Most people will have to live through getting rejected for a job they interviewed for at least once in their career. Although it is hard to face, one way to turn a job loss into a potential win for your future prospects is to solicit feedback after the position has been filled by someone else.
It won’t always pan out, but asking for feedback can be an opportunity to demonstrate a positive attitude and a willingness to grow. In addition, it can leave the recruiter with a good impression, potentially keeping a door open for a future chance. However, if done poorly, it is more likely than not going to slam that door shut, permanently.
So, how do you know when, how and if you should pursue post-rejection feedback?
1) Make Sure You Are Asking for the Right Reasons
Before you reach out for post-interview feedback, it is important to make sure your motivations and expectations are in line with rational reasons for pursuing the feedback in the first place.
Getting feedback about a job interview should be centered on helping you improve your interviewing skills and/or identifying areas where you need to grow professionally to be more competitive for that kind of position.
As an added side benefit, if done sincerely and handled with grace, asking for feedback after a rejection can demonstrate that you have a positive attitude and can bounce from a setback – both valuable personal qualities that might get you noticed if another similar position opens up with that company.
It is NOT an opportunity to argue your merits, pushback on the feedback with excuses, or express your disappointment for not getting the job. If you have strong feelings in any of these directions, you are better off not asking for feedback at all since doing so will likely close the door for any future openings with that company.
2) Don’t Look Desperate
There is always a risk that asking for feedback can come off as desperate, and you definitely won’t gain any advantage with that employer if you tread over this line.
For example, asking for feedback after an interview may not be a great tactic if you are applying for a senior management position since there is an assumption that you should be experienced enough to represent yourself and the company under pressure. It might be better in such cases to assume that the person that got the job simply had a stronger fit for the company’s needs rather than giving a stronger interview performance.
In addition, you don’t want to ask more than once for feedback, particularly since it is not uncommon to simply have the request ignored. Repeating your request is not going to position you more favorably in the eyes of those making hiring decisions.
3) Who Should You Ask?
In most cases, the person that contacts you with the news that the position has been filled is also going to be well positioned to provide you with some feedback if their company policy allows for it. However, in the event that you are contacted by a junior level staff member, it might be wise to follow up with someone else.
If you were recruited by a headhunter, they may be a good resource since they may have received some information from the company in an effort to help them find the strongest fit for future positions. On the other hand, if you feel that your rapport with the person that actually interviewed you was strong, it is not inappropriate to contact them to learn more about your performance and how you can improve.
4) How to Ask for Feedback After a Job Rejection
In most cases the best approach these days is going to be a follow-up email after you have received your rejection.
The exception may be if you are contacted by phone, in which case, politely asking for some ideas on how you might improve for similar future opportunities is appropriate. Just be extra careful if you decide to ask on the phone since it can have the effect of making the person feel put on the spot, which is not going to help them remember you in a positive light.
Your email requesting feedback after you didn’t get the job should contain the following elements:
- Thank them for letting you know that the position has been filled.
- Express that you enjoyed meeting with the other staff and learning more about the company.
- Politely ask for feedback concerning your interview performance and/or qualifications.
- Qualify the request as tentative (“If possible….”, “If you have the time…”) so that you give them an out.
- Make sure the request is framed as a sincere attempt to continue to improve yourself.
- Remind them to keep you in mind for future opportunities.
- Thank them again for their time.
Remember, you have two goals here: 1) To sincerely learn how to improve, and 2) To be thought of in a positive light so that if another opportunity comes up you will have a foot in the door. Before you hit “send,” make sure you have done your best to achieve those goals.
5) Expect No Feedback
It is much more common than not for employers to decline to provide you with feedback after a job interview did not land you the job. There are several reasons for this, although limiting exposure in the event of a discrimination lawsuit is likely a big factor in most corporate HR decision making on the issue.
Second, they are not required to do so, and frankly, there is no benefit to the company to take the time to invest in your professional development since you won’t be adding that value back to their team.
If you adjust your expectations going into the request, knowing that you may not receive feedback at all, then it will help to make sure you are not coming off as pushy, entitled, or resentful if they decline to honor your request.
6) Follow Up After Feedback
If you are lucky enough to receive some feedback, be sure to do two critical things. First, send another follow up, usually email is sufficient, to thank them for their time and let them know that the feedback is helpful. In addition, close with one last reminder to keep you in mind if a position with a stronger fit for your talents, experience and education opens up in the future.
Second, incorporate the feedback into your approach to future interviews. Remember, the main benefit of going to the trouble of asking for a professional perspective on your performance is so that you can make the most of the experience to be better positioned for the next interview.
You have gone through a lot of trouble to learn more about yourself and be more prepared for your next shot at bat. Make sure you make the most of it so that next time you can hit that homerun!
by Sharon Elber