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Make the Most of Post Selection Feedback

10 March 2022

Popping a consoling arm around her colleague, Sally gave Tim a smile and pulled out all her comforting words.  Tim appreciated the noise washing over him.  He was miserable and misery loves company.  Sally's kind insistence they get out of the office after he'd received the news that he wasn't the successful candidate had been spot on.

"You should ask for feedback you know?"

"Erg!  No, the thought of doing that sickens me.  It is always awkward and useless!"

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Tim's reaction and experience with post selection feedback is all too common.  People hate asking for it and hiring managers are terrible at giving it.

The answer to this conundrum is to not ask for post selection feedback.  Instead ask for post selection advice.

The difference between advice and feedback is stark.  You are likely to ignore feedback because it is about the past, and the past is the past.  Advice though is future oriented and is usually something you can action.

Feedback is difficult for hiring managers to give.  They already feel bad about causing you distress and they don't want to add to this.  They also struggle with taking care to not say something that might offend or give cause for appeal.  This results in feedback that is vague in nature, usually consisting of hollow praise, and comments that are difficult to implement.

Giving advice though is much more comfortable for people to do.  People feel flattered when they are asked for advice.

Start by framing the conversation with the context that you want to improve - for example: I am keen to search out the small things I can do to make me more competitive for the next opportunity that comes my was, so would be interested in getting some advice from you.

Then ask specific questions about specific elements of your selection performance - for example: What additional information would it be useful for me to include on my resume?, or Were there any examples I used in the interview that I could have relayed better?

Finish with a general question seeking advice - for example: If you were me, what other advice would you have if I wanted to be successful for roles like this? 

When you ask for feedback the other person feels they need to come up with what you did wrong.  When you ask for advice the other person looks inside themselves and thinks about what they would have found useful. In the words of Shane Parrish of the Farnam Street blog "asking for feedback creates a critic, asking for advice creates a partner."

Occasionally, even when asking for advice you will still get generalities such as: Oh you really did well, the other person just had more experience.  In the face of this type of feedback delve for specifics: What specifically did I do well?

You don't have to action all the advice you receive, but do ask yourself what the most valuable 10% was of the advice you received and take action on that.  I also recommend dropping the hiring manager an email to let them know what you actioned - it is a lovely form of accountability for you, and makes it more likely the hiring manager will give good advice to others.

If your own internal saboteurs, like Tim's, overwhelm you at the thought of seeking post selection advice consider joining the next 6-week Mental Fitness program I run, and learn how to quieten them.

As always, wishing you a flourishing career.

Katherine

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