Every few weeks, I see a Job Hunt Chat question that asks whether it’s appropriate for job seekers to ask for interview feedback from a company when they find out they didn’t get the job. Every time this question appears, I effusively answer “Absolutely not!” It’s hard to explain my reasoning in 140 characters, so here are three specific reasons why I advise job seekers against asking for feedback beyond the general thought that your eyes should be on the journey ahead, not the trip behind you.
One: It does not help you develop the type of relationship you want to have with the company.
While reflection and constant learning are qualities companies want in new team members, it’s a fine line between wanting to grow and coming off insecure and most job seekers don’t walk that line very well. If you don’t get the job you applied for, you still want to be considered for future positions and the best strategy is to come off as eager and confident in your abilities in a well-written thank you. Even if you didn’t do so hot in the interview, the person may be impressed and call you in a few months for a new opening based on your strong re-positioning of your candidacy.
Some might say that you should ask for feedback because “it can’t hurt,” but it can. When someone puts you in an uncomfortable position, such as asking you to give negative feedback to someone you barely know, you often subconsciously sour on him/her. Don’t give the company this opportunity to feel awkward about you.
Two: The feedback you’ll get is likely worthless and won’t help you become a more successful professional.
First, most companies have strict legal requirements on what they can say to candidates so no one will ever be 100% honest with you. Feedback on your communication skills may be seen as welcome advice to one candidate, but received as slander by another one, even if s/he requested it. Second, the hiring process is complex, highly contextual and only a small part is based on your interview. The decision involves everyone else in the applicant pool- including internal candidates and referrals from important people- and what the company needs now AND in a few years. The context will always be out of the job seeker’s control and successful applicants understand this. All you can do is your personal best.
If you made it through an interview and you were not selected, it’s for one of two reasons- the company picked someone else for the position for a contextual reason, or you didn’t communicate well enough in the interview about your candidacy. You likely already suspect if it’s the second reason. You can work with a professional or well-qualified peer or mentor on interview skills through mock interviews and story-telling exercises without asking for feedback from the company. You’ll get higher-quality information and it’s a better use of time.
Three: It’s not the right mindset for job seekers.
Anyone who makes hiring decisions for a company has two roles they must fulfill- (1) serve as a gatekeeper so only the best are hired, and (2) make sure that people feel good about the company brand no matter what the outcome is. Unsuccessful job seekers often don’t understand that it’s not the job of human resources professionals and recruiters to be altruistic to the unemployed. In fact, their job is to weigh the interests of their hiring managers OVER yours. A great recruiter will never let you see this because they also realize you’ll judge them and their company if you sense it, but it’s 100% true.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve become tired of job seekers who have been unemployed for close to a year or longer, but have done nothing but go after drips of free advice and clutter their Twitter feed with articles about how unfair the job search process is. They know who they are and they’ll be stuck there until they change their mindset to one of growth. It sounds harsh, but sometimes the role of the coach is to give tough love. If you want to be successful, read up and study successful people and how they pursue their goals. They invest in themselves by working with teachers and coaches to learn new skills, and/or by finding mentors who can give emotional support and professional insight, not the HR person who likes throw out soundbites in a Twitter chat or gives you advice that is not in your self-interest.
Let me close by sharing a feedback story from my recruiting days. A few years ago, we had a candidate apply with a truly weird resume that listed his qualifications in alphabet format. A is for why I am Awesome… B is for all the reasons I am Breathtaking… all the way to Z for Zany. I am not sure about awesome, but he was definitely zany.
Needless to say, we eliminated him from the applicant pool quickly. This candidate had the contact information for one our recruiters and emailed her to ask why he hadn’t been selected for an interview. She told him that she couldn’t give him individual feedback because our legal department prohibited it, but he persisted in harassing her. After the fifth email, I told her to tell him that “most candidates” do not advance to the interview stage because of resume issues so he may want get a professional opinion before applying to his next job.
His completely misspelled 3,000 word reply came in the middle of the night and he informed my recruiter she was the reason he was 32 years-old and still living at home and he had no point in living. We decided to call him the next morning because of the threat and he was shocked to hear it was us when he answered the phone. We had no idea his mother had also picked up the phone and was listening, and she started screaming obscenities at him when she heard what he had emailed to us. He made another veiled threat about taking his life to her and at that point, we hung up, Googled emergency services for that town and they sent a response team to the address on his resume. We never heard again from that candidate and hope it was from embarrassment and not another reason.
Granted, this is an extreme story. But please, as a career coach, I implore you not to ask for feedback from the company if you don’t get selected. There is too much potential for people to think of you in a negative light if you don’t do it 100% right and for meaningless advice to screw with your head. Let HR do their job well, view you from a place of power, and go seek better advice from people who unequivocally have your back.
Liked this advice?
A revised and updated version of this post is included as one of 12 chapters in Tracy Brisson’s book Create Your Own Opportunities, available in PDF and for your Kindle and nook eReaders for just $3.99!