All -

Could use some guidance. Recently interviewing for an open position. Brought in one candidate for on-site interviews. Decided not to make the person an offer.

The candidate followed up later via LinkedIn - asking if I could put in a good word about him with the hiring manger for a different position at a different company.

We are consulting for that company. I'll be advising the company not to consider the candidate for employment for the same reason we didn't: Track record of stagnant development, and, inter-personally, the person would be hard to deal with - not self-aware, self-absorbed, and in need of much guidance, while showing signs of carelessness.

What's the right way to feed that back to the candidate? My choices:
A -- Simply ignore the communication.
B -- Feedback something non-committal.
C -- Feedback that I don't think this role is for them.

I think the *right* thing to do is to "C".

Ignoring the communication is a cop out. Feeding back something non-committal also seems like less than I should do for someone that we did spend some time and effort developing a relationship with.

However, how can I feedback in a respectful fashion? I've already turned down the person once. Now I have to do so a second time? The truth of the matter looks something like this:

"PERSON, I'll be glad to share the positive things I learned about you and your professional background during our interview process with HIRING MANAGER. And - I don't know this is the right opportunity for you, or for COMPANY at this time. They are looking for someone to come in and immediately bring expertise and leadership instantly to build out their new operations process from the ground up. I don't know that your experience and their needs are a good fit. I think they'd be looking for path blazing from you that I'm not convinced your background would bring. You'd be learning along with them, rather than leading them."

Any help her making this less harsh?

Also - am I over-thinking this? Is there a case to be made for being more non-committal? Just stopping at the first sentence above? (but I feel as if that's implying something that isn't true, that I'd be offering a recommendation)

Thank you if you have some thoughts. The main issue is 1) How to be honest, and not misleading; but 2) Not a jerk.

williamelledgepe's picture
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Did this individual ask you for any feedback on their interview with you before they asked you to put in a good word?  If not, I would choose A.  If so and if s/he received it well, I would choose C.  

As far as the reponse: There's a cast for that:  

When delivering the shortcoming in this situation, you should use the phrase, "You did not demonstrate XYZ."  I would also make it shorter - the content of your message is good, but it could probably even get down to two sentences: "I don't know this is the right opportunity for you, or for COMPANY at this time.  You did not demonstrate experience building out the new operations group from the ground up and I know they are looking for someone who has already done this."  I think your very first sentence goes a long way toward not making you a jerk - as will your tone and willingness.  

mmcleod741's picture

Great stuff, William! Appreciated.


mrreliable's picture

In my opinion it would be a mistake to get involved in any way in the hiring activities of the other company, even if you're consulting. Is it your role to offer an unsollicited negative review of one of their prospects?

Our company's attorneys have told us to avoid making any negative comments about any applicant, employee, or former employee. In our hyper-litigious society, you could be setting yourself up to a lawsuit. I'm not an attorney, but I know there are some situations where it doesn't matter if something you said is true, all that matters is whether something you said affects someone else in a negative way.

I recommend you completely ignore the request to "put in a good word."

Obviously, there's nothing wrong and everything right about rejecting a candidate for a position in your company when you don't believe the individual is the best choice. Think about this. Is it right that your negative review would haunt the applicant in their attempt to land a different job in a different company?

It just seems there are a lot of ways for this to go reallly wrong.

mmcleod741's picture

Mr. Reliable - 

You raise good points about the risk that negative feedback to another company could entail.

Two things in response: 

- In the consulting role, I'd be offering a sollicited opinion of this candidates. Part of the consulting duties includes helping vett candidates for hiring. I feel an obligation in that role to provide my negative feedback. 

- I've heard the advisement to not providing any input into hiring at other companies. I don't take that advice as gospel, I take it as a warning to make a risk-assessment judgement. Not providing information to others within my industry that would be helpful to not a step I'd like to take. I depend on others, and they depend upon me for such feedback. Having said that, constantly being aware of the possible legal risk is good advice and to offer feedback judiciusly and prudently. 








Tressie William's picture

I think C option is correct. Giving feedback is not only good for your company, but you’re also helping the candidate to understand where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

snegyK's picture

Did you have the chance to go back to him with feedback after he applied to your company? If not, may be use the opportunity to do it now and I believe this will be an accurate answer to his request. I truly think it is best to give people feedback when they are not hired as this may help with their self-building and will usually leave a better impression with them than not receiving any reply. Hope this is useful for others as well.