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How to cope with negative feedback from a job interview and make positive change

By Sarah Owens on 05.10.17 in Your Career

One of the most frustrating parts of looking for a new job is getting and then making sense of feedback.  Naturally, not every candidate is right for every role they go for and we'll sometimes have to pass on negative feedback.  It's our job to help our candidates use that feedback in a positive way.    

So here are our top 5 tips to help you use negative feedback to get the positive result you're looking for.   

1 Don't get defensive

Many candidates find it hard to deal with negative feedback - especially if it doesn't ring true in terms of how they see themselves - and we've often experienced candidates who become defensive.  Getting negative feedback doesn't mean that you're a terrible person - it means that the client has made some observations about you during the hour you spent being interviewed that caused them concern.  It might be that they think you are too introverted to be client facing or that your lack of preparation meant they are wondering whether you really want the job.  These are all things you can do something about, so don't take it personally. 

2 Analyse the feedback

Once feedback has come in from an employer, it is important to sit down and analyse it. You're likely to learn something valuable that will help you at your next interview.  It might be that the interviewer found you were ill prepared for the session - was your research accurate and full?  Could you answer the questions about the company you were posed? Did you stumble over standard questions like "why do you want to work here?"  Did you misunderstand what the role entailed or what the organisation was looking for?  These negative aspects can be used in a positive way to help you prepare for your next interview. 

3 Talk to your recruitment consultant

If the comments have come via your recruitment consultant, why not discuss it with them on the phone.  Ask them for some help in understanding where you went wrong and what you need to do to put it right.  We've helped many candidates analyse the feedback and given them guidance on what needs to improve in order to get the job next time around. 

4 Take it on board and learn from your mistakes

Negative feedback is a great opportunity for you to learn - if you are prepared to put in a bit of work. Take the criticisms on board, think about them and then act to change. We've had candidates who started their job search getting negative feedback, but because they approached things in a measured way and were willing to make the necessary tweaks, ended up getting the job they really wanted. 

5 Change your behaviour

If aspects of your behaviour - and this includes body language - have been the source of negative feedback, take a long look at yourself.  Indeed, the expression "it's not what you say, it's what you do" is never more true than during a job interview.  Remember to sit up, make eye contact, be expressive and smile. Looking bored and impassive by slouching and fidgeting isn't going to get you through the door. 

That said, if the feedback is that you are too introverted, don't go too far the other way and become the life and soul. It will be a hard act to keep up and will be a shock to your employer when you revert back to your usual, quieter self.  Just make little adjustments that will make you look and sound keen and approachable. 

So see negative feedback as invaluable positive guidance as to how to change and hone your behaviour.  Learning the art of dealing with it positively, will go a long way to helping you grow and develop yourself and your interview technique, leading to a satisfying and successful career.