We know that not all FRS’s are able or inclined to use Psychologists to deliver feedback after a promotions process, and the fact that candidates are offered any feedback at all after their assessment is good practice.

It’s not at all easy for line managers who are tasked with providing feedback to candidates when they have not been directly involved in the process. It’s also challenging for assessors who have a large number of feedback sessions to deliver, often with notes which, due to time pressures, may not be sufficiently detailed. Both circumstances will negatively impact the quality of the feedback delivered and likely positive return on the time dedicated to the activity.

Having spoken to many candidates who have experienced both internally delivered feedback, and a developmental feedback session with our team, here are the 4 issues which seem to cause the greatest difficulties with internal feedback sessions, and some tips for making it easier and more effective for all involved.

1. Making it just about the exercises and missing what the exercises are REALLY about

Assessment exercises are meant to be about how the candidate performs in the workplace, and not just about how they do in that specific exercise. Assessment exercises are meant to be ‘job simulations’ i.e. reflect key elements of the role, and through completing the tasks, candidates are providing insights into their potential behaviour within the role.

When feedback focuses on ‘what you did right and what you did wrong in the exercise’ it’s narrowing down the focus to performance in ONE scenario at ONE point in time. This is a missed opportunity to discuss what the exercise was really looking at, which is consistent and predictable tendencies an individual has in how they respond in relevant management scenarios.


Guide the candidate to think about their performance in role as well as within the assessment. If they apply their feedback within the workplace day to day, it will prepare them much more effectively for future assessments than waiting to perform differently in a promotions context next time round.

2. Focusing on how to score points e.g. what phrases need to be covered

Because feedback should be focusing on a more ‘global’ view of performance i.e. how you tend to respond in certain situations, focusing on the specifics of the exercise and how to ‘get points’ next time is less useful. For instance, in response to feedback that the candidate ‘missed the opportunity to consider monitoring performance and evaluating progress’, a line manager may offer guidance that ‘you need to make sure you say that you will follow up with another meeting next time’. This puts the emphasis on the specific exercise, and what to do in an exercise next time to ‘tick the right boxes’. It misses the opportunity to discuss the candidate’s experience of monitoring or understanding of why it is important. The discussion ideally will explore, in a practical way, measures for ensuring performance is monitored, situations where this could be useful within their role, the impacts on this and how to embed this in their workplace behaviour.


Steer the conversation away from too much focus on points and the specifics of the exercise. The exercises are diagnostic tools- it’s what you do with that information afterwards in a broader context which is important.

3. Unfamiliarity with the exercises

The majority of line managers want to support members of their team after they have gone through a promotion process, and will do their best to provide feedback. If they are unfamiliar with the assessment process and exercises, it can make this job rather difficult. Understandably, candidates are most interested to know ‘what they did wrong’, and it can be hard for line managers to satisfactorily answer this, even with detailed feedback reports to guide them. Unless the exercises are very policy and procedure based (which is often the case with internally designed exercises which are less behaviour or leadership quality focused), there isn’t a simple ‘right or wrong’. The feedback session needs to explore the nuances of behaviour and its impacts; how an individual might respond differently for more effective outcomes; the areas they prioritise and those they tend to miss, and why this is. This is a lot for a line manager to delve into it, particularly if they don’t have the full assessment ‘picture’. It can be both frustrating for the line manager and demoralising for the candidate.


Shift to a coaching approach, asking the candidate broader questions about their strengths and preferences, what gives them the most satisfaction in role and where they feel they need to develop confidence or skills. Find parallels between what the candidate is saying about their own performance and how this is reflected in the feedback report, and work together with both sources of information.

4. Focusing on formal training options

After a promotions process, unsuccessful candidates are likely to be disappointed and feel disempowered about where to go next. This can be turned around, as for many individuals, their performance showed development needs which can be addressed, and areas of potential which can be nurtured, and the unsuccessful result simply indicates that there is more work to be done before they are ready for the next step. An unsuccessful result needn’t be a ‘never’, it’s just a ‘not now’. It can be a lot for a line manager to do, to link the performance from a feedback report to areas for development, and then come up with development options which are creative, hands-on and proactive, without over-reliance on formal training methods.


Encourage the individual to identify their own ideas for what they can get involved with, where they could use their skills to the benefit of others and how they can maximise their learning around the leadership behviours within their existing role. Work together to establish what support they need, and your shared expectations of how this will be delivered.

At VCA our psychologists give individual feedback after our CPG assessments in 45-minute sessions. We can also deliver ‘group feedback’ to up to 5 candidates at a time which explores common performance themes, which can be a viable cost conscious alternative.

Visit our Events page to find out about our post promotions process Leadership Development workshops, which can offer useful direction for unsuccessful candidates.