It’s not you, it’s us… How to provide constructive candidate feedback

One of the fundamental recruitment areas that many companies seem to struggle with is candidate experience.

It can often seem like a leaky bucket, trying to ensure the whole process is considered and positive – but if there’s one area that needs immediate repair, it’s there. feedback.

Providing constructive feedback to candidates is no longer just a nicety: it’s a necessity. Yet too many companies resort to vague disclaimers like “sent to the post by another applicantOr, even worse, completely ghost candidates. This not only frustrates job seekers, but also damages the company’s reputation.

To stand out and promote a positive candidate experience, recruiters must embrace a more structured and compassionate approach to feedback. Enter the A, B, C method: Usable, Balanced, And Compassionate feedback.

This powerful strategy, developed by SocialTalent candidate experience expert Andrew MacAskill, can revolutionize the recruitment process, turning even unsuccessful candidates into advocates for your company. Let’s see it in action!

The importance of feedback

Feedback is a crucial part of the candidate experience. As Andreas says:

People can tolerate a no, but only if they have been told why.”

Constructive feedback helps candidates understand why they are falling short and how they can improve. Over time, this builds goodwill and unsuccessful candidates can even become real advocates for your company. According to Lever, talent is four times more likely to consider your company in the future after receiving robust feedback.

Providing tailored feedback can seem like a daunting task for overloaded TA teams, but understanding the ‘why’ behind it and implementing a repeatable structure makes it a lot more manageable.

Learn more: Has a positive candidate experience become the exception?

The impact of no feedback

The practice of ghosting candidates or providing vague feedback is unfortunately very common.

This behavior can make candidates feel insecure and frustrated, leading them to second-guess themselves and have a crisis of confidence. This is especially detrimental when candidates are out of work and urgently need work. And just think how negatively those applicants will view your brand after screening, interviewing and being part of a hiring process is an intense commitment, you have to respect what candidates do to themselves.

Additionally, feedback that is too vague, such as “other candidates were a better fit,‘ offers no actionable advice. It merely confirms the outcome without providing any guidance for improvement. This kind of feedback is almost as useless as no feedback at all.

The A, B, C approach to feedback

To avoid these pitfalls, recruiters should follow their A, B, C’s…

1. Actionable feedback

Actionable feedback is concrete and provides specific guidance on what the candidate can do to improve. For example, if a candidate lacks certain technical skills, inform him/her immediately. This type of feedback allows candidates to take steps to improve their qualifications and better prepare for future opportunities.

2. Balanced feedback

Balanced feedback includes both positive points and areas for improvement. This approach ensures that candidates understand their strengths while being aware of their weaknesses. Quality feedback is completed and ensures that a candidate gets a complete picture.

3. Compassionate feedback

Compassionate feedback is given with empathy and respect. It recognizes the candidate’s commitment and time investment. Compassionate feedback can help ease the disappointment of rejection and maintain a positive relationship between the candidate and the company.

Learn more: Our guide to the perfect candidate experience

Implementation of the A, B, C approach

1. Prepare in advance

Develop a framework for evaluating candidates before the interview. This ensures that you have specific criteria to refer to when providing feedback. Note both the strengths and weaknesses observed during the interview process.

2. Be specific and constructive

When providing feedback, be specific about what the candidate did well and where improvement is needed. For example, instead of saying, “you need to improve your technical skills”, specify what skills are lacking and suggest tools, courses or actions they can take to improve them.

3. Deliver with empathy

Always give feedback with empathy. Recognize the candidate’s efforts and thank him for his time. Let them know that their request was appreciated and that the feedback is intended to help them be successful in the future. On a podcast with Johnny Campbell, CEO of SocialTalent, Andrew made a plea to recruiters to:

Never forget what it feels like to be in the job market.”

A framework for feedback: the 3+3 policy

In addition to the A, B, C approach to feedback, Andrew also advocates a 3+3 policy: three things a candidate did well, three things that need improvement. It ensures that feedback remains useful, balanced and compassionate. Here’s how to implement it:

  1. Three things the candidate did well:
  • Highlight specific examples of what the candidate did well during the interview.
  • Reinforce the positive behavior and skills the candidate has demonstrated.
  • This helps the candidate understand their strengths and feel valued.
  1. Three areas for improvement:
  • Identify specific areas where the candidate can improve.
  • Provide useful suggestions on how to address these weaknesses.
  • This guidance helps the candidate better prepare for future opportunities.


Providing constructive feedback to candidates is not just a courtesy; it is a crucial part of the recruitment process that benefits both the candidate and the organization. By taking the A, B, C approach and following the 3+3 policy, recruiters can provide feedback that is actionable, balanced and compassionate.

This practice not only helps candidates improve and prepare for future opportunities, but also builds a positive reputation for the company. Candidates who receive thoughtful feedback are more likely to become advocates for your organization, even if they aren’t selected for the position.

Do you want to improve the candidate experience? Check out SocialTalent’s complete guide on how to build the perfect candidate experience.

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