When an interview doesn’t lead to an offer, it’s not uncommon for candidates to ask for feedback on the interview process. Given the human relationship involved, the time candidates invest, and the opportunity to help someone grow, we always take the time to meet and provide the most valuable feedback we can. But it’s rare that a candidate volunteers feedback for our hiring team.
Recently, a candidate did just that—they provided helpful, thoughtful, actionable feedback. I was grateful and impressed. I’d encourage you to consider doing the same after your next interview, especially if it doesn’t lead to an offer. A company might be impressed with your skillset and culture fit, but may not make an offer due to current needs or constraints. Helpful feedback could impress the team and move you to the top of their list of folks to contact should the situation change.
So how can you impress with your feedback? I recommend five things.
1. Wait for Calm
Interviewing is an intense, vulnerable experience for most of us. I can’t imagine putting a lot of work into an interview process and not feeling disappointed if I didn’t receive an offer. Be sure to give yourself time to rest, recover, and gather your thoughts before sharing them.
2. Ask Questions
When giving feedback, it helps to demonstrate that you have an open mind and that you’re willing to learn from the other party. Again, they likely have constraints that you may not know. Asking questions, even in writing, shows that you’re open to learning from them and willing to change your perception. It encourages the receiver to think more creatively about your concerns and is less likely to put them in a defensive stance.
3. Share Your Experiences and Perspective, Not Your Judgments
Do let your interviews know how you felt throughout their process, including where you felt you were able to showcase your skillset, and where you felt you weren’t. But don’t share judgments about the process or make statements about the competency of the interviewing team. You’re unlikely to win friends among folks who will likely still be around if you choose to interview with the company in the future.
4. Be Thorough
After an interview, you’ll likely have a sense for where you did well, and perhaps where you could have done better. It’s a good practice, however, to speak to all aspects of the interview, because the hiring team may have had different takeaways. If you focus on the area where you feel you did poorly, you might fail to provide feedback on the section of the interview that drove the decision. It might also be the case that the part of the process you felt most strongly about isn’t flexible, while feedback in other areas might be readily applied.
5. Don’t Argue the Decision
You may feel the hiring team has made a mistake, but this is not the time to try to reopen the interview process. When a hiring team has made a decision, they’ll likely be willing to schedule another interview in the future, but trust that their decision is final for the moment. If you would like to be considered in the future, state that you’re open to picking up the process again if the situation changes. The interview team will appreciate knowing that you’re still interested and that the decision hasn’t soured your view of the company.
While no one hopes for a rejection, you can take advantage of the opportunity to impress a company after an unfruitful interview process. This allows you to demonstrate generosity and interpersonal skill by showing that you’re still interested in being helpful, despite the outcome. You never know where that might lead.