Interviews and the importance of feedback – for everyone!

By Fidelis Navas: Founder and MD, Gamma Talent: Responsible Recruitment for the Third Sector

I am a member of a Facebook group for fundraisers. It’s professionally fascinating, and helpful – social media at its finest and I for one read every single post and marvel at my community’s supportive responses. No question seems off limits. For example, someone wanted recommendations of where to recruit Father Christmas’ for their charity’s Grotto. Obviously I replied, ‘North Pole’!

Anyway, I digress.

Another recent conversation was started by a new graduate who was about to attend her first fundraising interview and was after interview advice. A few days later, this graduate came back to the group to say she had not been successful but to thank us for the ideas and support we had given her. Someone in the group asked her what feedback she had got and she replied that she hadn’t had any.

This did not receive a positive response.

And I was really cross about it. This individual, with minimal experience in the world of work had made significant effort to prepare and learn about the charity, and made a pitch to them. She would have taken time out of her day, plus money, to travel to the interview. And it turns out this organisation has not returned the respect and courtesy of feedback. Are a few lines on an email or a short five minute telephone conversation too much to ask about why she has been unsuccessful?

What impact does this have on the individual’s confidence? How can they improve without feedback? What does it say about this organisation’s contribution to the sector and the necessity to support talent development for future sustainability? Not a lot in my opinion.

You might be reading this thinking, it isn’t the responsibility of the organisation to help each individual improve. But that is very harsh and I believe, not in the spirit of our sector. Maybe you’re also thinking that with so many applications, the recruiting manager can’t be expected to provide individual responses.

But why not? Most organisations have a pro forma of sorts that gathers representation from each interview so the information is already there.

What is the benefit from giving and/or receiving feedback? And how to do it – here’s what I think…

Giving bad news is hard. Has anyone ever cried on the phone to you? What could you learn from having to let someone down gently? Leaders should have compassion and understanding and this is a prime opportunity to practise those skills.

You will get a response about the way your organisation has represented itself. From your ‘customers’, as in, potential employees. So to receive a timely response about their experience will very likely show up ideas for improvement as well as highlight success points.

Feedback to unsuccessful candidates should not be about why you’ve hired someone else and why this other person fits the bill. Candidates know they didn’t get hired because you thought someone else was better. So instead, talk about what skills this candidate didn’t have and how they could improve on their answers.

Make sure feedback is timely, it needs to be within a few days, preferably 48 hours so that both parties remember the detail, and therefore there is real learning.

Be calm and clear with your wording. If you’re giving the feedback, make some notes so that you don’t waffle. And tell the truth. The candidate needs to know the truth or what is the point of the feedback?

You know the saying, 8 degrees of separation. Well customers come in all shapes and sizes. The interviewee could be tomorrow’s commissioner, donor, volunteer – at all times, does everyone who comes into contact with your organisation have the very best experience? Don’t assume if you’ve not actually asked them.

I’m a massive champion of feedback and continuous learning, and would be delighted to hear of your suggestions and experiences of feedback.  Please get in touch – tweet me @fidelisnavas

Fidelis Navas is founder and MD of Gamma Talent: Responsible Recruitment for the Third Sector