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Spotlight at the National Careers Service


Unsuccessful interview? Get feedback and get that next job

Ok, let’s get the bad news over with – unfortunately, you didn’t get the job. But this is a great opportunity for you to turn bad news into good news. If you ask interviewers for feedback, it gives you a great chance to think constructively about your performance. You can also learn more about what interviewers want.

How can getting feedback help me?

Remember, interviewers may have a lot of experience of interviewing, so their advice can be invaluable. It’s also hard to judge your performance objectively – interviewers can do this. They might notice things about your approach that you don’t realise.

At first you might not feel like speaking to one of the interviewers who decided to hire somebody else. It might seem uncomfortable to relive an unsuccessful interview experience. But try to look at things in a different way. Getting feedback isn’t about looking back, it’s about already starting to prepare for your next interview, and using the comments to make sure you do better next time.

Who, how and when to approach

This can depend on what kind of interview it was, so you will need to use your judgement. If it was a standard panel interview, you may have had emails from a member of the human resources department about interview times and venues. In this case you may want to contact them. You may have had email or phone contact with a member of the interview panel before the interview.

As a general rule of thumb, it can be best to contact the person with whom you built up the best rapport.

Next up is how to approach the person. Again, you will have to use your judgement on this. If you feel you built up a good relationship with the person, you could phone them up. If you’re not sure which approach to use, email can be the best option. With email you can take your time to write a polite request for feedback, and the interviewer gets the chance to respond to it when it’s convenient for them.

As for when to ask for feedback, this is usually fairly soon after you’ve been told you haven’t got the job – whether this is by phone or email. It’s wise to wait until any negative feelings have passed, but try to make the approach within 24 hours so the interview is fresh in the interviewer’s mind.

Asking for feedback in the right way

Don’t come across as aggrieved or criticise the interviewer’s judgement for not hiring you. You might go for another interview at their organisation. You could also find you were second choice and if their first choice falls through, they might have contacted you if there hadn’t been an uncomfortable conversation.

Will I get feedback?

Reputable organisations should take the time to offer constructive feedback to interviewees. They know you might end up working for them at some point in the future, so it is good public relations.

If you don’t get feedback, don’t take it personally. A common reason why you won’t get feedback can be the organisation’s fear of being taken to tribunal for being discriminating in the recruitment process. For this reason, more and more human resources professionals are being trained to offer professional feedback that is useful for the interviewee and safe for the organisation.

For this reason, it is especially important that you sound calm and positive – if employers pick up that you are angry or looking to criticise them, this could decrease your chances of getting constructive feedback.

What type of feedback can I expect?

The more you receive this type of feedback the more you will get used to it. It can be a bit daunting at first, because you know there will be some criticism in there. But if they are professional it should be constructive criticism that you can use to improve your interview technique.

In their feedback the employer will usually focus on how closely your skills matched what they were looking for. It is common for them to say that another candidate had more experience in an important area or had the combination of skills they were looking for. In this instance, it might be best to accept this and move on to the next application, when you could be the ideal person they were looking for.

However, the employer might say that the way you described your skills could have been better. Ask them for examples of how they would have liked you to do this. This is an excellent opportunity to learn the language that employers want candidates to use.

They could focus on your body language, how confident you seemed, the length of your answers, or the quality of the examples of your skills that you gave. Again, ask them how you could have done things better. Each time you’re learning more about how employers prefer you to behave and sell your skills in an interview.

You could try writing down the main suggestions they make. Then you could ask a friend to do a mock interview with you, where you can try to put the suggestions into practice.

One more thing – don’t forget to thank them for their time.

In conclusion

Think of it this way – interviews are a type of conversation where you need to learn the rules in order to come across in the best way. The more you learn about the rules the more you are able to adapt your approach to fit them. And getting feedback is a great way to find out more about the rules.

If you’ve had a few interviews without being successful, try to stay positive – if you persevere you will get there in the end. You could also ask for expert advice from our careers advisers. They can help you fine tune your interview technique.

There’s also more interview advice in our interview skills section.


Careers advice