Culture, Recruiting and Staffing

16 Steps to Help You Give Job Applicants Solid Feedback

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Second of two parts

Here are some action steps to consider if you have decided to provide more information and feedback to your job applicants.

They are broken down into two categories and listed from the simplest to the most complex.

Category #1: Feedback that you can provide

1. Notification that the application has been received – At the very least, a simple email acknowledgment that an application has been received should be sent to all.

2. Offer a talent community to provide information – Another option is to increase the amount of information provided to potential applicants by allowing those interested in positions at your firm to join a “potential applicant community.” Provide community members with information on what is expected and what factors in the past have caused most applicants to be rejected. Provide frequently asked questions and answers and have a recruiter periodically answer new questions that apply to many in the community. Allow members to sign up for automatic notifications when relevant jobs become open.

3. Provide upfront information on the hiring process – You can help eliminate some confusion and a great deal of anxiety on the part of applicants but providing an overview of your typical hiring process. For those applicants who are invited for interviews, more detailed information can be provided on the process, what you are looking for, who will be involved, and how long on average it should take (Blackberry does an excellent job in this area).

4. Provide summary feedback  – After a position closes, consider providing summary information to all applicants disclosing the factors in descending order that resulted in most applications being rejected. This information could also be posted on your website in order to educate potential applicants for this position.

5. Provide guidance on whether they should reapply – For rejected individuals who you would like to reapply, tell them so. And subtly discourage those who do not appear to be a corporate fit for any job not to reapply.

6. Provide feedback on whether they met the minimum qualifications – You could provide feedback on a simple yes/no basis as to whether an applicant’s resume/application “met the minimum requirements for the position.” For those who were found to be qualified, a clarifying statement could be added explaining that although they did meet the minimum standards, others applicants were found to be more qualified.

7. Disclose the areas where they were weak – Consider going beyond simple yes/no answers to whether they were qualified and give specific “failed-to-meet-expectations” feedback in one or more of the four key assessment areas (i.e. education, experience, skills, or fit). You should also consider giving periodic feedback at the end of the various stages of the interview process praising the areas that they have done well and highlighting the areas that more information is needed.

8. Providing easily gathered objective information — Consider providing the ATS score received by their resume (compared to the average) to those who were rated as meeting the minimum qualifications. If technical tests were given, provide their percentile ranking.

9. Give a higher level of feedback to a targeted few – Provide some coaching and give more detailed feedback through with a single back-and-forth opportunity with a recruiter to those who went through the interview process and to all finalists and quality employee referrals.

10. After hire feedback – If you really want to reinforce their hiring decision and improve performance, consider sitting down with new hires and highlighting their strengths, as well as covering areas where you feel they will need to build on (and how you will provide that support).

Category #2: Administrative actions

11. Create a customer service team within recruiting – Work with your organization’s customer service function on the business side to put together feedback goals, processes, and success measures. Realize that you have four categories of “customers,” each with unique information and feedback needs: (1) those individuals who are considering applying, 2) those who have merely applied, 3) those who have gone through interviews, and 4) hiring managers/recruiters). Use interns or part-timers to handle some administrative aspects for collecting and delivering simple feedback.

12. Ask each type of customer what feedback they want — Conduct a survey of a sample of your applicants and candidates to identify what feedback they expect at each level of the hiring process. Obviously you want to either meet their expectations for feedback or explain why what they want is not feasible.

13. Develop a business case – Avoid speculation and instead actually calculate the ROI and the business case for providing additional candidate feedback. Rather than anecdotal evidence, a complete quantified risk analysis should be conducted.

14. Create a feedback tool kit — Provide managers and recruiters with a “feedback tool kit” which includes which individual is responsible for each type of feedback, resume and interview assessment forms, actual scripts that can be used as feedback templates, as well as individuals who can coach feedback providers on tough situations. Where necessary, provide education to your recruiters and hiring managers on the dos and don’ts of feedback.

15. Examine your ATS system — Work with your ATS provider to ensure that it captures the right information and that it has automatic CRM “triggers” which automatically send basic responses and reminds hiring managers and recruiters when to provide additional feedback. Also make sure that your screeners, recruiters, and hiring managers are entering the appropriate data into the system that makes later accurate feedback possible.

16. Make a list of the allowable types of feedback – Provide recruiters and hiring managers with a list of the acceptable feedback categories and give recommended minimums and maximums for each feedback area. Be sure and educate them about the pitfalls of providing too little or too much feedback.

Final thoughts

Although almost no major corporation currently provides more than a basic level of feedback, don’t be surprised when you find that it has become a common practice over the next five years. This shift will be caused by an increased expectation for feedback and transparency among newer generations and the increasing use of social media (and especially glassdoor.com) which allows the rapid spread of both positive and negative aspects of a firm’s hiring process.

Of course there are some risks involved, but in my view, the benefits far outweigh the largely unproven and unquantified concerns.

Did you miss Part 1? Check out Why Aren’t Job Applicants Given Decent Feedback?

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader who specializes in bold and high business impact and strategic Talent Management solutions for large corporations. A prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of Talent Management, he has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops and he has been featured in over 35 videos. In addition, Dr. Sullivan is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 organizations in 30 countries. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, and others. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring,” Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industries most respected strategists.” He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked #8 among the top 25 online influencers in Talent Management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and was CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, CA. Since 1982, he has also been a Professor of Management at San Francisco State University. His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net.