Public Sector Trends
Obtaining Interview Feedback
By Mark F. Weinberg
For many the job interview may be the most unnerving aspect of acquiring a job. It represents a more intimate exchange than a resume review and is far more subjective than the average civil service exam. Whether little more than a “meet and greet” or a rigorous subject matter expertise inquiry, in a matter of less than one hour decisions affecting your career and life are delicately placed into play. Regardless of your qualifications, interview experience or level of confidence you are likely to leave the interview wishing you could ask “how did I do?”
The most valuable interviewer feedback often occurs during the interview. Though you might be nervous and focusing on what you want to say, take time to listen carefully to what the interviewer says and to observe important verbal and visual cues. An interviewer may smile, nod his head in agreement, or lean forward when your answer is spot on, may look puzzled or nonplussed when your answer is missing the mark, or may look bored and distracted when you are rambling on. A follow-up question may signal the interviewer is intrigued with your reply and wishes you to elaborate, that she believes you missed the essence of the question, or that she herself did not adequately communicate the query. Some interviewers consciously attempt to provide candidates with helpful feedback during the course of the interview while others make a concerted effort to maintain a poker face. Candidates should not be so preoccupied with interviewer cues that they forsake their message and become wholly reactionary, however those who become adept at “reading” interviewer cues can often make small adjustments and enhance results.
Obtaining interview feedback from a panel is most often accomplished by contacting the recruiter or H.R. staff person who is managing the process. Do not contact the panelists directly without first receiving permission; many panelists prefer, and are often given assurances, that their evaluation comments will be aggregated without individual attribution. When contacting a panelist, or a private interviewer, be sure to use the least intrusive approach. Do not take the liberty of contacting them via a private phone extension or unpublished email address. A safe option is to send a card or letter expressing thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed and incorporate a request for a follow-up phone call or visit to obtain helpful feedback. While this is likely to result in some form of response, refrain from being overbearing in pursuit of feedback if the request goes unanswered. This is one instance where persistence may be unappreciated.
When asking for interview analysis, graciously accept the feedback regardless of its tone. It is rarely of any value to react defensively or become argumentative. If you feel your words or actions were misunderstood you may explain but take responsibility for the confusion. Successful candidates are ones who earnestly desire to learn and improve from mock interviews, in-progress interview feedback, and post-selection process critiques.