Unsuccessful at interview (part 2)
Unsuccessful at interview (part 2)

Unsuccessful at interview (part 2)

The past term I have been interviewing and being interviewed.

As a recruiting employer I have really focused on our approach to recruitment every inch of the way. From the advert (which has been commented upon on by a handful of candidates) communications, structure of the interview day, from arrival times and rest breaks, to the openness of the process (forenotice of tasks, forenotice of some of the questions), moving onto to who prospective colleagues meet and interact with during the interview and of cause post interview “unsuccessful candidate feedback.” Do we always got it right – of course not, it is a very complex and difficult task.

Back in 2015, I wrote about my own experiences and unsuccessful interview feedback. Nearly ten years on, I am still reflecting and trying to make this particular section of the recruitment process stronger. Why? There are a few reasons. In any interview process, there will always be more unsuccessful candidates than the one successful candidate. Knowing this, I believe we have a professional responsibility to candidates, to be compassionate and honest. Lastly, we have a reputational responsibility too maintain. It is a simple ratio – one hire, versus four, five or more, disappointed candidates. It is clear, where we should we invest our time?

With over 100 hires since that post, another ten interview experiences myself since that date (eight unsuccessful), here is my shortlisted points:

Always sleep on your decisionGives both parties time to reflect. Gives candidates time to withdraw.Candidates are ask to wait and this can be distressing.
Deliver the outcome personally, sincerely and in timely manner, as when statedThe time invested in writing an application and attending an interview deserves it. Reminder, as an employer, you have a reputation to maintain also.Time and emotion cost to the recruiter.
Offer, but always delay professional feedbackThe odds are stacked against candidates. Most get to hear bad news. Very few people are able to hear and receive feedback at this point.Candidates revisit their “unsuccessful” emotions.
Two strengths, two at most, actionable professional observations*Focus on strengths. Offer two honest actionable professional observations, and if possible, examples as a justification.
Ask for candidate feedback in returnShow gratitude for candidates interest and use it as an opportunity to learn something about your own processes or school.
SummaryFeedback reduces speculation and offers clarity. An unsuccessful yet aware candidate may well go on to promote your school and even reapply.The very least we can do, is be compassionate. Unchecked candidate disappointment can easily lend itself to reputational damage.

I often read advice recommending “provide constructive criticism” offering specific examples and suggestions for development. I am not sure this is too helpful ever, certainly not at this bruised juncture. Since 2015, I have more further away from “sincere honest, challenging, supportive and evidenced feedback,” and now I only go as far as offering “honest actionable professional observations.”

Here feedback I recently received that may me pause than reflect.

You answers may have benefitted from anchoring ‘strategic implementations’ to “outcomes for pupils” sooner in your initial responses. We first heard about your impact on pupils outcomes in your response to question 4. We felt it should have been sooner.

Feedback May 2024

So here this irony on unsuccessful interview feedback.

In 2015, I publicly thank Sara Spivey, Headteacher at Springfield School, for her “sincere honest, challenging, supportive and evidenced feedback.”

My staff suggested you had leadership qualities, but they really didn’t feel they got to know who you where… [an example of one of those pauses] the man behind the machine? [and another].

Sara Spivey

Ever since, I have tried to adopt her approach when offering unsuccessful candidate feedback. Second, I have also attempted to be more open and available myself at interview myself.

Most recently, I received unsuccessful interview feedback suggesting I should be “less open, and less available.” I am now in search of the sweet spot

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