Whether you’re just getting started interviewing for new roles or you’ve been interviewing but haven’t landed a new job, consider asking for feedback during or even after the process. Not all recruiters and hiring managers will provide feedback, possibly out of fear of saying something that could be construed as discriminatory or non-inclusive or because they simply don’t have time and have already moved filling on to the next job. But if you don’t ask, you can’t receive. The author presents three ways to ask for feedback during or after the interview process — and how to learn from it.
Susan was certain she’d receive an offer after 10 interviews for a VP-level role, but she ultimately didn’t get the job. She was hesitant to ask for feedback after the exhausting process and assumed it would be fruitless anyway. But after we spent time in coaching discussing how to approach the request for feedback, she did ask, and she received some valuable information that allowed her to pivot her messaging and approach for future interviews. She learned she was answering every question in way too much detail, and she was so focused on her team’s successes that the interviewers couldn’t grasp what work she had actually accomplished. After adjusting her approach based on that feedback, she received an offer from her dream company two months later.
Not all recruiters and hiring managers will provide feedback, possibly out of fear of saying something that could be construed as discriminatory or non-inclusive or because they simply don’t have time and have already moved filling on to the next job. But if you don’t ask, you can’t receive. Here are three ways to ask for feedback during or after the interview process — and how to learn from it.
Ask for feedback at the end of the recruiter screen.
Your first conversation will likely be a short screening conversation with a recruiter (either internal or external) to understand a little about you, your experience, and your salary expectations. At the end of this conversation, ask them, “Based on our conversation, how do you think my experience matches what’s needed for the job?” Then decode the answer.
If the recruiter already said you will be put through to the next round, ask, “Is there anything specific I should highlight in upcoming interviews based on the job description or the intangibles not listed?” This type of question can surface valuable information that may not have come up in the initial conversation. It will also give the recruiter an opportunity to reveal the hiring manager’s perspective on the job.
If the recruiter is noncommittal about next steps, stating they’re “just starting the interview process” or they “have more candidates to talk to,” you most likely aren’t a top candidate. In this case, ask, “What additional information can I tell you to feel comfortable championing my candidacy for this role?” If the recruiter engages, you may have a few minutes to provide more information, or you may receive feedback that can help you when interviewing with the next company.
Ask for feedback after every round.
Once you make it past the recruiter screen, you’ll likely interview with the hiring manager and then potentially numerous people on panel interviews. At the end of your interview with the hiring manager, ask them, “How do you think my skills can be leveraged to bring value to your team and the company?” The answer will reveal whether your message was clear or you need to hone it further.
After each interview, write thank-you emails, not just to the people you interviewed with, but also to the recruiter, whom you can ask for time to discuss interviews. During that call, ask, “Is there any feedback, specific focus areas, or anything I can do to improve my interviewing technique?” You’ll receive more feedback when you’re in the middle of the interview process than after you’re eliminated from it. Recruiters want to keep you fully engaged and interested in the job and they want you to be successful in every round of interviews until they’re informed you’re no longer a viable candidate or you receive an offer.
Ask culture-fit questions at the end of the process.
Culture fit is about your demeanor, energy, presence, and how you approach your work. If you didn’t get the job, ask the recruiter, “Do you think, based on the feedback, I would be a culture fit for future opportunities? I wouldn’t want to waste my time or yours if it’s not a match.” You may not receive a transparent answer, but it’s worth a try.
If you receive any feedback, do the following three things in order to put what you learn into practice.
Listen with curiosity.
Take notes and deeply understand the context behind the feedback. This isn’t a time to argue, refute what’s being said, or try to explain your experience further. This is the time to take away some insights to use for future interviews.
But keep in mind that the feedback you get is one person’s or group’s perspective. Some feedback may not be applicable to future jobs — for example, “We really needed someone who is more hands-on.” Another company may love that you focus more on strategy than execution. Use every answer you get to fuel questions for future recruiters — for example, “Are you seeking someone more hands-on, someone who can provide higher-level strategy, or both?” or “What percentage would you say is hands-on and what percentage of the work is strategy development?”
Analyze feedback holistically.
Recruiters don’t know how you will receive feedback, so expect it to be sanitized to not hurt your feelings. Take it at face value, and don’t overanalyze one sentence or one phrase as the reason you didn’t receive an offer. Review the feedback holistically to either pivot if you’re still in the interview process, or to change your interview strategy and approach with the next company if you’ve been rejected from continuing in the process.
Adjust your approach, not yourself.
Feedback is not personal — no one is asking you to change your personality, and you wouldn’t want to anyway. You can pivot where doing so is comfortable and makes sense, but not where you would be compromising your authenticity. If you’re putting on a show and not being your true self, then you won’t know if you’ll be a culture fit for the team, function, or company. Therefore, use the feedback to develop your interviewing skills and executive presence for future roles.
. . .
In the end, if you’re rejected from a role and no one will give you feedback, don’t take it personally. Many times, it’s not about you! There could be internal politics, a management change, or the need for someone with different skills than you have at play, or the job posting could’ve been canceled and no one told you…the list goes on.
The most important thing to remember is you will get the right role at the right time, just like Susan. When she found the right fit, she could see why all the others were the wrong jobs for her.