Last Updated Jun 1, 2011 10:54 AM EDT
What went wrong? We've all asked ourselves this question after an unsuccessful job interview process. It's easy to attribute the reason to nepotism, cronyism, or even sexism or ageism. But sometimes, there are real lessons to learn about your performance as a candidate that can help you next time you're up for a position. Here are 4 ways to seek that information out:
Start With A Self-Review Without obsessing over minor details, grade yourself and see what worked well, as well as whether there are areas that you can improve upon. "Review the correspondence and put yourself in their shoes as the interviewer/hiring manager. Go back to any moments in the interview that were challenging, and come up with a different approach," says David Couper, a career coach, consultant, and author.
Ask What The Successful Candidate Delivered The key here is to be positive and ask your interviewer what someone else provided that you didn't (or couldn't), not where you fell short. "People will feel uncomfortable talking about why you didn't get the job, but will be more open to discuss the distinguishing attributes that actually received the job," says Certified Efficiency Coach Laura Rose. Doing this by phone will help you read your interviewer's tone, but use your best judgement when deciding how to follow up.
Look Up The New Hire Googling can also help you find out what the successful candidate had that you didn't. "If you apply for a sales and marketing job and your experience is mostly marketing, whereas the candidate who got the job has mostly a sales background, you know why you didn't get the job," says Couper. But if a quick online stalking session, self-review, and phone follow-up don't reveal anything substantial, chalk it up to factors out of your control. "It may be they are a contact, has done work for them before as a consultant, or is a previous or current employee," says Couper.
Lesson Learned? Leave The Negativity Behind Once you've done your due diligence to try to figure out why you've failed to be hired, focus on your next chance at success. "Employers can sense negativity a mile a way and if you don't strive to learn from your mistakes and move on to more positive feelings quickly, you're ruining your chances in your next interviews," says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.
Feeling awkward about following up? Keep in mind that not only is this feedback important for future interviews, but asking for it shows that you were truly interested in the job. That -- and staying in touch -- will keep you on the interviewer's radar for similar positions down the line.
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