A talented young colleague reached out to me this past week, in search of some interview follow-up advice. “Is there a professional way to ask why you weren’t hired for a position that doesn’t come across as griping?”
Absolutely! The approach that has worked for me the most is:”Thank for for the opportunity to interview for the position, and to learn more about the great work that you do. In the spirit of continuous improvement, I’d appreciate hearing any developmental feedback you may have for me regarding my participation in the interview process, in support of my career goals.” Not a gripe in sight! I haven’t always gotten the feedback (depending on the organization’s culture, compliance constraints, etc.), but it’s been great when I have.
More often than not:
- They already have a lead candidate, and they’re an internal (current employee) candidate;
- Another candidate more closely fits their specs (e.g., another talented colleague of mine was turned down for a job last week because the lead candidate had more manufacturing experience – the job was in in manufacturing);
- Hiring managers like to hire who they know; and/or those candidates where the chemistry works the best for them (and, as a gentle reminder, not just what works for you).
Given my first-hand knowledge of Talented Colleague’s work, none of these reasons, or any other unknown reason, is ultimately a reflection on their talent (of which they have in abundance, as demonstrated by their work and their wonderful recommendations on LinkedIn)! And: twice in my career, I was the “runner-up” and I was subsequently hired for the same / similar position months later. Interviews are often auditions for future openings, from my own experience on both sides of the interview table.
And when the feedback is given: receive it with abundant gratitude, because it is a gift. It will either reveal some areas for you to work on with regard to the marketing of yourself as a competitive candidate looking to secure your next win-win career opportunity (e.g. a win for you and a win for the organization); or you will discover, as the prospective employer did, that their culture was not a match with your personal culture. That cultural match is critical on both sides of the interview table, to ensure a productive and successful work relationship for all.
How will you ask for feedback to best leverage your continued success this week, in business and at work?