Everyone knows what it’s like at the end of a job interview: the interviewee gets walked to the door, hopefully with some friendly small talk being exchanged and promises—sometimes extremely vague—of future contact from the interviewer. What the interviewee is saying might be “Thanks for this opportunity, it was great to meet you.” But what he’s thinking, of course, is “How did I do?”

Unfortunately, the candidate is unlikely to get much of a clue at the interview. Though experts say interviewees should be looking for body language and tone and all kinds of other circumstantial evidence from an interviewer, the truth is we’d all like a mandatory summary of how we came across at the end of every job interview. But even if you do well enough to get a call back for another interview, or more, the job candidate is unlikely to ever get an evaluation of his strengths and weaknesses in the interview. Of course, if you get an offer, it all suddenly stops seeming quite so important. On the other hand, it is, since you are likely to be in the same position again one day.

Still, according to a recent article on eweek.com called “Job Interview Feedback is Practically Non-Existent,” if you’re not getting feedback on your interviewing skills:

You are not alone. Over half–52 percent– of respondents on an October Dice survey said they’d love to receive feedback from companies they have interviewed with for positive and negative information, but never get a call returned. Some are so frustrated by the experience their response is “who cares?”

Indeed, look around at what people are writing on the subject, and you’ll find some of it is pretty bleak. Like this assessment from a site about interviewing:

Basically, there is no way that an interviewee can get any kind of feedback from the interviewer. Only in the rarest of cases will the interviewer actually agree to speak to the interviewee about the interview, and never in an official capacity.

Yikes. Perhaps jumping straight to sheer hopelessness isn’t the best way to go. Other experts say that while feedback is difficult to get, it’s not impossible, and it’s one of the most important ways to improve one’s interviewing skills.

Though it can certainly be intimidating, Leslie Stevens-Huffman at dice.com asserts that asking for feedback is a must:

There are several ways to ask for the interviewer’s opinions. By first stating why you are asking for the information, you might be able to get the interviewer to feel at ease and consequently they will be more candid with you. Try opening up with a phrase such as, “I’m always trying to improve. Can you share any feedback with me about my interviewing skills?”

A step beyond even that is actually addressing any concerns the interviewer is willing to express. Stevens-Huffman lays out an extremely useful three-step process for handling them:

  1. Restate what you have heard and clarify the real objection with the interviewer. This step is vital because you want to make certain that you address the real issue. “So if I’m hearing you correctly, you are concerned that I don’t have project management experience, is that correct? Why is that a concern?”
  2. Clarify the objection. ?“Oh I see. You were hoping that the new developer would be able to handle some managerial duties within six months because you are growing rapidly.”
  3. Offer proof of your capabilities. ?“I actually have six months experience as a project manager on a contract basis. If I share that experience with you now and provide you with a reference, do you think it would eliminate your concerns?”

Getting feedback on your job interview performance isn’t easy, but being direct may not only sharpen your technique, but possibly even give you a better shot at the job you’re there to talk about in the first place.

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