Nearly everyone has has to deal with it. The sharp bite of rejection after applying and interviewing for a job you really wanted and not getting it. Your head is full of questions and you’re left pondering “why?” and “what could I have done better in order to get this job?” Well, instead of sitting there in front of your desk pondering all of these pressing questions, why not just simply ask the interviewer, “why?”
It may not seem appropriate, seeing as though they rejected you, but it’s an important step you need to make towards improving your job search and understanding what your weaknesses may be. On a personal note, I interviewed once for a position in a public relations office and nearly nailed the interview, save one large mistake. It essentially was a small misstep I made while writing a faux press release, but to the interviewer it was massive. After she read over my work and realized the mistake was made, she said, “thank you for your time, but I don’t think this is going to work.” Embarrassed and a bit broken, I said thank you and hastily got up and walked right on out. On my way back home though, in my self-deprecating state of rejection, I was left with one pressing question, “If I hadn’t made this one semantic mistake, that was due in part to time constraints, would I have gotten this job?” Rather than beat myself up about it, once I got home I sat down in front of my laptop and emailed the interviewer directly asking that same question.
I wasn’t sure if I would get an answer, because she just rejected me and why would she waste anymore of her time? However, to my surprise and delight, she promptly returned my email and told me I was a qualified, talented writer, but that she couldn’t overlook a mistake on such a basic skill and wished me luck in my future endeavors. It still stung a bit, but at the very least my skills were validated and, had I not made that mistake, I probably would have had that job. The point of this whole story is that often times as job seekers we overlook the fact that, even when we are rejected we can learn something and use the situation to our advantage. So, how exactly should you go about inquiring why you didn’t receive this job you so badly wanted?
First and foremost, if you’re going to ask why you weren’t the best candidate you need to do it fast. It’s important to act quickly and not brood over why you didn’t work out. Plus, if you ask right away you are still fresh in the interviewer’s mind and the value of their answer will be much greater. If you wait a week, or even just a couple of days, chances are you will have been forgotten, lost in a sea of countless other candidates. It may sound harsh, but that’s the reality of the situation. John Scanlan, the assistant director of the career services center at Cleveland State University, says, “If you decide to ask why you weren’t selected, you should do it as soon as you are notified that you were not the winning candidate.” Acting on this quickly also shows that you genuinely cared about possibly getting this position and that you are taking the initiative to improve yourself. Furthermore, if the initial candidate they decided to go with doesn’t work out for some reason, there’s you, the candidate that truly cared about the company and wanted feedback on your performance in the interview. The chances of this scenario happening may be slim to none, but it doesn’t hurt you in any way.
You may be a bit puzzled as to how you should ask them why you weren’t hired. Terry Henley, director of compensation services at Employers Resource Association, has a great template you can use to help you out. Here’s what he suggests: “While I am disappointed in not being chosen for this position, I really would appreciate any feedback regarding why I was not selected because that might give me valuable insight into what I need to do to prepare myself better for such an opportunity in the future.” That’s all you have to say and in most cases you will get your answer.
Lastly, don’t be afraid of learning why you weren’t hired. No one likes to hear why they weren’t good enough, but in order to grow and improve it’s necessary. Be prepared to hear something unflattering about yourself and don’t take it personally. This is a learning experience and that is how you should approach it. By keeping an open mind, you will learn much more and developing a thick skin never hurt anyone.