Interview Feedback Examples: What to Say and How to Deliver It

Posted on September 6, 2022

Interview Feedback Header Image

Structured interview feedback helps candidates learn, grow, and move forward with their job search.

Learning how to deliver constructive feedback will set you apart from employers treating candidates like numbers. Don’t let forgetfulness damage your employer brand and lose the chance to attract referrals and A-players.

In this article, you’ll learn how to provide valuable and actionable feedback to candidates. We’ll walk you through how to create a positive lasting impression and become known as an employer that respects people at all stages of the hiring pipeline.

Table of contents

What is interview feedback?

Interview feedback is the final stage of the hiring process to close the interview process in a respectful manner. Interview feedback is usually given to candidates who weren’t successful in securing the job role.

Giving feedback allows hiring managers to explain why they didn’t choose a candidate after the job interview and helps them to improve. Offering feedback shows you have legitimate reasons for not hiring someone without the influence of first impression bias.

It’s best practice to follow up with feedback as soon as you’ve made the decision not to hire a candidate, removing any ambiguity or miscommunication. Offering actionable feedback provides closure for applicants, allows them to move on with their job search, and helps prepare them for their next interview.

As well as criticism, it’s important to acknowledge what candidates do well. Positive interview feedback boosts confidence and ensures candidates don’t feel discouraged by rejection.

Points to include in effective interview feedback:

  • The candidate's strengths, knowledge, and skills (both hard skills and soft skills) that impressed you most
  • Reasons they weren’t a good fit for the company or role
  • Areas for improvement and specific actions they can take to improve

Why is providing interview feedback important?

If someone has taken the time and effort to apply and prepare for an interview, the least you can do is provide feedback on their performance. Feedback helps candidates feel like they’re part of the conversation about your hiring decision.

Giving interview feedback is important for the overall candidate experience. Consistent and clear communication with job seekers helps them know where they stand and what to expect.

Providing people with a positive interview experience positions you as an honest employer for other potential candidates within their network. It also boosts your employer brand, which is vital for attracting top talent in a competitive market.

Research shows that when candidates receive post-interview feedback, their willingness to increase their relationship with the employer increases by 36%. Further, when candidates do receive feedback, they are 24% more likely to refer others. Feedback creates a sense of honesty and trust candidates relay to their peers.

According to a LinkedIn survey, referrals are the top way people discover a new job. Underestimating the importance of referrals could affect your future ability to acquire talent.

Screenshot of LinkedIn survey result that referrals are the top way people discover a new job

Leaving a positive impression on candidates is integral to filling your talent pipeline. The LinkedIn study above found constructive feedback makes it four times as likely qualified people will apply to your company again.

A diplomatic approach makes it possible to turn down a candidate and attract them for future roles that are a better fit.

5 do’s and don’ts for delivering interview feedback

Training your staff to provide actionable feedback will significantly improve your hiring process and candidate experience. Here are some pointers to help hiring managers improve the way they offer feedback.

Do remain positive

Responding to criticism can be difficult for many people. For this reason, going straight in with someone’s weaknesses could invoke negative feelings towards your company.

Start by highlighting what they did well before giving them more detail on how they can improve. Sharing what strengths impressed you will help them double down on those traits and encourage them to work on their weaknesses.

After all, if they’re strong in some areas, there’s no reason they can’t improve in others.

Do offer constructive and specific feedback

Have candidates leave the conversation feeling like they’ve learned something. Personalized and specific feedback gives unsuccessful candidates a compass to follow as they continue their job search. Vague feedback can be confusing and useless.

Be direct about the skills you think they lacked and how they could improve them. Are there any books, blogs, or courses they can study? Giving actionable feedback reduces confusion and boosts morale.

Do focus on skills, not personality traits

Feedback should be personalized, not personal. It shouldn’t be about specific character traits. You rejected a candidate because of gaps in their skill set, not because they have poor taste in music.

Making things personal can burn bridges or, in a worst-case scenario, lead to a lawsuit. Check you aren’t breaking any discrimination laws in your hiring process here.

Ensure your feedback is about skills your candidate can improve upon, not because you think their voice is too loud or you don’t like how they dress.

Do be honest and tactful

A little empathy goes a long way when providing feedback. Put yourself in your candidate’s shoes and think about how you’d like to receive feedback.

Remain friendly and polite. Leave your candidate with a positive impression of the interaction, not feeling like you were cruel and unfair.

If you aren’t being direct about why you didn’t hire someone, your feedback will become generic and vague. When you lead with empathy, people appreciate (and respect) honesty.

Don’t overpromise

Don’t promise candidates you’ll keep them in mind for future job opportunities if you have no intention of doing so. Doing this could raise false hopes and cause unnecessary disappointment if you reject them again.

Overpromising could also encourage bad-fit candidates to apply for future vacancies, which wastes time for them and you.

How to record feedback

It can be challenging to remember the pros and cons of every candidate after conducting dozens of interviews. To keep track, record your feedback in a structured system.

Recording interview observations will make it easier for you to discuss potential hires internally. Give everyone involved access to a centralized scoring system so you can provide feedback in a helpful and timely manner.

Using a scorecard can ensure you keep the interview process fair and provide feedback using pre-defined rubrics.

For example, Google uses clear rubrics to assess every person that interviews for the role.

Screenshot of Google Interview Process

Try an interview scoring matrix to keep track of responses to your interview questions. Take notes about each candidate next to each question so you can refer back to your observations when relaying feedback.

For a headstart with organizing your feedback, download our interview scoring matrixtemplate.

Creating a standardized feedback system

A feedback system helps you stay accountable to your interview standards. It streamlines your workflow and ensures your communication with interviewees remains consistent and professional.

Here’s a basic framework to follow to ensure your interview feedback process is seamless and first-rate:

  • Send timely rejections (either manually or automated). Aim to provide feedback within a week, as waiting too long can feel impersonal and harm your reputation.
  • Carefully consider how to deliver feedback. A phone call is more personal, can soften the blow, and shows you’re prepared to go the extra mile. If you don’t feel that’s necessary, an email works well, too. Create a template to fill out with specific comments after each interview so you cover all your bases.
  • Thank candidates for their time. Candidates often spend time researching and preparing for an interview. Don’t let this go unnoticed. When you respect their effort, you make them feel like their hard work hasn’t gone to waste, even if the outcome isn’t what they hoped for.
  • Ask for feedback on your hiring process. This shows that you care about providing an excellent experience. It also takes the pressure off of the candidate, as they aren’t the only ones being “judged” on their performance. You can also ask candidates to complete a satisfaction survey as part of your interview evaluation process (more on this below).

If you’re writing an email to share feedback, use one of our ready-written job rejection templates here.

Questions to include in your candidate feedback survey

To maintain a quality hiring process, you need to know if what you’re doing is working. This is especially important as you build a hiring team to handle this for you.

Here are a few questions to include:

  • On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied were you with the recruitment process?
  • On a scale of 1-5, how professional were the human resources team and hiring managers?
  • Do you feel like you received adequate communication throughout the hiring process?
  • Would you refer others to apply for a job at our company? If not, why?
  • Would you apply for another role at our company in the future? If not, why?
  • What do you think we can do to improve our hiring process?

Automate your feedback with Polymer

Take the hassle out of providing feedback with an automated hiring workflow. Polymer allows you to set up message templates to send candidates quick replies. The applicant tracking features give you complete visibility over candidates moving through your hiring process.

You can also record candidate feedback and share your score with colleagues within the platform. Take a look at how Polymer can streamline your hiring process.

8 Interview feedback examples

When providing interview feedback, it’s important to nail your delivery. Often, your approach will need to change depending on the circumstances.

Here are eight ways to deliver feedback depending on the reason the candidate was rejected:

1. When someone seems disinterested during the interview

Instead of saying: “We think you seemed bored in the interview.”

Say: “We think you have admirable career goals and strong technical skills, which may mean this role won’t be challenging enough for you in a few months. We’re in a rapid growth phase and don’t have the resources to help you achieve your career ambitions.”

2. If someone’s skill set doesn’t seem to match their resume

Instead of saying: “You don’t have the right skills for the job.”

Say: “Your communication skills and ability to explain why you would do things in a certain way are impressive. Right now, we are looking for someone with specific experience with [skill you need] for this role. If you complete [type of training] in this skill, you’ll thrive in a position like this. “

3. If someone gave a presentation as part of the interview

Instead of saying: “We didn’t think your presentation was detailed enough.”

Say: “We loved the engaging and creative way you communicated the arguments in your presentation. While you did a great job, you could improve it by providing more specific examples and facts to support them.”

4. If someone has the technical skills you need but isn’t a problem solver

Instead of saying: “You need to improve your problem-solving skills.”

Say: “Your technical abilities and experience are impressive, but we’re looking for someone with solid problem-solving skills for this role. While you offered a great example of a problem you’ve previously solved, you struggled to answer the situational question we asked. To improve your interview performance, we recommend practicing problem-solving questions and thinking about your approach to theoretical problems.”

5. If someone is a great cultural fit but doesn’t have the specific skills for the current opening

Instead of saying: “Someone else better matched the skill set for this role.”

Say: “Your desire to learn and grow is impressive, which will help you go far in your career. We need someone with more specific experience in [skill needed] for this role, but we think you would be a great fit for future opportunities. Can we get in touch when suitable positions become available?”

6. When someone didn’t appear confident in the interview

Instead of saying: “You didn’t come across as confident in the interview.”

Say: “It was evident how much preparation time you put into the interview, and you had some great examples to describe your work experience. To improve, you could work a little more on your delivery. For this role, you’ll need to represent the business and communicate with clients regularly. With some focus on training in client relations, we think you will succeed in a role like this one in the future.”

7. If you don’t think someone will fit in with the other team members

Instead of saying: “You’re not a cultural fit.”

Say: “Thanks for sharing more about your values and long-term ambitions. At the stage our company is at, we don’t think we align on X value and won’t be able to offer you the opportunity for the long-term growth you’re looking for.”

8. Someone completed a task before the interview, but it’s not up to standard

Instead of saying: “You didn’t complete the task to our expected standards.”

Say: “You thoughtfully approached this task, and the analysis in columns X and Y was great. It would be great if you could provide the same detail for every part of the process. Attention to detail is critical for this role. For future tasks, we recommend keeping an eye on the details.”

Build your reputation as a great place to work

When you provide a great candidate experience, you’ll naturally encourage referrals and attract top talent. It will benefit your reputation with both potential employees and customers alike

Implement a process that’s easy to manage so you can give candidates the feedback they deserve. Polymer helps you streamline and automate your hiring process. Learn more about Polymer today.

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