Negative feedback from a client: what should be known and taken into account? Part 1.

Feedback from the client on the interview results is always a moment that both the recruiter and the candidate look forward to. But how should we deal with negative feedback? What should we know about its nature and causes? Svitlana Maiboroda, Group Team Leader at Smart Solutions, will help us understand.

  •  Svitlana, could you please tell us how to prepare for negative feedback?

To begin with, you need to understand that the recruitment process is based on a competitive basis, where there are “several” candidates, several stages of interviews, and, as a result, several rejections. After all, it is extremely rare to fill a vacancy with the first candidate. Therefore, rejection is inevitable, even for candidates with relevant experience. A recruiter should be prepared for this.

  • Under what conditions does the risk of negative feedback from the client arise?

It happens that an employer is very picky about hiring a new employee. For example, when they are seeking a replacement for an “irreplaceable” specialist who has successfully worked in the company for years, everyone got used to him, and then he decided to leave the company. The employer is under some stress, panicking and trying to find someone who is just as perfect and similar to his predecessor in terms of hard and soft skills, approaches, and attitude to work. Usually, this is unrealistic, the hiring process is delayed, time is running out… As a result, the employer revises the requirements and finds a candidate.

  • You have mentioned hard and soft skills. Which ones influence the refusal?

According to my observations, most rejections occur mostly due to soft skills. After all, you can work with hard skills and develop them. But soft skills are more complicated, they take a longer time to form, they are part of the character, they are harder to evaluate and develop. Even if a candidate has insufficient professional skills for a current vacancy, the company may consider a candidate for another one in the future, or include him/her in its talent pool, provided that he or she has a good soft skills match. If the soft skills fail, hard skills are unlikely to save the situation.

  • And when can soft skills really harm?

For example, when a candidate demonstrates excessive or obsessive activity in communicating with a recruiter, tries to contact a manager without consent or communicate with them on a daily basis without good reason. After all, even such desirable and sought-after soft skills as communication skills, proactivity, and initiative have a certain limit. If you cross it, you can get rejected. There have been cases when a recruiter came back with a rejection, and the candidate, confident that it is not possible, demanded direct confirmation from the manager. This is a not-so-great strategy.

  • So unsuccessful communication despite high-quality hard skills is a risk?

Yes, it has its influence. Especially when a candidate allows himself or herself to interrupt the manager or director, makes inappropriate jokes, asks unethical questions, etc. The other side of this story is when candidates are rejected because of one-word answers, inability to cover the topic in detail, and abuse of terms that can be explained in simple words. Another negative point is when a candidate provides too much general information about his or her experience, does not give specific examples, cannot recall the results, and reads out (just imagine!) his or her functionality from the previous job directly from the resume. It is a separate matter when a candidate speaks negatively about previous employers and blames them for all their troubles, especially when explaining the reasons for changing job. This is alarming. Of course, at the moment, companies take into account all martial law force majeure, and situations can be different, but being late for an interview without prior notice or suddenly not showing up with a request to meet at another time is also a disadvantage.

  • What are the indirect reasons for a negative feedback?

There are cases when an interview with HR, with a manager or owner goes almost perfectly, further interaction seems to be planned, but suddenly the employer pauses and rejects the candidate. Later it turns out that it was due to negative references. This happens, and especially in “narrow” markets, where almost everyone knows each other or knows someone who may know the candidate. So this can play a decisive role. Another point – in addition to professional qualities that can be verified by testing or case studies, companies pay special attention to how a new “player” can interact in a team. For example, there have been rejections of candidates who performed well at the interview but did not receive an offer precisely because of feedback from previous employers regarding their “toxicity in the team”.

  • Does the nature of the refusal depend on the company type?

I think so. After all, there are startups or companies that have already reached a certain level of development and are actively scaling up, but at the same time are trying to preserve the “startup spirit”. For such employers, flexibility in approaches, resilience in tense situations, ability to make decisions independently, and act quickly are critical. These companies may refuse to hire a candidate when they realize that the candidate is used to acting “according to instructions” and working in well-established processes, which will prevent him or her from adapting to a new, quick-changing environment.

The reason for refusal may also be purely technical factors, when a vacancy is put on hold, or the search is terminated due to the promotion of an in-house employee or the redistribution of functionality among other employees.

  • And when and how often does a candidate refuse?

Not often. Among the reasons may be a long recruitment process, when the candidate loses patience and accepts an offer from another employer, where the conditions are no worse and the decisions are more prompt. Or the candidate has been promoted or counteroffered at their current position. Or the candidate is not satisfied with the lack of remote work. And refusals are especially sensitive at the offer stage, when everything seems to have been decided and agreed upon, the company is waiting, and the candidate changes his or her mind. Moreover, even signing an offer is not the moment when a recruiter can breathe a sigh of relief. It happens that candidates disappear from the radar and do not come to work on the agreed day or refuse at the last minute.

  • What should be done when it is difficult/unpleasant for a recruiter to inform a candidate of a rejection?

You should re-analyze the professional and personal requirements for the applicant, formulate arguments, and, based on this, formulate a feedback. After all, a rejection due to “there is no flame in the eyes” or “no sparks flew” is ridiculous. The candidate took the time to come to the interview and complete the test, so feedback is also about respect. Yes, the customer does not always provide constructive explanations for the refusal right away, and here the recruiter’s task is to collect detailed information in a timely manner and convey it to the candidate in a way that does not demotivate him or her and leaves a positive impression. After all, quality feedback is also about the experience of communication with the company and its reputation. You need to realize that building a positive brand is hard work, and timely feedback is another solid brick in this process.

CleverStaff thanks Svitlana for her time and meaningful conversation!