How to ask for, and handle Feedback in a Failed Application

I picked the brain of my HR friend the other day.

She had a confession to make.

That feedback and rejection we’ve probably all received at some point which goes something like…

“You were a really strong candidate, and you interviewed well, but we went with someone with a little more experience”.

It’s a smokescreen. Somewhere along the line you gave them a reason not to choose you.  

Wouldn’t you like to know what that is? I would! How do you improve without feedback, self-awareness and action?

While you don’t have an automatic right to feedback, you do deserve the opportunity to ask. You’ve put in the effort to apply to your job, prove yourself at multiple stages, and taken an interest in the company. Companies seeking to improve their employer reputation with applicants and the public will often take that little extra time to extend the courtesy.

Ways to ask for and handle feedback from a failed application.

Approach it graciously, and verbally if possible.

“While I’m disappointed, I would appreciate the chance to get some honest feedback as I am still interested to work with you in the future.”

Besides asking specific questions such as “Did you identify any key qualifications or skills for this job which were missing in my background?”, ask for one or two tips on how you could improve your interview technique next time, which will enable you to improve your performance.

Listen carefully, (don’t ever respond defensively, even if you don’t completely agree), take notes and then thank them for their time and send a polite thank you email.

Phrases for responding to honest feedback may be ‘that’s interesting feedback, I hadn’t considered that…’ or paraphrase their comments, ‘so you’re saying I didn’t communicate my confidence and ability in my leadership well enough?’

Then most importantly – reflect and implement.

If you’ve been rejected for more than one interview, it’s definitely worth doing a mock interview with a career coach. I’ve found it’s often the first time candidates have had direct, honest and constructive feedback.

If you make one change to your job search strategy this year, make asking for feedback from a failed application a part of your process. If your confidence has been knocked, it can be a valuable learning experience, and will undoubtedly increase the career opportunities available to you.

If you’re struggling in your job search and need help to understand why, please feel free to reach out our team of expert consultants at [email protected]