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How to get post-interview feedback when you didn't get the job

The best-case scenario is when you leave a job interview feeling like you knocked it out of the park and that impression is validated by a prompt follow-up from the recruiter or hiring manager to schedule the next interview or make you an offer. However, in many cases, you truly have no way to gauge how well you did during the interview, and as the days and weeks pass without a response, hope begins to fade and the realization that you didn’t get the job sinks in.

A few firms will send a note letting you know that the position you applied for has been filled, but they are the exception to the rule. In most cases, you’ll only hear back if the hiring manager wants to make you an offer, and you will hear crickets chirping if the firm decides to go in a different direction.

Sure, closure would be nice, but constructive criticism from the recruiter or hiring manager would be much more valuable so that you can shore up your weaknesses and avoid making the same mistakes again. But how can you actually get some feedback from a busy hiring manager or recruiter who chose not to hire you? Here are a few suggestions.

Develop a personal connection with the interviewer

The only way you’re going to be able to do get any post-interview feedback is to create a connection with the interviewer outside of the standard job-related conversation, according to Kim Ann Curtin, executive coach and the author of Transforming Wall Street.

“If you can create some sort of rapport with them, then say, ‘I’m really interested in getting some feedback,’” Curtin said. “When you follow up [after it’s clear you didn’t get the job], ask, ‘Is there one thing you can suggest I can do better in an interview?’ Just ask them – they may tell you.

“If you can meet your headhunter, at the end of the interaction say, ‘I want you to be forthright with me – can you make constructive criticism? I would love it,” she said.

Show patience and choose your timing carefully

Getting feedback after an interview is not easy to do – candidates have that challenge all the time, according to Alyssa Gelbard, the founder and president of Resume Strategists. You must proceed cautiously. Asking for constructive criticism is not something you should do after a first round, unless you found out that you didn’t make it past that first round, she said.

In general, people in the job search world are not responsive. You have to reach them at the exact right moment with a concise request.

“Email is better than phone, although it depends on who you’re reaching out to for feedback,” Gelbard said. “It’s easier if you’re working with an external recruiter or search professional, whereas it’s a little harder if it’s an internal recruiter or hiring manager.

“People aren’t responsive because of the volume of communications they receive – recruiters are overwhelmed, and the hiring manager is likely still trying to fill the role,” she said. “There is some legal risk in specifying why a candidate didn’t get a job.”

Be polite, but don’t take offense if they’re not

There’s a polite way to say you’d like to get feedback so you can get an understanding for why you didn’t get it, but it’s hard to do, Gelbard said.

“An easier way is if you know anyone in the company who knows the department head or hiring manager,” she said. “If you make it to the final round and just don’t hear back at all, that’s disrespectful, whether it’s a candidate for an entry-level role or C-suite position.

“It’s a hard thing to do, so you shouldn’t have the expectation that someone is definitely going to respond to you.”

Play the long game

Everyone agrees that getting feedback after the interview, especially if you’re not chosen for the role, is extremely difficult – so much so that sometimes you just have to chalk up your loose ends and lack of closure as a casualty of the interview process, according to Amy Adler, a career coach at Five Strengths.

“The hiring manager is not obligated to follow up with you,” Adler said. “However, you might find some answers to your questions by talking to the recruiter – that individual is likely to have insider information about the path the hiring manager chose, and keeping lines of communication open with the recruiter is a good idea, as he or she will see you as the ‘interviewable’ type.”

You also can try talking directly to the hiring manager sometime down the road, Adler said.

“The focus of your inquiry should be more on how you can improve your interviewing technique and skill set so that you can become the model of the ideal candidate,” she said. “In any case, calling and demanding information or trying to convince the hiring manager, who already has made a choice, is going to fall flat and do nothing for your future relationship with this person.”

Photo credit: keport/GettyImages

AUTHORDan Butcher US Editor
  • Pe
    23 November 2016

    I had many interviews for which I applied directly and I have never heard from the companies despite emailing politely. I did not bother calling. It is really rude not to send an email "sorry you failed" or "we don't hire" etc. A feedback? too much effort for them I guess.

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