The process of interviewing for a job can in feel like a job in itself, particularly when it is stretched out over weeks or months and requires you to devote your attention to fulfilling countless tasks you hope will prove your worth.
And when that hopeful pursuit ends in disappointment, you might feel like you deserve an explanation beyond the standard-issue responses, from the dismissive “we chose a candidate with experience that better aligned with the position,” to the dreaded, “we went in another direction.”
The truth is, though, you do deserve an explanation as to why you weren’t hired. And while you might feel sheepish about asking for one, there are ways to go about it that can help you up your interviewing game and land a new gig down the road.
How to ask why you weren’t hired
It goes without saying that you can’t exactly excoriate the hiring manager or publicly take offence at their decision (subtweets or otherwise angry posts on social media aren’t a good look when you’re job-hunting).
Instead, consider the process an exercise in swallowing your pride, especially if the interview process was a long and exhausting one. Your best recourse is to send a follow-up email thanking the hiring manager for their time and asking a few targeted questions you think will help you identify gaps in your interviewing skills that you can improve on.
Consider the following list of suggestions as a starting point; they’re slightly generic, but getting solid feedback on these topics is bound to benefit you as you continue your job search:
- “What were my weaknesses as a candidate?”
- “What did stronger candidates have that I lacked?”
- “Are there ways to improve on my demeanour?”
- “What did you like about me and my application?”
- “Is there anything I can do to improve my resume and cover letter?”
- “Was there one thing that I did particularly well during the interview?”
Tailor your questions to meet the position you were applying for, obviously, but don’t make them overly complicated. Asking general questions will increase the likelihood you’ll get a response, and hopefully provide you with clear, actionable advice.
You might need a feedback interview
A company you interviewed with might be wary of listing your shortcomings in writing, for fear of courting legal controversy. If a candidate believes their application was subject to discrimination based on socioeconomic, racial or religious lines, they can raise it with the Human Rights Commission.
As The Balance Careers notes, more cautious employers might try to avoid this outcome by setting up a feedback interview with you. This tiptoeing around potential litigation is one reason a company might avoid giving interview feedback as a general practice, but it’s worth pursuing anyway, even if the result is simply a conversation over the phone.
If you’re successful in setting up this sort of post-mortem interview, you’ll be able to directly ask the questions noted above. It’s a good idea to acknowledge the hiring manager’s efforts on this end; they don’t technically have to jump on a call with you, after all. Even if the interview process was a tiresome slog filled with fits and starts and mixed signals, the discussion is still technically a favour to you.
ANd who knows — you might make a good enough impression that they’ll think of you next time they are hiring. Asking for this kind of feedback demonstrates your tenacity, eagerness to improve, and your willingness to learn — qualities that are admirable to any competent managers. It’s never a bad idea to ask them to keep you in mind for future opportunities, and even if this conversation doesn’t yield another job interview at the same company, the lessons you learn from it might help you ace the next one.