Communicating With An Interviewer After You Are Rejected

Maggie - Corporate RockstarMaggie, an interviewer, asks this interesting question (I’d love to know what you think about it):

I am wondering if folks that interviewed and subsequently got denied due to the choosing of another candidate should ask for feedback about what they might or might not have been able to improve in an interview. It’s one of those touchy subjects where as an interviewer I’d like to help the candidates for their next opportunity by giving it but some state that it’s not appropriate and it obviously can steer you down a legally touchy path. Any thoughts on that or something your readers might be able to shed some light on?

This is a good question, I’ll throw my two cents in from both sides (interviewer and interviewee) but would LOVE to hear what you think.

As an interviewee, I have asked for feedback, and gotten no response. This was after multiple conversations before the “we really like you but we chose someone else.” It kind of miffs me because we seem to get along great before the devastating e-mail, and then communication completely ends.

It’s really annoying to, once again as a job seeker, get the cold shoulder. Especially when you are convinced that you are an absolute fit for the job!

However, as an interviewer, I remember how busy I was during this process. Really, it’s a pain to have to interview a dozen or more candidates, figure out who the best is, make offers, and all that stuff. And this, on top of my normal day job!

If a candidate did come back to me (this happened very rarely) to ask what they might have improved, I would totally want to help them out. Shoot, I like helping people and would love the opportunity to coach one of these folks, especially after they show initiative and interest in improving.

But. There is always a but. As a company representative, I would be concerned about some kind of lawsuit. I would probably share maybe 10% of what I really wanted to share, and not say the other 90%. Just to be safe, and keep the company safe. It’s really a shame, but that’s the mentallity that I have… I’m sure HR trained me on that somewhere along the line.

So, do you help and offer advice? As an interviewee, do you ask for feedback after you are rejected?

P.S. This is one of the reasons why a networking or job club is so critical. You are able to network with others in a similar situation, and the information flows freely – you’ll get plenty of advice on your interview techniques (and more!). Hopefully you can find something like Austin’s Launch Pad Job Club, Houston’s Between Jobs Ministry, or the Scottsdale Job Network.

11 thoughts on “Communicating With An Interviewer After You Are Rejected”

  1. As a candidate, I asked for feedback at every interview. I also asked, “Given the candidates that you’ve interviewed, how would you say that I compare?” And I’d push them for specifics.

    The key here is DON’T ARGUE! There is a chance that they got the wrong impression of you and there’s nothing you can do about that. Just accept their stance and correct it either on the next interview or the next company.

    I’ve always provided feedback to my candidates (whether they asked or not) and 50% of them want to argue about it.

    ME: “The company felt like you weren’t mature enough for this role.”

    CANDIDATE: “Well, I don’t know how they could think that! I’m very mature…” and then throws a tantrum.

    M: “I wasn’t in the interview and I didn’t hear what you said, but whatever it was they interpreted as immature. Perhaps you should take some time to figure out what came across that way.”

    C: Still throwing tantrum.

    M: “Never mind. I think I get it.”


  2. Dan is absolutely right (he has amazing gift in that regard) about not arguing. If you are trying to get feedback after being notified that they selected someone else you need to disarm the situation by making them aware you are now trying to get them to change their mind.

    “I am sad to hear that you selected another candidate but I understand and accept that you have difficult decision to make and must choose what you feel is in the best interests of your company. So that I may better prepare myself for seeking other opportunities at other firms I’d like to ask your help by giving me some feedback on how I could better present my case in the future. I’d really appreciate your time and promise not to try to change your mind. Would you be open to a phone call on ____?”

    People like to help and will within the limits of corporate policy brought on by our litigious society. It can’t hurt to ask. The worst they can do is say no.

    As Dan points out the best way is to ask for feedback during the interview by asking the types of probing questions he mentioned.

  3. I do believe that you should ask for feedback when you do not get an job opportunity you were pursuing. Especially if you feel you were a strong candidate for the position. I don’t believe that you should ask for feedback in the interview itself. Here is my recommendation from a recent post I did on this same topic of feedback:

    “My recommendation is that you wait the timeframe given to you by the hiring manager. If they told you they will be making a decision in the next couple of days, all you can do is wait. After the time frame has expired, it is ok to call the manager. If they have made a hiring decision, it is ok to ask for feedback about your candidacy. Be prepared for a “no” up front. Don’t let that stop you. Communicate to the hiring manager, your desire to improve you skills, your desire to improve your interviewing skills as well as any other area in order to gain an opportunity with another company.”

    I believe that if you ask for feedback in the interview, you perceive that you did not do well and that could backfire on you.

    Lastly, I believe you should learn to give yourself feedback after completing an interview. Set some goals before walking into an interview. When you come out of the interview. Evaluate the interview. Don’t allow yourself to say you don’t know how you did. You do know! You will know. Have an expectation that you will know how well or poorly you performed in the interview. What did you do well? List at least two things you did well. What did you do poorly? List at least two things. What would you do differently if you could interview again? How you answer these questions is the beginning of self-correcting feedback. What you do with the information will determine whether you grow and improve. That’s feedback!

  4. Darlene, Gentlemen,

    A very complete piece of advice about getting a post-interview feedback; in this regard, I totally agree with Darlene about a self-feedback process.

    I can’t ignore how interviewers and interviewees act and react from an international perspective particularly when recruiters carrying out interviews perform poorly: in Mexico this is a regular outlook when we attend a job interview: interviewers don’t know how to handle an interview properly in order to get the best from interviewees. On the contrary, they use a “police interrogation” style in order to annoy interviewees and make them contradict themselves.

    In Mexico, most interviewees don’t do a self-analysis because they refuse to accept they could have made mistakes while been interviewed; it’s rather funny yet revealing, but after analyzing my performance, I experienced once a feeling of embarrassment because of the foolish mistakes I made after the recruiter tricked me with two rather illegal questions.

    Thank you for the suggestion Darlene.

  5. This is a tough subject. almost every book you read suggests that you ask for feedback from the interviewers that turn you down… but if you think about it, there really isn’t much in it for them. why would they be motivated to help you?

    Think of a way to make it in their self-interest and you might get a good answer. Imagine the legal mine field that the interviewer is going to have to tip toe through in order to give you information that will help you and can only hurt them… there is just no reason to do it if you ask the standard question the standard way. BUT … what if you worded the question in a way that would give the company that turned you down a chance to win? That would be a whole different ballgame wouldn’t it?

    What if you worded the question this way:

    “Mr . X, thank you for letting me know that I I’m not in the running for the XYZ position. I enjoyed the interview process and really thought that the culture would be a great fit for me. My skill set seemed to be a great match for the position and I could really see myself making a long term commitment to helping move the [department, division, company] toward its long term goals. Obviously, I missed the mark somewhere.”

    Option #1 – “Could you tell me what I would need to improve in order to make a successful application for employment, maybe not for this particular position, but for a suitable role within the company, one that matches me better?”

    Or you could try

    Option #2 – “I have developed a large network of talented professionals in this market niche. Perhaps if you could share with me where I came up short, I might think of an associate that I could refer to you who would better match what you are looking for.”

    Restaurant Jobs | Restaurant Recruiters >> Blog | Web Services for Search Firms

  6. As an employer who has done a lot of interviewing, I will tell you that I tend to respond very well when someone sincerely is looking for feedback on why they were not chosen. Not only that, but often times I have pointed them toward other companies, “Well, you are not as strong at X as what we were looking for, but I’ll tell you someone who is hiring for a position that might be more in line with your skills.

    As has already been said on this thread, remember that you are looking for the person’s impression… regardless of rather or not you agree. It should not be a debate.

  7. I agree about respectfully requesting feeback, and not arguing about it. Obviously by this point, the interviewer (or interviewers) has made a decision. I have had one employer not disclose to me why they selected another candidate, and I felt it was because she was legally bound or otherwise not inclined to be honest with me and used the “we selected a candidate who had more experience in x” way out. On ther other hand, I have recently had the misfortune of interviewing AFTER a candidate had already been agreed upon – and one of the interviewers I asked afterwards actually shared this with me in confidence. What a disappointment and waste of my time!

    Even if you were justly eliminated for whatever reason, take the advice with a grain of salt. If you know you could have done better and the interviewer provides you with similar advice or reasons why you were not selected, listen to their advice and your instincts and hone in on improving those skills for the next interview. If it is a particularly political situation, however, it’s best to realize that there may be other factors involved that have nothing to do with your skills and personality.

  8. I was just wondering, how would I answer the ‘Why did you leave your job’ question when the job was a Community Employment Scheme and the maximum time allowed to work on them is four years. Ias it appropriate to state that you did a CE Scheme or do you make something else up as to why you left. I heard somebody say that you shouldn’t say in an interview that your last job was a CE scheme because it is not looked upon as a real job.

  9. Ailish, I did some research on your question because I have never heard of a Community Employment Scheme. So, let me define it as my research showed and them answer your question. A Community Employment Scheme is designed to help people who are long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged people to get back to work by offering part-time and temporary placement in jobs based withing local communities… After the placement, partcipants are encouraged to seek permanent part-time and full-time jobs elsewhere based on the experience and new skills they have gained while in the Community Employment Scheme.

    My answer to your question:
    Don’t make up a false answer for why you left your job. I don’t see any reason you can’t tell the truth about the Community Employment Scheme. I would recommend that if you use the terminology “Community Employment Scheme”, it would be very important to explain what it is and what you did or accomplished as a part of the program.

    As far as the advise you were given about sharing the CE Scheme as your last job, I believe that it is important to rehearse how you will present information about the CE Scheme job. In other words, if you present the job at the CE Scheme as a low end job, than you are already starting behind in the interview. “My last job was working for a Community Employment Scheme. I had the opportunity to learn, xyz skills. I had the opportunity to …. The things I learned that will help me in position are…

    Lastly, at all cost be honest about your past. Dishonesty will cost you the opportunity to get a good job. Good Luck

    Interview Guru

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