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Submitted by peloton on


For those candidates who are either below "the bar" or who are above "the bar" but were not the top candidate (who accepted and offer), I presume that the interviewer (me) calls these individuals personally, expresses appreciation for their taking the time to interview, regrets that the position has been filled and hope for their success in the future. Or, am I wrong and that an email expressing the above is sufficient?

Thanks for any ideas and/or specific examples of comments you made that have been effective.

Al :arrow:

stephenbooth_uk's picture

If you can then a phone call is generally best, except for internal candidates where a face-to-face meeting is best, else write them a letter. Email should be a last resort. It may be OK if the candidate is in a different time zone with an unreliable postal service and there's not even close to an overlap in your working days, even then it's a definate second or third choice.

Emails often seem very impersonal, and might put the person off your company. Maybe that isn't a problem for you, but there's a good chance it could be. The person you reject today could be the person you're trying to sell to tomorrow. If you reject them in a professional and compassionate manner then they'll remember that, if you reject them in a harsh and unprofessional manner then they'll remember that as well, and probably tell their partner and friends.


jhack's picture

I agree - phone is best, and it's the proper thing to do.


pmoriarty's picture
Training Badge

Just say something, using any means to communicate it please!

My personal experience, based on actively searching & interviewing for the past four months is don't expect to hear anything at all. Rarely an email, and in [b]two[/b] instances voicemail. Not one live phone call.

Of course, since using the MT recommendation of following up weekly, I do find out when a position has been filled.

jhack's picture

Simply state that another candidate has accepted an offer. If they press as to what was wrong with them, resist going into details (unless you're sure they are both genuinely interested and willing to listen).

"An offer was accepted, and we are no longer looking to fill the position."

"You were a strong candidate. The other candidate was a better fit."

"I will keep your resume on file. New positions open from time and time."

if they press the issue: "The other candidate [had more experience in our industry] [has filled exactly this role before]..." Don't talk about any deficiencies in the caller.


wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge

[quote]My personal experience, based on actively searching & interviewing for the past four months is don't expect to hear anything at all. Rarely an email, and in two instances voicemail. Not one live phone call. [/quote]

I think most people don't give feedback on interviews because they are scared of the candidate's reaction. Of course, if they only knew how grateful the candidates are for a scrap of information they'd give feedback far more often.

In addition to John's comments, you can use the word demonstrate - as in - you did not demonstrate requisite skills in x, y, z. It allows you to answer the candidate's 'but I can do that' with 'yes, but you didn't show me that in the interview'.


peloton's picture
Training Badge

Thanks for the input everyone. I called each candidate. Ironically, I got their answering 'machine' in all cases. So, as with an offer, I left information on with them vs. just saying "call me back".


jhack's picture

You did the right thing!


ramiska's picture

As a potential job candidate (aren't we all), I'd like to thank you for taking this step. Worse than hearing that you didn't get the job is NOT hearing that you didn't get the job. Though they may have been disappointed to hear it, they could at least sleep at night.

tcomeau's picture
Training Badge

I think most people don't give feedback on interviews because they are scared of the candidate's reaction. Of course, if they only knew how grateful the candidates are for a scrap of information they'd give feedback far more often.

I suspect there is also some fear of being sued by unsuccessful candidates. We used to be told that we couldn't give any reason other than "We found another, better-qualified candidate." This has changed recently, to the point that our HR people actually ask for reasons for rejecting candidates, and will give us coaching on how to express and apply our selection criteria. But some managers still don't want to give reasons for fear of being dragged into a lawsuit.

My favorite lawyer thinks this is a rather silly fear if you stick to feedback related to the work. (And if you only hire young blonde women for receptionist positions, giving feedback is the least of your problems.)


rthibode's picture

My HR department doesn't allow anything except a standard, non-informative letter (the paper kind, not email).

I can see that it's more respectful to make phone calls to unsuccessful candidates. This is what I used to do until HR caught wind of it.

Calling unsuccessful candidates did get me into an uncomfortable situation once. The candidate had put her work phone number in the slot for home phone number on her application. When I called to tell her she hadn't got the job, she burst out crying in front of her colleagues. Very unpleasant for me, and even worse for her.

Live & learn.

andreafeucht's picture
Training Badge

Let's say you've set the bar high. The person you've interviewed (twice) is reasonably smart, a good worker, and you just can't quite see them in the position. On top of that, we ARE still trying to fill the spot, and they might be able to find that out so I can't tell them a white lie.

This is an example of trying to avoid the false positive... if I have my metaphors right.

In addition to that, it was a personal reference so I'll see them around again. Eesh.

Now, how about your thoughts? Thank you so much!

thaGUma's picture

[quote] I called each candidate.[/quote] This alone sets you above the norm. Email is the Devil's work. :twisted:

CalKen's picture

This has brought up an interesting topic to me. When I interview, I always tell the interviewer that I will contact them in the next few weeks to tell them if they were selected and to call me directly if they do not hear from me before then. As such, I am always for direct contact to the interviewer when interviewing but I have seen a lot of people (either other managers or shareholders of the same job we interview people together for) who says that it should be left to HR and decide not to directly communicate to them. I feel personally that this is a way to avoid conflict with the interviewee and delegate the blame to someone else (a task delegated is a task completed, goes the old but flawed adage) so that they can blame the others.

It is always good to hear from others their experiences as well as inputs from people who have interviewed recently to keep the rest of us honest. Thanks again.


HMac's picture

CalKen - I like your approach. I wish more hiring managers were as conscientious about keeping the candidates in the know. :x


CalKen's picture

Thanks for the great words. Coming from you they are very well taken...

The reason I ask them to call me is not (I humbly confess) because I am good at keeping up with interviewees. The main issue is the fact that sometimes I get so busy that sometimes I do not get back to them as soon as I would like. I have also been burned by managers I work with who are tasked with providing feedback who do not get back with them. Therefore I like to encourage candidates to contact me in a few days if they do not hear anything, just so I can keep them informed. This makes up for the inefficiency of hiring managers.

BartMasters's picture

I just wanted to add my vote to the chorus of 'Ring em, rather than email em' - its far more effective. Emailing someone sends a very powerful message, albeit the wrong message. I got knocked back for a job a while back. I wasn't particularly suited for the job, so I wasn't surprised when I got knocked back. I was surprised that I got an email to tell me of the knockback, all other correspondence up to that point was phone-based.

The fact that the prospective manager was too cowardly to ring me and tell me I was unsuccessful makes it clear to me that not getting the job was a good thing. Don't be that person.

HMac's picture

Don't be that person.[/quote]

What a great way to sum it up, bartman - and it applies to so many parts of the job search!


terrih's picture

I've had it happen a couple times when the candidate called me back after I'd decided not to hire them but before I'd gotten to the phone to call them. :shock: (in one case I was literally on the verge of picking up the phone)

I'm not very good at changing gears like that, so I'm afraid I didn't do that well responding to them, :oops: but there's a lesson for me...