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How to Constructively Give Negative Feedback

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Human Resources

26 May 2022

No one wants to hear that they did not receive their dream job - we can all relate to how rejection hurts! But not many people think about how hiring managers feel when giving negative feedback. It is stressful and highly uncomfortable.

Yet, giving negative feedback to unsuccessful candidates is a must! In fact, if you look at it from an employer brand perspective, providing feedback to all job applicants can improve candidate experience.

Despite this, 69.7% of candidates get no negative feedback after being rejected during screening and interviewing stages of their candidacy.

It’s crystal clear that there is room for improvement!

In this detailed guide to providing negative feedback to unsuccessful candidates, we’ll share some tips on how to give constructive feedback that candidates will appreciate.

Without further ado, let’s dive into it!

Show Gratitude for their Interest

As basic as it may sound, start with thanking a candidate for taking the time and effort to interview you. All candidates, even unsuccessful ones, dedicate energy to showing their interest in your company - they update their CVs, craft compelling cover letters, and do in-depth research to understand more about your organization.

Plus, rejection is always difficult! Think about your feelings when you got rejected for a job you really wanted. When people are hurt and disappointed, a sincere thank you is the start!

Be Practical and Useful

All constructive rejection letters should include two points: sincere gratitude for the dedicated time and tips on how to improve for the next interview. 

We understand that giving detailed feedback to each candidate is a difficult task but try to personalize the rejection letter to let the candidate know that your organization gave them proper consideration during the interview process.

This will improve your company's reputation in the eyes of candidates. The numbers prove that of the candidates who received detailed feedback, 52% are more likely to increase their relationship with an employer. This means that they will apply for other jobs and refer your organization to others.

Personalize Feedback

In the previous section, we have discussed the importance of detailed and practical feedback and now, it’s time to speak about how to make them useful for candidates.

For candidates who make it to the interview round, it can be frustrating to receive a standard rejection with no personal details.

With that in mind, provide information on what they did well in the interview and what it seems their strong sides are. Try to be genuine and share your professional thoughts about the candidate’s performance during the interview; think about specific examples to substantiate your points and encourage them to develop those strengths.

After listing the candidate’s strong sides, mention areas they need to improve (this may feel a little bit uncomfortable, but it is essential!). Bring specific examples of aspects you felt were missing during the interview. For example, if the candidate could not communicate well enough how he/she contributed to team successes in prior positions.

When speaking about areas of improvement, try not to sound harsh or overly critical.

Tie your Feedback to the Job Description

Now that we have discussed what should be included in the personalized feedback letter, let’s discuss how to write that letter in a clear and constructive manner.

First, avoid sounding subjective and try to stay away from opinions and personal thoughts about the candidates. An unsuccessful candidate might feel discriminated or unfairly treated if you won’t focus on specific facts about the interview.

To avoid that, link your feedback to the job description, you can use your job description as a guide for giving feedback. When talking about areas of improvement, bring specific examples of how candidates were not able to demonstrate their knowledge or skills that were listed in the job description. In this way, candidates can understand what criteria you’ve used to assess them. Plus, they will be able to better prepare for future interviews.

Carefully Choose the Tone of Voice

When writing a negative feedback letter, tone of voice is as important as the content.

As you start writing feedback to an unsuccessful candidate, imagine how they will feel after receiving the rejection. No matter how self-confident they are, it will still hurt. Be compassionate and very polite and use a friendly but professional tone.

Always end your letter positively with an invitation to stay in contact about future opportunities.


We understand that crafting a genuine, personalized, and well-constructed feedback letter is time-consuming. We also know that speaking about a candidate’s weaknesses and areas of improvement can be utterly uncomfortable.

But one thing we can say with confidence is that the effort is worth taking. However senior or junior the position is, providing appropriate feedback is paramount to creating long-lasting relationships and ultimately supporting the candidate to move forward in a positive manner.

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