Don’t Fight With People Providing Feedback

A few colleagues have had this experience. They get a call about a job. It looks like a great fit. They apply. They go through all the interviewing. It takes forever. And, they don't get the job.

One asked, “Is it ok to ask why?” Sure, it's ok to ask. Just don't have a fight about it.

When you ask why you didn't get a job, it's a form of feedback. And, the people providing feedback may not  be very nice about how they provide feedback. They may not be nice about it. If you are lucky enough to get this feedback, say, “Thank you.”

No matter how these people phrase it (one hiring manager said, “I don't trust you to not look for a job once the economy improves), they are providing you valuable feedback. The colleague who heard this was astonished. “I wanted that job. I wasn't going to look for a new one.” We discussed ways he might be able to use this experience to preempt a future hiring manager from thinking this way.

Something about your interviewing situation has created the rejection (maybe not you). Take the feedback, learn from it, and think about ways to apply it. Say, “Thank you,” and stop. Do not fight with the person giving you feedback. Who knows, that person might think of you in a while and re-open discussions. Stranger things have happened.

8 Replies to “Don’t Fight With People Providing Feedback”

  1. The worst feedback which I recently got was that ever so cryptic not-feedback feedback.

    “There were many other very capable candidates that applied and unfortunately you were not chosen to go forward’

    Well durr. Thanks for the statement of the obvious.. but its no feedback at all!

    I have a strong belief that truly professional individuals have the strength of character to respond to a request for feedback stating the impartial truths about why and what criteria the applicant failed upon, primarily as a means to educate them on how they might re-approach a similar position in the future.

    There remain however, plenty of not so straight talking types who would rather hide their reasons than reveal them. What do they have to hide?

  2. Receiving feedback is not easy for many of us. One question comes to mind when I receive feedback,

    Do I want to learn (from the feedback) or debate (about the feedback)?

  3. Hi Johanna, great post and excellent advice!
    It can be so tempting to argue and defend oneself when really the door’s already shut and it’s breath wasted.
    I particularly like “Something about your interviewing situation has created the rejection (maybe not you).” Taking the blame out of the game helps everyone move forward.

  4. Good point & good term: feedback. I think the trouble is, we see it as criticism and most of us (myself included) have a really tough time with that. If we look at it from a less subjective, more scientific perspective (like the use of the term in electronics) we need not take it so personally – it’s just physics.

  5. ‘What do they have to hide?’ J pimmel asked. There are a few reasons why people don’t provide proper feedback. One is the possibility of getting into trouble for speaking the truth, another more important reason, in my opinion, is the degree of care. If I don’t care enough for the person, why put myself out by telling the truth.

    I had a staff who was a nightmare to manage; she doesnt take on feedback at all and I mean not at all. It is always someone else’s faults and problems, she is perfect. The one time I told her the truth, I had her screaming and stabbing her fingers in my face, then she went to my boss to complain about the unfair assessments by her supervisor (my direct report) and me.

    In the end, I simply took the coward’s way out; moved her into another department through restructuring. Her subsequent two bosses had similar experience as mine and both wanted to terminate her but didn’t because of pity. She was sole bread winner.

    Everyone has moved on and she is still there. From what I hear, she hasn’t improve all these years and remains at the same grade.

    Real/proper feedback is a gift, even when it’s negative feedback as we could learn the truth and improve.

  6. Like your article, short and very much to the point.

    Positive feedback is very important and as you state stranger things can happen, the new arrival might not make the grade or may move on to another role elsewhere or they may need another candidate, who knows.

    Always leave a positive impression no matter what.

    We offer career advice on our job board to candidates and your piece of advice is very sound.

  7. Nice article,

    I had attended many interviews till now. I lost some jobs in the last round too. I always wished to know the reason why they did not choose me. Only once did I get feedback. I promptly thanked him and left that place. But I remembered that feedback. It was really helpful to me.

    I think interviewers usually try to avoid feedback because people would start arguing instead of accepting it..

  8. I did ask for a feedback once, they said that my personality was “bubbly” and that I might get bored with the job. I understood what they wanted to say about it, however I was more puzzled when she said that I had a bubbly personality since my friends say that I am too level-headed and quiet at times. However I still thanked them for their feedback.

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