are job candidates entitled to feedback?

This post was originally published on March 8, 2009.

When a candidate asks for feedback after not getting the job, if there’s an easily articulable reason, I’ll generally share it. For instance, I’ll let a candidate who asks know that we were looking for someone with more experience in a certain area, or stronger writing skills, or that while the candidate was strong, another candidate was stronger, or whatever the case may be.

However, sometimes the reason would require me to be insulting or otherwise have an awkward conversation I don’t want to have. For instance, I don’t really want to explain to a candidate that they creeped out the receptionist, or seemed so fragile that I couldn’t pair them with that very direct manager without worrying about daily tears, or didn’t have the critical thinking skills for the role.

Now, you could argue that the right thing to do would be to share this information, hurtful or not. After all, how will these candidates improve if no one tells them what they’re doing wrong? And to that I say: I’m not your job coach.

When I take the time to give candidates feedback, I’m generally doing it as a favor. Most companies won’t do it at all — they either ignore the request entirely or automatically respond with something generic and vague. And that’s because either (a) they’re worried about lawsuits or (b) they’re sick of candidates who ask for feedback and then argue about the response. Despite (a) and (b), I’m still generally willing to give feedback, if it’s easily explained and not more awkward than I feel like stomaching. But I don’t believe that candidates are entitled to it; it’s a favor, and it’s not standard practice. (That said, I do believe that when a candidate invests a lot of time in interviewing, you should try to give them feedback whenever possible. But I know I’m in the minority there.)

I recently had a guy bombard me with calls and email demanding to know why he was rejected. He was rejected early on, after an initial screen of his resume, and he was rejected because his cover letter made him appear pompous, out-of-touch, and like a huge pain in the ass. Turns out, we were right. He called several people in my office demanding to know why he’d been rejected. I emailed him back and told him we were focusing on other candidates who were stronger matches. He responded by demanding that I call him “to explain exactly what it is” that he lacked. He then proceeded to send me numerous additional emails, arguing that his experience was superior to anything other candidates could possibly have, and suggesting that I was “afraid” to call him since I might be proven wrong.

Now, in a case like this, I suppose one option is to stop worrying about offending him and tell him directly that we rejected him because he came across like an ass. But that’s guaranteed to produce further emails from him, and I’m not inclined to get into a long back-and-forth on the topic. I suppose another option would be to offer feedback on the condition that it not result in a prolonged exchange, but frankly, I don’t think I’m obligated to help this guy improve his job-hunting skills.

I do think candidates should ask for feedback after rejections. But they can’t bully their way into it, and they shouldn’t have the attitude that they’re entitled to it.

(Note from me about this post, on re-reading it in 2013, four years later: I don’t think I would have written this now. It seems so obvious that someone like the guy above isn’t entitled to feedback that it goes without saying. It would have been a more interesting post if I’d explored the question of whether politer, less demanding candidates are entitled to feedback. To that, I say there’s no entitlement, but it’s a kind thing for an employer to do for candidates who have spent time interviewing when the reason is easily articulable — keeping in mind that, like the post said, there are times when it’s not going to be. It’s not obligatory though, and there are plenty of justifiable reasons for not doing it.

Of course, if you’re dealing with internal candidates, this is a whole different conversation. Internal candidates deserve feedback, and it usually benefits the employer to give it.)

{ 86 comments… read them below }


    How many requests get an answer? Most job denials are computer generated and are just a generic rejection letter. With that, would you come off as a bitter pain in the ass and get ignored? Maybe.

    1. fposte*

      It’s not the rejection letter that makes a candidate seem bitter; it’s asking “Why didn’t I get the job?” instead of “Are there ways you might suggest I could strengthen my candidacy in future?” Most of the time you’ll get ignored regardless of the rejection letter, because most people don’t give feedback, but if your query is polite and focused on the future rather than the past you’re not going to come off badly.

      1. Joey*

        Yes. If you come across as accepting the decision and genuinely looking for feedback (as opposed to justification for the rejection)you’re more likely to get feedback.

        And frankly, I can’t think of a single candidate who did it the way I’m suggesting who I didn’t want to help.

          1. fposte*

            Right, same as not many people will do other favors for strangers. But some will if you ask nicely.

              1. Joey*

                Try it in an email like this after you get a rejection.

                I appreciate you taking the time to reach out to me to follow up. If it’s not too much to ask, can you offer any insight that might help me? I will gladly take your guidance into account moving forward.

                Thanks in advance,


          2. Forrest*

            If in your experience you’re not receiving feedback, then you should reexam how you’re asking.

  2. abankyteller*

    I wish Alison was able to post the full text of that crazy guy’s letters. That would be hilarious to read.

  3. James*

    I know this was not the original example, but I do think internal candidates should always get feedback even if they are rejected before the interview.

    1. Tina*

      In general, I agree internal candidates should receive a higher level of courtesy, but the level is also determined by other factors, such as what your actual working knowledge/relationship is with the candidate. I work at a university that employs thousands of people. Technically speaking, anyone who works here and applies to a job in my office, is an “internal” candidate, but that doesn’t mean we’ve ever even met them. If they reached out to us and asked about their candidacy, we’d give them some feedback, but I can’t see us contacting every university employee who applied.

      1. Joey*

        generally I think the standard should be that you provide feedback to those you interviewed and anyone who works in the same division/team .

      2. Poe*

        I would say that in some of those cases, HR can provide the feedback. I was an unsuccessful internal candidate, and while the hiring manager didn’t reach out to provide feedback, the HR person assigned to the vacancy did. She had been there for my interview, and was able to explain to me (info she proactively approached me with) how I did not fit what they were looking for, but also what I could do to strengthen my application for similar positions in the future. I ended up leaving the company (and the country) in the end, but her help was a part of the way I got my current job, and I sent her a lovely note to tell her that. I would have left OldJob much, much sooner had I not felt like the company wanted to help when I was turned down.

      1. Joey*

        Entitled? I’m not sure Id go that far. I know you probably didn’t mean it this way, but that makes it sound like its some sort of absolute right.

        I’d just say its a sign of a good boss/employer.

        1. Jamie*

          You’re right – I didn’t mean I think it should be policy or anything.

          I just meant it’s a reasonable expectation. And yes, sign of a good employer.

  4. TychaBrahe*

    “Because in order to be an effective employee, a person has to at times accept that his ideas aren’t in line with the direction his managers want to take on a project, and to accept such criticism or rejection without weeks-long attempts to change the managers’ minds that only ends up wasting everyone’s time. You came across as a person who would be difficult to manage because of an inability or unwillingness to accept such direction, and your inappropriate harassment of the hiring team following that decision has proven it was the correct one.”

    1. fposte*

      “That’s just blather–you’re not telling me the real reason! Why won’t you tell me the real reason! I know I’m more qualified than the nonentity you hired. And I don’t accept it because it’s obviously wrong, and you’re dodging the issue because none of that talks about my application, so you’ve made me surer than ever that somebody made a mistake and is now trying to justify it.”

      25 times a day. This is Gavin de Becker extinguish the behavior by ignoring it territory.

      1. Jamie*

        Everything fposte said…

        not to mention, “you don’t know me. You can’t know my personality and how I would be to work with from an interview…you’re making assumptions about me that are patently untrue.”

        I will give feedback if it’s along the lines of qualifications …but nothing personal ever. Even if it’s because I hated that guy from the moment he winked, cocked his finger at me like the fake gun thing and clicked his tongue and called me “Chicklet.”

        I’m not telling him he’s a douche – if he doesn’t know that I’m not going to be the one to hip him to how to hide it so he slips under the radar of the next hiring manager and go on to annoy female co-workers. I consider my silence a courtesy to Chickets everywhere.

        1. Manda*

          I’m pretty sure most douchebags don’t know they’re douchebags. They think they’re the greatest thing in the world and if you call them out on being a douchebag, you’re just jealous. *rolls eyes*

          P.S. Is Hello Kitty dressed up as Felix the Cat for Halloween? ;)

  5. WWC*

    I don’t think employers are in the position to call someone crazy.
    The candidate may be crazy but 1. they’re not attending a psych eval, they’re there for a job interview 2. it is dangerous to call someone crazy, because they may be crazy and attack 3. crazy is subjective and it’s really not an employers place to call names.

    I am assuming AAM was being facetious, but I know of some HR folks who might think letting someone know they seem crazy is their job.

    1. calibrachoa*

      It is exactly the kind of a thing that perpetuates stigma against folks with mental health issues. Tbh a lot of people consider “crazy” to be a slur.

    2. thenoiseinspace*

      I feel the same way about guys who call their ex-girlfriends “crazy.” No, she probably wasn’t – you were just too stupid to understand her or too lazy to try. I once saw a comic (drawn by a guy, apologizing for other guys) that claimed that guys who called their exes crazy were almost always the ones who had been the worst possible boyfriends and wanted to put nothing into the relationship but get a lot back in return. It’s just their cop-out for not dealing with them.

      I feel like a lot of employers, especially these days, are the same. They have absolutely ludicrous demands and because people are desperate and will do anything for a job, the employers think they’re being perfectly reasonable. It’s not crazy to ask for feedback – this guy was a rude a$$hole, obviously, and arrogant, sure, but calling someone “crazy” has always seemed like the easy way out to me.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Yes, this, exactly. There was one particular guy that I was very hung up on for a very long time. He referred to both his ex-wives, plus his last few girlfriends as “crazy.” I should have been hearing the “Red Alert” sound from Star Trek in my head when he told me that, but he was a very charming guy, and extremely good looking so it clouded my judgement. Happens to the best of us. :)

        Fast forward a bit, after he’s lied to me, cheated on me, and just in general treated me pretty badly, and I found myself doing things that were pretty over-the-top, and contemplating doing some others that would be in whacko girlfriend territory. One night, I thought I would just get in my car and go wait outside his house until he got home, since I had not heard from him in awhile. Cue the theme from Psycho! All of a sudden the lightbulb went on and I realized that I was now becoming one of his “crazy” exes. That’s when I realized that HE was the common thread between all these women, including me, and that he MADE us all crazy by treating us all like crap and messing with our heads. After that it was easy to walk away. To this day, I am so thankful sanity prevailed before I did something truly embarrassing and regrettable.

      2. some1*

        +1. Many years ago a guy told me his ex-GF was “stalking” him and called him repeatedly. Months later I met her best friend by chance and found out that, yes, the ex-GF was repeatedly calling him, but it was because he owed her about 10 grand. Funny how he left that part out.

        1. Jamie*

          A lot of guys who are behind in their child support have the same problem…exes that will just not leave them alone.

          Funny how once the CS is caught up the calls stop.

    3. KarenT*

      True but there is a difference between telling someone that they are acting crazy and telling someone that they are crazy.

      1. Jamie*

        It’s also used as a figure of speech …a lot.

        “What do you mean you’re only giving yourself an hour to get to that appointment – you’re crazy, you need to leave yourself a good 2 hours.”

        “I’m planning a surprise party for my boyfriend and the theme is the Batman Cat…we’re all coming in Bat/Cat costumes.” “That’s crazy, he’ll love that!”

        “Mom can I borrow your car and decorate it for Halloween for when we drive to the haunted house?” “What are you? Crazy? Don’t touch my car.”

        I would never refer to a mentally ill person as crazy – so I don’t know how it’s disparaging in the context used here as it’s in the lexicon as also just meaning something weird or wild or off base. It’s a figure of speech.

        1. HR Competent*

          You got it.

          Doubt that any mental health professionals have used that as a diagnosis term in a very long time.

          1. Jamie*

            I understand the argument – but I disagree when it comes to this particular word because I believe in our current lexicon it usually means something far different than actual mental illness.

            1. Forrest*

              Couldn’t that be applied to the word “retarded” though? Or another word you do have a problem with?

              Its like the Halloween costume – its about avoiding offense towards others rather than just working with what’s ok for you only.

              1. Jamie*

                I see what you’re saying – and I do agree on minimizing offense when possible. Certainly if someone in my life asked me to refrain from using it I would.

                Just like I personally do not mind “guys” as a catch all for addressing people of both genders. It doesn’t offend me – but in reading here how it offends so many other women I have purged that from my vocabulary at work.

                And I was actually thinking about the word “retard” when I was examining my feelings on this. Here’s why I think it’s different – because “retard” is unequivocally disparaging and it’s evocative of a specific group of people who have developmental delays. Calling someone that just because they are being a dumbass is offensive to the mentally challenged. Imo. That said I know people who use it without intended offense – but it’s still offensive.

                Any of my kids will tell you that’s a word you don’t utter in my house. It’s up there with the worst racial slurs and far more offensive to me than regular swear words.

                Where crazy is different for me is that it does have a lot of neutral and positive uses, that retard does not. It’s a descriptor in our language that can mean anything from something fabulous to something wild to something really unexpected.

                If someone were to call me a retard it’s a throwback to the days when the developmentally disabled were called retarded and it’s offensive to a specific group of people.

                If someone calls me crazy mental illness doesn’t even factor into it – and I think that’s true for a lot of us. I don’t and would never call a mentally ill person crazy – that would be pejorative and horrible. I have known people with mental illness and it’s a struggle the likes of which I can’t imagine…but they aren’t “crazy.” They are people who are struggling with an illness.

                So that’s the difference for me – it’s not that I’m working with what’s okay for me only…I’m working on what society has decided that word means – by the way it’s overwhelmingly used. Car deals slash prices like crazy – it means a lot – not mentally ill people. Crazy Jimmy is that really fun guy from college, not the guy struggling with depression.

                But society as a whole has determined that the word has uses far outside of mental illness…maybe I’m wrong on this and society will evolve to limit use of the word. I am open to being wrong on this.

                But now, in 2013, it has a broader meaning and so it’s not in the same category of retard or racial slurs which are universally known to be incorrect, even among those who use them. They don’t say them in board meetings.

                1. Joey*

                  Eh, I don’t see a whole lot of difference between:

                  That dunk was retarded/crazy/sick/stupid/insane, man. Did you see Lebron go over Blake?

                  Dude, that UT/Alabama game was crazy/retarded.

                  Why are you acting so crazy/retarded.

                  Dude, Mikes freakin retarded/crazy for doing that.

                2. Forrest*

                  I hate the word retarded but I also understand that for a lot of people when they use it, they’re not thinking of comparing someone or something to, say, my sister who is mentally handicap. Additionally, retard means non growth, so in some cases people are using it properly.

                  I guess, growing up as someone who has mental issues with a sister who is mentally handicap, its extremely frustrating how much my parents went above and beyond to help her because her “problems” are more obvious. Not that I would want to trade places with her but society has done a lot (and could do more) for people with obvious disabilities over those with less obvious disabilities. And I think the “well, crazy is different from retarded” when they are indeed, very interchangable, seems hypocritical to me. We should care about how our usage of words impact other people, regardless if we have a personal attachment or not.

                  I’m not saying don’t use crazy. But don’t be dismissive while holding strong to a word that can be just as dismissed, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

                3. Jamie*

                  Sure – I know a lot of people who are using retarded in that way – and it proves the point that not everything bothers everyone the same way.

                  But it’s not as socially acceptable. If I’m in a meeting and someone was crazy no one is batting an eye. Refer to someone as retarded in any aspect and everyone is looking askance.

                4. Jamie*

                  I’m not saying don’t use crazy. But don’t be dismissive while holding strong to a word that can be just as dismissed, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

                  I’m not being dismissive – I said I didn’t agree. I’m offended by a lot of things without a personal attachment to them, but in this case I just disagree about word usage.

                5. Colette*

                  I agree.

                  I’ve struggled with using crazy as well, because I certainly don’t want to offend anyone, and because like Jamie, I would never use the word to describe someone with a mental illness (at least not because they are mentally ill). To me, it’s more about out-of-the norm behaviour than about a diagnosable mental health problem.

                  Having said that, I’d happily take suggestions about alternate words that communicate what I’m trying to get across when I say crazy.

                6. Forrest*

                  And it use to be that no one blinked at the use of the word retarded.

                  And your comment came off as dismissive and easily applied to the word retarded – after all, not every use is related to people with disabilities, just like every use of crazy isn’t related to people with mental illness.

                  I just find it hypocritical is all.

                7. Forrest*

                  I guess my point is, the socially acceptable-ness of a word shouldn’t have any impact. The reason we have campaigns about the seriousness of retarded and the impact it has is because it is/was socially acceptable to say it in conversation. It is still is in many areas.

                  But just because its more acceptable/no one would bat an eye at crazy doesn’t mean its ok to say it. Its still insulting a group of people that society already ignores/treats bad.

                8. Joey*


                  Therein lies the problem. There would be very few words you could say and not offend a group somewhere.

                  I can think of tons of examples of words that I think are benign that groups somewhere take as an insult.

                9. Poe*

                  I’d argue that if you have never heard someone refer to someone mentally ill as “crazy”, that might be because you don’t have a mental illness. I really didn’t intend to come out on this here, but I have been called “crazy” by many different people on many different occasions when they find out that I have a mental illness. It is really not nice. “Insane” is another really great word. Really, your ex-girlfriend was “insane”? Funny, my medical record says that, too. I guess that means I will throw your clothes out the door into the snow when I find out you’ve cheated on me. Oh, wait…

                10. Jamie*

                  I’m arguing against picking and choosing.

                  Different people will find different things offensive. Not everyone will see this (or any issue) the same way.

                  Unless you find offense in every single thing someone, somewhere finds offensive then there will be things that will bothers others that don’t bother you and vise versa.

                  Your own example of the word retard as a verb – to delay or hold back – that’s fine. Bad soil retarding the growth of crops is a totally acceptable use and doesn’t cause offense.

                  By the same token I agree that to use the word crazy in a pejorative way to disparage those with mental illnesses is wrong and offensive. But there are other definitions of crazy in very common use and I don’t see how someone being “crazy about this awesome new guy they met” disparaged the mentally ill. Because it’s a completely different context and meaning.

                  This is my last attempt to clarify – because the topic is exhausted…I don’t care if people use the word or not -but picking and choosing applies to all of us all the time…we’re always picking and choosing what we say, what we care about, what offends us…always…and this is no different.

  6. Brett*

    This makes me wonder about an interesting point that has come up lately in our office.

    When an internal or external candidate specifically does not get a job due to a background check, are they entitled to know why they failed, or even that they did fail?
    In our case, internal and external candidates are not even told that they failed the background check. They are simply told that the conditional offer has been revoked.

    Our background checks are the six week, 20-40 reference, 20+ page application monster checks that include your tax returns and full arrest records. We run them ourselves, so they are -not- covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

    1. Holly*

      I’m not from a country where that kind of background check is standard, so I’m not quite sure what it covers. Would they fail for bad credit, or for a criminal conviction?

    2. Anonymous*

      Wouldn’t you know that it was the background check? I mean if someone said, we need to run a background check fill out all these giant heap of forms and 5 weeks later I got a call saying “Nope” (I assume you are actually telling people) I would just assume I failed the background check.

      I would also think letting the candidate know what it was might help if you had a false positive. (You may not care I suppose if you are rejecting Joe Smith because of something other Joe Smith did.)

    3. Anonymous*

      (That said this post is suddenly making me irrationally nervous that I’m going to fail a background check for a position. I passed fine a year and a half ago and nothing exciting has happened to me since then but dangit now I’m nervous!)

    4. Brett*

      Yes, it is a law enforcement agency. Our check is on the level of a federal security clearance.

      The forms are filled out in the initial application, and the check is only one part of the process after the conditional offer. If the conditional offer is cancelled, it almost certainly is the background check but applicants are not told for certain that it is the background check.

      I actually think most applicants know why they fail if they fail. The in person interview is the last step of the background check, and any red flags or inconsistencies are definitely addressed in the interview. Lying in the interview is by far the most common disqualification reason.

    5. MR*

      If you run background checks that are this extensive, you should know whether the candidate is required to the results of the check.

      I don’t know what the federal rules are, but there are some states where the candidate is either entitled to or required to find out the results of the background check.

      1. blu*

        I think the question is not “what is legally required”, but rather “are they entitled to know that it’s the background check that is removing them from consideration.” Even under FCRA while you are required to give them a copy and notify them of adverse action there is no mandate that you specifically talk about why you’re not moving forward. At my job we have a generic letter that says we are not moving forward due to information found during the check, but the recruiter will also usually have a conversation with the candidate about this issue. However that is not a requirement.

      2. Brett*

        Legally there is no requirement to tell the candidate that they even failed the background check, much less why, because our own agency is conducting it.

        Like blu said, I am more asking whether we should consider the candidate entitled to know they failed or know why they failed. (There will certainly be some cases where we can’t tell them why they failed, but probably could at least tell them their offer was rescinded because they failed.)

        For me personally, it particularly bothers me that we do not provide this information to internal candidates.

        1. Kou*

          I would say so. I don’t know how often this happens, but my first thought is what if it’s an error?

          I have an extremely unusual name and I still once was denied an apartment after a check flagged me for a fraud conviction. They were nice enough to just tell me that so I could say “what now?” and I don’t know how they cleared it up but a few days later they called me again and said it was a mistake. I’m still not sure how it happened.

        2. KellyK*

          Ethically, I think you’re absolutely required to tell them, even if it’s not legally required. Including the reason would be preferable if you can.

    6. Sydney*

      I think you should tell candidates they failed, and even the specific reason if it’s not going to compromise security or have another adverse affect. It’s just … fair. Unless there’s a compelling reason why you *shouldn’t*, you should provide the feedback.

      I assume most of these candidates will probably apply for more LE positions, so it will save them and possibly you (if you happen to see them again in the future) time, money, etc. if that same thing is going to disqualify them again. They may also not even know about whatever the issue is. Maybe someone stole their identity and they didn’t realize, or maybe someone with the same name got confused somewhere. (Since y’all are so thorough, I’d bet y’all are 100% sure it’s the right Jane Doe before rejecting though, at least you better be, especially if you don’t even tell them about it).

      We use Insperity for background checks, and just do a simple criminal check on federal/county levels. We actually had a false positive for one of our current employees. Her report came back with a 50 lb. marijuana possession charge from 2009. We asked her about it, she actually thought we were joking, and we ended up re-running the check. Apparently, there are 3 women in Corpus Christi (not a huge city) with her exact name and date of birth.

    7. Ruffingit*

      With that sort of intensive background check, I would think most people will know why they failed. But, it’s possible they don’t, so yes I think you should tell them. You may run across the candidate who has no idea that his parents took out a bunch of credit cards in his name and he now has massive debt and collections he didn’t know about. You may run across the guy with the erroneous criminal conviction that was falsely reported on his record due to his having a similar name as the real criminal and he never knew about it. Granted, those are likely to be rare circumstances, but still I do think it would be a kindness to the candidates to tell them why they failed so they can either clean up the problem or just know they won’t pass this kind of extensive check in the future.

    8. Poe*

      Please tell people! I got rejected for a competitive volunteer job once and they said it was because I popped as having a criminal record. CUE PANIC. Turns out someone with the same birthdate as me was using my name as an alias. Took some fingerprints, got it all cleared up, but if I hadn’t known why I was turned down, I’m sure this would have bitten me in the butt later on.

    9. Manda*

      In response to this whole discussion, this is what makes me uneasy about employers looking up candidates on Google/Facebook/whatever. In those rare cases where someone else with the same name turns up, there’s potential for confusion at the least, unnecessary rejection at worst. I know of someone else with my same first and last names. I don’t know anything about her. I have an uncommon last name but a large extended family, so she’s probably married to some third cousin or something. But what if there was some dirt on this other person somewhere on the internet and a potential employer found it and assumed it was me? I would not be impressed. At least after an interview, it’s more likely they would realize it’s just someone with the same name, but prior to meeting, they may be making unfair judgements because they’ve found the wrong person. At least if they check LinkedIn, they can see if the resume matches the profile. But even if it doesn’t, who knows how many people assume it’s a different Jane Smith and how many assume Jane Smith lied on her resume.

  7. Rich*

    I can agree with this. I’ll provide feedback to candidates we brought in for an interview, or in some cases candidates I phone screened. I find that it creates a better experience. I always assume good candidates know other good people. So whatever I can do to be helpful without and ensure they walk away feeling good about the experience (well, as good as they can), I’ll do….as long as it doesn’t mean hours of calls and explanations. Usually it’s just a few additional lines in an email.

    1. PEBCAK*

      As a candidate, the further I get in a process, the more I’d expect some sort of reasoning. But by the same token, when I’ve turned down job offers, I’ve been happy to share the reasons why.

  8. Jazzy Red*

    As a job candidate, I would have appreciated knowing if I was lacking in a certain skill, or needed more experience in some area. Being old school (or just plain old), it never even occured to me to ask why I was rejected, but it would have been helpful to me.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This would be very useful feedback, like Alison said. But unfortunately, sometimes you don’t know who will react badly ahead of time. I can see why some companies avoid doing it at all.

  9. Yup*

    “But I don’t believe that candidates are entitled to it; it’s a favor, and it’s not standard practice.”

    I agree because the same thing goes for the opposite scenario, when a candidate turns down a job offer. It a company makes you an offer and you say no thanks, that’s really the end of the conversation: they can’t reasonably demand to know why you won’t work for them. The hiring company can ask “is there anything we could improve on?” and the candidate’s free to give constructive feedback about XYZ aspect of the job, or to just neutrally say, “While your organization is excellent, I’ve accepted a position with a company that’s betters suited to my career path.”

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      +1. And, just like with a pushy candidate, sometimes pushy recruiters like to try to argue with you if you give a reason.

    2. Anonymous*

      I don’t know; the dynamics are often very different. A candidate has often pinned his or her hopes on this job opportunity and a rejection can be very crushing, whereas a company likely has very strong second and possibly third choices. Having been on both sides, it is disappointing when a candidate rejects a job offer, and you obviously want to know why, but it seems worse and more personal when rejected for a job opportunity.

    3. Shane Watson*

      I’ve never seen a company ask for feedback like that, but my “no” usually comes with an explained reason.

  10. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    I always try to give candidates feedback when they politely request it. Unless, like Allison states, it is going to be way more uncomfortable than I am willing to deal with. For me that means, if they seem like they are going to be a jerk about it and therefore I don’t feel like helping them. Otherwise, I am usually happy to pass along any feedback that I have gotten about them from hiring managers. I figure that is how I would want to be treated as a candidate. We had a candidate come to his interview recently with gum in his mouth (this was a high-level, professional position) and that was one of the reasons that the hiring manger gave me for rejecting this otherwise qualified candidate. It wasn’t the sole reason, there were other things that made other candidates stand out in a good way therefore giving them an edge on the competition, but that was one of the things that I thought that I would mention to him as the hiring manager felt like the gum chewing was pretty distracting.

    1. LisaLyn*

      The gum chewing example is exactly the sort of thing that could really help a candidate out. It may not have cost him the job that time, but it could in other situations and it would be a good thing for him to be aware of.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      That it is a really good thing to give feedback about…a little thing that can make a big difference. Chances are the guy was chewing gum so he wouldn’t have bad breath during the interview, and then forgot to lose it before the interview. And I agree with the hiring manager that it would be distracting.

      1. Jamie*

        I bet he did just forget to lose the gum – that sucks.

        I went through an entire interview lasting a couple of hours with my sunglasses perched on my head. Totally forgot they were there until I went to leave and couldn’t find them in my purse…looked in the rear view and I saw the That Girl look I’d been sporting all afternoon.

        I so carefully picked out my outfit, shoes, bag…makeup…I was so careful and just totally spaced on that.

        I did get the job though, and I still wear glasses to keep my hair pulled back but it would have absolutely disqualified me many places.

        1. EE*

          I remember reading a Corporette post about something very similar. A hiring manager was wondering whether or not to automatically reject somebody for hooking her sunglasses over her shirt. IIRC commenters were split.

  11. TAZ*

    The examples of potential feedback here are good. For me, actual useful feedback from employers has been pretty rare. It often says more about the employer than the employee. Long ago I was subjected to a three-hour interview complete with a test and a star-chamber type group interview, complete with people playing good cop/bad cop and other intimidation tactics. For a low-level technical writing job! One of the hiring managers told me later she was disappointed I didn’t “seem more enthusiastic” during the interview. Of course I couldn’t really give her a similarly honest response (“I wasn’t enthusiastic because I was thinking dear god, how do I get myself out of this?”).

  12. John*

    There are lots of situations where it’s quite difficult to give constructive feedback.

    I’d like to think most hiring managers are guided to some extent by gut instinct — will this person fit in with our group? will they be the type who can flourish in our culture? will my colleagues, clients and I enjoy working with them every day? Important questions. Often, there may be little hard evidence to point to. (“I once hired a guy like you and he turned out to be a real ball of need and no one could deal with him…”)

    So, while you might be able to point out areas where they fell short of the other candidates, were they, in fact, the real reasons you didn’t hire them?

  13. VictoriaHR*

    I give feedback when asked, unless it’s a criminal background issue. In cases like that, I just say “we don’t give that information out.” Unfortunately too many people have threatened to sue if we don’t give them a chance with their prostitution and controlled substance charges *rolls eyes*

  14. Ann Furthermore*

    For the life of me I will never understand why people thing behaving so aggressively and rudely will change someone’s mind. What did this guy think all his emails were going to accomplish? Did he really think acting that way would make AAM (or anyone else) say, “OMG I made a huge mistake…rescind the offer to the other candidate immediately!” I guess he did, which is the point…but I still don’t get it.

  15. Lesley*

    Add on top of this that it seems like 50% of whether an interviewer likes an applicant is based on some sort of gut feeling that is an offshoot of the interviewer’s personality and personal preferences. I’m not really interested in fundamentally altering my personality to adhere to what some manager personally finds most acceptable. Telling me not to be rude or that I need to improve my writing is fine, but I’m not going to present myself as a fake extrovert (you need to be more outgoing/spontaneous/memorable/”energetic,” etc.) just because extroversion is more socially acceptable and puts other extroverts in the office at ease.

  16. Shane Watson*

    While I don’t think that detailed feedback is a requirement, getting a yes or no answer is. If I contact you twice over two weeks for feedback after an interview, I shouldn’t hear crickets. Assuming that I should “get it” by never hearing anything back after an interview is uncalled for.

  17. PC*

    I once attended multiple rounds of interviews . The first round was conducted by HR and also staff who would have been my supervisors/managers had I been selected. After that round they told me I came across as being nervous. Which maybe I was , cause it was a great place , a job to die for or so i believed) and I was trying too hard I guess. Then the second round was conducted by a team of 3, all of whom would have been my reportees, had I been selected. I found this concept a little strange . Also only one from the team was asking all the questions and the other two looked embarrassed and were quiet most of the time. So while I answered the questions I also may have tried to put the quiet two at ease and I smiled now and then at them. That is because they seemed young and nervous/ill at ease. I was given a feedback then that I seemed amused and dismissive of the interviewer! Who wants such feedback? I myself was wondering whether I would be comfortable working here at the end of the interviews. Nobody asked me for my feedback…!

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