Getting Feedback After a Job Rejection
Five years ago, I applied to a visitor services position at a museum that I was really hoping to get, and had a positive interview experience. Sadly, I didn’t get the job, but someone gave me that tip that I should ask the interviewer about the outstanding qualities they found in the candidate they ended up choosing as a way for me to get feedback for improvement. Have you ever received feedback from a potential employer about your interview performance or how they perceived your skills and experience? Is this too much to ask?
I composed a compassionate, meticulous and, most importantly, concise email (because I was balancing on a tightrope of expressing appreciation for being considered despite not getting a job offer, and I didn’t want to overwhelm the interviewer) asking for feedback, and received a response.
I learned that the selected candidate had “more guest service experience” than me. This was the first time that I had heard the term “guest service.” Not customer service; not donor relations, because the position was not working with donors. Guest service? I must’ve Google-searched the term 50 times. I asked everyone who I knew—my mentor, family, friends, and people who I interned with—what is “guest service?” I researched the company that the selected candidate had previously worked for, and I even went back to working in retail to learn what “guest service” meant on the ground. The term engulfed my brain.
I am a chronic sleep talker. One night when I was asleep, I woke myself up saying, “I want to work in guest service.” Was I perhaps too obsessed with the feedback at that point? Was the feedback actually helping me?
The next time I received feedback following a job rejection, I was more careful at weighing the integrity of the feedback. I had applied for an administrative assistant position at a health care services company. Like with the museum job, I had an interview but didn’t get a job offer. When I asked them for feedback, I learned that they found me very personable and was told that I had answered all their questions correctly, but they chose a candidate who had call center experience. I appreciated the response. (They graciously divulged a lengthier response than the simple “guest service” explanation). However, I knew right then and there, after having previous administrative experience, that I didn’t need the call center experience. While feedback can be helpful, not all of it may pertain to your career goals.
More recently, I was rejected from a job with a company that entertained me for two interviews. They said that my skill set was “unique and interesting,” but they needed someone with more of an “online presence.” I’m not quite sure what to do with that one.
I don’t advocate asking for feedback following every job, but I think it is worth it for interviews where I invested a lot of time, or where I had more genuine conversations with the prospective employers. How do you balance receiving feedback from prospective employers on your performance following an interview and rejection?
Julia Lipscomb is a grad student and writer in New York.