For a lot of candidates today, one of the most important aspects of any job interview process is the feedback they receive — whether they’re successful or not.
The reason for this is simple: it helps them to identify where they can improve.
But while organisations and hiring managers have long leveraged customer and employee feedback as means to enhance the services, products, and experiences they deliver — candidate feedback has sometimes fallen by the wayside.
The worst part? The average response time after an interview is 24 business days.
Now, there’s obviously a bit of nuance to consider here — not every organisation can document interview feedback and deliver it on the same day, and it will differ from industry to industry. But when the vast majority is waiting a few weeks to learn more about their performance, the reality is that we can and should do better.
But to get there, it’s important to first understand what interview feedback is, ensuring that you deliver to candidates and colleagues valuable insights into interview performance that help move everyone forward.
What is interview feedback?
Interview feedback is a record of a job interview, usually from the interviewers’ perspective. It captures what was covered in the interview, how the candidate performed and the recommendation to hire, plus the steps taken to reach that decision.
For a one-on-one interview there might be a single feedback document. If a candidate goes through a multi-stage recruiting process with a hiring team, hiring managers, or is interviewed by several people at once, you may end up with several feedback documents.
Why is interview feedback important?
Giving interview feedback is useful in several ways:
1. It helps a company to decide whether someone should be hired
Written feedback gives you a detailed picture of how the candidate performed across different competencies, as well as if they seemed like a potential fit for the company culture. It helps you to weigh up pros and cons for each candidate and compare them with one another.
2. It gives the interviewee useful information about their performance
This can help them with their ongoing job search. Or if they end up taking up the job offer, it can form the first step of their career development journey within that role.
3. It helps businesses understand how their interview and recruitment process is performing
Feedback from the company’s hiring teams can shed light on any areas for improvement in the hiring process. It’s even more useful when it’s combined with constructive interview feedback from the candidates themselves.
4. It helps build brand advocacy and sentiment
When organisations offer or provide constructive feedback when asked, they build a better reputation with candidates. Many candidates want honesty; they want to know why they failed to get the job or get past a certain stage so that they can improve. Providing interview feedback demonstrates a commitment to helping those candidates on their way — and those candidates will be much more likely to recommend others in the future.
In this article we’ll focus mainly on the first two kinds of interview feedback – internal hiring feedback and candidate feedback – since the same documentation can often be used as the basis for both.
How to document interview feedback
Asking for candidate feedback in an open-ended way is likely to bring in a weird and wonderful assortment of emails, chats, in-person comments and more. It’s all valuable, but collating it into a single verdict is pretty much impossible.
A job interview is a structured, repeatable process, so it makes sense to use a standardised format for your interview feedback report. Use a document template or form that covers the essential bases, key competencies, and points of view from the interviewers.
If several people are interviewing the candidate, consider using a simple survey to capture their feedback in a structured way that’s easy to collate afterwards. Question formats like multiple choice or ranking can improve consistency and reduce effort for everyone involved.
Your interview feedback document should capture:
- Names of the participants and their roles
- Dates and times of the interviews
- The question list (or a link to it) and the candidate’s responses
- A record of any questions the interviewee asked, and the responses you gave
- A note of any tests or tasks that the candidate performed in addition to the interview
You can also add role-specific interview feedback questions for the relevant core competencies, using the job specification or job ad as a reference point. It may be helpful to separate soft skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking and communication skills, from role-specific hard skills like programming languages or formal qualifications.
Finally, your template should include a section for discussion and opinions about the interview and the candidate. Remember that these should always be specific and tied to the role requirements, rather than general remarks. Everything noted in the feedback should be useful and actionable, either by the candidate or by the company.
How should you deliver feedback?
Delivering internal hiring feedback
If you’re a recruiter delivering feedback to a hiring manager, you’ll be aiming for completeness above all. As well as delivering the feedback document you’ve put together, they may find it useful to speak on the phone or in a live meeting to discuss how the interview went, especially if the candidate seems promising.
Having a structured document is especially valuable in this situation as it allows the hiring manager to compare interview feedback from multiple candidates in a like-for-like way.
Delivering feedback to candidates
When delivering feedback to interviewees, the first step is to find out whether they want to receive it. Not everyone will want to hear how they were perceived, especially if they have decided they’re not interested in the role.
Assuming the candidate is interested, you can send them information via email. Unless they request it, it may not be necessary to send them everything you have written about them – although you should be aware that in some regions they have a legal right to see their personal information, including written records of interviews. A popular approach is to summarise the feedback in an email initially, and then offer to follow up with a phone call to clarify any questions they may have.
Delivering negative feedback to candidates
Positive feedback is always welcome, whereas negative feedback is sometimes difficult to handle and when poorly delivered, unhelpful and dismissive. But when done well, “negative” feedback can help candidates to identify areas for improvement — giving them something to build on and develop.
Regardless, most candidates prefer receiving some feedback over none at all — so it’s up to you to ensure you have a plan in place to provide effective interview feedback and insights – positive or negative.
Here are a few tips :
1. Remain compassionate
Rejection without empathy simply won’t feel genuine, which is why it’s important to remain open and understanding when delivering negative feedback.
2. Be honest, but balanced
Honesty is the best policy. Rather than sugar coating negative feedback, clearly and concisely let candidates know what went wrong and ensure you explain why. That said, don’t offend the applicant. Your constructive criticism should never include any distasteful remarks.
3. Call rather than email
Where possible, give candidates a call rather than emailing them. This personal touch shows that you care and helps improve the overall candidate experience.
4. Provide constructive feedback in the form of actionable tips for improvement
The most important piece of information you can give an unsuccessful candidate is why they didn’t make the cut. However, rather than simply telling them they’ve not made it — provide three or four things they can work on to help improve their chances in the future.
5. Don’t delay
No one likes to be kept in the dark. Once you’ve filled the role or determined you won’t proceed with a candidate, let them know as soon as possible. A timely response gives unsuccessful candidates closure so that they can move on and apply elsewhere.
You’ll find specific examples of how to deliver both positive interview feedback and negative interview feedback later on!
Interview feedback dos
Do give concise, actionable feedback
Your feedback is only useful if the candidate or hiring manager can act on it in the future, so make sure what you’re offering is instructive and concrete. Steer away from vague evaluations and try to give specific examples of when the candidate showed particular strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re feeding back to a candidate, keep the feedback brief and tightly focused. After all, the document is only one company’s verdict and will be one of several factors influencing their overall job seeking strategy.
Do cover the whole hiring process
Feedback shouldn’t just come from the hiring manager. To provide good-quality feedback after an interview, it’s important to tap into the whole interview and recruiting process to gain a representative overview of the candidate’s performance.
This is especially true when the candidate experience involves many steps, such as questionnaires, video interviews, first and second round in-person interviews and skill tests.
Do get the timing right
It’s important to collect feedback while the interview experience is fresh in people’s minds, but not so soon that they haven’t had time to process and are still mentally sifting through first impressions. 24 hours after the interview is a good ‘sweet spot’ to aim for.
Another good reason for collecting feedback a day later is that there’s less chance of people discussing the candidate and influencing one another’s opinions, as over time they could develop a group consensus which can skew your data.
Interview feedback don’ts
Don’t give feedback without making sure it’s welcome
For many candidates, feedback after an interview is a valuable tool for their future job search strategy, and a way for companies to recognise and pay back the time and effort they’ve put into an application. But for some people, they prefer to simply move on when an application is unsuccessful.
Before issuing feedback to candidates, check that they would like to receive it. You could add this as an early checkpoint in your applicant tracking process, such as during an application questionnaire.
Don’t allow personal biases to skew the picture
It’s just human nature – regardless of how good your interview skills are, it’s almost impossible to be totally objective about every applicant in the talent pool. Sometimes we develop a personal preference for one candidate over another, or allow our experiences to unconsciously bias us against well-qualified candidates.
By bringing AI tools into the picture, these unhelpful subjective traits can be eliminated so that feedback is based on competence, performance and experience, rather than irrelevant factors such as age, gender or ethnicity.
Analysing the results of your candidate feedback surveys using AI means that when you come to deliver your feedback, you can be sure you’re offering the candidate a fair and balanced picture of why they did or didn’t progress in the hiring process.
Interview feedback examples
Earlier, we spoke about delivering different types of feedback. Here, we’ll provide some general interview feedback examples to help you articulate your responses!
Give actionable feedback
✅ “He showed good up-to-date knowledge of the industry and performed well in the assessment task. However, he wasn’t confident discussing the main software packages x and y, and the project management framework (z) that we use.”
❌ “He knows plenty about our industry but isn’t used to how we work and probably wouldn’t handle day-to-day tasks around the office well.”
Focus on professional attributes, not personal impressions
✅ “She has strong technical skills and would be a very desirable candidate for any business in this industry. If appointed, we should discuss her career goals to make sure she is engaged and challenged in the role.”
❌ “She could do the job, but seemed bored and a little aloof during our chat. I wonder if she really wants this job.”
✅ “As well as meeting the skill and experience requirements, he expressed an interest in the company culture and seemed enthusiastic about participating in team events.”
❌ “He is a great guy who would fit in well with the team.”
Add value for the candidate
✅ “Although we have decided not to appoint her for the creative lead role this time, we would like to consider her for any future vacancies for a mid weight creative.”
❌ “We have decided not to move forward with the application on this occasion.”
Make giving effective interview feedback easy
Every leader knows that to build a successful organisation, acquiring the right talent is absolutely crucial. But recruiting people involves a lot of preparation, time, personal investment and — of course — money. So enhancing your candidate experience (from application to interview to potential onboarding) to ensure you get the right people can have incredible results.
In today’s world, this kind of investment is vital. When it comes to how people perceive your brand and recruitment process, delivering a positive experience matters. Memorable experiences draw people to your organisation — whether or not those people take up a position.
So it’s in your best interest to start the candidate journey well and implement measures that ensure you meet the expectations of every job seeker who engages with you.
And guess what? Our tools can help. With our interview feedback survey, you can capture actionable insights about your interview process currently — and then take the best steps to improve it.
- Understand where the strengths and weaknesses are in your current interview process
- Leverage new data and insights to improve your interview experience
- Benchmark and monitor progress by running interview feedback as part of your EX program