Employers and networking contacts will judge us based on superficial things: a handshake, an email address, a 10-minute phone screening.
We think we can guess the impression we’re making, but then we don’t hear back after the phone screening, or the in-person interview doesn’t result in an offer. The reason may have been trivial or irrelevant–for example, they hired a company insider–or it may be something about your presentation that you can change.
If your job search is not getting the results you want, it may be time for a reality check from others. Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to get feedback from interviewers, recruiters or other company representatives. Between worries about lawsuits and simply being too busy, they will usually decline to comment.
Get feedback from friends (especially if they work in your field, in HR, or have been involved in hiring), job club buddies, a career coach, a resume writer. Gently insist that people tell you at least one thing you can improve.
Ask for feedback about:
Your resume, cover letters and other job search documents.
Your LinkedIn profile, including the photo.
Your answers to key questions, especially “What are you looking for?” “Why did you leave your job?” and “Tell me about yourself.”
Your interviewing skills overall.
Your interview apparel and grooming.
Your email address and signature.
How you speak. An accent, or a habit of speaking very quickly or mumbling, can make it hard for others to understand your words. You may be able to accommodate your listeners by speaking more slowly and pausing often. Making sure you have a static-free phone connection can be a big help.
Get mentally prepared.
Before you ask for honest feedback, prepare yourself to accept it gratefully and without emotional reaction, so as to keep the lines of communication open. If you wince, the person will be less frank next time. And realize that giving honest feedback tactfully is a tricky skill; you can’t expect everyone to be good at it.
By practicing asking for feedback, accepting it calmly and integrating it effectively, you’re developing valuable workplace and life skills – and being courageous. Appreciate yourself for that! (This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.)