When writing about obtaining interview feedback, it would have been too easy to quote A Few Good Men, “The truth?? You can’t handle the truth!” Besides, you probably can handle it, but you have to make sure you handle the right truth and a meaningful truth, so instead we are taking a journey into country music. Here are some reasons you aren’t getting feedback, and what to do about it. Links to the songs are included for your musical enjoyment. Alternate playlists are welcome.
Grounds for a lawsuit: “No news”
Most recruiters know that the discussion about your interview will eventually get into a comparative discussion about the leading candidate, and the specifics given might become grounds for a lawsuit or complaint. Risk-avoidance is a primary role of a recruiter, so they will not venture into this territory. All this being said, it’s still not the main reason recruiters don’t share feedback. There are lots of other good reasons.
Grounds for an argument: “Pour myself a cup of ambition”
Even if you have no plans for a lawsuit or a complaint of any kind, when the recruiter starts to explain what was missing in the discussion, what is your first instinct? To show some ambition and defend yourself. I know if it’s me, I will start to explain how that wasn’t what I meant, or perhaps you misunderstood, or you didn’t ask the question that would have gotten to how I am an expert in that area. The problem is, now the recruiter has effectively let you have another interview outside the stated process, which can get them into all kinds of hot water from a compliance perspective. But beyond that, is it fair? If you had been the leading candidate because you had all the right examples, but you got shot down because someone else got a do-over, would that feel fair?
You may say that you will just listen and offer no additional information, but you are still a stranger to the recruiter. How do they know if you can keep that promise? The urge to defend yourself is strong. Besides, the recruiter doesn’t want you to defend yourself, because their intention is not to attack you, and yet as soon as they start to give you feedback, it is natural to feel attacked.
Don’t fix what isn’t broken: “How do you like me now?”
Let’s say that you get feedback. You are told that you need to improve in certain areas. For example, let’s say you came across as arrogant, and that you asked too many questions. Ouch! Without arguing, you take that feedback and you go to your next interview with a more passive stance, with fewer intrusive questions. The problem in your next interview is that this company is filled with highly confident people. With your changes, you were deemed too passive, and showed a lack of curiosity since you didn’t ask many questions. You would have been perfect if you had stayed true to yourself, but you changed your approach to suit the needs of the one firm you know you won’t be working for any time soon.
This is where networking can help. Networking allows you to get a cultural read on an organization before the interview. You can also check Glassdoor for sample interview questions. Just because your approach with one company wasn’t on point, does not mean it will not fit in the next company.
Recruiters understand that job seekers can be in a fragile emotional state, and that even the most well-intended feedback can damage self-esteem. Since they do not know you well, they cannot predict if you might be someone whose search could become derailed by the wrong feedback. They err on the side of being sensitive to your feelings, they don’t want to be the windshield.
You do you: “I hope you dance”
As the saying goes, you must do “you.” You cannot recreate yourself before every interview trying to “fix” what you believe you did wrong the last time. You may have done nothing wrong. You may have been fantastic, in fact. You can make a number of cakes using the same ingredients, but by adjusting the ingredients’ quantities, each will turn out differently. Perhaps you had all the basic ingredients and made a great impression, but they needed a cake with a slightly heavier amount of one ingredient than you had. You cannot solve for that, and you cannot let it bring you down.
Getting the right feedback: “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”
It’s possible to tune up your interview to flow like the piano solo in “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” and with the same upbeat attitude. Focus on being the best you, rather than trying to change the past, or adapt yourself to who you think you need to be to be selected. The goal is to be hired by the company where you will be the best fit, and you can be yourself.
Ask 3 or 4 people you trust to spend about 30 to 45 minutes interviewing you. Spend about half the time asking questions, and the rest of the time providing feedback using the guidelines below.
- Share your “walk me through your resume” statement with your interviewer.
- They should ask you 3 or 4 of their favorite general interview questions.
- After the interview, ask them to provide you feedback on the following areas (it would help if you write this up for them before the meeting).
- Well-organized overview statement: Did you get to the point? Were they left with questions you hadn’t answered?
- Enthusiasm: Do you appear to enjoy your work? Did you smile?
- Body language and eye contact: Did you sit up? Did you lean in to the discussion? Was the eye contact engaging? Did you walk into the room with confidence? Did you use your hands effectively or were they distracting? Did you fidget with something?
- Synthesis: Did you get to the point?
- Results orientation: Did you discuss the results of your work?
- Other: Any other areas they wish to discuss?
- These skills are good big-picture skills you should have mastered for interviews. If you need work in some of these areas consider a networking group, a career coach or online videos to support your learning.
- Record yourself doing your career overview and see if your observations are in line with what you are hearing.
- If content, not presentation is your issue, take time to catalogue your skills and examples of them. Practice delivering them concisely.
In conclusion: “Baby likes to rock it”
There are many sound reasons why post-interview feedback will not meet your needs for growth. Work on practice interviews to gain confidence, but don’t try to recreate yourself after every interview. In the meantime, play some good tunes to keep your spirits up. Just listening to “Baby likes to rock it” has my day off to a great start. Now you go rock it in your job search!
“No news” by Lonestar, Lonestar, 1995.
“Pour myself a cup of ambition” was quoted from the song “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs, 1980
“How do you like me now?!” by Toby Keith, How Do You Like Me Now?!, 1999
“The bug,” by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Come On Come On, 1992
“I hope you dance” by Lee Ann Womack, I Hope You Dance, 2000
“Boot Scootin’ Boogie” by Brooks & Dunn, Brand New Man, 1991
“Baby likes to rock it” by The Tractors, The Tractors, 1994
Note: Clearly my musical tastes are back where I left my youth, in the 1990s.