At school, at home, and in the office, we learn the value of feedback. However, there’s one situation in particular in which feedback really matters – but we often fail to ask for it: when we have been turned down for a position or promotion.
Consider this: Asking for feedback after being rejected is one of the best ways to shift from emotional reaction to professional proaction. While feedback can be humbling to hear and difficult to process, it can also provide us with our biggest opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Feedback Hurts – But It Can Also Give You a Second Chance
Regardless of whether you are looking for an entry-level role or a spot in the C-suite, the interview process is one of vulnerability and uncertainty. No matter how thick-skinned you are, you may feel dejected and inadequate if you are passed over for a position.
Intellectually, you know that feedback from your interviewer will provide valuable insight that will help you progress in your career – but working up the courage to ask for feedback in the wake of a rejection can be incredibly difficult. Feedback can shine a light on the fears you may have about yourself. You’re already feeling bad that you didn’t get the job – why heap on more negative feelings by asking the interviewer to explain all the reasons why you didn’t get the job?
For these reasons, you may shy away from asking for feedback from an interviewer. But how else will you learn, adjust, and improve for the future? Direct feedback from someone who has decided not to hire or promote you is one of the best ways to understand what you need to do better the next time. Feedback changes, “Why didn’t they like me?” into “This is what I need to work on.” The shift from emotional response to professional assessment can be a game-changer.
Post-interview feedback requests may also provide you with a unique opportunity to have a second, more productive conversation with a potential employer or supervisor. If you are courageous enough to call or email an employer for feedback when they have rejected you, the employer will see that you are willing and able to improve.
On more than one occasion, I have seen my clients – all job seekers – gain second interviews, contract work, good references, and even full-time employment simply because they were brave enough to ask for feedback after being rejected.
How to Ask for and Receive Feedback
Keep your request simple when asking for feedback. You may still feel the pain of the rejection, but the feedback request is not the time to make a case for yourself. Focus on the task at hand. A two- or three-sentence email should suffice:
As much as I would have liked to have been chosen for this position, I understand you have made a different decision. I would genuinely appreciate your feedback and any advice you may have on how I could improve my interview skills going forward.
If asking for feedback seems difficult, receiving that feedback well is often even harder. Feedback can strike at our core weaknesses, and our natural response to that situation is to respond or react. Whether your nature is one of attack, defend, or retreat, you must teach yourself to override that knee-jerk response and adopt a more restrained approach.
Once you have received feedback, the only proper response is a simple “Thank you for the feedback. I appreciate your time and consideration.” Do not make any additional comments regarding the feedback (unless, of course, you are invited to a second interview after asking for feedback. Then you will have a chance to respond, but that’s a separate issue).
If you routinely ask for and receive feedback in a calm, professional manner, you not only give yourself the chance to boost your future performance, but also position yourself within the industry as a trustworthy and dedicated person.
The professional world is a small place. You never know when you and your potential employer’s paths will cross again. The small sense of satisfaction you might achieve by sending a rude response to any hurtful feedback is far outweighed by the potential gain you receive by digesting whatever is written or said to you without response.
Think of it this way: No matter how hurtful, you asked for feedback, and they gave it. Until you are asked for your thoughts, keep your feelings to yourself.