How to Get Honest Interview Feedback
So, you prepared for the interview, you researched the company, and you dressed for success. You thought that the interview went well—until you found out that it was a close call, but the job went to another candidate. Here’s our quick guide for getting honest interview feedback by Pamela Skillings & Nick Orlando.
Sure, you’re disappointed you didn’t get the job. On top of that, you can’t help but feel a new wave of anxiety and stress. You wonder, what went wrong? What could I have done differently? Why don’t they want me? Am I making horrible mistakes and not realizing it?
While there is no debriefing session with the hiring manager, you are allowed to ask your interviewers for feedback. Although you lost this job, their feedback can help you on future interviews.
Hearing, for example, that you weren’t dressed appropriately enough or that your writing skills are not up to par will help you present yourself better in the future.
Even if you disagree with the feedback, it can help you prepare to avoid similar misunderstandings next time. If the interviewer thought your writing skills seemed weak and you KNOW that’s not the case, perhaps you need to do a better job of demonstrating this aspect of your experience next time.
Here are 4 tips for receiving feedback on your job interview performance:
1) Get Feedback During the Interview
Some interviewers will offer feedback to candidates during the interview itself. Even if the interviewer doesn’t come out and state an opinion on your performance, you can learn a lot by paying attention to facial expressions, body language, reactions to your interview answers, and what (and how many) questions are asked.
In general, the more time the interviewer spends with you, the better. If the interview segues into a discussion of company needs and industry trends, that’s a very good sign. If your interviewer spontaneously decides he should introduce you to others on the team, that’s also encouraging.
On the other hand, if you notice frowns, sighs, yawns, or increasing interest in checking email or picking up calls when you’re speaking, it may mean you lost your audience.
If you can’t get a read on your interviewer, you could ask before you wrap up the conversation. Some books on interviewing suggest that your last question before leaving the interview should be, “Do you have any concerns about my ability to do this job?” or “Is there any reason you would not hire me for this position?”
This is a risky move, however. You definitely don’t want to end the interview on a negative note. If you opt to ask for this type of feedback, be prepared to strongly counteract any objections or concerns raised before you leave the interview.
Also keep in mind that many interviewers will not be comfortable providing an honest critique on the spot. An alternate approach is to ask: “What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this role?” This can help you identify the interviewer’s top priorities and concerns and address any areas that you haven’t covered in the interview so far — without creating awkwardness by making it too personal or negative.
2) Evaluate Yourself
After the interview, conduct a self-evaluation. Replay the interview in your mind; think about the questions that were asked and how you responded to them.
While the interview is still fresh in your mind, make notes:
- What questions did you handle particularly well?
- What questions did you struggle with?
- Did you feel confident and prepared?
- If you could change anything about the interview, what would it be?
Most people don’t conduct a thorough self review after the interview. They are so relieved to be finished that reliving the interview is the last thing that they want to do.
However, if you evaluate yourself immediately, you may still have an opportunity to address any mistakes or omissions. For example, if you realize that you forgot to mention a relevant accomplishment, you can still bring it to the interviewer’s attention when you send your thank you note.
3) Follow up with the Hiring Manager/Recruiter
Once the interview is over, we all hold out hope that we will receive the ultimate in positive feedback — a job offer (or at least an invitation for a follow-up interview).
However, even if you aren’t chosen for the position, you may be able to get some feedback to help you score an offer after your next interview.
Most hiring managers won’t volunteer feedback. It’s not pleasant to deliver bad news — and most busy professionals don’t make the time for awkward conversations with all of their applicants. Some also worry about saying something that will lead to conflict, offense, or even legal risk for the company.
However, it doesn’t hurt to ask as long as you ask politely. When the company rep calls to tell you that you didn’t get the job, ask for some constructive feedback and make it as easy as possible for them to be candid. Here are some possible approaches:
- I appreciate the phone call and am highly disappointed that I was not chosen. What do you think I could do in order to be a better candidate in the future?
- Was there anything in particular I could have done differently?
- I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me about the company and position. Is there anything I could do or change in order to be a stronger candidate next time?
- I would appreciate it if you could keep me in mind if a position opens in which you think I would be a better fit.
Listen to their responses carefully and take notes. Don’t be defensive or argumentative, as you are asking for an honest critique. Take everything you’re told into careful consideration, and make the most of it.
Use this information to help you for your next interview. Remember, you are not going to land every job you interview for. Treat each interview as a learning experience.
4) Consult a Career Coach/Career Counselor
If you have trouble getting honest feedback from interviewers, it may be a good idea to consult a career coach or career counselor.
If you have had several interviews and no offers, it’s very possible that you are making some common interview mistakes and don’t even know it. A career coach can help you identify problems and work with you to improve your interview techniques.
Most career coaches and career counselors have been trained to help clients with interview best practices. They can conduct mock interviews with you and provide honest, constructive feedback. They can also coach you on how to improve. Mock interviews also allow you to practice answering all types of questions.
Most career coaches offer the option to meet in-person or by phone or video. For job interview coaching, it’s generally best to meet in person or via video-conference so that the coach can evaluate your physical presence and body language.
If you get the call for a big interview opportunity, you might want to schedule a preparation session with a coach so you can practice and get expert coaching on how to best highlight your strengths.