Ask Vault is a new advice column, answering your questions on interviews, résumés, cover letters, and other aspects of your job search. If you have a question for Vault, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I just found out from a company that I didn’t get the job, even though I thought my interview went really well. I’d like to know what happened—is it okay for me to ask for feedback on my interview?”
Asking for feedback may seem like a risky move, and it is. You’re asking your interviewer to engage in an uncomfortable conversation with you, maybe take a legal risk, and dedicate precious time to someone who’s no longer in the running for the job.
On your end, you could receive some brutal criticism or make your relationship with an employer awkward, damaging your reputation if you ever want to apply for future positions at that company. Yet on the other hand, asking for feedback can be very valuable, because you may learn something about yourself that could inform your behavior in future interviews. But note, it’s important to be careful in how you ask for the feedback.
First, you should consider if it’s even worth taking the risk. If you didn’t make it past an initial interview or phone screening, the chances are that you’re not qualified for the job or you don’t fit well with the culture. Receiving this type of feedback probably won’t help you become a better job candidate in the long run, so it might not be worth requesting.
However, if you’ve made it to a final round of interviews, you will probably receive very helpful feedback, since an employer has really gotten to know you. At this stage, you know you’re qualified for the role, and it could be a specific thing you said or skill you lacked that made the employer choose a different applicant. This kind of criticism is constructive, and you can take it and put it into action by changing up your responses to questions, or even taking an online course to learn a certain skill. Whether you decide to ask for feedback or not, you should always make sure to respond to a job rejection, to maintain a positive relationship with the employer for the future.
If you’ve decided it would be beneficial for you to request feedback, then you need to carefully consider your approach. Whether you received the job rejection via email or phone, it’s probably best to ask a recruiter or interviewer for feedback in an email. No one likes being put on the spot, and this type of conversation could quickly become awkward over the phone. Furthermore, your interviewer may provide a more honest response in an email, because it’s easier to write down criticism than to say it to someone directly.
So, what should your email say? Phrasing is everything—you certainly don’t want to come across as defensive, as if you’re arguing, “Why didn’t you hire me?” First, thank your interviewer for considering you for the role. Then, give your interviewer the option to provide you with feedback, but do not demand it. Try something like, “If you have any feedback for me that you’re comfortable sharing, I’d really appreciate it so I can make myself a stronger job candidate for the future.”
Articulating your goal of self-improvement may make your interviewer more receptive to the idea of giving you feedback. However, don’t take offense if you don’t hear back—remember, you’re asking a big favor of your interviewer, who has no obligation to respond to you once you’re no longer a candidate for the role.
If you do receive a response, and it’s vague, such as, “We've found someone who is a better fit,” don’t be discouraged. Sometimes companies end up choosing an applicant who fits with the culture better or has a few more years of experience, both of which are out of your control. If an employer thinks you aren’t a strong fit, it probably means you wouldn’t want to work there anyway. And finally, if you do receive constructive criticism, be sure to think about it seriously and find a way to use it to your advantage in your next interview.
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