Interview feedback - they blamed my experience, but they knew that when they shortlisted me!

12th November 2014 at 00:00

Just been told I didn’t get the job because I was too experienced – but they knew that when they shortlisted me!



Yes, you're right: they did know about your experience before they called you in.  


Just as they knew about the lack of experience of another candidate, a NQT, whose feedback was We decided to give the post to a more experienced candidate.  We often have people posting on JobSeekers saying that this is what they've been told - hadn't they read in the application that they didn't have experience?


The trouble with feedback is that people often don't know what to say to the unsuccessful candidates . . .


For several reasons.


Firstly they are worried that their feedback might offend.  

I have had occasions when, after interviewing one candidate, we have had to have a 15 minute pause in the schedule while we air the room thoroughly.  Do you think that the feedback was Your lack of personal hygiene . . .  (Kindly remember that I am sitting scores of miles away and this is in no way means to be a personal reference to any of you.  I am telling you of examples!)


Secondly, they are concerned that their feedback might bite back.  

That they might receive a letter from your solicitor saying My client informs me that your justification for non-appointment was X.  However, since in fact she does have X, Y and Z, there is clearly a covert reason which we believe to be gender discrimination.  We are therefore . . .  


And then often, an appointment committee cannot put into words why they chose A and not B.  


On paper they looked good, in the lesson they both did well, but somehow, in the interview, A just seemed to click with them, to develop a relationship which made them feel that s/he would be a valued colleague.

I have often said that on occasion, appointing a candidate is a bit like falling in love.  You know that you DO love him or her, but you cannot explain why.

So for all those reasons (do you really want to be told that they just liked the successful candidate more?), schools tend to go for the bland feedback (you were pipped at the post), the easy feedback (if we had two posts we would have appointed you), and the safe, cannot be disproven feedback (we appointed somebody with more/less experience).


Some posters on the  JobSeekers forum believe that schools do this when you're just there to make up the numbers and they've basically decided before the interviews who they're going to appoint.


Now I object to this statement!  


My comment is: How do you know?  How often have you been part of an appointing committee? Not often?  So where do you get this insider information from?


Schools go to a lot of time and effort organising and running lessons observations and interviews. We don't bring in extra candidates who are no-hopers just to make up the numbers, because that means more time and effort for us.


I have always declined to give instant feedback after an interview.  With the rest of the panel, we think of one positive to tell the unsuccessful candidate.  I'm afraid that this is not the news that you were hoping for. We particularly liked your good classroom management, but have decided to offer the post to another candidate.


We then offer to discuss this later on.


It's not our policy to offer feedback immediately, as we know that you may be too disappointed to take it all in now, but if you would like to ring back in a week and speak to my secretary, I'll give you some suggestions for any future applications.


My secretary, the Head’s secretary, because it is also my policy that the line manager rings to give the good news to the successful candidate (gives a positive start to the working relationship), and then once the offer has been accepted, the person who gets paid the most deals with the people who are going to be unhappy when they get the bad news.


So my suggestion to you is this.  


Ring up the school in a week's time.  Don't ask for feedback.  Ask instead if they could give you a time when someone could pass on some positive suggestions about how you could improve your application and interview next time.  


Asking for feedback might make them feel uncomfortable, asking them to criticize you.  


Asking for suggestions, asking for positives -  they will feel better about that.


Best wishes