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August 27, 2013 / Molly Moseley

Are there benefits to providing feedback to rejected job candidates?

Does this scenario sound familiar? You apply for a job. You go through three rounds of interviews and think your skills are a perfect match for the open position. You anxiously await a phone call with an offer, but one never comes. Then you receive a generic letter of rejection and wonder what went wrong.

Were you under-qualified or over-qualified? Was it something you said during the interview? Or a question you failed to ask? Most likely, you’ll never know. Fact is, it’s a rare person who hasn’t experienced confusion from a rejection letter at some point in his or her career.

Is it time the process changed?

Recruiters rarely, if ever, provide individual feedback to applicants who are not hired. How few? Only 4.4 percent of candidates, according to a 2012 survey by the Talent Board.

Canned rejection letters are commonplace for a number of possible reasons. It may be too much work for recruiters – who have so many other responsibilities – to give extra time to someone they’re not going to hire. It could be pressure from corporate lawyers, who may view critical feedback as a liability. Many others avoid feedback because that’s just the way it is, and virtually every company simply follows suit.

But a few forward-thinking companies are choosing to rock the boat. These companies believe the benefits of providing feedback to rejected candidates outweigh the drawbacks of avoiding it altogether. Why would a company want do this? Here are three potential benefits:

1. Good candidates will continue applying
You might interview a candidate you really like, but decide to hire another person simply based on superior qualifications. Communicating with these good candidates shows you value the time they dedicated during the interview process. Plus it gives you an opportunity to encourage them to apply again in the future when job competition has simmered.

2. Positive brand building

Candidates like your company enough to apply for a job, so even if you reject them, you want to maintain that positive image. The goodwill created by providing constructive feedback helps create a positive brand reputation. This is especially important in a world of social media, where positive and negative word-of-mouth travels like wildfire.

3. Candidates may become customers

Candidates rejected by you will go on to work for someone else. But don’t be surprised if you cross paths with them again in a different way: as customers. A large number of applicants have the potential to become future customers, but if you leave a bad taste in their mouths after an interview, they’ll send their business to your competitors.

If your company decides it’s time to provide feedback to applicants, you can choose to either communicate with every interviewee, or just with those who made it to the final rounds. When providing feedback, always be honest and do so with respect. Be clear, concise and provide examples when possible. Most candidates want to learn from what you share and have a genuine interest in improving themselves and their resumes.