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The 10 Commandments in Executive Search: Give candidates honest and helpful feedback!

I will conclude my series of the 10th commandment in executive search with the last commandment: 'Give candidates honest and helpful feedback!'

In most cases, feedback is associated with a rejection, because only one of the candidates can get the position and everyone else in the process has to be told that they unfortunately won't get the job.

The most important thing is to communicate this rejection in the first place and provide feedback. Sounds obvious, but it's not. I keep hearing from candidates from other application processes that they simply haven't heard anything despite repeated requests. This is true both when the contact was initiated directly by the company and when a recruitment consultancy was involved. This is of course unacceptable: 'Ghosting' is a bad habit of our time anyway, but it has no place in the professional sector; especially not when it comes to something as important as a potential new position.

The second most important thing is to take the rejection and the associated feedback seriously and to think about it carefully. The feedback should be honest, substantiated and helpful for the candidate. A simple statement along the lines of 'other candidates fit the requirements better' or 'overall it wasn't a good fit' doesn't do justice to this.

Basically, it helps to see feedback not as an unpleasant to-do, but as an opportunity to make a positive impression as a company. Because even if applicants may be disappointed by the message, you can be remembered fondly with honest feedback that is delivered in an appreciative manner. In the best case scenario, the feedback is even helpful for the person who applied.

Example: Someone has convinced the company professionally in the interview process, but is too inexperienced with regard to the leadership skills required for the position and the necessary stakeholder management. In this case, you can honestly give good reasons for this and also explain that the role is simply not (yet) the right one for the person and that neither side would be happy with hiring them. Ideally, the company can hold out the prospect of getting in touch again if another suitable role comes up or provide information about other possible vacancies in its own network. For the applicant, this is important information for further career planning. In any case, the company has presented itself well and it is not uncommon to read a positive review on review platform like Kununu even though the applicant was never hired. This is active and successful employer branding management.

About the author

Dr. Sebastian Tschentscher finds the best digital minds for your company with his executive search boutique "Digital Minds".

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