How to ask an interviewer for feedback – HBR.org Daily | Region & Cash

Whether you’re just starting interviews for new roles, or you’ve already interviewed but haven’t landed a new job, you should ask for feedback during or even after the application 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 the time and are already filling the next position. But if you don’t ask, you can’t receive. The author presents three ways to ask for feedback during or after the interview – and how to learn from it.

Susan was sure that after 10 interviews she would receive an offer for a VP level position, but she ultimately didn’t get the job. She was reluctant to ask for feedback after the arduous process and assumed it would be fruitless anyway. But after we spent some time in coaching discussing how to handle requests for feedback, she asked and received some valuable information that allowed her to change her message and approach for future interviews. She found that she answered each question in far too much detail and was so focused on her team’s accomplishments that the interviewers couldn’t understand the work she had actually done. After adjusting her approach based on this feedback, two months later she received an offer from her dream company.

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 the time and are already filling the next position. But if you don’t ask, you can’t receive. Here are three ways to ask for feedback during or after the interview — and how you can learn from it.

At the bottom of the Recruiter screen, ask for feedback.

Your first interview will likely be a short screening interview with a recruiter (either internal or external) to learn a little about you, your experience and your salary expectations. At the end of that conversation, ask them, “Based on our conversation, how do you think my experience fits with what’s needed for the job?” Then decode the answer.

If the recruiter has already said you’ll be promoted to the next round, ask, “Is there anything specific I should emphasize in upcoming interviews based on the job description or intangibles not listed?” This type of question can bring valuable information to light that may not have come up in the first conversation. It also gives the recruiter the opportunity to reveal the hiring manager’s perspective on the job.

If the recruiter is noncommittal about the next steps and says they are “just starting the interview” or “have more candidates to talk to”, most likely you are not a top candidate. If so, ask, “What additional information can I provide to make you feel comfortable promoting my candidacy for this role?” If the recruiter commits, you may have a few minutes to provide additional information , or you may receive feedback that can help you interview the next company.

Ask for feedback after each round.

Once you make it past the Recruiter screen, you’ll likely be speaking to the hiring manager, and then possibly numerous people in panel interviews. At the end of your interview with the hiring manager, ask, “How do I think my skills can be used to add value to your team and the company?” The answer will show if your message was clear or if you need to refine it further .

Write thank you emails after each interview, not only to the people you interviewed but also to the recruiter, whom you can ask for time to discuss further interviews. During this call, ask, “Is there any feedback, areas of focus, or anything I can do to improve my interviewing technique?” You get more feedback mid-interview than you do when you’re out of the interview. Recruiters want you to be genuinely interested in the position, and they want you to succeed through each round of interviews until they’re informed that you’re no longer a suitable candidate, or until you receive an offer.

At the end of the process, ask culture-specific questions.

Culture Fit is about your demeanor, your energy, your presence and how you approach your work. If you didn’t get the job, ask the recruiter, “Based on the feedback, do you think I would be culturally appropriate for future opportunities?” I don’t want to waste my time or yours if it doesn’t add up.” You may not get a transparent answer, but it’s worth a try.

When you receive feedback, do the following three things to put what you’ve learned into practice.

Listen curiously.

Take notes and understand the context behind the feedback. This is not the time to argue, refute what has been said, or try to further explain your experience. This is the time to take away some insights that you can use for future interviews.

However, remember that the feedback you receive is one person’s or group’s perspective. Some feedback may not apply to future jobs—for example, “We really needed someone more hands-on.” Another company might like that you focus more on strategy than execution. Use each answer you get to nurture questions for prospective recruiters — for example, “Are you looking for someone more hands-on, someone who can offer higher-level strategy, or both?” or “What percentage of the work do you think are practical and what percentage of the work is strategy development?”

Analyze feedback holistically.

Recruiters don’t know how to get feedback, so expect it to be sanitized so as not to hurt your feelings. Take it at face value and don’t analyze a sentence or phrase as the reason you didn’t get an offer. Review the feedback holistically to either orient yourself if you are still in the interview process or to change your interview strategy and approach at the next company if you have been rejected to continue the process.

Adjust your approach, not yourself.

Feedback isn’t personal – nobody is asking you to change your personality and you wouldn’t want it anyway. You can shoot where it’s convenient and useful, but not where you would compromise your authenticity. When you put on a show and aren’t the real you, you don’t know if you’re a cultural fit for the team, the role, or the company. So use the feedback to develop your conversational skills and leadership presence for future roles.

. . .

If you end up being rejected from a role and no one gives you feedback, don’t take it personally. Often it’s not about you! There could be internal politics, a management change, or the need for someone with different skills than you, or the job posting could have been canceled and nobody told you… the list goes on.

The most important thing to remember is that just like Susan, you get the right role at the right time. Once she found the right job, she could see why everyone else was the wrong job for her.

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