How can I get constructive feedback from interviewers?

I’ve been for several interviews but I haven’t been successful yet. I always ask for feedback, but most interviewers either never respond or give feedback that’s vague and not much use. How can I get really useful, constructive feedback?

Turn the penny over and sit in the employer’s seat for a moment. Most people don’t enjoy giving feedback. They’re worried about hurting the other person’s feelings and about how they may react. They may even be worried that their reasons for choosing between candidates won’t seem strong enough, and may lead to a complaint of discrimination.

Sometimes choosing the right person is as much about personality fit as it is about qualifications and experience, and when you try to explain: ‘there were several strong candidates, and my gut told me this was the right person’ it just sounds – well – weak.

Remove concerns

So the first thing to do is reassure the interviewer about why you want feedback, and what you will do with it. Say: “I recognise that you have picked the best-fit candidate for the job, and I respect this. However, it would really help me in my job search to understand what elements of my interview technique work well, and which could use brushing up.”

The same thing applies if you are not getting interviews – you need to ask what parts of your application are impressing the employer and which are not, so don’t be shy of requesting feedback on your application.

Make it easy

The next thing is to remove any barrier to the employer responding straight away. If you are emailing or writing to ask for feedback, attach a copy of both the vacancy details and your original application so that the employer doesn’t have to go looking for them.

Be specific

Be specific about what you want to know. If the employer is faced with a blank page, you are likely to get a few words – whatever pops first into the employer’s head that they think will ‘do’ to get this distasteful task over with.

Instead, think of the top two or three things you want to know: “I would be grateful for your comments on…” and then give them some specific points to respond to.

For instance, for interview you might want to ask about (I’ve written in the first person in case you want to cut-and-paste these into your own letter or email):

a) Personal presentation – how I was dressed and the impression I created
b) How well I answered your questions and conducted myself during the interview
c) Anything you think I should focus on to improve.

For applications, you might want to ask about:

a) The presentation and layout of my cv and covering letter/how well I completed your application form. Did I tell you what you needed to know?
b) My fit for the job. In your opinion, do I have the right level of experience and qualifications for a vacancy like this?
c) Any off-putting factors or things you would advise me to change.

Asking specific questions takes the pressure off an employer, and frees them to be really honest.

These questions will work well by telephone, but using post or email means you can more easily include copies of your application.

Watch out for feedback that doesn’t make sense

One final point. Although most companies aim to have a transparent hiring process, it is estimated that between 20 and 50% of advertised jobs may have a ‘favourite’ candidate already in scope. If you receive feedback which doesn’t make logical sense then don’t treat it as gospel. If you were to receive several pieces of similar feedback you might consider revising your view, but, in general, if feedback is weak or illogical, it may be that you were never going to get the job, no matter how fantastic your application or interview.

November 26th, 2009 | Category: application, CV, feedback, interview | No Comments »

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