Best practice for interview feedback – and why ghosting is a bad idea
Nobody likes to be left waiting for an answer. When you’ve put in hours of hard work and preparation – research, resumé writing, an application letter, phone screening, maybe even an in-person interview – hearing nothing back can be confusing and even distressing.

Unfortunately, “ghosting” as it’s often called is still incredibly common in the recruitment process. Research for SEEK shows 82% of people say they’ve been ghosted by a potential employer.

While it can be disappointing news for candidates, ghosting can also have negative consequences for your business.

“There is nothing more disrespectful than the concept of ghosting a candidate, much less anyone,” says Tracey Montgomery, General Manager of Pure Source Recruitment. “Aside from it being enormously damaging to the employer’s brand, it has negative impact on the candidate’s experience and it dishonours the recruitment process.”

Why it’s important not to ghost

Everyone’s busy, and getting back to unsuccessful candidates can feel like a difficult task to prioritise when you’ve got your successful candidate sorted, and a pile of other work to get on with. Almost half of hirers (48%) say their main reason for not responding is that they have too many candidates to respond to individually, while 37% say they lack the systems and processes to respond.

But experts say ghosting is a bad idea. Closing the feedback loop for candidates who have invested their time and energy in the application process is essential, says Viv Farrington, talent acquisition specialist and founder of tech and digital recruitment firm Muse Digital.

“It’s a matter of professional courtesy and respect, says Farrington. Plus, it’s important to remember that the job hunting process can be stressful for some, so the human touch is an important part of the interaction.

What’s more, there’s the impact to your brand to consider.

“Ghosting a candidate has the potential to harm their perception of your agency, your client and its brand, which can ultimately make it harder to attract and retain top talent in the future, particularly in an age where job seekers can easily share their bad experiences (such as poor impressions of a company's hiring procedure) with friends and colleagues.”

Can you make the feedback process easier?

Hiring is all about personal relationships, so while there may be some systems you can use to manage the process, some aspects need to remain personal. If a candidate has been contacted for a phone screening, or an interview, they deserve a phone call with feedback, says Farrington.

“In the event that a candidate is deemed unsuitable earlier in the process – that is, immediately after submitting an application – it is acceptable to trigger a pre-filled rejection email,” she says. “This is a commonly adopted approach in recruitment as it is more efficient than personally reaching out to every individual who submits a CV.”

Is feedback really necessary?

With some jobs attracting dozens of candidates, it’s not practical to offer feedback to everyone, but Farrington says, “As a rule of thumb it’s important to always provide personalised feedback to candidates who have progressed beyond the first stage of the process, which may be after an initial phone call or first interview.”

This can help the candidate to develop professionally, and can also help to maintain a positive relationship with your business – and you never know when your paths may cross again.

Not all feedback is created equal, though, says Montgomery.

“It’s important that the information is delivered in a constructive manner and with an expectation that the candidate can use the feedback to reflect on it in a way that helps them move forward,” she says.

“As an agency recruiter, I have a duty to provide candidates with feedback that is kind and useful even if sometimes the information isn’t always easy to hear. The ‘feedback sandwich’ (starting with positive feedback, sharing ways to improve, and then finishing with more positive feedback) is a very simple yet effective way to do this.”

Best practice for feedback

Most candidates (83%) expect to hear something within a week of an interview, but feedback is important during the process as well, says Montgomery.

"If the process is dragging out longer than anticipated (which can happen), then it is a good idea to send out an email to applications to let them know this,” she says.

"We will very often send out an email to candidates to let them know if we are still reviewing resumes and that they are still being considered, but for whatever reason the process is taking a little longer."

Farrington adds that communicating your outcomes quickly is best for everyone.

“The job market is still hot despite the recent decline, with many applicants weighing up multiple opportunities at once,” she says. “For this reason, it’s important to communicate the interview outcome and any feedback for the candidate as soon as possible. Best practice is for hiring managers and recruiters to provide such feedback is within 24 hours of the interview, typically in the form of a phone call.”

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually. Published May 2023.

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