One thing that many of our interns tell us is that good constructive feedback can make a world of difference to the next interview. However, its easier said than done for both interviewer and interviewee. After being told you haven’t got the job it can be very difficult to ask for feedback. Sometimes that is because there isn’t a clear and direct route to do so, but usually its because people are scared to ask. Its easy to assume the worst and think the feedback will be terrible. That said, its just as bad to be told that you were the second best candidate or that you didn’t have as much experience as the person who got it. If the latter were the case then why interview at all! It can all be very dejecting.
For the employer, there may be several factors. Maybe you really were very good and they can’t think of things for you to work on. Maybe they hadn’t scheduled time in to reflect and tie up the loose ends. Most employers only give feedback if it is requested. When we work with employers on our internship programmes we encourage them to give some constructive feedback. If the feedback is relating to the style of the application then we can forward on our advice guidance for this or perhaps go through the application and give feedback on how to improve.
Much of the feedback we have given lately has been on similar themes. Applicants have given broad examples of projects they have been involved in but haven’t drilled down to the details of what exactly they did as part of the work. Its common for applicants to be modest and refer to what the team did rather than think about what they brought to the work on an individual level. When thinking of examples to take to interview try to think about the process you went through, and explain it like the other person has no idea. It can be easy to assume the interviewer knows how much work you did but if you run through the example too quickly you will miss important detail.
Also, an important aspect to include in your answers is self reflection. People often think that employers want to hear immensely impressive stuff, where you did the great things, there were no hiccups and the team worked so well together. However, knowing life and how things tend to go its obvious to anyone listening that you are only scratching the surface. Reflecting on what could have been done differently and what you have learned about yourself and your role is one of the best things you can do in interview. It doesn’t reflect badly on you if things didn’t go to plan, it shows you are resilient and a problem solver if you can overcome it. People hear myths about what the interviewers want to hear and this has lead to people shying away from this kind of self reflection. Take the classic example of “tell us your biggest weakness”. Its common for people to think they have to pick a supposed weakness that can be spun into a strength such as “I’m too organised” or “I’m too passionate”. Really, the employer would much rather hear a true weakness and how you have tried to improve on it. Its much more genuine.
Lastly, it can be helpful to think about what adjustments might help you in an interview situation. Ensuring that you have the things you need to perform on a level playing field gives you more time to think about the other stuff. It can be a reasonable adjustment to ask for the questions in advance so that you can formulate answers. This is useful for people who may find it difficult to think on their feet, may panic, or may have communication barriers. You could also ask to bring notes into the interview to keep you on track. I encourage the employers we work with to print the questions off so that you don’t get trying to hit all the points. Its actually better for employers to ask follow up questions rather than having really long sentences or paragraphs for one question.
We hope that this advice is useful, please comment and tell us about your experiences. Try not to fear the feedback as you never know, it could just make everything click into place. We will be sharing more resources on access to employment in the next few months.