Leveraging Unsuccessful Interviews
In previous posts, I have addressed the need to invest time in preparation and being able to bounce back when things don’t go as planned. Tracking your activities and learning why things don’t go as planned are critical to changing the results you may have gotten.
Before an interview, it is important to have done research to learn as much as you can about the person interviewing you, the role you are applying for and the organization as a whole. After the interview, if you didn’t receive an offer, it is important to learn why. There is a way this can be accomplished, and also several ways that the wrong approach can create a negative impression. When you have received a “thank you, but we have selected someone who more closely fits our needs” response, then it is time to figure out what can be changed to turn things around the next time,
First, it is important to know that no employer (with any sense) is going to share their reasons for not hiring you in an email, unless the position is on hold or has been eliminated. A request for a phone conversation with the person that interviewed you is necessary for several reasons. (Note: this approach doesn’t typically work with HR-they may not answer the call or respond.)
1) They do not want anything in writing that could be interpreted as discrimination
2) They need to hear the sincerity in your voice about wanting to know how you can improve.
3) To ensure you are clear that the feedback requested is about you, not the other candidate that got the offer.
More times than not, people are glad to help others. If you humbly and sincerely ask someone for feedback on how you can improve your interviewing skills, you make it easier for them to graciously comply with your request. If you focus on what the other candidate had, the request is likely to be ignored. It is important to reiterate that this conversation needs to be a voice communication, not an email. It is important not to stray from what you can change by getting into a conversation about what the other candidate has or did differently. This is a very subtle point that can alter the outcome you desire. An employer is unlikely to talk about the other candidate, because they do not want be caught up saying something that could lead to a discrimination case.
Once you have them on the phone, it is equally important to be prepared to hear what they offer and be willing to act on it, whether it is positive or negative feedback. If the feedback is negative, identify the points that you can change the next time. If it is not a behavior that needs changing, but a skill that needs to be developed or learned, then determine what you need to do to acquire that skill to be more competitive next time. If the feedback is positive, then you are in luck. You now have an opportunity to ask any of the following questions:
1) If a similar position becomes available, would they consider you?
2) Are there other roles within the company you may be better suited for?
3) Will they allow you to stay in touch?
Once again, based on their answers, you need to be willing to take action. If they have agreed to stay in touch, then it is important you do so. Contacting them only when there is a posted position may be too late.
The bottom line is: you have nothing to lose. If the feedback is negative, you can do something about it. If it is positive, you have the opportunity to use them as a referral source for a future opportunity. Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone to find out what you can change?