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Stop Lying To Candidates: Here's a Good Way To Tell Them Why They Didn't Get The Job...

You know the drill - it's time to give a candidate feedback on why they didn't get the job.  Of course, you're fearful you're going to be sued as a result of your bumbling on this conversation.  Whether you're a HR pro or a hiring manager, it's a tough conversation.

The truth can be explosive - so you roll out the following tried and true generalities: Feedback-icon

--We loved you - but we hired someone who was a better fit for the job and our needs at this time; or

--We thought you were overqualified for this job.  But you're great!  You'll land somewhere.

The first one can be true.  The second one might be true, but is rarely the reason you actually didn't select them.

We hate giving real feedback because we hate conflict.  And we're worried about getting sued.

Me?  I like to tell candidates that I selected someone else for the role, and why it's obvious that I thought they were a better fit, I like to give the declined candidate 1-2 things the selected candidate had that they didn't.

Example - I just filled a Lead Gen position at Kinetix and had two great candidates at the end.  I choose the one I did because that candidate did work that was more directly related to the job in question - they were going to be able to use that experience to more quickly roll into the position and add value immediately.

It didn't mean the other candidate was bad.  She was actually very good - but it's the real reason I went the way I did.

If you want to stop the generalities on feedback to non-selected candidates, I'd recommend the following:

1. Tell them you selected someone else in the first 20 seconds of your conversation.

2. Tell them that while the selection was difficult, there were a couple of things the other candidate had more of than they did.

3. Give them one of those things and tell them why that matters in the job. PS - make sure those things are real and that the comparison of candidates nets out the way you're describing it.

4. Wish them the best and get the h#ll off the phone.

That's it.  Feedback is a gift!



Most times people prefer to be lied to than hearing the truth.Instead of me to lie I will rather stick to this formula. Thanks though.

Carol Albert

I prefer to speak the truth and provide feedback that will help a job seeker with their next interview, but I know it's a risk. No good deed goes unpunished.

Gregg Longstaff

The truth is more beneficial to the candidate that didn't get the job than a lie. It's worse to provide no feedback at all - something far too many hiring managers are guilty. The unsuccessful candidate can best benefit from honest feedback that shows an area in which that candidate may need to improve. Lies and generalities don't help to improve the workforce for anybody.


What if I found no qualified applicants to fill the position? Then how would you recommend I tell an interviewee they didn't get the job?

Iris Wertz

I had a similar situation and told them we decided to keep the position open until there was a larger pool of candidates.


I just want to say to everyone who has said that candidates prefer to be lied to that you yourself are lying to yourself to justify your preferred practice. Candidates - like any other human being - don't prefer being lied to. You may be confusing what someone prefers with your preferred reaction, but the two are not synonymous. Just because I don't like the answer someone is giving me doesn't mean I'd prefer a lie instead.

I get that you might not LIKE delivering bad news or having to possibly endure a negative reaction in response - not many people get their jollies from those kinds of experiences. But to say that people would rather be lied to and then head back into the job market oblivious about what just happened isn't just wrong, it's selfish.

Think about it like this: if you cheat on your spouse, you may not like the consequences of telling your partner, but are you honestly going to convince yourself that they'd rather not know? No. And the people who do tell themselves that are simply justifying not being honest. Tell the truth - historically, that's always been the safer bet.

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