company asked me to spend an hour giving feedback on their hiring process — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I recently went through a lengthy interview process (five interviews, one of which lasted over two hours, plus two assessments) for a position, and after the final interview, the company asked me to join them for a feedback call. Interestingly, the feedback call was an opportunity for me to tell them how they could improve their hiring process; there was no real value in the call for me.

The position wasn’t high level. It was not a management or director role of any kind, and not even a niche, high-level, extremely experienced individual contributor position.

Everyone I met with seemed extremely happy with their job, except that their teams were all understaffed and it was taking the company a long time to fill positions. (I’m suspicious that this and the really intense hiring process for relatively low-level positions may be somehow related.)

They did end up rejecting me after the feedback call, so I’m not evaluating whether to work for a company that can’t connect those dots.

I have a few questions:

1. I’m sure that I was still being evaluated as a candidate on the feedback call. But is there a reliable strategy for giving a company feedback on their hiring process while you’re still a candidate? I didn’t feel like it was possible to tell whether they wanted actual constructive feedback or just for me to talk for an hour about how excited I was to work for the company.

2. Are candidate feedback calls before making a job offer becoming common, or is this company an oddball?

3. Would there be a way to decline to give feedback until after the company had made a hiring decision, without necessarily forfeiting my candidacy? I think the answer to this is no, but I feel slighted — I gave the company what I think is really practical, easy-to-implement, and insightful feedback on how the hiring process could have been made more pleasant for me and candidates like me (something I imagine a consultant would charge them a lot of money for!), and they declined to give me any feedback at all. I know it’s normal for companies to not give feedback, but it’s not normal for companies to ask candidates who are trying to get a job to give them an hour of feedback after five interviews and two tests for a low level position.

Yeah, this is bonkers.

First, five interviews is way too much for most positions. Five? Three is about the maximum I’d want to see unless the position is extremely senior or there are extenuating circumstances that they explain and acknowledge (“we’re so sorry to ask you to invest more time; the hiring manager left/the position changed significantly/etc.”).

And then to ask you to spend your time giving them feedback on top of it? I could see maybe doing that as part of the process for a job that was heavily focused on giving others feedback — like if you were applying to be a coach of some sort — but otherwise they were simply taking advantage of you while you still felt pressure to agree. I’m sure there were useful things they glean about candidates from those calls, but not enough to justify the misuse of your time and the abuse of the power dynamics.

Plus, they’re not going to get candid feedback from people who believe they’re still under consideration. If they really want candidate feedback, they should do it after people have been rejected, and ideally anonymously and with a low time commitment (like a survey, not a phone call). If they want something more than that, they should compensate people.

To your questions:

What they wanted: I don’t think they wanted you to talk for an hour about how excited you were to work for them. They just don’t understand the power dynamics would keep people from being candid, or they were assessing something else about you on the call (diplomacy, insight, ability to critique a process while speaking to its stakeholders), or they genuinely thought this was a reasonable thing to ask you to spend your time on mid-hiring process. My guess is a bit of all three.

Is this becoming common: Nope.

Was there a way to opt out of giving feedback until after they’d made a hiring decision without affecting your candidacy: Maybe, but you couldn’t have known for sure. If you were a top candidate and you said something like, “I’ll be frank — I’ve done five interviews with you and two assessments, and it’s a crunch time for me at work; it would be tough to carve out time for another meeting” … they might have been fine with it. Would you have been at a disadvantage compared to candidates who agreed to the calls? If you were already one of their top picks, not necessarily. But they shouldn’t have put you in a situation where you had to wonder about that.

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