Feedback Off Campus: How to Get Constructive Criticism

by | April 20, 2009

  • My Vault

Posted by Caroline Ceniza-Levine

Let’s face it: recruiters will not tell you how you did in that interview because they don’t want the legal liability that you take it the wrong way and sue. Yes, that’s a bit extreme, and 99.9% of people won’t do that, but since we don’t know for sure you’re not the .1% exception we just assume you are. One of the best things about my job as a coach is that now I can give the candid feedback I couldn’t share as a recruiter. I do believe people want the feedback and benefit from hearing it, and now I don’t have to tiptoe around any legal issues.

But what if you don’t have a coach who is beholden only to you and who can share the good, the bad and the ugly? How can you get constructive criticism during your search so that you can identify and fix potential problems?

Ask friends to read your resume and tell you what it says, not what it should say. Don’t ask friends if they like the format. Unless they are in a position to hire you, who cares? Don’t ask them if the job descriptions are clear. No one likes to admit they don’t understand something, so they won’t be truthful even when your resume is full of jargon. Instead, ask them to guess what job, what industry, or what type of company you want. This is the most basic thing your resume should be saying. If it’s not clear to your friends, then it’s not clear enough.

During interviews, ask for relative feedback, not absolute. How do you stack up to other candidates that they’ve seen? Do you have more or less experience? What about the other candidates makes them stand out? By asking about the competition you get a sense for where you stand, how you can tailor your follow up to be more competitive, and you take the pressure off asking about you specifically.

In the follow up phase, ask about other jobs, not this one. If you get closed out for that PR assistant spot at Company Y, ask how you could be more competitive as you apply for the same spot at their competitor. Company Y may tell you because whatever you do with their advice won’t be their problem now, and people generally like to be helpful. Believe it or not, recruiters don’t like turning people down, so giving this type of advice enables them to feel better during that awkward sorry-you’re-dinged call.

Feedback On-Campus: How to Get Constructive Criticism

Posted by Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio

Candidate feedback is critical to the job search process yet recruiters will avoid giving you feedback like the plague. When I was managing campus recruiting for Merrill Lynch, one of my recruiters told a candidate that although they did well during their summer internship, compared to the other candidates, they were less of a "fit". When the candidate asked what "fit" meant, my recruiter was already sweating. He asked if it because he was Black. Then he asked if it was because he didn’t live in NYC. Very uncomfortable to say the least! So to avoid situations like that, recruiters will say "it was very competitive", and "they had more experience than you", etc. So where to go for honest feedback?

First stop: Office of Career Services. Several schools have hired coaches (SixFigureStart included) to conduct "mock interviews". You MUST take advantage of these opportunities because coaches will give you honest feedback that you just won’t get anywhere else. When I was recently conducting mock interviews of several MBAs, some could not describe the recent mortgage crisis. Another MBA was holding a pen and clicking it every 5 – 10 seconds. And yet another was a "quiet talker" … I had to ask her to speak up about 4 or 5 times. And these were MBAs from a top 10 school! So, if your school does not hire coaches, ask the career services staff to interview you and critique your performance. It’s critical.

Second stop: School Clubs. On campus school clubs have budgets and they can use these budgets to bring in a career coach. It would be money very well spent. Perhaps they can’t mock interview everyone in the club, but they could perform mock interviews of 2 or 3 in front of the group, and then critique for all to learn. Don’t be surprised if you find significant budget dollars here and make sure you claim your funds!

Third stop: Professors and Teaching Assistants. Many of them have come from the business world and know what it takes to excel in the job search process. Get to know your professors by asking them a tone of questions – have they worked on Wall Street? Did they ever run a business? I recently was hired by the head of the Business Department at a local college, who worked on Wall Street for over 20 years, and who hired me to talk about the job search process to his students. I had the entire class practice their individual pitches out loud for all to hear and critique.

You are spending quite a lot of money for your education. Remember to use the resources that are at your fingertips to excel at your job search. In this economy, you need to conduct an extraordinary job search. And that means going above and beyond with all of your contacts!

 

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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