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December 14, 2023

How to Give Interview Feedback Unsuccessful Candidates Will Appreciate (+ Free Scripts)

unsuccessful candidates

Delivered well, sharing feedback on why you’ve decided not to move forward with a candidate after an interview can help soften the blow and keep them motivated to reach out in the future.

As a hiring manager, you know not every candidate you interview will result in a hire. In fact, most of them don’t. To protect your employer brand (and your karma), you need to know how to let candidates down gently.

So how can you be sure you’re giving the kind of constructive feedback unsuccessful candidates will actually appreciate? These easily customizable candidate feedback scripts are here to help.

9 interview feedback examples

  1. The ‘thank you for your time’ email
  2. The ‘didn't get the job’ email
  3. The ‘here’s what we liked’ email
  4. The ‘hey, it’s ok’ email
  5. The straight-shooting feedback email
  6. The helpful resources email
  7. The ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ email
  8. The phone call follow-up email
  9. Connect with unsuccessful candidates on LinkedIn

Tired of the back-and-forth? Give candidates the experience they deserve with streamlined interview scheduling and automated emails in Breezy.

What is interview feedback? And why you should provide it

Interview feedback is constructive criticism given to a candidate after they exit the interview process. This feedback is often helpful for candidates as they workshop for future interviews. 

Providing specific feedback for each unsuccessful candidate can be time-consuming, but it’s critical for ensuring a strong candidate experience.

Here are some of the benefits of sharing constructive feedback at the end of the candidate interview process:

  • Ensure the applicant’s time wasn’t wasted by giving them valuable information they can apply in their next interview.
  • Maintain a positive employer reputation, which may influence how candidates interact with your brand in the future.
  • Protect your talent pipeline by encouraging unsuccessful candidates to apply for future roles.

No matter where you are in your professional journey, feedback is a tool we can all use to improve in our careers. “If no one tells us where we are lagging, we are liable to make the same mistakes over and over again,” explains scientist and lab-runner Michael Turek

When filling positions in his own lab, Michael views every interview as an exchange. “Candidates invest time and effort to prepare for our conversation—and if they don’t get the position, the least I can do is reward their effort with pointers about how they can improve,” he explains.

However, research shows that only 34% of US companies take the time to ask candidates for feedback — indicating they’re not likely to be providing feedback either. So how can your company stand out from the herd and send interview feedback that matters?

A great interview starts with the right questions. Explore Breezy’s free library of interview questions for every role and hiring scenario

Examples of interview feedback: 9 templates for every scenario

Sharing any type of feedback that could be construed as “negative” is enough to make even the bravest recruiter want to run and hide.

To help make the task a little easier, start with the following example scripts and emails.

1. The ‘thank you for your time’ email

Script: I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with our team members. We truly enjoyed getting to know you. We’ll be back in touch by the end of the month with an update.

Preparing for interviews is a commitment. A small note of gratitude can go a long way in establishing your brand as one that respects job seekers’ time.

Before you start shortlisting your candidates, take the time to send a thank you email to all interviewees. Let them know that it was nice to meet them, acknowledge the time taken, and offer a timeline of when to expect a response.

2. The ‘didn't get the job’ email 

Script: You’ve got an awesome background but after reviewing all the projects that came in for this role, we decided to go with someone with more technical experience in Asana. Since that’s our main platform, this is what makes the most sense for now. We were all super impressed with how well your resume fit the job description and enjoyed our conversation, so we’ll definitely reach out for any future openings you may be a good fit for.

It’s okay to let candidates know when you’ve decided to extend a job offer to someone else. Keep your email simple, while still making it clear you were paying attention during their interview. Use sincere and authentic language so the candidate walks away feeling seen.

Need some extra eyes on your candidate feedback email? With Breezy’s direct messaging, privately checking in with colleagues is simple. Try it free today!

3. The ‘here’s what we liked’ email

Script: Your interview answers were great and your personal story was very inspiring — finishing your graduate degree at night while working is no easy feat! However, for this current role, we’re looking for someone with a bit more hands-on experience on the technical side. We’ll definitely keep you in mind for future positions and would love to stay in touch.

Send the candidate away feeling confident by saying something that is both positive and specific to that individual’s background or interview performance. No one likes rejection. Sharing feedback that demonstrates a personal connection can make a huge difference in how they take the news. And remember, it always helps to position your comments within the context of the job requirements or company culture as described in your initial job posting.

4. The ‘hey, it’s ok’ email

Script: We loved that you were so well-prepared for our questions, but we were hoping to have more of an organic dialogue so we could get to know each other better. It’s completely normal for people to be nervous in a job interview — as a recruiter, I see this all the time! One tip that I have personally found helpful for me that might also work for you is listening to my favorite song right before to help shake out the nerves. Let’s definitely stay connected!

No matter how much they prepare, sometimes a candidate just bombs. When you (and the interviewee) already know they didn’t land the job, opt for a compassion-first approach to delivering your interview feedback. Take a moment to put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and consider how they might be feeling. If possible, pinpoint some of the things the candidate did well, so they can apply that in the future.

5. The straight-shooting feedback email

Script: We believe telling the absolute truth about our hiring decisions is the only way to help you succeed (and maybe apply to us again later!). Your technical skills were completely on-point but your approach to developing new skills didn’t seem to fit with our company values around embracing a learning mindset. Happy to jump on a quick phone call if you want to prove us wrong for next time!

For most hiring managers, avoiding the real reason for not hiring someone is a lot easier than facing the truth. But when Sarah Corboliou, Head of Employee Success at Unito, accidentally sent her raw interview notes to a candidate, she found out that even the ugly truth can get a great response.

Sarah had jotted down that a certain candidate came across as “pretty arrogant.” Upon receiving the unfiltered feedback, the candidate reached out to see where he went wrong. Sarah and the candidate ended up having a super constructive meeting that led to her keeping the candidate in mind for future roles.

6. The helpful resources email

Script: It was so great meeting you the other day! I loved the range of roles you’ve had in the past. However, for this specific job, we’re looking for someone with more industry experience. I think you have a lot of great transferable skills that will serve you well. I recently saw this article that might be helpful for you. It shares tips for how you can play up your transferable skills to better compete against someone with more industry experience. I hope we can stay connected.

When appropriate, provide resources to help the candidate further their career and hone their interview skills. This shows you’ve been paying attention and are invested in their future — especially if their future could be at your company one day. This interview feedback example is especially helpful for candidates for entry-level roles and younger employees who may be at the start of their career journey. Take extra care when using this script with more experienced candidates so you don’t come off as patronizing.

7. The ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ email

Script: We really enjoyed chatting with you this week and learning from your depth of industry knowledge. However, with your extensive expertise in this field, we are worried that this role will not keep you engaged enough, and we aren’t able to offer a salary that fairly matches your experience. If a more senior position becomes available, we’ll definitely keep you in mind.

In today’s competitive job market, overqualified candidates often have trouble finding roles that resonate with their interests and experience. Understandably, hiring managers worry that super-experienced candidates will get bored in mid-level roles.

When offering this interview feedback, be extra careful to avoid discriminatory language. Never ever refer to a candidate as being “too old,” and never express a desire for a “younger candidate to fill this role.” This is not only rude, it could also put your company at risk of a lawsuit. Always keep your “negative” comments role-related, such as “We are looking for a candidate who is proficient in [insert software].”

8. The phone call follow-up email

Script: In my role, I’ve talked with a ton of candidates and seen a lot of what works and doesn’t work. If you would like to jump on a call or grab a coffee, I’m happy to talk through some opportunities for how you can better position yourself for future job opportunities. You have a great foundation, but some restructuring of how you present your skills and value might be helpful for similar roles.

If you interview a candidate who just needs a little polishing, why not go the extra mile and offer to jump on a follow-up call? This is a brilliant way to give back, especially when dealing with junior candidates who could use a little extra mentorship as they start their careers. You never know how that connection can serve you in the future!

9. Connect with unsuccessful candidates on LinkedIn

Script: It was great talking with you the other week. Sorry this opportunity didn’t work out, but I would love to stay connected.

People sometimes have a way of coming back into your life at just the right moment. Whether an unsuccessful candidate is a great fit for a future role or ends up connecting you to a superstar ex-colleague, growing your LinkedIn connections helps expand your network and increase your chances of finding the right candidates for future roles.

Best practices when providing interview feedback

Whether you’re sending a thank-you email or a better luck next time message, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Be compassionate and polite
  • Send your feedback ASAP after the interview
  • Ask coworkers and other interviewers for their input
  • Speak to the candidate’s strengths, not just their weaknesses
  • Offer objective criticisms within the context of the role
  • Share specific examples
  • Provide actionable tips and ways to improve
  • Leave the door open to future opportunities

Constructive interview feedback makes everyone better

Whether it’s positive, negative, or a bit of both, constructive interview feedback deserves to be shared. Sharing feedback will not only help unsuccessful candidates understand why you didn't move forward with them, it will also protect your reputation as a company that cares. 

When you’re ready to deliver effective interview feedback every time, Breezy is here to help.

Breezy HR is the user-friendly applicant tracking system that makes it easy for hiring teams to securely share their interview feedback in one central location, right next to the candidate’s profile. With a systematized approach to applicant emails and candidate scorecards, you’ll have a complete view of each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.