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.
--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!