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Why Do Employers Rarely Offer Explanations to Rejected Candidates?

06/01/2015 01:56 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2016

Why do employers rarely offer explanations to rejected candidates?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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Answer by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Founder / CEO of CareerCup, and the author of Cracking the PM Interview, Cracking the Coding Interview, and Cracking the Tech Career.

Will you commit to telling everyone, from here on out, the honest reason why you're rejecting their invitation? (Everyone! No exceptions!)

  • Will you tell that one guy that you won't grab dinner with him because, to be honest, you found him a bit creepy and plus he's kind of ugly?
  • Will you tell your Facebook friend (who keeps inviting you to stuff wtf) that, uh, you barely know her and the one time you met, you found her kind of annoying?
  • Will you tell that friend-of-a-friend you met that you aren't going to go grab a drink with him because he's just not that interesting?

Nah, you'll make up an excuse. "Oh, so sorry! Would love to but I'm busy that night. Next time!" Or maybe you just don't write back at all. So much for honest feedback.

Turns out that recruiters are people too. They don't see many benefits, but they do see many costs:

  1. Lawsuits. It just opens them up to lawsuits. If they give you a reason and you don't think that's the right reason, you might jump to discrimination. But if you don't know the reason, you have a much harder time arguing that their reason is invalid.
  2. All my friends are doing it. Many companies look to other companies' examples rather than thinking for themselves.
  3. It might be mean. It's scary to deliver really harsh feedback to a candidate. It's so much easier to just not.
  4. It might leave a bad impression of the company. Sure, you say you want to hear the truth. But will you really think more positively of that startup after they tell you that you seemed kind of socially awkward or stupid? Probably not.
  5. There could be many reasons. Think about the last time you and your friends debated where to go to dinner. What was the reason you didn't go to that one Chinese place? Sometimes there's a clear reason -- Bob got food poisoning last time -- but often it's not. Bob thinks it's too greasy, Sally is a vegetarian, Jim actually really wanted to go, Beth just doesn't like Chinese food, and Alex actually thinks it's too healthy. A lot of hiring decisions are like this. The team is generally opposed to hiring you -- enough people are anyway -- but for different reasons.
  6. It's often not actionable. Lots of times people get rejected for non-actionable reasons: culture fit, problem-solving skills, etc. It wouldn't necessarily do you that much good to hear the real reason
.

I would love it if companies gave feedback. In fact, the big consulting firms (McKinsey, Bain, and BCG) do. So you can do it, and I think companies should at least try it as an experiment.

But the easiest, least risky thing is to not give feedback. Everyone else is doing that anyway, so they have good company.

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