Don't look back in anger

12th January 2001 at 00:00
Interviews don't always deliver the job. But, says John Caunt, you can help increase your future prospects with some balanced analysis.

Applying for a job is a big emotional investment. Quite how big we may not realise until an interview panel has the effrontery to turn us down. At that moment, when somebody else's name is called out and you catch their smug glance as they trip back into the interview room, it's easy to flip into self-protection mode and ignore the lessons that rejection can offer. You can: 1. Blame the panel - "How could they possibly appoint him? Well, if that's the kind of decision they take, I'm glad I won't be working there."

2. Blame yourself - "I blew it as soon as I walked in the door, opened my mouth and started jabbering. I just go to pieces as soon as I get into an interview."

3. Unearth a conspiracy - "I don't know why I bothered applying. It was clear from the off that the local candidate was going to get it. The rest of us were just there to make up the numbers."

Any of these may be true, but a response which seizes on one reason for failure without reflection or analysis misses an opportunity. However blind the panel or predetermined the result, it is unlikely that your contribution to the proceedings was flawless. Most employers these days will offer feedback to unsuccessful candidates. If it's not offered, then it is generally worth asking.

If a decision has been made "on the day", it may mean you have to stay behind for a few minues to talk to a member of the panel. Otherwise, you are likely to be seeking information on the telephone. If you want anything useful from the exchange, there is no place for anger or hurt in your attitude.

You will only put the interviewer on the defensive and make him feel he has to justify his decision. Don't say "What did I do wrong?" or "What did they have that I didn't?" Your objective in seeking feedback is to gain some pointers for the future, not to challenge the result or shame the selector into admitting he has made the wrong decision.

In some circumstances, a challenge may be appropriate, where unfair discrimination is suspected, but this is a course of action to be adopted only after obtaining advice. Remember: you will receive the polite version of the panel's assessment - few selectors want to kick people when they are down. They are likely to give emphasis to the favourable points of your performance and not very many areas for development. Don't be disappointed with this. If you can come away with two or three valuable observations, then you have done well.

Appointment decisions are frequently made on small margins of choice between similarly qualified candidates and such nuances can be difficult to feed back.

So, don't expect the earth - take what you can and move on. Most importantly, do not regard feedback as the end of the story. If it is to be your name that is called out next time, you need to couple it with some analysis of your own.

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