What did I do wrong? How to ask for feedback

Posted October 13, 2011, by Elissa Collier

If you’ve got job interview rejection letters piling up in a corner of your lounge room and you’re continually left feeling frustrated, jobless and penniless, wondering ‘what did I do wrong!?’ – it’s about time you did something about it. By reaching the interview stage, you have most likely beaten hundreds of other people that also applied for the job, so your resume must be pretty good. It’s the interview part that’s letting you down – you just can’t seem to close the deal and get the job.

Job interviews can be tough – you’ve got several highly qualified people all competing and marketing their talents to an interviewer, but only one candidate can get the job. The interviewer has to be ruthless and pick one person – but what if this person is never you? It could be because you’re nervous, you’re not well prepared or you go to the interview wearing shorts and flip flops – whatever the reason, you need to find out what it is and work on it.

The best way to improve is to get some feedback from the interviewer. This way you can pinpoint exactly what areas you need to work on, which may even be things you didn’t realise were jeopardising your chances of getting the job. The key is not to see a rejection letter as a setback. While it is disappointing, turn it into something positive by interpreting it as a learning experience. The interviewer has most probably interviewed many people before so could offer you some insightful tips or advice. Anyway, you’ve got nothing to lose.

Follow this guide on how to write a request for post-interview feedback so that next time a job interview rolls around, you’ll be prepared.

Email, post or phone

The first thing to do is decide on how you want to contact the interviewer. This can depend on the type of relationship you formed with the interviewer and how you previously corresponded with them.

If you had a good rapport with the interviewer and most of your correspondence was done by phone then you might choose to call them to get some feedback on why you didn’t get the position. Be prepared with what you want to say and talk clearly and confidently, making sure you thank them at the end. Have a pen and paper ready to jot down what they say – you don’t want to miss any important tips!

Email is most likely the preferred method of contacting the interviewer. It gives them time to think and it gives you time to phrase exactly what you want to say. Set it out like a letter, including your contact details. If they haven’t sent a reply within a week, feel free to send another email to make sure they received it.

The other alternative is to send a letter by post. You can do this if you don’t have computer access, don’t know the interviewer’s email address, or have an impersonal relationship with the interviewer. It is a much slower form of communication so be prepared to wait for the reply. If you decide to request a feedback letter by post, make sure you include a stamped and addressed envelope so they know where to send it.

No matter how great a relationship you think you formed in that 20-minute interview, do not send an SMS requesting feedback. This is too informal and you can’t expect to get much valuable advice in the space of a text message.

Likewise, refrain from twittering or emailing about not getting a job. While you might want to vent your frustration by telling the world how much you loathe the company for not choosing you, keep it inside. You don’t want to burn your bridges with that organisation as they may have another position available down the track and you never know who might read your tweets!

Check out this article about How Facebook could cost you your job

Keep the interview feedback letter short and sweet

The interviewer doesn’t want a long letter about why you think you didn’t get the job. Nor do they want to know that you had a bad day on the day of the interview or that you cried yourself to sleep over it. Keep your letter straight to the point.

Thank the interviewer for taking the time to speak to you. Express that you were disappointed at not getting the job but don’t take your misery further than that. Let them know that you are looking to improve your interview skills and would appreciate any feedback they may have, including why they didn’t select you for the position.

End the letter by saying that if another suitable position in the company were to arise, you hope you would get the opportunity to apply. Make sure you include your full name and contact details on the letter. Don’t forget to proofread it – even though you didn’t get the job, you still want to leave a good impression.

Read an example post-interview feedback letter template here

Wait for the feedback

While you probably want to get the feedback from your interview as soon as possible so you can begin on your road to improving your interview skills and getting a job, patience is the key. Don’t be a pest. Some interviewers may not wish to give you any feedback at all and you must accept this. If you haven’t heard back in a week, give them a call or send them a quick email to check if it has been received. If they tell you they don’t give feedback, leave it and move on. It may be company policy that prevents them from replying, or they may simply be too busy.

Take it all on board

Once you’ve received the feedback, take it all into careful consideration. It’s a time for self-reflection so don’t just read the information, disagree with it and toss the letter in the bin. Take it all on board and process it thoroughly. Think about how you can improve on the issues the interviewer has suggested in your next job interview.

It’s a good idea to keep a report of your feedback so you can refer back to it. Make a list of the interviews and the feedback you received from them. This way, you can tell if it’s the same type of feedback you keep getting each time, which might suggest some areas of improvement you really need to concentrate on. Develop a plan to address all the issues the interviewer has identified – big or small.

Most importantly, don’t give up! Everyone experiences rejection at some point in their careers. The key to dealing with it is to turn it into a positive. Find out why you didn’t get the job, address the feedback you’ve been given, and you will be well on your way to interview success and landing your future dream job!

Elissa Collier

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