Learning from rejection: finding out why you didn’t get the job
No one likes being rejected. This is why getting useful feedback after an unsuccessful interview is hard. It takes courage and confidence to go back and find out exactly why they didn’t want you. The more you wanted the job, the harder it is. To be honest, even if you had decided against taking a role, finding out they didn’t want you still hurts.
But there are good reasons to try and find out what went wrong. Unless you ask, you may never know and you run the risk of making the same mistakes again. Then again, it might be something quite outside your control, and knowing that may help you ‘bounce back’ from rejection faster.
However, this is where you hit the second hurdle. People really don’t like giving negative feedback. The person delegated to give you the bad news is already feeling low enough. Most will couch rejection in the kindest way possible. They are also terrified that you will a) start crying or b) get angry.
Do neither. Take a day or so to absorb, then be brave and either email or pick up the phone. Email is sometimes easier as it gives the interviewer time to think, and it avoids embarrassment. However, phone calls allow you to pick up verbal clues that could be lost in print and you can ask questions in real time. If telephoning, always ask the person if it is a convenient time to talk.
Regardless of your method of approach, be polite and show the interviewer that you have accepted their decision. This is not a second chance at the interview or a time to convince them they were mad to pass you by (even if they were).
Explain that you would like their feedback to help you on your future job search. Make it easy for them by starting with a relatively safe question e.g ‘What was one thing I did well?’, before drilling down into areas for improvement.
Be prepared to read between the lines and, if necessary ask for clarification. For instance, if the successful candidate is said to be ‘more qualified’, ask questions to find out more. It may provide you with training ideas for the future.
Open ended questions are useful such as ‘how might I come across more effectively in future interviews?’ or ‘what could have helped you decide in my favour?’ or ‘what would have made me a stronger candidate?’. These open up the conversation and show you are genuine in seeking constructive feedback.
Even if they tell you things you disagree with keep cool and calm, remembering it’s their opinion and you did ask for it. How you handle critical feedback will make a lasting impression on them and even if there is no job today, you never know what may happen in time to come.
Take time to thank them warmly for their time and feedback, perhaps even send them a hand written note of thanks. Remember also to congratulate yourself for being a pro-active, mature professional who has just gathered some extremely useful information to help secure the next job opportunity.
By Kate Horrey
About Kate: Kate has a background in the not-for-profit sector, the public service and many years of volunteering for good causes. She’s also interested in creative writing. She is currently job seeking and hopes to to find employment in the do-good arena.