful to the candidate.

It's particularly common in intern/grad recruitment for two reasons - firstly, a lot of students don't have much interview experience and it's common for there to be something obvious that would help them in the future. Secondly, students talk - recruitment programs that DO have this kind of feedback tend to end up with a better reputation on campus and thus more/better applicants, all else equal.
posted by Ashlyth at 4:37 AM on December 4, 2014

No feedback. It leaves you open for lawsuits, ESPECIALLY if you're telling them you're not hiring them.

Thank them for their time, wish them luck, send them on their way.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:48 AM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't expect any feedback. Ever. Liabililty issues and all that, like others have stated above. And I think it's pretty rude if you have already interviewed, but a lot of people/organizations don't bother telling you that you didn't get the job. Or you'll get a form letter/e-mail that's totally generic. "Dear Applicant, we regret to inform you..."

When I used to hire summer students for the small organization I used to work for, I would always let people know they didn't get the job. I wouldn't offer feedback per se, but I would say "I thought you were a great candidate." And I only said that to people if I really meant it. I didn't elaborate though. And I would have been uncomfortable if someone had asked me for feedback on their interview and I would not have given any. It wouldn't have been appropriate and quite frankly, I barely had time to get my own work done, let alone coach someone on their interviewing skills.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:54 AM on December 4, 2014

I don't expect any feedback. I don't even expect to be told I haven't gotten the job, although I appreciate being told when that does occur.

I've never been in a position to be the one turning down someone for a job (I've always been part of a hiring team and that role has fallen to someone else), but if asked, I would have no idea what I am actually allowed to say by way of feedback. I'd contact my HR department and figure that out, to start with.
posted by Stacey at 5:10 AM on December 4, 2014

(I work in consulting in the construction industry, which is a pretty small world in my city). I'd never expect any feedback personally, unless going through a recruiter, when I'd feel free to badger him for some. I'd always expect to be told a yes or no, I just think that's common politeness by the time you've been face to face.

As a hiring manager if it's someone we kind of like but simply doesn't have the experience ie a rawish grad or a job changer brand new to our part of the industry we often tell them to stay in touch or to reach out to us again in a couple of years if they still think it's a fit. With older people we are vague like the answers above. I've never seen any interview feedback in writing and would be leery about giving any.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:42 AM on December 4, 2014

When hiring I've never given any feedback (because HR says not to, basically, and no one has ever asked either) except for internal applicants where you are already colleagues and people tend to be much more frank and willing to have off the record chats. Our HR department sends every applicant a generic but nice "thank you for applying, there were many fine applicants and it was a difficult decision" kind of letter, and sometimes if an applicant was amazing but for whatever reason wasn't the one selected we will add a sentence or two saying so and encouraging them to reapply to the next opening.

As an applicant it really is true that a lot of places don't even acknowledge applications or send a "thanks but sorry" letter or email; you know what happened only because of the lack of contact. I think that is rude but I guess like with online dating it's a solution to the problem of too many suitors and a need to avoid the pushy weirdos. In a perfect world I would change that (and I'd also change the pattern of a place receiving piles of unqualified applications), but it appears to be the current pattern and I'm trying to make my peace with it.

The times I have received direct and helpful feedback has been when I've been going through the interview process and then the position is cancelled from a higher corporate level, leaving the hiring manager in the lurch. That is when I have had people be quite candid and willing to talk, which I appreciated but of course not as much as I would have appreciated the job.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:15 AM on December 4, 2014

I give no feedback for interviews.

I agree with the legal sentiment expressed in this thread as the primary reason for not giving any feedback. However, there is a secondary reason - the feedback isn't that helpful for the interviewee. Generally, when someone isn't hired, it falls into one of the following categories:
  1. The interviewee was competent, just not for the field being hired for. In this case, there's nothing I can do to make the interviewee more competent in the field being hired for.
  2. The interviewee was generally incompetent. In this case, any feedback would be generally discouraging.
  3. The interviewee didn't mesh with the personalities of the group. In this case, I can't provide useful feedback because it deals with something the interviewee can't realistically change. Further, vague reasons not to hire someone like personality are particularly prone to legal liability.
  4. The interviewee had no social skills (like, in one instance, insulting one interviewer, who happened to be one of the most senior employees in the room). Similar to 3, this isn't something that can be corrected by feedback.

posted by saeculorum at 7:03 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I never expect feedback, but as an applicant I sometimes ask for it if I feel like the interview didn't go as well as it could have. If I feel the interview went well, I just assume the rejection is for reasons outside my control, like having a better-qualified candidate. But if I feel that I wasn't quite on the ball at the interview, I'll send an email asking for feedback. When I do, I typically just give a general question about what I could have done better, and let them answer as fully or as vaguely as they feel comfortable doing.
posted by Urban Winter at 7:09 AM on December 4, 2014

I don't expect to get any feedback. If I'm not hired or asked to participate in another round of interviews, I may get an email in a couple months letting me know that they've hired someone else for the position. However, even that isn't a given. Once the hiring manager's assistant told me that it had been a tough choice, that I had been one of the final two candidates, and that I hadn't been hired because the other final candidate had more experience in a particular area, but I'm pretty sure neither her boss nor HR told her to do that.
posted by Area Man at 7:20 AM on December 4, 2014

Earlier in my career I followed up with a couple of managers who told me that I was not selected. Even in those cases, where I'd contacted them rather than them contacting me, they would not offer any feedback. I was given to understand that they had been instructed not to say anything, as anything they said could potentially be used in some sort of a lawsuit.
posted by vignettist at 7:45 AM on December 4, 2014

The only time I have given feedback to an interviewee is if they are moving on in the process and I know there is something easy I can tell them so that they will be successful in the next interview.

Stuff like, "Hey you really focused on technology A in that last interview, the guy you are interviewing with tomorrow will probably want to hear more about how you used technology B." or "There was some feedback that you were a little quiet and difficult to hear, don't be afraid to speak up a bit more in the next round."

I almost never give feedback to people who aren't moving on, mostly for the reasons that Saeculorum mentioned, it isn't worth it for some reason or another. One exception, we had a guy send a really weirdly inappropriate follow-up email that was 100% the reason he did not get the job (we were actually working on his offer when it arrived) and I was straight with him about it, he apologized but the train had left the station at that point.

I do always follow up with everyone either via phone or email so they know their process is over.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:50 AM on December 4, 2014

Reject candidates by email. Easier for everyone involved. Come up with a simple, short, script. I usually use the language "we will not be able to move you forward in the hiring process."

I don't give or expect to get feedback. From what I understand, often if you give the candidate feedback they start arguing with you and pushing back.
posted by radioamy at 7:52 AM on December 4, 2014

I don't expect feedback, rejection letters, or any indication at all of where $COMPANY is in the hiring process, but I love it when I get it.

I've only ever gotten feedback when I was moving on in the process (from a phone interview to an irl one). It was along the lines of, "I'd love to hear more about xyz and how z applies to our work at $COMPANY."

I've gotten rejection emails very rarely. When I do, they're form letters (which is fine). I also got a series of wishy-washy "we're pushing back the hiring deadline blah blah blah" emails once from a company that didn't want to actually hire me. That was worse than the rejection emails.

Some HR software does specify whether you've been eliminated from consideration, but that doesn't get updated 98% of the time, so it's basically like having no information (not great).
posted by topoisomerase at 10:08 AM on December 4, 2014

I'm a hiring manager for the State government. I send rejection letters to applicants who do not make it to an interview, and call all those I interview. I only provide feedback when someone specifically asks me for it, and even then it is vague.

When I am an applicant, I don't expect any feedback beyond notification of selected for an interview r not.
posted by rhapsodie at 10:38 AM on December 4, 2014

If you go in for a job interview, and don't get the job, how much feedback do you expect?

I expect zero feedback.

As others have mentioned in this thread, a lot of employers don't notify prospective employees that they have been rejected, which I think is a crappy way to treat anyone who has interviewed with the company.

Do you expect/give the news over the phone or in writing?

I expect to receive job offers via phone call or email and to receive rejections (if they bother to reject me) via email or snail mail. I have never had a prospective employer call me to reject me.
posted by emilynoa at 11:12 AM on December 4, 2014

The only time I got feedback from an interview was when I had recommended someone for a position. Both the candidate and the interviewer contacted me separately to tell me how it went. Anyway, I think that's the only way you can really expect to have any feedback is through somebody you know personally.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:27 AM on December 4, 2014

Agree with the above, the exception being if the position is internal. Then, at my request, I have received some feedback. But I didn't expect it and was grateful to receive it- I considered it a kindness of my colleague to give me more detail about what differentiated the preferred candidate from myself (experience, in this case, plus a bit of politics).
posted by jojobobo at 11:36 PM on December 4, 2014

I expect zero feedback, and I give none outside of the interview process- even if a candidate emails me to thank me, we're not supposed to correspond with them.

The only exception I make is is for summer interns/grads fresh out of school who are utterly failing at the interview, and I will spend a minute or two reviewing the areas/work that they are expected to know (ie if your resume says you are a math major, and you can't reason through basic probability that might be a problem), as well as try to cut them off when they go on a long elaborate derails. Some get the hint, and are able to reframe their train of thought and have a better rest of the interview, but many don't.
posted by larthegreat at 6:54 AM on December 5, 2014

It's been a while, but zero feedback expected. A "sorry, but we've gone with another candidate" was great, but not universally provided.
posted by Lexica at 9:03 PM on December 5, 2014

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