How to Get Honest Interview Feedback

get interview feedback

Interviewers can be tough people to read.

As the interviewee, you might find yourself trying to gauge reactions and speculate as to what they’re thinking. But one thing’s certain: If you don’t get an offer, you know quite clearly it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped.

For years, career coaches have advised unsuccessful job candidates to reach out for feedback directly from the recruiter or hiring manager involved in the decision. However, such niceties are becoming less and less frequent.

In today’s litigious world, many prospective employers fear that sharing specific reasons for a hiring decision may backfire in claims of discrimination. They don’t want someone accidentally citing an illegal reason (or something that could be construed that way) for not hiring a particular candidate.

Additionally, recruiters and hiring managers are people like the rest of us. They’re not always eager to engage in confrontation or difficult conversations. Providing honest feedback to an unsuccessful candidate certainly falls into that category. Those who have been kind enough to offer it have inevitably been met with defensive, even angry responses. Too often, the rejected interviewee tries to persuade the messenger to change his or her mind.

Also read: Ask the Coaches: How Can I Overcome Interview Jitters?

The process is generally unproductive and frustrating for the ones sharing the information. Thus, it’s not surprising that these conversations are few and far between these days.

So now the question becomes: How do you get feedback after an unsuccessful interview if you aren’t likely to get it directly from the source? Here are a few options.

  • Conduct a Mock Interview

Sit down with a friend, family member, or trusted advisor and go through an entire full interview process from start to finish. Give the mock interviewer a sample job description that represents the position you’re after. Ask him or her to come prepared and throw some tricky questions your way. Take it seriously and answer as you would in a real-world situation.

When the interview is complete, ask the person to provide honest, constructive feedback. If he or she were the hiring manager, what concerns might arise regarding your candidacy? You may learn that you’re not adequately explaining your experience in a key area, or that you’re unintentionally expressing lack of confidence, for example.

  • Records Yourself on Video

If you’ve ever caught a video or audio recording of yourself and thought, “Does my voice really sound like that?” or “Wow, I should never wear red again!” then you know how eye-opening the experience can be.

While conducting a mock interview, record yourself on video so you can see, with your own eyes, exactly what’s coming across to others. You may discover you have some distracting verbal or physical ticks, or that your tone of voice is subtly undermining the words you’re saying. It often takes seeing the situation as an outsider to gain clarity.

Also read: Don’t Forget Critical Info in Your Job Interview! Use This Simple Tool

  • Work with a Coach

Friends and family can be useful aids in the evaluation process, but remember that they’re not necessarily capable of providing the level of feedback you really need. If they haven’t ever been a hiring manager and if they don’t know the kinds of things interviewers are really evaluating, they may inadvertently give you irrelevant—or even harmful—advice.

Career coaches, like me, know the ins and outs of the process and are well-equipped to conduct mock and practice interviews. They can offer specific recommendations for improvement based on established best practices and a real-world understanding of the hiring process.

If you worry that the people in your immediate circle don’t have the necessary knowledge, consider hiring a career coach to help hone your interview skills.

Finally, remember that there may be all kinds of reasons—even unrelated to the interview itself—why you might not have been the best match for the role. Perhaps you were missing an essential qualification or lacked significant experience, or maybe it was something completely outside of your control.

Regardless, it never hurts to examine your interview skills and make improvements where you can.

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.