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I have done my fair share of interviewing candidates. Some of the candidates are interested to hear immediate feedback right after the interview. Most of the time, I am able to provide a summary on the spot. But since I am not the one making the hiring decision, I wonder if this is ethically or professionally correct.

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    You can always ask them if they would like feedback. – JasonJ Sep 6 '16 at 20:54
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    As I said, some are asking for feedback immediately, hence the question. – Eugene A Sep 6 '16 at 21:18
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    Feedback on the interview as a whole? NEVER. Feedback on their answers to individual behavioural questions? NO. Feedback on their answers to individual technical questions? FINE. – Dawood says reinstate Monica Sep 6 '16 at 23:38
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    To play devil's advocate, in one interview I was given advice on how the interviewer expected me to be interviewed, for example, listing off some questions he would have liked me to ask in the awkward "Do you have any questions for me phase" and he gave me some very, very useful advice. Though I can't remember if this was before or after I asked him "If I did this interview again, what advice would you give me?" – Dan Pantry Sep 7 '16 at 6:48
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    @alephzero: "any positive feedback is meaningless, since you don't have all the information you need to come to a hiring decision" - feedback is much more than whether or not I'll get the job. To me as an applicant, it is definitely not "meaningless" to know whether my answer to a given question was well-chosen, even if I won't get the job overall. – O. R. Mapper Sep 7 '16 at 11:15

11 Answers 11

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I would err on the side of caution, internal processes or HR practices/Standard Operation Procedures may be in place that advocate AGAINST this type of behavior.

While I understand the human side of wanting to offer critiques and advice to some interviewees there can be some unintended side-effects/consequences to doing so, such as you getting name dropped to whoever the 2nd/3rd round interviewer is, which would be my Director - and they would be displeased if I did that. It puts your superiors/peers in a tough spot especially if they end up NOT hiring the person.

On the converse, you can give a negative critique or maybe tell them you did not think they are a fit, and they get hired anyway, same thing - you piss off your manager/supervisor, as well as that interviewee. I cannot speak to legal implications, but if there is a process/SOP against it then you can be laid off, or other internal adverse actions.

To reiterate some points of others, I would decline to give feedback and give them a vague/indirect reason such as evaluation, or having to get feedback from a manager/director. You should be as objective as possible, even in closing, and a critique is leaning towards the subjective side.

  • This is the closest line of thinking, responding to a request for feedback isn't necessarily a bad thing. I wouldn't go along the lines of telling them they have or don't have the position. But use it as a time for you to get clarification on anything that may still seem questionable as the interviewer. I use this technique all the time as a constant interviewee/consultant by saying "Is there anything that we discussed that you have any questions or concerns about?" It helps the interviewee get feedback but also gives them a chance to clarify anything that was said during the interview. – seroki Sep 7 '16 at 19:19
  • give them a vague/indirect reason I think it's rude and disrespectful to be vague and indirect. Be honest. "Hey, I liked you, but you know the process is more complicated than that" or "Hey, I can't give you any information now, because --you know-- legal" – deltree Sep 7 '16 at 22:01
  • @deltree in one of the organizations that was SOP, sorry you see it as rude but that is the way it is sometimes. – VaeInimicus Sep 7 '16 at 22:03
  • @Tim So it is! How did that happen? :-) – David Richerby Sep 8 '16 at 7:08
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I'd recommend against it.

Consider - since you're not making the hire decision, what if you're in the minority and this person is hired anyway? You've just burned a bridge with a new employee even before they were hired.

If you do want to give feedback, check with your management and/or Legal department first. They may have something to say on the matter.

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    Conversely if you are in the minority on the positive side, you don't want the applicant reaching out to HR saying "Why didn't I get the job, Eugene A said I did great in the interview" – cdkMoose Sep 6 '16 at 21:13
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    @cdkMoose So what if they call and ask that? There's no inconsistency in a candidate doing well and not getting the job. The answer is always "We thought somebody else did better so we hired them." As long as the interviewer didn't say they were the best candidate, the question just shows that the applicant doesn't understand how being hired works. It's a bit like complaining after an auction, "I bid $150, which was a lot of money. Why didn't I get the item?" – David Richerby Sep 7 '16 at 8:29
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    It's a situation HR doesn't want to get in and they will probably speak to you about not doing it again. No point in getting on HRs bad side – cdkMoose Sep 7 '16 at 10:11
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    Maybe you deal with horrible people a lot more than I do, but this has forged bridges for me, not burned them. People who are honest about your flaws and will give you helpful feedback are incredibly valuable if you're trying to become better at what you do. I've had people come back to me after being hired to ask what they can do better because they knew I'd give them honest feedback. The employee is evaluating you too -- do you want them to think you aren't someone who help them improve and grow? – David Schwartz Sep 7 '16 at 10:30
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    Surely giving feedback when asked is helping the applicant, and therefore the opposite of burning a bridge? – RemcoGerlich Sep 7 '16 at 14:25
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seeing I am not the one making the hiring decision, I wonder if this is ethically/professionally correct.

It's fine ethically to provide interview feedback, but first you have to get permission from at least two people and probably three - the one making the hiring decision, and the candidate. You may also need HR's permission, depending on company policies.

The hiring manager might not want you to provide feedback to the candidate. Your opinions might not coincide with opinions of others in the interview schedule, and could scare a candidate away, or conversely give a candidate inappropriate hope for being hired.

HR might not want you to provide feedback for fear that you would say the wrong thing and open the company up to a discrimination lawsuit. (They are often very protective/conservative that way).

And the candidate might not want your feedback for any number of personal reasons.

Without permission, you shouldn't provide this feedback.

You could ask the hiring manager and HR before the interviews start if it would be okay to provide such feedback. And you could ask the candidate after the interview if they would like feedback. If they both agree, then your feedback might be very useful.

(As a hiring manager, I would never agree. I want to be in control of the entire interviewing/hiring process as much as possible. While I understand your well-considered motives, there are too many things that could complicate negotiations.)

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    Having seen the mess that results when someone was told what a great job they did and then didn't get hired and sued, I would never agree to let someone provide feedback. Its also pretty bad to watch someone argue that what a hiring official said about them was not true and thus you should hire them. For most folks , they can take it well either way, but you never know who the people who will make a federal case out of the feedback are going to be. – HLGEM Sep 7 '16 at 14:40
  • @HLGEM maybe just stick to negative feedback then. It has worked for thousands of years... – user37746 Sep 7 '16 at 20:30
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I would actually disagree with the prevailing advice here, but with some strong caveats.

First, let me provide the context that I am a hiring manager currently, and I have served as an interviewer in a number of different capacities (both as hiring manager and as a tech screener, etc).

I generally agree that you can't give the feedback that "you're great! We will hire you!" or anything that would lead the person to the conclusion that you will give them an offer unless you actually have the power to make that decision and plan to do so. You can/will get into trouble for doing that.

However, what I have done before and it was appreciated, was to give feedback on interview technique. So, things like, "Well, we will decide if you get the job or not tomorrow during our review meeting, so I can't tell you now either way. In terms of interviewing skills, though, you seemed very confident on x,y, and z, but I'd encourage you in the future to perhaps provide more background on W". That kind of thing.

2

At the moment, your title asks "Is it ethical/professional to give feedback to an interviewee during an interview?", while the body of the question mentions your interviewees are interested to hear immediate feedback right after the interview.

This may actually be an important distinction. If you are asking questions and perhaps doing tasks during an interview, discussion of what might be a good (or better) answer/approach is often a natural part of the interview process, and will tend to be quite matter-of-fact in nature, as well as giving the candidate a second chance to challenge your impression (which may itself be illuminating). The candidate will probably get some idea of how they are doing as the interview progresses.

Feedback after an interview is more likely to be seen as an indication of how likely the candidate is to progress to the next stage, which may be unfair to everyone if that's not your decision, and perhaps runs more risk of seeming subjective or unfair, especially if the feedback is negative. Also, you are usually going to be in the position of weighing the candidate against others you have seen - which may be better done in a situation where you haven't just spent a couple of hours with the candidate.

On a related point, you should probably leave most candidates feeling you've touched on areas where they still have some learning to do - if not, you probably won't have challenged them enough to give them the chance to show what they are capable of.

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    I was going to upvote this until I read the final sentence. – Wildcard Sep 7 '16 at 1:15
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    Speaking far more broadly than hiring interviews: Everyone can always do better. There are no limits on potential ability. However, if you focus on what they can do better to the exclusion of what they can do now, you never recognize or emphasize the success they have achieved and only give one and all a feeling of failure. If you want to improve someone's ability, you should first recognize that they are able, and then increase that. – Wildcard Sep 7 '16 at 7:04
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    @Wildcard I agree that if you're spending most of the time in an interview exploring areas way outside a candidate's experience, you're wasting everyone's time and creating unnecessary negativity. But if you don't try and explore where their limits are, you don't necessarily find out as much as you can about what they have achieved so far. 'Pushing' a bit is also useful when you have someone who seems smart and willing, but shows a lack of experience - you want to see if the potential to progress is really there, and setting challenging tasks can be instructive. – user45019 Sep 7 '16 at 7:18
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    @Wildcard Speaking from personal experience, I once turned down a job largely because the interview was based around a technical problem that was too easy. – Ben Aaronson Sep 7 '16 at 13:24
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    I upvoted due to the final sentence. – user37746 Sep 7 '16 at 16:04
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It's all right as long as you don't sound like you're making any promises. Don't tell them whether they did good or bad, but feel free to provide feedback on their strong/weak sides. Several times in my interviews I was told something like that:

You sound really convincing when you talk about your previous projects. Focus on that in your future interviews and you'll be fine.

or

You don't sound very impressive when speaking French. Maybe you should rehearse a small intro so you don't sound unconfident when you start.

Those remarks were really valuable at the time, without giving me any false expectations about the outcome.

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Do what you just told us. Give them feedback but then make sure you clarify that you're not the one making the hiring decision so that it's not up to you.

The key though is if you're able. If you aren't because you need to look into some things, say you can't do it right then. If you are, do so. But as I said, make sure you let them know that you're not the one making the decision and your feedback can't indicate whether an offer will be made.

  • "clarify ... it's not up to you" -- further, clarify that you aren't even telling them what your decision would be if it was up to you. "If it was me I'd hire you, but it's not up to me so we'll see" is right out ;-) – Steve Jessop Sep 7 '16 at 19:15
  • Right. I'm talking about in general terms. "I think you presented yourself well but I do have some concerns about _____" and yeah, "if it were me..." is never a good idea. – Chris E Sep 8 '16 at 13:55
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Most of the other answers provide good explanations why a direct verbal feedback at the end in the style of "you did good" / "you did bad" is not a good idea.

However, there are several levels of feedback. There is also tone and body language, a large part of it uncontrolled, which indicates how well you like how the candidate performs. In what tone you correct his wrong answers, how approvingly you look at them when they answer correctly. For example, on a wrong answer, hinting that it was such a basic question and that mastering this topic would be very important for this specific job, is quite a giveaway.

I did interview candidates for engineering jobs (strictly technical interviews, nothing about salary and such), and with the best one an interview quickly turns into a general discussion about our technical field, both of us telling stories about the strangest, funniest or most interesting problems we faced and solved. With very poor performing candidates the interview usually stays at the examination level, as I have to find out question after question that this is yet another topic they have no idea about.

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    87% of all communication is nonverbal, it is said. (for animals, 100%) Most people completely overlook this, while yet both giving and responding to it unconsciously, as you explain. Very good to think about. – user37746 Sep 7 '16 at 20:28
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Nothing ethically wrong with it that I can think of. But it's not very professional, this isn't your friend and it's a negotiation. You don't give information away, you have a task to do, you should focus on that.

I have been asked for feedback more than once. I just give them a vague "I can't really do that at this time, we need to evaluate etc,."

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    If you're not giving (information in this case), then you're not negotiating. That said, an interview is a (2-sided) evaluation, not a negotiation. Even the salary part is not negotiating; an employee can't offer anything in return for more salary, since that implies that they're not doing their best otherwise. – Stephen Sep 6 '16 at 23:51
  • @Stephen, the salary part is definitely negotiating. – Wildcard Sep 7 '16 at 1:16
  • @Stephen it's an information exchange, hence a negotiation – Kilisi Sep 7 '16 at 3:09
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    The negotiation is between "will I work here or not", not "will I work here and do a good job or not". – Jemmeh Sep 7 '16 at 15:26
  • I agree that the word "negotiation" applies when you can offer someone a job, not before. If you are not yet to that point, it is just conversation. "Talk is cheap, until you talk with a Lawyer." – user37746 Sep 7 '16 at 20:23
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Yeah giving feedback right after, is very useful to both you as an employer and candidate as an potientail employee.

Constructive criticism is always good, despite what social norm might percieve or concieve it such wise.

In all fairness, always give feedback, a professional one indeed

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not making the hiring decision

? I find this a bit strange - either you are able to evaluate the candidate's capabilities, or you should be being trained to do so. It's disrespectful to the interviewee's time if you don't have the ability to say no when appropriate - let alone continuing to waste your company's time. Being able to say no is important, otherwise it means you don't know what you're doing, or you're not interviewing on value to the company.

I interview for peer positions, and if I say no, it's no. The only reason not to give feedback in this situation is that you don't know how to deliver it; the main problem is creating an argument - and that's irrelevant after a decision.

If you can do this (and terminate an interview early), you can tell continuing candidates that you would have said stopped the interview if it was a no.

Listen to Ending a bad interview podcast.

As for positive feedback, I do that in-interview if appropriate - phrases like "Good", and (sometimes unfortunately) "most people don't answer that one well".

  • @JoeStrazzere I wonder if this is a situation where "One No is worth a Thousand Yesses"? In other words, if anyone in the process says No, it's no? – user37746 Sep 7 '16 at 16:07
  • @JoeStrazzere So, that would be Consultative decisionmaking vs Consensus. If one of your people said No, would that be it then? In other words, they can disqualify someone, but only you can finally accept them? Consensus can hang up in a disagreement, unless someone has Executive power. – user37746 Sep 7 '16 at 17:10
  • @nocomprende The way I've seen it done is that the others don't actually give straight up/down yes/no recommendations. Instead they provide an evaluation on their area of expertise. "I was impressed by her above-average problem solving skills." "He was unsure of details when discussing 1099 forms." etc. The positive and negative evaluations go into a pile with the resume and letters of recommendations and it's the hiring manager who actually figures out how to combine things. A strong negative (or positive) evaluation can tip the scales, but only if the other factors are balanced. – R.M. Sep 7 '16 at 18:44
  • @R.M. OK, I guess I read the Answer's emphasis on being able to say "no", and I ran with it. Maybe this is an uncommon scenario. Having experienced going from a very favorable interview ("we'll contact you in 2 days") to being told yes 2 months later, I felt that quick decisions are probably best for everyone. I wonder where my particular case got hung up? For 2 months? They are fortunate that no one else hired me in the meantime. (All the other folks were much faster at "Getting To No" apparently.) – user37746 Sep 7 '16 at 20:17
  • Looks to me like downvotes with real substance. @JoeStrazzere - can you provide some actual reasons why it's a bad answer. Just because something is common and you work a certain way doesn't mean it's best. What are you protecting against? If a person can't explain the basics of their resume achievements (at a couple of levels below what they're applying for), would you continue interviews and possibly hire? (If I said No to a candidate, I'd start considering saying "No" to the company if you said Yes). Perhaps it's just that my market is so tight we have to look in the rough for diamonds. – Stephen Sep 8 '16 at 5:19

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