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For many job seekers, knowing how to progress in a job search without employer feedback can be frustrating. Interviewing takes practice, and like any skill, how can one improve without constructive criticism? In addition to possessing the knowledge and experience needed to help an employer’s business succeed, the quickest way for job seekers to become employees is to make a great impression in the application and interview process. For those to whom this doesn’t come naturally, or who are up against the stiff competition, feedback may be required in order to land their desired role.

The simple solution to job seekers’ feedback requirement is to just ask for it. After all, employers should respect an applicant who seeks criticism and takes steps toward self-improvement, right? But there are reasons why hiring managers rarely provide feedback to candidates, as well as best practices for obtaining it. Let’s look at a few of each.

Why Are Some Employers Reluctant to Provide Feedback?

First, it’s important to understand why employers may be hesitant to provide feedback to candidates who aren’t hired. One reason involves legal liability. Regardless of why an employer rejects one candidate in favor of another, if the candidate who isn’t hired simply perceives the reason to be unjust and files a discrimination lawsuit, it could result in thousands of dollars in legal fees, months in court fighting the charges, and irreparable damage to the employer brand just to prove innocence. Often, it’s easier to avoid the risk by keeping hiring rationales confidential.

A second reason is the time commitment. An employer may be looking to fill several positions in the company. Depending on the nature of the positions, each may receive dozens, if not hundreds of applications. Providing unsuccessful applicants with feedback on why they were disqualified could add weeks or months to the recruiting process. Even hiring managers with the best intentions can only help candidates if their schedule and workload allow.

How to Ask for Feedback

When requesting feedback from an employer, timing is important. Job seekers should make a point of following up within one day (two days at the most) to reaffirm interest and ensure their application or interview is still fresh in the hiring manager’s mind. Candidates should also respond using the same method of communication that they received the rejection (phone or email).

When posing the initial question to an employer, job seekers should never ask why they weren’t hired. Instead, they should explain that they are looking to improve in their job search, and are seeking constructive criticism. They should then ask if the hiring manager can pinpoint any areas in the application or interview process where they were lacking and if the manager has any recommendations on how to better showcase their skills and experience when applying to future roles.

Ending on a Positive Note

If job seekers speak to or receive an email response from an employer who is willing to provide feedback on their application or interview, they should always keep an open mind and respond positively. Candidates should remember that employers are under no obligation to tell them why they weren’t hired. Managers who offer suggestions on how applicants can improve truly have their best interest at heart.

Under no circumstances should job seekers act defensively or argue with a hiring manager’s feedback. This won’t change the outcome of the hiring decision and could make the manager regret trying to help the candidate in his or her job search. Also, there’s always a chance that the applicant who was hired for the position won’t work out, and the employer will need to choose a second- or third-choice candidate as a replacement. Or, the company may be looking to fill a similar role in the near future. By reacting positively to the hiring manager’s feedback and showing appreciation for his or her time, candidates leave the door open to consideration for future opportunities with the company.

If a job applicant lacks the qualifications and experience a position requires to be successful, no amount of employer feedback regarding interview preparation or self-promotion will change the hiring outcome. However, for candidates who just need a bit of guidance on interview etiquette or how to market themselves for a particular role, a few helpful tips on where they’re lacking could be all that separates a job search that lasts several more months from one that ends shortly after their next application. Though they should be prepared to politely accept “no” for an answer, job seekers shouldn’t be afraid to ask employers for feedback after a rejection and show they are always willing to accept criticism, continue to learn, and better themselves.

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