How Candidates REALLY Interpret Interview Feedback


When hiring, sometimes what happens outside the interview room can be even more important than the actual interview itself.

We all realise the importance of candidate preparation in creating a great first impression and ensuring that the precious face-to-face time is used effectively.

Yet what’s often overlooked is how the same applies to hiring managers themselves as they manage the recruitment process. In fact, badly crafted interview feedback is often the biggest cause of job offer rejections, candidate frustration and a bad perception of the overall company on the hiring market.

As the competition for talent intensifies, it’s no longer enough to think that candidates will wait around and listen to the typical excuses. With their time just as valuable and with endless job opportunities for the best people, what you what them to think and what they actually interpret can be very different.

Here are some ways candidates really interpret interview feedback.

The Long-List

Company: “We think you’re a tremendous fit but we need to see more candidates”

What candidate thinks: “We’re uncomfortable making a decision even if you’re the exact dream hire we’re looking for. We need to run a beauty parade just to feel better ourselves”.

Would a hiring manager like it if a candidate needed to get several job offers before deciding on whether to accept a role within their team?

Probably not.

Commitment is a two-way street. Hiring the right person and finding someone who ticks all the required boxes is a very, very difficult task. In the rare instances that you find the right match it’s essential to move quickly and decisively.

The best hiring managers know a good thing when they see it. They’ve done all the thinking and planning before they start the interview process so are confident in securing the right match when it comes up.

Great hiring managers act decisively.

The Slowdown

Company: “We’re really interested in moving forward but things are on hold for the next few weeks/months”

What candidate thinks: “You’ve changed your priorities. Or this hire wasn’t actually that important to you in the first place. Neither a good sign of things to come”.

Probably the most common cause of hiring process breakdown in companies today. Hiring is both a time consuming and costly process – the resources, recruiter fees and time and energy spent by interviewers can run well over $100K for a single hire. With such high stakes, it’s essential that business leaders are fully committed to taking action once they’ve decided on a plan.

In over a decade as a recruiter, I can say with confidence that the best hiring managers I’ve ever worked with are the ones who simply do what they say. The one’s that can be relied on.

They make candidates feel comfortable. They make candidates feel valued. They make candidates feel like they’ve been treated fairly.

Great hiring managers don’t back-out.

The Repeat Meetings

Company: “We think you’re a great fit for the role but need you to meet lots more people in the company over several interviews”

What candidate thinks: “You’re disorganised and unable to convince all the decision makers to meet me in one-go and to make time for something important.”

Top performers are busy. Very busy. Despite how attractive the job vacancy may be, it’s unrealistic to expect them to take extensive time out of their schedule when things can be organised more effectively.

Whatsmore, top performers are also efficient with their time. Why come back three different times to meet the rest of the team when it could all be done in one go?

As the competition for talent increases, speed is becoming more important for companies to secure the best people. The days of having six different interviews to meet ten different people over three months are long gone – if it’s now possible to have a conversation with five different countries over our iPhone’s at the same time, then getting a few people together in one room isn’t such a big task.

Great hiring managers respect other’s time.

The Disappearing Act

Company: “We love you. In fact straight after you leave here today we’ll be in touch to discuss final steps (or in some cases even agree to send an offer).”

Only for then the hiring manager to disappear and never be heard from again.

Sometimes with a vague excuse communicated through the recruiter. If you’re lucky. No response to emails. No follow up.

Poof. Vanished. Gone.

What candidate thinks: “You can’t be trusted at all. The whole interview process, the meetings, the time invested was all a big con. You lack professionalism, politeness, even the guts to apologise for wasting another persons time.” 

The worst of the lot and an unforgivable sin for any company. You can guarantee that the candidate will communicate this to every single person he or she knows and the damage to your reputation – both as a hiring manager and a company will be irreversible.

Most experienced candidates have been around the block. They realise that things don’t always work out. Even if they disagree with the feedback or are disappointed with the feedback they’ll usually get over it quickly until the next job opportunity comes along.

But being left in the middle of nowhere after investing weeks (sometimes months) of effort and precious time? After making the effort to connect with you personally? After sharing their experience, confidential thoughts and even initial ideas on how they would approach the role?


Making sure the loop is closed properly is the first rule every hiring manager needs to practice with every candidate they ever interview.

Without it, they’re doomed.


Interview feedback isn’t just polite commentary between interviews.

It’s a valuable chance to show candidates you really mean business and are a great person to work for.

Great hiring managers understand that great candidates are smart, organised and interested in seeing how their potential new boss goes about managing them  even before they decide to work for them.

How do you give interview feedback?

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