After weeks of conversations, interviews, and imagining your life in a new position, you finally find out: you didn’t get the job. It’s tough to lose out, but you can learn from the employer who passed on you. While criticism doesn’t always feel good, the interview feedback you can get from the hiring manager can be invaluable. It can give you a clear path to do better on your next opportunity.
There are proven methods to getting honest feedback after a job interview. Seize the moment to gather the employer’s input on your performance, accept their feedback with grace, and use their comments to help you come out on top next time.
Act on opportunity
You should always frame your request for feedback as a favor. You’re looking to improve and feedback is valuable to you. Tailor your approach depending on the situation to increase your chances of a positive response.
Sometimes the hiring manager will call and let you know they went with another candidate. If you were expecting the call, now’s the time to ask for specifics. If you’ve received an email with the bad news, take a moment to review the email, then craft a respectful response with your feedback request. If your previous interactions were friendly, it’s OK to ask for a followup meeting, but at the very least ask them to provide some honest feedback in an email or phone call.
Once you get the hiring manager to agree to share feedback, ask questions that will generate actionable advice to help you improve next time. Try a few of these to start:
- Why did you choose to interview me in the first place? What did you like about me?
- What did you think of my resume? Did it give you an accurate picture of me before the interview?
- How was my cover letter? Anything I can do to improve?
- What was your first impression when you met me?
- Was I qualified to do the job? What skills should I work on developing to improve my chances of getting a similar role?
- What did you say to your colleague or boss after interviewing me?
- Tell me a bit about the candidate you chose to hire. How did their qualifications compare to mine, and why did you go with them?
Remain cool and in control
Sometimes, it all comes down to personality. Hiring managers are looking for applicants who can easily adapt to the organization’s culture. In other words, they’ll hire someone they want to work with, whether it’s because they have similar hobbies or the same sense of humor.
There are strategies and tools for professional attitude adjustments, including conducting practice interviews and asking friends for honest feedback. Do you enunciate clearly? Do you stare off into space when other people talk? Do you have nervous knees? These unfortunate habits can be corrected with practice.
If you really want to find out what went wrong in the interview, keep your emotions in check and be prepared to stay calm when things get personal. It’s a small world, after all, and this manager might decide to check back on that promising candidate who’s unafraid of self-improvement.
Consider your contacts
Go back to your original contact within the company or ask the job recruiter that got you in the door about the possible reasons you were passed over. If you seem genuine in your desire to improve your chances, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting someone to fill you in.
It’s absolutely OK to connect with friends or relatives who work at the company where you interviewed. It’s not sneaky or underhanded; having someone go to bat for you shows that there are people within the organization who think you’re capable of doing the job and deserve an explanation.
Keep in mind that you might not get the feedback you requested. Sometimes the hiring manager will promise to get back to you and never resurface. Go ahead and follow up once, then let it go. If you approach your request with honesty and openness, you will succeed more often than not. And the next step is the hardest: assess the feedback and start to make changes to improve your performance next time.