How to Get Recruiters to Give You Feedback

I’m writing regarding a FB post asking readers “How many of you provide honest feedback when rejecting a candidate?”

I noticed the majority of respondents said that they do not provide feedback, citing possible negative ramifications.

I’m curious what advice you would give to applicants to regarding obtaining feedback? How can a candidate determine what needs to be improved?

As you noted, people responded that they won’t give feedback because it’s too risky–both in time and lawsuits. They don’t want to open the door to arguing. (“You said you didn’t hire me because I didn’t have enough experience in X. I do have enough experience! I’m a senior level black belt in X!)

They also don’t want to open up to a discrimination claim. The recruiter says, “you didn’t have enough experience in X.” Fine. It’s a concrete thing. But, then the candidate hired isn’t as good in X as this rejected candidate thinks. If the new hire is a different race/gender/religion/whatever, the person might claim discrimination. Or, as often happens, people get rejected before a hiring decision is made. So, the hiring manager/recruiter rejects you because you don’t have good experience in X. But, then three months pass and they still haven’t found someone with the experience they desire, so they lower their standards. Sure, maybe they should go back and look at the rejected candidates, but they don’t.

Or, maybe the person the end up hiring isn’t as good in X as the rejected candidate, but they are experts in Y, and Z, and they speak Spanish, and so that pushes them over the top.

This doesn’t answer your question and just rehashes the thread, but I point this out to say that it will be difficult to get people to give you feedback. Honestly, you’re lucky if you’re not ghosted.

But, if you want to try, here are some suggestions. No guarantees.

  • “I’m really interested in pursing this career. If I wanted to be a stronger candidate, should I work on X or Y?”

The reason this is more likely to help is that you’re not asking the recruiter/hiring manager to pull something out of the air, and you’re not asking them to tell you why you weren’t hired. You’re asking a question with a clear set of choices.

  • “Can you tell me three things I could improve on?”

Again, this gives them a clear boundary. And you’re already admitting you are not the perfect candidate. If they answer–even with one thing–the proper thing to say is “Thank you so much! I really appreciate your time!”

If they come back with something you totally disagree with, still say “thank you so much! I really appreciate your time!” They are not going to change your mind when you point out that they missed the 14th bullet point on your resume that says you’re an expert in this area.

I’m happy to hear any suggestions from any readers on how they’ve asked for feedback and gotten it.

It’s not easy!

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4 thoughts on “How to Get Recruiters to Give You Feedback

  1. I agree with this, mostly. I did have a candidate for a sales position with no outside sales experience. But it was for a skilled trade and he had tons of knowledge and had done inside sales. When he asked me why we had rejected him, he clearly and politely told me why I was wrong. I was impressed with his assertiveness and points made, so I pushed his resume on and we hired one of our best sales people! Hopefully, recruiters and hiring managers keep open minds in cases like these. On the other hand, I’ve had people argue with me when I tell them they don’t have enough experience or the wrong kind, so it’s a fine line to walk.

  2. Because of my position, I chair a lot of Review Committees that screen applicants and recommend the best ones to be interviewed. As a result, the notice sent to rejected candidates is generated by me. A few of them contact me for feedback. I’m very careful about providing any. Fortunately, in most cases, the successful applicants had previous experience in our department because they had served developmental details; that is, temporary assignments that give interested persons a “try out” opportunity in a job in which they might be interested. So, I could always give the helpful — albeit, intentionally generic — feedback that the unsuccessful candidates should seek out such a detail assignment.

  3. I recently was rejected after the third interview, which went really well. I got a canned rejection response. I followed up requesting feedback in the most professional manner possible. Again receiving a pretty canned response indicating my lack of experience. Then why didn’t I get rejected in the first two interviews? So I struggled with that response.

    Helpful feedback would have been huge to me.

    1. After 3 interviews, I agree that you should have received more helpful feedback. Perhaps your “lack of experience” was only relative; that is, only in comparison to the selectee, who may have had more.

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