The reason I prefer the generic emails is that in many ways they're a testament to the fact that interviewing has a high degree of randomness. In many/most cases, rejecting a candidate comes down to an amorphous feeling that they won't fit in. Or just a brain block on a particular problem which doesn't speak to overall technical ability. Bottom line: the process is often quite random, so attempting to ascribe random decisions to inherent personal attributes is insulting.
The one kind of feedback I appreciate is when it's specific and actionable. For example: "we only hire people with an active open source presence" or "we've decided to curtail all remote hiring." This is something with a clear reason that isn't inherently personal. And no, "improve your culture fit" is not actionable.
Recruiting personnel in human resources are not in a position to evaluate the merits of the interview and it might help if this person wrote the feedback from the perspective of the interviewer and not as a collective "we".
Hm, I find that debatable. Your example rejection strikes me as overly verbose with little substance, is almost comically apologetic, and again boils down to the exact same one-liner of "You're not a good fit at this time."
It's really a long-winded way to convey the exact same (lack of) message, but with tidbits of one's resume and lots of apology sprinkled in to seemingly convey depth and empathy.
If you're not going to provide substantive feedback ("we felt like your performance on the nearest-neighbor problem was pretty rough and were looking for a more optimized solution") then just give the one liner and be done with it.
We get it: you're hamstrung because of legal liabilities. That's fine. Don't make it worse by making us read a paragraph that isn't going to be helpful for the future.
At one place that rejected me the recruiter offered to tell me the reasons over the phone.
I think that sidesteps any liability problem. The phone calls leaves no paper trail, and recording it without his consent is illegal.
Depending on your (and his) jurisdiction. In many US states, it is legal.
Stopped reading right there.
You don't need to provide a wall of text why I'm not the right candidate. I don't intend to read your summary of my resume. There's really no point. I'm already in a mad/frustrated/disappointed/etc. state and giving me a great wall of text is adding insult to injury.
Engineering candidates are really looking for feedback on how the interview/technical component went. The "cultural fit" answer is a blackbox and stating it doesn't really answer what you're looking for.
You're better off just telling me I'm not the right fit and for legal reasons, you can't go into details. That's really it. Don't tell me about what you think of my previous experience. Don't tell me about the other candidates (frankly, I don't care unless they become my co-workers).
I think you're right that technical feedback is the biggest thing, and even a binary answer is useful. "Cultural fit", "we found someone better", and "the boss' nephew got the job" are all somewhat interchangeable from the candidate's perspective, but "we didn't think you could do the work" isn't.
For a company willing to provide information (and yes, most seem to be scared of the legal issue), that's the most value-dense thing to provide.
I disagreed with them, but that didn't matter. I looked back on the interview and could see exactly why they thought that. That feedback helped me improve for the future.
We pride ourselves to be rational/logical but these interviews are so counter intuitive to every thing we believe in.
Don't these interviewers have a little voice in their heads telling them "this is stupid" when they are going through this?
The only thing I didn't like about the interview was that they compared themselves with qualifying for the Olympics. That I should "consider it an honor" because I made it to the interview, which is like making it to the Olympic Trials. While I understand what they meant, I think it was a very pompous statement.
I think it was meant to draw me in by promising a selective team (he took my resume), but it didn't work at all. It simply felt like he was bragging about his own greatness (because he did have a job there) while telling me they would probably waste my time.
Even if the sentiment is good, any variant of "we're so great that failing is still an honor" feels tacky and self-aggrandizing.
The feedback I have tended to give is along the lines of "Our process has a high chance of providing false negatives, so just because we are not offering you a position doesn't mean we are convinced you are not qualified. On [Programming Problem X] we felt that your code involved too much deep nesting and the variable naming was poor; in an environment with many programmers that is one of the most important things to do well. You also missed [Requirement Y] which, while not critical for the functioning of the program, did show a lack of attention to detail of the problem statement." And then they still argue. :-)
If they are really horrible they get rejected in real time, and if it's late in the process we have a conversation internally about how they managed to make it so far.
Our process has a high chance of providing false negatives, so just because we are not offering you a position doesn't mean we are convinced you are not qualified.
I don't really care for the reason why I'm rejected. I'm deluded enough in my own abilities to rationalize the reasons why you're making a huge mistake. :)
The main thing I want is a timely response. What drives me crazy is not getting any response at all.
All I care about is speed. A boilerplate rejection in 1 day (or even that night) is 10x better than a more specific email. Also the reasons given in the example emails are so vague I think I would be more annoyed. Rejection sucks, there is little an employer can do to lessen the blow other than do it quickly, so as to avoid days of agony while the candidate waits.
The only thing people want (and appreciate in my experience) is hard, cold facts about exactly where they messed up so they can do better on subsequent interviews. There is nothing that feels worse than failing and not feeling empowered to succeed in the future. As lovey dovey as those examples are, they don't do anything to help the person succeed in the immediate future which is what really sucks about overly terse rejection emails.
If you want to add something about what to improve, I think that is fine too but do it succinctly (not terse).
I remember years ago, one company I interviewed with ultimately didn't hire me because "my experience was very strong in graphics and game development but they needed more of a generalist". This was, I think, because my unix command line skills were mediocre (At least that's where I flubbed the interview a bit); but at the time they rejected me I was working in web development... so it's not like I'm not adaptable. Anyway, the only reason that I even remember that is because their rejection was memorable, and it was memorable because I thought they were wrong. Of course I didn't argue with them because their minds were made up, but with this sort of decision you don't even want to invite the possibility of debate IMO, you just want to give a yes or a no.
It's incredibly time-consuming to do well, so I cannot claim to hit the target 100% of the time, but I think it's worthwhile.
I'm actually curious how useful it would be though. I can only think of a couple of times I've interviewed, and been genuinely curious why the company decided not to continue with me. Most times it's been "-Wow-, that was a poor fit", either culturally, or what they expected me to know, or how the position was sold to me, or whatever (my favorite being an interview with Microsoft, where the HR rep scheduling it said coding in Java would be fine, but then the interviewer was predominantly a C guy, and so was telling me that my for(int i=0; i<stringObj.length; i++) meant I was running in O(n^2) time, and my having to correct him...yeah), and only one or two times left me curious what their impressions were.
Which seems more damaging in an [unlawful discrimination](http://www.eeoc.gov/) case:
“Thank you for coming to interview with us. Unfortunately we decided to hire another candidate.”
“You had trouble connecting with the interviewer. We call that “culture fit” and value it tremendously. We encourage you to practice your interviewing skills, so you can fully take advantage of your superior technical abilities.”
Only point of the idiotic BigO/whiteboard kind of interviews is to make the interviewer feel good about himself/herself.
Others, though, feel downright insulting - especially the first email. Praising someone's programming background, past projects, and eagerness to solve hard problems isn't an appropriate lead-in to telling them they failed a technical interview. It's either vacuous (they weren't talented, but you needed something to compliment) or back-handed (if their technical skills weren't good, how can you actually respect their past projects?) That's just a way to leave a candidate feeling worse about themselves and you.
Don't abandon this idea. I hugely value specific rejections, even blunt ones like "You don't have the skills we need" or "You failed the second technical interview". Just don't mix that with praising traits you're about to reject someone for.
All I see in defense of this approach in the article is "As a hiring manager, I...". This isn't about you.
A lot of people are determined enough to start a debate about an interview. Comparatively few companies are willing to engage in such a debate and they shouldn't pretend otherwise.
Perhaps it's the impact of reading them all back-to-back, but the insincerity of that interstitial BUT begins to stand out. The impact of reading this feedback is to discount the praise, and emphasize the gaps.
Given that, the feedback doesn't seem specific and actionable enough in most cases. The last example in particular, I parse as [we appreciate your interest, but your skills aren't good enough], which I'm struggling to read as better than the standard template.
1. Congratulate for successes.
2. Point out weaknesses to improve.
3. Give encouragememt to keep working at it in future.
Plenty of people do it wrong and give BS feedback, but those people can put BS in any form.
The main thing is making the selection process visibly fair and undemanding. The rejections that are most annoying are those in which the employer has candidates jump through numerous "hoops" and then rejects them, especially if the rejection is "oh you passed the test but we don't think you fit the culture" or something similar.
Also, the cultural fit responses were worrisome.
I try to minimize unnecessary praise and focus on actionable items. And I always use written feedback as source.