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Great processes require great feedback

Superstar athletes were not amazing the first time they walked onto the field. A-list actors did not draw tears the first time the took to the stage. And fortune 500 CEOs were not effective leaders in their first leadership jobs. No matter how strong the raw talent and gifted the individual, greatness comes with practice and experience driven by a constant stream of feedback from coaches, teachers, mentors, peers, audiences, and customers.

TA processes are no different.

A great, inclusive, equitable hiring program requires continuous reflection and improvement driven by valuable feedback.

The trick is to push past the surface-level placations and platitudes to get to the valuable nuggets of actionable feedback.

Valuable feedback: platinum vs. platitudes

“What did you think of the hiring process?”

“It was good.”

Exchanges like this are great feedback – right? It validates the process and shows that the candidates are happy.

Or does it?

What was good about the process? Were there any parts that could be improved? Did any part of the process create hesitation in a potential offer acceptance? Is the candidate being honest or engaged? Are they answering “good” just because they want the offer?

Good feedback is not vague comments and empty praise. Good feedback is specific, actionable, and insightful.

So how do you turn “it was good” into something usable?

Here are a few tips:

1) Start with what you want to know and be specific

Before drafting questions to collect feedback, identify what you want the feedback on and why. The more specific, the better.

For example – a bad what/why:

What: “I want to know if we have a good process”

Why: “We want the best process possible”


  • The ‘what’ is vague – what part of the process? What is good?

  • The ‘why’ is not compelling – why do you want the best process possible? How is ‘best’ defined – to what outcome?

For example – a good what/why

What: “I want to know if our process is too long, causing good candidates to abandon the process”

Why: “On average, we lose 40% of our candidate pool to attrition within the first few steps of the process. We think we may be driving that loss with our lengthy process but need to verify.”


  • The ‘what’ is specific – length of process causing candidates to abandon.

  • The ‘why’ is compelling – tied to a metric.

2) Identify the recipient and their motivations

Feedback will be flavored by the responders of the feedback. For example, direct reports and in-process candidates will likely skew positive because you are in a position of power and can influence their livelihood. Candidates that have been rejected will likely skew negative as a result of the outcome. This does not mean their feedback isn’t valuable or relevant, but it does require understanding and context.

Identify who you are getting feedback from and what their motivations and/or state of mind will be. There may be multiple motivations / state of minds. Identify as many as you can to fully understand the audience.

For example:

For the ‘what’ of “I want to know if our process is too long, causing good candidates to abandon the process”

Who: candidates who have abandoned the process at any point before the interview stage.

Motivation/state of mind of candidates who abandoned:

  • Was interested, but due to process is no longer interested. No motivation to provide feedback.

  • Was interested but saw something in the process that disqualified them. No motivation to provide feedback or skewed negative because they are not qualified for a job they want.

  • Did not realize they haven’t completed the process. Motivated to provide positive feedback so they will be considered for job.

  • Was never interested in job – just clicking on apply button to spray resumes or obtain unemployment. No motivation to provide feedback or skewed negative because they do not want to be in consideration.

3) Draft focused questions that are clear and easy to answer

Once you identify what you need to know and who you’re asking, use the information to draft questions. The questions must be easy to understand, with clear expectations for answers, and address the potential state of mind / motivation of the responders.

Use a combination of structured answers (such as multiple choice or ‘on a scale of’ questions), and optional unstructured answers (open-ended questions) to respect the time of those who have little to say while providing a platform for those who want to give more feedback.

Also, avoid leading the responder by embedding the answer into the question or not providing enough options to truly capture the responder’s thoughts.

For example:

What: “I want to know if our process is too long, causing good candidates to abandon the process”

Who: candidates who have abandoned the process at any point before the interview stage.

Bad question: “Was the process too long or difficult?”

Evaluation: The question has the answer within it “too long or difficult”, creating a validation bias. Binary answers have little value as there is no granularity beyond ‘yes’ and ‘no’, which can give the wrong impression and lead to the wrong focus or actions.

Good question: “What was the primary reason why you decided not to complete the application process:”

a) I was not qualified based on what I saw in the process.

b) The process took too much time to complete.

c) The process was confusing and/or too difficult.

d) I did not realize I hadn’t completed the process.

e) Other [please enter reason]

Evaluation: Does not embed answer in question, fast to answer for those with no or negative motivation, does not focus on emotion for those with no or negative motivation, provides granularity in options to help focus attention, gives option of ‘other’ to empower responders to be more specific.

Bringing it all together

Greatness in anything, from performance to process, requires valuable feedback. By knowing what you want to know and why, who you are asking and what motivates them, and formulating the questions to get at that knowledge from the responders, you will have the information you need to drive your process to greatness.

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