It can be extremely frustrating to apply for job after job or internship after internship and never land the position. When you’re stuck in a process that’s often a bit complex and hard to understand at times, feedback becomes even more important, especially if you’re somehow deemed unfit for whatever it is you applied for. It’s not all bad though! Try any of the following to learn how you can turn your next rejection into an awesome opportunity to get valuable feedback on super important things like interview skills, job skills, your resume, and more.
Ask for feedback soon after you interview.
If you want to know how your interview went, be sure to let whomever it is you just spoke with know you’re interested in hearing how the interview went from their perspective, and value any input they can give you on your interview skills and job readiness. Most career experts agree that it’s a bit inappropriate to directly ask someone what went well and what needs improving right after you’ve interviewed, most also agree that asking for feedback fairly soon (usually within 24 hours) after you’ve received a final decision is fine, as long as you go about it politiely.
Be clear about what you’re looking for in terms of feedback.
It helps to include specific information in your initial request about what sorts of feedback you’re looking for to help guide whomever it is that’s providing the feedback, and to make sure you receive information that’s helpful and productive. By asking specific questions like “Did I seem prepared for the interview?” or “Were there major gaps in my resume?” you will get better answers than by asking more general questions like “What can I improve on?” or “What went well/what needs work?”
“I always ask for feedback specifically about my resume,” said Taylor Ocampo, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota. Asking about something specific can help you get a quicker, narrower response that gives you something concrete to work on improving.
Be polite and to the point in your first contact.
How you make the first contact is up to you. “You could try to do it initially via email – but you’ll probably have better luck if you can talk to the person,” says Andrew Ditlevson, Associate Director of Career Services at St. Cloud State University. Preferred method of contact varies from position to position though. Before leaving the initial interview, ask whomever it is you spoke with how they prefer to be contacted with any further questions or requests for things like feedback. Most employers will be happy to provide you with either a phone number or email address they can be reached at for such purposes. In addition to specific questions or points you’d like feedback to focus on, Ditlevson suggests including these four things in your initial email or phone conversation asking for feedback:
- Thank the employer again for the chance to have interviewed with them.
- Let them know that you would love to be considered for any future opportunities (this might open the door up again).
- Tell them you have an interview coming up with another employer and ask them if they would be willing to give you some advice to help you prepare for that interview.
- Thank them again at the end of your conversation
It also never hurts to ask (nicely!) for an estimate of how much time it will take whomever you’re working with to get feedback to you. In some cases, they might give it to you right away after your initial request, especially if you’re talking to someone on the phone. Having a good idea of how long you can expect to wait for some performance feedback will help you decide how and when you should reiterate your request if it becomes necessary.
Don’t get too aggressive in any follow-up communication.
If you’ve asked for feedback and someone’s promised to get back to you with some tips for next time, don’t be afraid to follow up on their offer if the deadline you both agreed on has passed and you still haven’t heard anything. “I ended up sending a quick email explaining what I needed again and heard back on the same day,” says Taylor. “They’d just forgotten I’d asked, but were happy to give me what I needed in the end.”
Keep your follow-up message short and succinct, mention you’re aware they have a busy schedule, and include a brief description of what you’re looking for that includes most of the same information listed above that should have been included in your initial contact. It might help to narrow what it is you’re looking for feedback on to only one or two specific things if you initially asked for a more general overview or had more questions on multiple parts of the hiring process. Keep any contact you have with a company or particular employee direct and to the point, but still civil and not pushy. After all, “It never hurts to ask. Employers are impressed by students who want to get better and are willing to take advice/direction – and most people are flattered to be asked for advice. The worst thing they can say is ‘no’ – and in that case, you are no worse off than if you had never asked,” says Ditlevson.
Make sure you’re following up with the right person too. Sometimes at a company, someone higher up like a manager or chief exec may not be as willing to disclose information about their decision as someone like a recruiter or your initial contact at the company would be. If you haven’t heard back from one person, you might want to try contacting someone else for feedback. Again, make sure you treat everyone you talk to respectfully, and back off if you’ve sent a couple emails and still haven’t heard anything back. Yes it’s annoying to not hear back on something as simple as a quick email, but you don’t want to jeopardize anything professionally.
Be ready to move on if you’ve already asked twice and still haven’t heard anything.
Unfortunately, even if you ask nicely for feedback, you may not get the answers you’re looking for. Sometimes, a company can’t give any sort of feedback or is restricted in the types of information they can give based on company policy. Other times, hiring managers and other employees in charge of selecting new company personnel simply don’t have the time to get back to you. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to not be too pushy, as an aggressive attitude or rude behavior could damage your chances of working for them or other contacts they might be connected to.
“Getting feedback from an employer after they have turned you down for a job or internship is a tricky situation as most employers will not tell a candidate what they ‘did wrong’ or why they didn’t get the offer,” says Ditlevson. “An employer won’t tell you why they didn’t hire you but some of them will be willing to offer you advice. And of course the advice they give you will probably be a pretty good clue as to what, if anything, you might have done wrong or could have done better when you interviewed with them.”
This advice could be useful in terms of making yourself a better fit for future job and internship opportunities that come your way in the future. This is just one of several significant benefits that could come from asking for feedback. “Hopefully, most of the time, you’ll get some good advice that will increase your chances of getting an offer from the next interview. And with luck, once in a while, you may reopen a door with that same employer,” emphasizes Ditlevson. Coming off as sincere and explaining that you’re looking to build on skills for other, future positions will increase your chances of getting the response you’re looking for.
Take feedback and keep building on your professional skills and resume.
Keep in mind that companies make hiring decisions for a huge variety of reasons. Just because you didn’t land this one doesn’t mean there isn’t a single employer out there willing to hire you. If you do hear back from a potential employer about how your interview went or how your resume looks, don’t take it personally and start arguing with them or trying to change their mind. Their decision has already been made, and you’re not going to change their minds. The only exception to this rule is when the employer got something factually wrong. If it’s clear they misread your resume or didn’t understand something significant brought up in the interview, feel free to correct them or point them in the right direction. This is the only time you should argue with what they’re saying or correct someone in this situation.
Take whatever feedback you can get and translate that into improvements on your personal set of career skills. “When I asked for specific pointers on my resume at the one job, I actually got some helpful tips on how many and what kinds of references I should include, including a few that I was missing,” says Taylor. “I changed it in part because of what they said, and had more success landing an internship the next semester.” Feedback or not, think about working on new ways to incorporate lessons learned from any particular interview experience to take your interview to the next level the next time around.
Next time you hear from an employer letting you know they decided to go with someone else, don’t get too bummed out. Instead, use the opportunity to obtain some feedback, and make your next interview a stellar success!