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Your Next PR Disaster is Inevitable When You Provide No Feedback

25 December 2012 Comments off

6 minutes


This is a warning to the reader; your might feel at the end of this entry that it is all Dickens’s Christmas Carol and “Bah! Humbug!”. You would be rightfully semi-accurate in your analysis, of course.

Quite simply, I hate when I go to an interview that is either face-to-face with a potential employer, or a client, and then I have to fight tooth and nail to get those statements of fact that many ordinary souls could consider to feedback from the interviewers or clients. I am amazed, more often than not, in today’s climate when I get unexpected feedback; most of the time I have specifically ask for it.

In my long career of some twenty years or so, I have attended many competency based styles of interviews, and I have learnt in all that time, you cannot effectively improve your skills without a third-party honest ethical reference telling you exactly what you were strong on and what specifically you were weak on.

When I use skills here, I am deliberately being very wide in the definition of term; it can be communication skills, behavourial skills, technical skills or even sitting-still-in-chair-with-your-hands-motionless whilst you talking skills. I will also include puzzle solving, listening to the interviewer, technical analysis and getting off my bum to do a bit of white-boarding, and rapport building, submitting a sample test programming project and panel interviews as part of this scheme.

There is a nothing worse than when you have done all that you can do to perform by giving your valuable time and effort to a round of interviews, and then hearing the cacophony sound of silence; and seeing nothing wafting in the email inbox for a few days. If you have ever attended an interview and waited more 24-48 hours for an answer, and seen and heard nothing, then you probably know placing your on heart that this is an instant fail. If you have ever attended an  interview and got the answer of “no” and the client and the recruiter had no feedback in their response then that I too would classify the end as a similar fail. If you have ever received an “no” and then asked for feedback, and then also received a blank response, then, in fact, that is plainly rude. If you have never received any feedback from the interviews whatsoever then that series of flawed communication from a so-called officer of a reputable business, from beginning to end, actually, is very revealing about the target organisation; and says that perhaps enduring the entire process was a close miss, from your point of view.

Sometimes, after receiving a “no” from an interview, then I have, to be absolutely fair, received some great feedback and pointers on things that I missed and definitely things I could improve on. I have gone over those weaknesses, then revised, educated myself and rehearsed. I improved myself. Sometimes the mostly painful feedback is the stuff you don’t want listen to. I certainly had to train to listen and not just hear.  When I have won a contract and got the job I have learned what the interviewer and recruiter also thought about my appearance, skills, white-boarding and communications; basically the whole lot. So this gripe is not for those who are good at giving prompt, fair and concise feedback whether it is in a good or bad light. They do not have to worry.

In the earlier part of my career, long before the Facebook and Twitter, it was customary to receive the rejection letters through the post. Nowadays, it is the rejection email. For university graduate developers, in these Twenty Tens, it is now even worse, if they they do not receive a response then they may as well consider themselves rejected. Is this the state of business communication in the early twentieth first century? Really. And we thought that we were a classless society; elitism had been knocked cleanly on the head. Surprise. It never actually vanished into the thin air. When we have laden the front-door to new software engineers in our industry with a flaming glass ceiling of unemotional dependency injection. This action is a contempt for an industry and the people working inside it. This, very sadly, is a disgrace.

Dependency injection may work for building the infrastructure of application software and abstracting two components from explicit referring to each other, but does it work not at all for human beings, especially the newest talent? Feelings are hurt; belief and hope with ambitions are trampled; dreams are thrown asunder. No wonder it has hard to attract new people; whether they are youngest and brightest undergraduates, or they are mature folk and utterly serious about retraining in to computer science, if this final result of lack of feedback is a spit on the face, which they have, ultimately, to look forward to.

It is just not enough to say “no”. It does not help the recruitment consultant and the prospective candidate. How can the recruiter help to get better people for the organisation? How can the candidate ever know what went wrong? We are reaping bad karma and more misery on those people who are trying to keep fighting the good fight.

The stock answer from the client that is unforgivable and long-term patched in the synaptic memory is “Sorry. I am so busy that I really cannot afford to do it. You want me to give feedback on all of the candidates who interview here. I got more important things to do in the meantime. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for that.” If you read that and do happen to agree with that sentiment, then shame on you. Here it is the crux; effective candidates require feedback. Senior developers and technical leads always want to improve. The most talented inexperienced engineer who only has a couple of A-level’s wants to improve. If you do not care to give feedback, I guarantee you this fact; they will remember you and your company. Candidates who interview with or without a recruitment agent deserve feedback. You, as a technical leader, have a duty to provide it. It is your job description, so just do it.

It will be a terrible day when one of those candidates that you interviewed and failed to provide feedback for remembers you and your company when they do just give up; and instead grow to become to the next successful generation of rock star developers: a public relations disaster of your own making.


PS: Managers and technical leaders need to be give regular feedback direct to their team members. If they do not then they are not being effective in any organisation. If they want all people to perform then they need to coach and mentor others too in order to become better.

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