Eric Derby is a Rochester NY area based staffing consultant (he’s more than a recruiter!), also known as The Software Scout. When I first met Eric, I was intrigued by his business model, personalized approach and the results he gets with his clients and candidates. I asked him to share his story with Elephants at Work and asked him the tough question – why candidates don’t get feedback!

Eric, give us some background about your company – how long you have been in business and what you do!

I actually started as a software developer. I accidentally found my way into recruiting, and found I was very good at it. I have done recruiting now for 15 years, and my technical background helps me tremendously. I can understand technical managers and candidates better than most recruiters.

Presently I see myself more as a staffing consultant than an agency or headhunter. I work with small and medium size companies filling all of their technical positions, and any other positions that they need help with. A few years ago I studied and obtained an HR certification (SPHR) to get a better understanding of how companies work. When possible I like to teach companies how to create a better staffing process, but mostly I just do the recruiting. In a sense I could be seen as doing outsourcing.

Your approach to recruiting is unique – what do you do differently? How does that provide value to your customer?

First, I only have a few customers at a time. I like to work on site, and get to know the work environment. I also have a more detailed interview process than most recruiters; I actually ask candidates about their goals and what they want. This combination allows me to find the right people for the job, and the right job for the candidates, as the fit goes well beyond just matching a technical skill set. When last I compiled statistics 98% of my direct placements stayed in their jobs two years or more. This level of quality provides an excellent ROI to my clients.

Because you have such a different approach, I would bet you get more of the inside scoop on candidate feedback, is that true?

That is most often true. Since I prefer to work on site I generally have direct access to the hiring managers. When possible I like to attend the meetings to review candidates after interviews. In this way I know the real reasons why candidates succeed or are rejected. Because I only work with a few clients at a time I can make the time to get feedback to candidates. Of course my reality is that I need the feedback as well. If candidates are not working I need to know why so that I can make adjustments and find the right person for the job.

Often we hear candidates complain that they don’t receive feedback from companies they have interviewed with and it frustrates them. Why do you think companies or recruiters are reluctant to give candidates feedback especially when the feedback might help candidates get employment?

  1. There are a number of reasons that I can think of offhand: Liability. Companies are afraid that if they are honest with people that they will get sued. The interesting thing is that I have never personally heard of any company I know getting sued for getting feedback to a candidate.
  2. Communication and time; really two reasons but they are very hard to separate. The HR people that I work with are some of the hardest working people I know. HR is often understaffed, and to put it simply these people are swamped. To get feedback takes time; they have to contact (sometimes badger) the hiring managers for information, then convey this to the candidate in nice way. Most HR people just want to move on to the next candidate to try to get the positions filled. Honesty can be very hard. I have had to tell people: they talked to much, did not listen enough, did not answer the questions they were asked, had body odor, had too much cologne/perfume, were dressed poorly, were not respectful, etc. Sometimes people listen well, other times they are belligerent and/or tell me I am wrong. I understand very well why many HR people find this difficult.
  3. Communication and time; this time the hiring manager. Hiring should be important to every manager, and have one of the highest priorities. Once people are hired then the manager will have it easier, right? Unfortunately it does not often work that way. Recruiting is something that these people do on top of their regular daily job, and fitting it in is hard. The recruiting process is often not well defined, and documentation is generally sparse if it exists at all. When a candidate is rejected there is often nothing written about it. The hiring manager tells HR that none of the candidates fit and that they want more, sometimes as they are passing in the hall!

Candidates often think they have a right to feedback, especially when they have spent time interviewing with a company. What are your thoughts?

That is a great question (stalling while I am thinking!). I think that depends on how you define feedback. If the candidate did not get the job then the company does not have any responsibility to the candidate to provide feedback that might help them land the next job. But I think that a company should provide a basic truthful answer about why a candidate did not get a job. So my final answer is that the candidate does have a right to a basic reason why they did not get the job if they had an in-person interview.

What can a candidate do to improve their chances of getting feedback?

  1. Write Thank You notes! Candidates should collect business cards (if possible) of those people with whom they interviewed, or at least make sure that they have their proper name spelling. They should write thank you notes to the people including the HR person. If they cannot afford stamps then they can send email messages. The notes should be mailed the day of the interview. First this improves the odds of a candidate getting a job. Even if the person is not the best candidate then everyone involved in the process will think better of them and be more likely to help including providing feedback.
  2. Be respectful of every person you meet at the company including reception and cleaning people. Anything you do may be watched. Remember that almost everyone interviewing you is taking time away from something else to talk with you.

If you want to connect with Eric, he writes a blog at Staffing Insights or on LinkedIn.