Honest Interview Feedback

Why Companies Must Stop Sugarcoating and Start Communicating when it comes to interview feedback

The job interview is a high-stakes competition, where only one victor emerges. For internal candidates, this is particularly intense. Despite their familiarity with the company, they face the daunting challenge of outshining their peers to secure a coveted role. When the verdict is not in their favour, the unspoken elephant in the room becomes feedback—the crucial yet often neglected aspect of the process.

Timeliness: In my experience, the cardinal sin in delivering feedback to internal candidates is tardiness. Imagine the disillusionment of learning through the office grapevine that another candidate has snagged the coveted position you interviewed for, all while waiting for official word about the process. I have seen on many occasions’ candidates hearing through another Manager that the role is going to an external candidate or to someone else. Timeliness isn’t just courteous; it’s a mark of respect for the candidate’s time, effort, and emotional investment. Companies need to prioritise swift feedback delivery to prevent internal candidates from feeling undervalued and disrespected.

Quality of Feedback: Honesty is the unsung hero of effective feedback. It’s tempting to soften the blow with euphemisms and vague platitudes, but this only serves to avoid the real issues at hand. It’s something I’ve seen Managers struggle with for years… actually telling someone why they were not chosen for the role.

Internal candidates deserve the unvarnished truth about their performance, strengths, and areas needing improvement. It goes hand in hand with clear and transparent performance feedback and is a golden opportunity for a Manager to deliver a clear, fair and transparent message. Sugar-coating feedback not only undermines its credibility but also deprives candidates of valuable insights for their professional growth. Clear, constructive criticism, though potentially uncomfortable, is far more valuable in the long run than hollow praise.

Honesty is the unsung hero of effective feedback

Consideration of Reactions: The emotional fallout of unsuccessful interviews among internal candidates can be profound. They’re not just facing personal disappointment but also grappling with the prospect of facing colleagues who were aware they went for the job. The risk of demotivation, resentment, or even resignation looms large if feedback is mishandled. Companies should approach feedback delivery with empathy, recognising and addressing the emotional toll it may take. Providing support, reassurance, and avenues for future development can soften the blow and retain the candidate’s loyalty and morale.

My recommendations when it comes to giving interview feedback: 

Transparency is Non-Negotiable: Internal candidates deserve transparency throughout the interview process. Keep them informed of their status, timelines, and feedback promptly and openly.

Use the selection criteria: If you have set out basic selection criteria in advance of the interview process and a candidate (internal or external) does not meet these criteria, and you can show it… then do just that… Show them where they met and where they did not meet your criteria. This way, you are being fair, totally transparent and more importantly you are being objective.

The risk of demotivation, resentment, or even resignation looms large

Use your notes: When I start every interview, I say to the candidate… “If you would like a copy of the interview notes, just ask me and I will forward them onto you after the interview process has completed”, and I do. Interviewers need to know that whatever notes and comments they write on the candidate’s resume or interview note template – it’s discoverable! So as you write, make sure your evaluation relates to the answer provided, is in line with the question asked, and documents how the candidate answered the question (good or bad). If you have done your job, then there is nothing to hide. 

Be Specific and Actionable: Vague feedback serves no one. Provide specific examples where they answered well and where they did not answer well, and provide actionable steps for improvement to guide the candidate’s professional development.

Offer Supportive Resources: Offer resources, such as training programs or mentorship opportunities, to help internal candidates bridge skill gaps and enhance their prospects for future roles.

Maintain Confidentiality: Respect the confidentiality of the interview process to safeguard the dignity and privacy of all involved parties, especially internal candidates.

Follow Up: Check in with internal candidates after delivering feedback to offer further clarification, support, or guidance. A follow-up conversation can reinforce the company’s commitment to their development and well-being.

Line Manager Feedback: One of the other things I always say to an internal candidate, is regardless of the outcome, I would like to include their Line Manager in the feedback so that they can get an accurate and balanced analysis of their interview performance. This only helps with their development but also ensures their Manager can assist with ongoing feedback and support.

In conclusion, delivering interview feedback to internal candidates demands more than just diplomatic finesse; it requires sincerity, empathy, and a genuine commitment to their professional growth. By embracing transparency, honesty, and empathy in feedback delivery, companies can foster a culture of trust, respect, and continuous improvement that benefits both candidates and the organisation as a whole. It’s time to shatter the silence surrounding feedback and usher in a new era of open, candid communication in the workplace.

If you have a question about this article/blog or are interested in knowing more, get in touch: rayhoare@careerdynamics.ie