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#335 – The Gift of Feedback at Parabol

Friday Ship #335 | February 17th, 2023

A black woman and a white woman sitting around a table chatting. Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

When I first started working as a recruiter, things went badly. I had vowed to always provide my candidates with feedback. But when I did, too many of them didn’t seem to appreciate it. Some were rude to me. Others insulted me. No matter how gently I tried to phrase myself, a number of them didn’t find my words helpful, but instead, hurtful and intrusive.

And then things got worse. 

One day, a candidate straight-up threatened to find out where I lived.

That was when I knew that I had to make some changes to how I worked. I would still let people know they had not been selected for the position, of course. But unless they specifically asked why, I wouldn’t volunteer that information. 

I had learned the hard way that unsolicited feedback too often can be viewed as criticism. The last thing I wanted was to hurt the feelings of people going through such a vulnerable time.

And so, for years, I only explained the reasons someone hadn’t been hired when they asked.

Then everything changed.

Getting some feedback of my own

Recently, a person I interviewed weighed in to describe what the experience had been like. Their comments were concerning, to say the least: they told me that they felt like I hadn’t been transparent enough about why they were not selected. That bothered me, as at Parabol we really value transparency

It also confused me. If they wanted to know why they hadn’t been chosen for this position, why hadn’t they asked me? I was more than willing to tell them; I just didn’t want to accost them with unsolicited criticism!

Then a teammate provided some insight: What if they hadn’t known that they could ask?

I was skeptical, at first. Surely, they had to know that they could ask. After all, practically every single piece of advice about how to look for a job advises its audience to ask why they had been rejected. 

But as I discussed this with some friends, they shared their own experiences. They told me about recruiters who refused to tell them why they had been rejected as if they thought it was beneath them. And then there’s the fact that in some companies your resume isn’t even reviewed by a person, but rather by an automated system. Given this, it begs the question: What good does asking for feedback make, when you may have been rejected by AI or, worse, a recruiter on a power trip?

I wanted the people who applied for a job to know that they were valued, even if they hadn’t been chosen for the position. I wanted them to know that a real human being had reviewed their application and that I appreciated the time and effort they put into it. Plus, I wanted to help them grow.

Would letting people know that they could ask why they hadn’t been selected be the way to do this? At that teammate’s suggestion, I decided to do what we always do at Parabol in these situations: I ran a little test.

I added two lines to my email:

“If you would like more feedback on why you were not selected, please don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll be happy to provide more insight.”

Boy, was I surprised by the results.

After making this change, the percentage of people who asked for feedback skyrocketed from a measly 3% to an impressive 26%.

Over a quarter of candidates will ask for feedback when given the chance

When you have been working in a position for a while, it’s easy to get set in your ways. That’s why it’s important to always be open to improving. Recruiters need to learn from their mistakes just as much as anyone else.

I am grateful for the words from this candidate and for my teammate’s insight, which were the catalyst for this change. Thanks to them, I’ve grown as a professional and as a person.  Their kind words reminded me that sometimes the best gift we can give is honest and caring feedback.


This week we…

…started the Growth retreat

…added options menu tooltip in Standups

Next week we’ll…

…welcome our Marketing team back from the Growth retreat in Spain, and send off our Sales team!

Teresa Salazar García-Rosales

Teresa Salazar García-Rosales

Teresa specializes in tech recruitment. She has interviewed all kinds of candidates, from web developers to quantum computing experts. Before joining Parabol she worked at start-ups, mid-sized companies, and even at a research lab. She lives in sunny Spain. In her free time, she sings karaoke (badly), plays board games, and does escape rooms.

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