Is getting post-job interview feedback ever worth it?
February 8, 2023 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I didn't get the job I interviewed for last week. The message the interviewer left me seems like she wants me to call her back for some sort of feedback (she didn't say that per se), but she could discuss it. I'm not really sure how I feel about calling back for feedback. I'm afraid it will just put me in a worse mood. Should I call her back when I feel less shitty?

I don't know, I just kind of feel like what can she tell me that I don't already know? Yeah, I get it... I'm shit at interviews. I get anxious. I want to be perfect. I get nervous. Sucks to be me, I guess. No matter how strong my cover letters/resumes are, I always let myself down at the interview stage. I did get the clue that I didn't get the position when none of my references mentioned hearing from her.

Sometimes I have a really difficult time hearing feedback like this, because I'm already in a shitty place. Like... yeah... I know I suck. Right now, I just feel like I'm fundamentally *not* good enough. How is hearing that from a third party helpful? What, is she going to tell me to be less nervous/anxious? As if I didn't know that already. What can she possibly tell me that would HELP me? Because if she's just going to tell me that I already know, is seeking feedback even valuable?

She said that the competition for the position was strong, it probably was, but I don't know... her tone seemed what I would call "overly empathetic" which always makes me nervous/uncomfortable. I guess maybe it verges on patronizing? I do know that she's very nice (from what I know in passing).
posted by VirginiaPlain to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is the kind of thing that is very hard to do, especially when it feels like you're being evaluated on your desirability to have around as a person, but can also be very valuable if she raises some specific point that you can try to fix going forward. Generalized "I suck" is overwhelming and unfixable (and also gives your anxiety an excuse not to try--not judging, speaking from personal experience). "We found that, compared to other candidates, you were less able to explain how you solved our test problem/how you dealt with the conflict you identified/etc." gives you something to work on for next time.
posted by praemunire at 10:31 AM on February 8 [15 favorites]

(BTW, I also get my back up about being patronized when I'm feeling vulnerable,'s a defense mechanism, you know?)
posted by praemunire at 10:32 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]

I would like to reframe this for you. I've hired for a lot of roles, both ones in media and now a whole bunch of ones. I have only offered feedback a handful of times - and that was only for people where I really, really believed in them and truly wished I could have hired them.

In at least one case I stayed in touch and eventually 'gave' them (advocated for them being offered) a job when I quit.

Hiring is annoying because sometimes you only have one job, but 2 people you wish you could work with.

So if you're getting an offer like this, I think the most likely reason is that here is someone who wants you to succeed. This person is already on your side. So personally, I would try to take that call. Only you know where your head is at.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:37 AM on February 8 [55 favorites]

Just do it, just do it! Put on your big girl/boy/person pants, schedule the call, thank her for her time and insightful feedback, then treat yourself to a nice cup of coffee or something after. If you did really bad at the interview, she wouldn't bother with this feedback. She probably wants to help because there is something promising/likeable about you and probably because you were a top candidate. Talking to her a good way to be top of mind in case similar positions open up and to express interest in working there. You can even follow up with her in a few months if there is something actionable she recommends, and thank her again for helping you grow/learn.
posted by at 10:39 AM on February 8 [17 favorites]

It might be valuable because you might hear some things you don't expect. It's hard for us to know how we come off to other people, and it's often much different than we appear to ourselves. You might not have even come off as that nervous (anxiety can cause catastrophizing thoughts that exaggerate the negative aspects of things, something I know all too well about). It might be something else entirely, and learning that might help you in the future. Job interviews are a weird kind of performance, and it just doesn't come naturally to many people to play the role correctly. You might get some good notes.
posted by dis_integration at 10:39 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

It might not be feedback on your interview performance, but something else entirely--like the role you interviewed for was one where the other candidate had more matching experience, but they do like you and think you'd be a good fit for this other role that's about to open.

Or that they understood what you were saying about x, but here's how to phrase it in the future so that the rest of the hiring committee gets it.

Or that they know someone in a related org who is looking to hire someone like you, and make sure you mention this thing in your cover letter to them.

You really might be pleasantly surprised.
posted by knotty knots at 10:59 AM on February 8 [25 favorites]

I have been involved in a fair bit of hiring and we have never offered feedback to a candidate. There is too much risk, we don't have the time, and it would be uncomfortable for everyone. I certainly don't know for sure, but I would lean towards thinking that this "feedback" call may be something more like telling you they decided to delay the hire and want to keep you in the loop. I really can't imagine they would offer to give you feedback on how to be a better job candidate, for them or anywhere else. There is nothing in that for them. I certainly can't say for sure for that's my read. Good luck and try to be kind to yourself.
posted by fies at 11:05 AM on February 8 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback, so far. I feel pretty shitty (lol, like I almost want to cry about not getting this job), so maybe I'll call in a few days for feedback... but I'm not 100% sure about it, still.

I certainly don't know for sure, but I would lean towards thinking that this "feedback" call may be something more like telling you they decided to delay the hire and want to keep you in the loop. I really can't imagine they would offer to give you feedback on how to be a better job candidate, for them or anywhere else.

I do have to reply to this specifically, because it seems to be disregarding the entire premise of my question. Yes, she did call and say I didn't get the job. And yes, she did give me the number to her private line if I wanted to discuss this with her... so I'm not really understanding this response?
posted by VirginiaPlain at 11:14 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]

Wow, this is one of those times when I can put myself in both of your shoes! I completely understand NOT wanting to hear feedback from someone who (you may feel) has rejected you. In times past, I may have completely ignored this, or gone through it out of a feeling of obligation, but dreaded it horribly.

However, speaking from someone who has been on the other side of this: I would not offer to give this kind of feedback unless I really respected and valued the person. I wouldn't do it out of sympathy/empathy - I'd do it either because 1. I think I might want to hire the person in the future and I want to nurture that relationship or 2. I think the person really was an extremely competitive candidate but I have some very specific, actionable advice I could give them that would help them with future applications. Not advice like "be less nervous in interviews" (any decent interviewer understands that people will be nervous) but advice like "learn this computer program if you can" or "with your expertise, you might consider applying for this other role."

I suggest taking them up on it, but do whatever you can to support yourself emotionally both before and after. This is not about hearing how you suck! It's about connecting with someone who wants to help you get a job. Talk to a friend, be gentle with yourself, set up a session with your therapist if you have one. Do it because it could genuinely be helpful, but do it in a way that is safe for you.
posted by lunasol at 11:17 AM on February 8 [6 favorites]

To directly answer your question: if you are able to get interview feedback, then you should get it. It could be something you didn't see in yourself and can work on, it could be further information about the company or industry, it could be establishing a new network connection. Or it could be something you already know, but it is just another data point that you can choose to work on that. Or worst case, it could be hurtful feedback, and then you learned that you dodged a bullet by not working with that person!

To repeat others - it is very rare for me to offer feedback or reach out for a direct connection with a non-accepted candidate. The only times I've done it is when I'd totally love to work with that person, but it wasn't the right fit for the role/time/whatever.

Not related to your question, but please be kind to yourself. Job hunting is brutal and the numbers are not in your favor for any given position, so don't take a rejection personally.
posted by Diddly at 11:24 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]

I always offer interview feedback and try my best to make it genuine and helpful. Most of my candidates in recent hiring have been internal, so that can be a lot easier, but I’ve done it with external applicants as well.

I get the “I suck at interviews” feeling. And I want to gently suggest that staying there-that seeing this as a fact about yourself rather something that can be changed-can be a really hopeless place and often a self fulfilling prophecy. I think it’s ok to ask for small and specific things you can do to make yourself a more competitive candidate.

For instance (feedback I’ve actually given):
-your discussion of yourself in your interviews is self-deprecating to a fault. This is not the time to put yourself down. You can be humble and genuine and also discuss your achievements and strengths.
-it’s ok to be nervous! Almost everyone is! You can say that up front but avoid apologizing repeatedly throughout the interview.
-your response to the equity question was too superficial. We were looking for you to talk about a specific time you observed an x thing and you gave a very vague response about “always accepting everyone for who they are”…
-your resume shows extensive experience with Y projects but you didn’t bring any of that into your interview even when I asked a follow up question to encourage you.

If you have a friend who does a lot of hiring it’s worth it-though can be totally scary!-to ask to do interview practice with them. My BFF did this with my husband before a big interview in his field and it made a total difference.
posted by purenitrous at 11:37 AM on February 8 [6 favorites]

I know you're a librarian from your previous questions, and I think feedback tends to be more common among library positions than maybe in other fields (I used to be a public librarian and have been turned down for dozens of jobs after interviews), so I'm not surprised she offered you feedback. I've gotten feedback a handful of times for jobs I wasn't hired for, and I think it's generally got some nugget of value in it, so why not take it? Although I'm also someone who might interview poorly but still gets rejected and thinks, "These idiots! They'll never find anyone better than me!" so maybe I have more of a stomach for rejection than you.

The most valuable feedback I got was from a woman whom I knew, as I'd filled in at her library probably 10-20 times before she interviewed me for the position. It was a children's librarian job, and I'm not much on kids. She rejected me (of course! I'm not much on kids!) via HR, then called me personally to tell me that while she knew I could do the job, she also knew that I didn't particularly want to do the job. And she was so right! It actually made me kind of think about what I was applying for, and that it would be better to keep doing fill-in work (which kept me afloat at the time) until a position that I was actually good at/excited about opened up, rather than applying for garbage like children's librarian jobs.

Oh also, I was pretty sure that I was a good enough actor that I could convince people that I'd be happy as a children's librarian, but obviously that wasn't true. And it was helpful to get that from someone whom I liked and trusted, rather than continue to embarrass myself interviewing for those types of jobs.

Good luck. Finding/applying for/interviewing for librarian jobs is a real slog, and it can seem like you have to apply for every opening you see if you ever want to get another job. I actually left the profession several years ago and was astounded at how much easier it was to get employment in a different field, where I had no experience, than in a library where I had a decade of really good experience/references/etc. I think it's hard for people who haven't been in the field to really grasp what a nightmare it is to get a job.
posted by jabes at 11:46 AM on February 8 [10 favorites]

Joining the chorus to say, I totally see this as a mark of your quality/promise as a candidate, and a gesture of support and connection on the part of your interviewer. I think of it as if a professor reached out to me after I failed an exam, to help me understand what I’d missed - I’d take it that they want me to succeed, to keep going, to not give up, and would jump at the chance.

Networking is everything in job search: if this person hears about another role that suits you, even at another org, they might reach out to you or pass your name on. Being open to constructive feedback is a skill in universal demand but with very short supply. This is an opportunity to strengthen that skill for yourself *and*demonstrate it concretely to a person who hires in your field.

You can bring questions to that meeting, too! You could ask: what did you see as strengths I could build on? Are there other/related roles that you think I should be exploring?

I feel tenderness and empathy for the part of you that says, “I know, I suck.” For me, that voice is trying desperately to protect me from pain by telling me I never would have gotten the job anyways. When I hear it, I try to remember that it is the voice of fear and self-protection, not the Truth. Wishing you strength and confidence and sending you care.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:54 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]

I agree with jabes that this is more common in some fields than others. I've been offered feedback a few times and accepted once. That time it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know except that the interviewer felt bad about not offering me the post. The other times, I felt I had enough I could use about how I thought I'd handled the application and interview process, so didn't take the offer up. I do think it's coming from a good place as rrrrrrrrrt says, and suggests that the interviewer felt liking or respect or empathy for you. I take the point that this can be difficult to deal with.

If it's an organisation you might want to apply to again, I think that changes things, and in that case it's worth steeling yourself and having the discussion; maybe an opportunity to practice some interview skills even though it's not an interview.
posted by paduasoy at 12:05 PM on February 8

"I do have to reply to this specifically, because it seems to be disregarding the entire premise of my question. Yes, she did call and say I didn't get the job. And yes, she did give me the number to her private line if I wanted to discuss this with her... so I'm not really understanding this response?"

I apologize if my response was not clear, I did not intend to disregard your question. Based on my experience, it was just my read that although you didn't get the job, given the reluctance employers have to providing actual feedback, this offer for a "feedback" call may actually just be her wanting to reconnect with you in a positive way. For example, to let you know they are interested in keeping in touch on something in the future. Good luck.
posted by fies at 12:37 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Once, I had a job interview that I thought went splendid! There was a great vibe, we were even joking around a bit by the end. But no offer. So, keep in mind even a good interview doesn't yield a job.

I ended up getting offered feedback. Specifically, I did not ask enough questions about the job itself. Which was true. And is an obvious interview tip, but apparently not to me at that time!

It seems like you feel like a loser because of all this career stuff. You are not a loser! It is hard to find a job. Don't let this despair trap you. I went through a difficult slog of find a job/career years and identify with the hopelessness and the "I must suck" narrative. It really is hard. But it won't be like this forever. Buck up and contact this person --at worse it will be useless, at best you will get some input and possibly a network connection.
posted by rhonzo at 1:00 PM on February 8

Just Nthing that on the rare occasion I give post interview feedback, it's because they were very good. I don't have time to give feedback to people I flat out rejected.
posted by Candleman at 1:15 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Also, call sooner rather than later. Yes, I know it's tough and you're going through a lot, but it's better for you to get it over and done with sooner rather than later, and it's better in the interviewer's eyes if you respond promptly. This is especially true if there is another opportunity she has in mind.
posted by sardonyx at 1:27 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]

I am a fellow librarian who has recently overcome a career-long fear of interviews. If you think I could be helpful at all, feel free to memail me.

(I haven't hired in a while, but when I was in that position, like others here I only gave feedback if I thought the person was really great but just wasn't a fit for an easily quantifiable reason.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:57 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

I'm on Team: Call Her. It sounds like she wants to help you, and that she has constructive ways to help. Also, it's possible she has a lead on another job that she thinks might fit you better, or she knows of something coming down the road. I think this is a valuable olive branch that you should grab onto.
posted by hydra77 at 5:07 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Lots of really god advice upthread. I just have two things to add:

1. Recruiters and hiring managers have been known to take instant likings/dislikings to candidates. It shouldn't happen, but humans gonna human, and sometimes you click with someone immediately, and try to grease the skids for them a little bit. I just finished an interviewing cycle, and it was awful, but two of the recruiters I worked with took a shine to me for reasons I will probably never understand, and they both peeled back the mask a bit to show me how the machine works underneath. One basically read me the feedback from an interview panel word-for-word, which she definitely was not supposed to do, but it was actually kind of helpful, and confirmed to me that yes, I actually am a competent person who elicited "yes" answers from 4 out of 5 interviewers, but corporate policy is that it has to be unanimous. I'm really glad I called her back after she left me a voicemail telling me I didn't get the gig, because otherwise I would have been that much more discouraged at getting an unqualified "no".

2. I am a person who is horrifically bad at taking feedback about my own performance. Good feedback, bad feedback... doesn't matter. I freeze up, freak out, and get way too deep into my own head. And I get paralyzing anxiety about feedback conversations when they're going to happen at work, even if I've been doing well. But. Five years ago, at the advice of my hiring-manager wife, I started asking recruiters for feedback when I didn't get job offers. And I almost immediately learned that I am able to take feedback--when there are zero stakes at play. Yup, I absolutely tanked that one question, it was my fault for not reading up on the subject area, and I kind of made myself look like a jackass in that interview segment. Thank you for that feedback, recruiter-who-I-will-almost-certainly-never-speak-with-again. I dunno. Something about the fact that the decision's already been made, there's no way to swing the needle in either direction, removes the anxiety I feel in any other situation like this. YMMV.

So I say call 'em back, and see what they have to say! You literally have nothing to lose.
posted by Mayor West at 6:04 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]

Yes, she did call and say I didn't get the job. And yes, she did give me the number to her private line if I wanted to discuss this with her

I think you made a good impression overall with this person and they want to offer you something that they think will have value to you. Could be something about your interview performance or it could be something like a lead on a job they think you would be an excellent candidate for.
posted by yohko at 2:01 PM on February 10

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