Didn't Get the Job? Don't Be Shy... Ask Why!
You go in for a job interview and do what you believe is a killer performance that should nail you the position, only to find out a short time later, after no call backs, that someone else got the position. Along with the natural disappointment at losing the job, it's also natural to wonder why your qualifications and presentation fell short. You can't help but wonder, "Why? Why didn't I get the job?"
Reasons for reluctance
Most people never get an answer. They spend hours on second-guessing, self doubt and feeling insecure. However, according to some business professionals, the best way to erase those lingering doubts and confusion, as well as becoming better prepared for the next interview, is to simply and directly ask for some feedback as to why you didn't get the job.
"I think many people are reluctant to ask for feedback because they may feel they won't get any useful information at all and it's a waste of time," says Tom Silver, Senior VP for Dice, a company that issues a monthly report with news and information focusing on the tech labor market.
Silver believes many rejected job applicants are reluctant to ask potential employers the obvious question of why they didn't get the job, because it's a lost cause. "They might feel if they get any response back, it's going to be very generic and not very meaningful because there may be some legal issues involved where the employer might be worried about saying certain things," said Silver.
In a recent Dice Report covering the tech industry, only 18 percent of technology professionals speak with the HR person in charge of the recruitment process to ask why they weren't chosen for a position. More surprising, 52 percent of those who DO attempt to get feedback, never get a reply.
A creative approach
"There needs to be a mutual give and take of information between hiring managers and candidates", says Silver. He believes the strategy of asking for feedback applies to any rejected professional seeking employment and is essential to achieving future success in the job marketplace. The first step is something that should come as common sense to any job candidate, but surprisingly, many forget to apply it -- the simply courtesy of sending a thank you to the employer for the interview.
"If you come in for an interview and don't get the job, be creative at pursuing the interviewer to find out the reasons why," says Silver. "Don't just rely on e-mail," Silver says. "Don't underestimate the impact of an old-fashioned, hard copy thank-you note instead. To some, a snail mail thank you may seem old-fashioned, but it cuts through many possible roadblocks and a backlog of hundreds of e-mails that may come across an employer's desk on a day-to-day basis. What you want to do is be creative and think differently than everyone else and stand out."
Silver adds, "It's not only good manners, but also, you are setting the stage for another possible communication with the interviewer and, if you don't get the job, then you now have a better shot at getting a response with some feedback. You've opened the door with the first thank you note to future communication with the employer."
Strategies to try
Silver suggests several key methods to gain feedback and turn a bad job search result into a positive experience:
Be creative in the way you ask for feedback
You could ask, "Is there is any other advice you could give me in my job search?" An employer may respond differently to a candidate who simply asks for some advice about where to go next, rather than requesting a long explanation about why they didn't get the job. In that broader discussion about career advice, Silver believes more people are likely to give out information willingly, and a candidate may probably garner more feedback about why they might not have been the right fit for that particular position.
Use various ways to get to the employer
Don't rely solely upon e-mails to connect with the prospective employer. It's OK to call them directly. Silver advises calling early in the day or later in the afternoon because you are less likely to catch them at a busy time in the middle of something, and they'll possibly have a few minutes to actually talk to you. Once you get the employer on the phone, ask some specific questions, but with some finesse. Your goal is not to get the employer to change the decision, but instead, to get useful information to move forward in your job search.
As mentioned before, snail mail also works well.
Don't be defensive
Certainly hearing a potentially negative assessment of your experience or interview skills may be hard to swallow, but that tough medicine may illustrate a flaw that you've been overlooking. Once that flaw is discovered, you can fix the problem for a more effective presentation for the next opportunity.
Don't give up
Silver says most employers want to be helpful. Most people, if asked, will try to help and try to provide some additional information. It may be a job lead or someone else to talk to about specific opportunities going forward. While talking about the industry in general, you could ask the employer's advice on whom else you could talk to in the profession. Even though you've been turned down for that particular job, the employer may know other people in the industry that could potentially lead to a good fit.
Silver believes in a time-honored saying: What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. He says that "getting good honest feedback about where you fell short in a job or job interview will only help you be stronger personally and a stronger job candidate going forward,"