Candidate Exit Interviews – Getting Feedback From Your Recruiting Customers (The #2 barrier to recruiting excellence)

The two dumbest things in recruiting are not soliciting candidate feedback and not assessing new-hire performance (a.k.a. quality of hire). 

Unfortunately, most in recruiting are not even aware of the practice of “candidate exit interviews,” soliciting new hires and candidate feedback after completing each hiring process. Unfortunately, gathering exit interview information from candidates is quite rare. Even though customer/user feedback is “a given” in literally every business function, data shows that it’s rare in recruiting.

Only 6% of firms capture feedback from every new hire. In a related error, only 15% gathered it from those that rejected their offer, even though that feedback would improve their offer acceptance rate. If you look at the big picture, an amazing 75% of employers routinely fail to seek candidate feedback. Finally, 46% of newly hired employees fail within eighteen months (Data from Leadership IQ research). It makes sense to gather information from those with hands-on knowledge to increase the rate of improvement in your hiring process by as much as 30%. 

Winning Today’s Fierce Talent Competition Requires Candidate Exit Interviews

Not gathering user feedback is the second biggest missed opportunity in recruiting (after measuring new-hire performance). It’s a missed opportunity because today, almost every company must fight to attract its minimal level of required talent. This increased competition should be forcing every company to pinpoint “what works” and “what doesn’t work” in every step of its recruiting process. And the best way to accurately identify your strengths and weaknesses is by using a “Candidate Exit Interview.” You ask candidates and others involved in the hiring process to provide feedback in an actual interview or through a survey after the hiring process is over. And there is one final important point, given all of the recent vocal championing for providing a great “candidate experience.” I find it incredibly hypocritical not to gather feedback from those actual customers to improve that experience, especially today when there are so many tools for effortlessly collecting electronic customer feedback. 

Fortunately, Gathering Feedback Is Now Amazingly Easy

Few realize that 2022 is also an opportune time to begin or upgrade any feedback process. Surveying customers and users have become cheap, easy to learn, and almost effortless with today’s automation. First of all, it’s easy because you already have the contact information of each of your users, so contacting them requires little effort. Receiving responses from these individuals is also relatively easy. They will respond because they have already shown an interest in and made a time commitment to your firm. Finally, electronic surveys are now so common, and applicants already have experience providing feedback on survey platforms like SurveyMonkey, JotForm, Google Forms, and LimeSurvey

Start By Knowing Who Your Recruiting Customers And Users Are?

Begin the process by realizing that numerous applicants, candidates, and employees are involved in every hiring process. I have classified them into fourteen subcategories of customers. All of whom can contribute important information that can be used to improve every aspect of the recruiting process. Unfortunately, when it comes to understanding “who are customers are” in recruiting. Most involved in recruiting can’t even name half of these customers/users (go ahead and try it). If you have limited time, feedback should first be solicited from those in the user categories where you are experiencing the most problems. Each of these user/customer categories is found in the table below.

New hires that accepted your offerOffered finalists that rejected your offer
Well-qualified/diversity process dropouts Those that didn’t finish their application 
Finalist intervieweesAll other interviewees
Employees that made successful referralsAll applicants that met the qualifications 
The hiring manager The recruiter, sourcer and rec. coordinator
All interviewers that rated candidatesAll screeners that sorted resumes
Those that conduct new-hire onboarding Those that assess new-hire training needs

Target These Recruiting Users… And Seek This Information From Them

There are fourteen user categories. Each user category has several important areas where you should seek feedback. Overall, among applicants and candidates, the most important information gathering areas are usually identifying their job attraction factors, what source actually triggered their application and what negative factors almost (or did) caused them to drop out of your hiring process prematurely. Also, note that even though there are fourteen categories of users/customers that can be interviewed or surveyed. Some of them usually make a much larger contribution toward improving recruiting. Those most impactful feedback sources are therefore listed first.

  • Each New Hire – obviously, the individual with the best information is the new hire themselves. In the cases where the hire occurs in a key position, this person should be interviewed by a recruiter. Otherwise, the new hire should be surveyed during onboarding. Ask them during onboarding to rank the top factors that caused them to say yes. And if any negative factors caused them to think twice about accepting. Also, ask them to list the top attraction factors and name the specific source that finally triggered them to apply. Next, ask them how effective the candidate selling process was and how it could be improved. Finally, ask them to list the criteria they used to accept your job (over others). Those “job acceptance criteria” can be used to improve both future offer acceptance rates and your recruiting marketing materials.
  • Offered finalists that rejected your offer – you can learn a lot from finalist candidates that turned down your offer. In fact, candidates in this subcategory rank #2 in importance. They can tell you what factors caused them to reject your offer and what you did right in the hiring and offer process. I recommend using at least a telephone interview to gather information from everyone who rejected your offer.
  • Process dropouts who were well-qualified and/or diverse – it’s critical that you minimize the number of highly desirable candidates that voluntarily drop out of your hiring process before it’s over (i.e., those with exceptional qualifications and all diverse candidates). Information from them is important because you probably never really had a complete chance to assess and sell them fully. So, survey each of them to find out if the reason for their dropping out early was preventable. Also, proactively encourage them to apply again in the future if the cause for the dropout was temporary.
  • Potential applicants who didn’t complete the application process – a different kind of dropout. You can’t know what you’re missing because they never completed the application process if they drop out in the middle of your application process (but after giving you their email address). If the ATS system that they are using keeps partial applications. You can still survey a sample of them to find out what aspect of the application process caused them to stop in the middle of it.
  • Finalist interviewees – these individuals are valuable sources of information because anyone that earned becoming a finalist is likely to be well-qualified. First, consider whether they might fit in another of your currently open jobs or a future job after a little more development. If so, tell them so right away. Next, survey them and ask what factors attracted them and which final thing triggered them to apply. After completing multiple interviews, they know more about “the real job.” So, in the survey, ask them how closely the posted job description accurately reflected the real job. Then using their supplied information is a primary way to improve your sourcing. They are high-quality candidates that went right to the end. They are also a good source for identifying the most effective and the weakest elements of your hiring process. And if you are really bold, give finalists those you would like to apply again some constructive feedback on what they could do to improve their chances next time.
  • All qualified interviewees – this 10% of applicants were good enough to make it to your interview stage. And that means that they are especially valuable. They likely meet all of the job’s qualifications because there are many of them. So, in a sample survey, ask what attracted them to your company and what specific sources triggered their application. As well as what they found to be the best and worst elements of your interview process.
  • Employees that made successful referrals – employees and others who made a referral that at least reached the final interview stage. They are valuable sources of information because they can help other employees make successful referrals in the future. So, survey each of them to identify the source for their best referrals. Ask what they did to convince reluctant referrals to agree to apply. Obviously, these proven employees should also be encouraged to make additional referrals.
  • All qualified applicants – remember if you have treated this large group of applicants unfairly (in their perception). You may have inadvertently angered hundreds of current or potential customers of your company’s product. So, it makes sense to gather information about and then modify the areas they felt were unfair. Start by surveying a sample of applicants about what factors attracted them and what specifically triggered them to apply formally. Next, ask specifically where they first heard or read about your company. And because they all successfully applied, you can also ask them how to improve your application process. And if you’re really bold, you can find out what potential applicants think about your company. By holding focus groups at industry events. And then ask invited potential applicants what they know about, like, and dislike about your company and its jobs.
  • The hiring manager – is recruiting’s most important internal customer. If they are satisfied with the quality of the applicants, the new hire, and the overall process. This manager will be more cooperative next time around. So, survey them before the new-hire starts and ask them to rate their overall satisfaction with the completed hiring process. and their rating of the quality of this particular hire. Also, ask them which parts of the process they think need to be improved from the hiring manager’s perspective. Next, ask them whether the resume screener accurately sorted resumes for this job. Finally, ask them to rate their recruiter. If you need more information about hiring manager surveys, click here.
  • The recruiter, sourcer, and coordinator – these employees are most likely to notice what worked and what glitches occurred during their phase of the hiring process. Begin by surveying each of them after each hire in a key job. Ask them what they think could be easily improved in their functional area. If speed of hire is an issue, ask them how they think that they are part of it can be improved.
  • All interviewers for this job – those applicants who made it to the interview stage should be asked to participate in a sample survey covering their assessment of this interview process, emphasizing what could be improved without much support from the hiring manager. Finally, ask them if anything discriminatory or illegal occurred during their interviews.
  • All resume screeners for this job – unfortunately, you will never know if a highly qualified applicant was improperly screened out at this early stage. You won’t ever again examine the qualifications further, so survey your resume screeners for this job to see if any particular problems or glitches occurred during this particular resume screening stage. Also, generally ask what others could do to make resume screening more accurate.
  • Those who conduct new hire onboarding – those that manage onboarding are critical to the overall feedback loop. First, they have spent a great deal of time with the new hire. They might be able to pass on any valuable information (either positive or negative) that they informally pick up from the new hire. They should then be encouraged to pass that information on to the recruiter and the hiring manager. They are also important to the feedback process because the onboarding provider must remember to offer the agreed-upon survey covering the entire hiring process to all new hires. The onboarding person must also remember to ask each new hire for at least two quality referrals from their last company. 
  • Those who assess new-hire training needs – this last, but certainly not the least important source of information. It is valuable because the initial training assessor might be the best “neutral party” for assessing whether this new hire was well-qualified. In most cases, if they require a great deal of additional initial training, you will need to question that premise. And if this shortfall happens often enough, you should ask the training assessor to suggest changes in the job qualifications for this job.

If the reader needs detailed examples of what a complete recruiting user survey looks like and what questions are normally asked. More detailed survey examples can be found here or here.

If you can only do one thing – focus your information gathering during the onboarding session. During it, ask the new hire to list the factors that caused them to accept and those they continue to worry about. Next, because they are the only candidate that went through them, ask how they would improve our offer-making and candidate selling processes. Finally, have the onboarding person ask the new hire why they quit their last two jobs because that information may help their manager retain them longer. 

Final Thoughts

In the eyes of every corporate executive that I have ever met, not gathering and responding to user/customer feedback is an unforgivable sin. So, I wonder out loud just why it still fails to be a comprehensive practice in the recruiting functions at so many major corporations?

Author’s Note

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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