I Just Had a Job Interview: Am I “Owed” Feedback?


The Interview

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I’d still ask though.

In 30 years of interviewing thousands of candidates from CEOs to resident advisors to scientists and engineers, I can count on one hand the number of people who have followed up to ask for feedback. Half of those few were asking to ask, not asking to learn, and lacked any inquisitiveness regarding what was shared. The two or so remaining were in retrospect exceptional; they ended up being hired later.

Most people are lousy at providing feedback but I’d suggest that it’s telling (all good by the way) if somebody you interview offers to give you feedback, you accept, and they provide feedback in a helpful, candid manner. Here’s a post on the subject .

I quibble with the assessment that it opens up large legal liability. Unless the person providing feedback is an idiot (we didn’t hire you because you were too old, a single mother, with suspected ADA covered disabilities), it’s OK to provide feedback in terms of what you saw (it’s an assessment, after all) and how those qualities matched – or did not match so well – to the job specs.You can simply tell the candidate that there were other candidates who were better matches; there’s no obligation to do a side by side unless (see above) you’ve suggested illegal discrimination or bias at play.

Arguing with feedback is poor form; I still remember feeding back someone that they were defensive and have them rant for 25 minutes on all the ways they weren’t. The fact of the matter is most of us think we’re great for the job; see this interview with GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachemann (“I was the perfect candidate”). Get over it and be glad for the gift of feedback if you’re lucky enough to get it.

I do think that setting up the request for feedback can be tricky; if it were me I’d softly ask if i could circle back post interview – regardless of whether I moved forward in the selection process or not – to get some feedback in my continuing desire to improve.

Good luck.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). This post originally appeared on Quora; it’s been edited for form.  More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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