It is easy to ask 'how great was I' when you have achieved something - that is the kind of feedback that we all love and can cope with comfortably. The problem is and this will not be a surprise to you, the most important feedback that you ever hear is actually when you have failed to achieve something that you wanted to achieve.
So you have created a brilliant CV because you have read my blogs about personal brand and your CV being your marketing flier and worked on it. Fantastic! The problem is that the interview you tried so hard and worked so long to get has resulted in them declining your application. They have given you some 'feedback' although it is pretty brief and useless because it reads 'there was simply another candidate who performed better than you did / was more suitable for the role / had more relevant experience' - so what next?
Well thanks to the fear that seems to purvey many HR Departments that all feedback will lead to a tribunal that is likely to be the best you get when you ask for it the first time. It is no good to you and leaves you standing still. You need a bit more than a standard wording in a standard letter. So do not be afraid to ask for it. This does not mean creating a problem for the employer but just asking them very clearly what you need to work on to be successful next time.
If you have the reflective learning and self-appraisal habit already then you will have made notes after the interview to describe how you felt you performed, what questions you answered well and which need work and how you think the recruiter rated your performance. So why not ask them specific questions like 'I felt that I came across as being very nervous and under confident, is that something that the interviewers report mentioned?' They might try to deny you detail at first but by being specific, constructive and polite you can make progress, especially if you make it clear to them that you felt you had been fairly treated and that you are asking for feedback to just help you to perform better next time!
I have a good example from a few years back when I was a Recruitment Manager in industry; a young man who had received a decline letter with respect to his application to be a Sales Advisor rang up my team seeking further feedback. Sadly our feedback policy was also to say little and summarise the result as I have done above saying it was either experience or someone else out performing him. But he was not content with that, he felt he had performed well and argued that if he was never told how or where he fell short that he would repeat his errors next time. Quite rightly he persisted and found out my e-mail address and connected. I called him and he was so passionate about getting his performance right, so clearly disappointed that he had not got the job with us and so polite and professional despite his emotional state that I listened, talked to him and decided to meet him as I had not been involved in the initial recruitment process.
Well the bottom-line is that I was very frank with him, he did not get the job because someone else with the proven track record, industry experience and industry qualifications did. In terms of his performance it was good and the only feedback remark from the report that he might be able to use was that he needed to slow down and be a bit more measured in his communication style. I recommended him for another position within the company, he was managing within 3 years and has gone on to have a very successful career. All because he asked and the fact that he asked and manner with which he asked told me a lot about him.
Feedback is a used and abused; it was corrupted in the 80's and 90's when very earnest looking managers fresh from their training course on staff development and motivation used it during meetings where everyone felt awkward and no discernible progress occurred. But now it is crucial to help all of us in developing and understand how the world experiences us. Asking for it is brave especially in a recruitment scenario because it might feel like saying 'I know I have failed but can you tell me in a bit more detail why I failed' but really it is simply that you are saying 'I am honest with myself, I want to improve and by giving me honest and constructive feedback you can help me to do that.'
Feedback and reflection are the fundamentals to you being able to evolve, learn and grow. To nail an interview you need to understand your past failures and do something about them. So don't let people off the hook if they don't want to help you - insist that they give you something that you can work on and take it on the chin!