Keep up with the latest hiring trends!

It’s Not You, It’s Us… How to Deliver Constructive Candidate Feedback

One of the fundamental areas of recruiting 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 to look to patch immediately it’s around feedback

Providing constructive feedback to candidates isn’t just a nicety anymore – it’s a necessity. Yet, too many companies resort to vague rejections like “pipped to the post by another applicant” or, even worse, ghost candidates entirely. This not only frustrates job seekers but also tarnishes the company’s reputation.

In order to stand out and foster a positive candidate experience, recruiters must embrace a more structured and compassionate approach to feedback. Enter the A, B, C method: Actionable, Balanced, and Compassionate feedback. 

Pioneered by SocialTalent’s candidate experience expert, Andrew MacAskill, this powerful strategy 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 critical part of the candidate experience. As Andrew puts it:

People can tolerate a no, but only when they’ve been told why.”

Constructive feedback helps candidates understand why they may have fallen short and how they can improve. Over time, this builds goodwill and can even turn unsuccessful candidates into true advocates for your company. According to Lever, talent is 4x more likely to consider your company in future after getting robust feedback.

It can seem like a tall order for over-stretched TA teams to provide bespoke feedback but when you understand the ‘why’ behind it and implement a repeatable structure, it becomes 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 leave candidates feeling uncertain and frustrated, leading them to second-guess themselves and suffer a confidence crisis. This is especially detrimental when candidates are out of work and urgently need employment. And think of 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 are putting themselves through.

Moreover, 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 type of feedback is almost as unhelpful as no feedback at all.

The A, B, C Approach to Feedback

To avoid these pitfalls, recruiters should follow their A, B, Cs… 

1. Actionable Feedback

Actionable feedback is concrete and provides specific guidance on what the candidate can do to improve. For instance, if a candidate lacks certain technical skills, inform them directly. This type of feedback empowers candidates to take steps to enhance their qualifications and better prepare for future opportunities.

2. Balanced Feedback

Balanced feedback includes both positives and areas for improvement. This approach ensures that candidates understand their strengths while also being aware of their weaknesses. Quality feedback is rounded and allows a candidate to see a complete picture.

3. Compassionate Feedback

Compassionate feedback is delivered with empathy and respect. It acknowledges the candidate’s effort and time investment. Compassionate feedback can help mitigate the disappointment of rejection and maintain a positive relationship between the candidate and the company. 

Learn more: Our Guide to the Perfect Candidate Experience

Implementing the A, B, C Approach

1. Prepare in Advance

Before the interview, develop a framework for evaluating candidates. This ensures that you have specific criteria to reference when providing feedback. Note both the strengths and weaknesses observed during the interview process.

2. Be Specific and Constructive

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

3. Deliver with Empathy

Always deliver feedback with empathy. Acknowledge the candidate’s effort and thank them for their time. Let them know that their application was appreciated and that the feedback is intended to help them succeed in the future. On a podcast with SocialTalent CEO Johnny Campbell, Andrew made a plea with recruiters to:

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

A Framework for Feedback: The 3+3 Policy

In tandem with the A, B, C approach to feedback, Andrew also advocates for a 3+3 policy – three things a candidate did well, three things to improve. It helps keep feedback actionable, 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 positive behaviors and skills that the candidate 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 actionable suggestions on how to address these weaknesses.
  • This guidance helps the candidate prepare better for future opportunities.


Providing constructive feedback to candidates is not just a courtesy; it’s a crucial part of the recruitment process that benefits both the candidate and the organization. By adopting the A, B, C approach and following the 3+3 policy, recruiters can offer 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 were not selected for the position.

Looking to improve candidate experience? Check out SocialTalent’s complete guide on How To Build The Perfect Candidate Experience.

Find out how the likes of IBM, IKEA and Siemens
drive hiring excellence with SocialTalent