The Value of Post Interview Feedback

Requesting criticism facilitates growth and the opportunity to separate yourself from the crowd

By Leslie Stevens-Huffman | January 2007

Receiving feedback is a very valuable learning experience. The
information is customized, it¿s spontaneous and it¿s really the only
way to delve into the perceptions that others might have about you. It
will even help you uncover some of your ¿blind spots.¿

Feedback provided at the conclusion of an interview can be especially
helpful. Not only is it a barometer of your performance, but once you
are armed with the feedback you can potentially glean some insight into
the interviewer¿s thoughts, the firm¿s decision criteria and it might
even give you the opportunity to recast any objections that the
interviewer might have about you.

There are three components to a successful feedback session. Each step
must be handled with skill and composure in order to make certain that
you turn the feedback session into a positive experience for you and
the interviewer.

1. Ask for feedback

This is different from expressing your interest in the job, which is
considered to be a customary closing remark from the candidate
following an interview. You want to know how you performed and how you
compare against other candidates – and it won¿t be shared unless you ask
for it.

"From the interviewer’s perspective, they are evaluating the candidate
on several levels," says Carole Martin of Interview "They
are wondering if you can do the job, will this person fit in, can we
afford them and lastly what are the ‘red flags’ that I should be aware

There are several ways to ask for the interviewer’s opinions. By first
stating why you are asking for the information, you might be able to
get the interviewer to feel at ease and consequently they will be more
candid with you. Try opening up with a phrase such as, "I’m always
trying to improve. Can you share any feedback with me about my
interviewing skills?"

Martin says to select questions that get to the point, but won’t make the interviewer uncomfortable.

"’Do you have any doubts that I can do this job?’ is one question that
I might ask that will help uncover objections or concerns that the
interviewer might have," says Martin. "Another would be, ‘On a scale of
one to ten, how do I rank against the candidate profile you are looking
for?’ This might reveal how you stack up against other candidates for
the position," says Martin.

2. Handle the feedback appropriately

If you intend to ask for feedback, you need to be able to accept what
you are told without becoming argumentative or defensive. This is
actually the most vital step in the entire process, because you may win
over the interviewer with your poise and professionalism. If the
interviewer offers positive feedback, simply thank them by saying, "Thank you for sharing that with me." The same advice is true if they
offer negative feedback that you don¿t think you need to refute for
example, "Yes, I know that I have a tendency to ramble on a bit when
I’m nervous and I¿m working on it. Thanks for sharing that with me."

Remember to watch facial expressions and body language when you are
receiving feedback. Practicing in front of peers and family members can
help and the more you get used to the process, the more comfortable you
will become with it. Understanding that much of the selection process
is not directed at you personally will help you keep your emotions
under control.

"It’s important to keep in mind that interviewing is a lot like
dating," says Martin. "The department may already have several very
quiet people for example, and maybe they are looking for someone more
out going. If you are more reserved it’s not a bad thing, it just means
it¿s not a fit for you."

3. Addressing Concerns

If the interviewer offers a concern or some negative feedback that you
want to address, listen very carefully to what they say to you, and
then follow this three step process when responding.

  • Restate what you have heard and clarify the real objection with the interviewer. This step is vital because you want to make certain that you address
    the real issue. "So if I¿m hearing you correctly, you are concerned that I don’t have
    project management experience, is that correct? Why is that a concern?¿
  • Clarify the objection: "Oh I see. You were hoping that the new developer would be able to
    handle some managerial duties within six months because you are growing
  • Offer proof of your capabilities: "I actually have six months experience as a project manager on a
    contract basis. If I share that experience with you now and provide you
    with a reference, do you think it would eliminate your concerns?"

Now it’s time to close with a phrase such as, "Ms. Interviewer, have I
addressed that concern to your satisfaction? Wonderful, then I hope I¿m
your first choice because this seems like the ideal job for me."

This formula for handling objections should be used no matter what type
of comment the interviewer has for you whether it’s lack of experience,
lack of job stability or poor personality match. It’s not wise however,
to offer an answer to an objection if the job really isn¿t a good match
for you, or if your lack of experience might cause you to fail. If you
are naturally shy and they need someone who¿s out going to balance a
quiet team, ask if there might be another opportunity that would better
suit your style, or inquire if the interviewer knows of other positions
for someone with your experience level.

Learning to ask for feedback and accept it graciously can improve your
communication skills and help with your personal and professional

"It’s important to take any rejection as a learning experience and
don’t dwell on it," says Martin. "Remember, sometimes the interviewer
isn’t as adept as they should be either because not all interviewers
are created equal."

Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a
freelance writer based in Irvine, Calif. who has more than 20 years
experience in the staffing industry.

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