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Feedback is critical to your job search.

Processing feedback when looking for a job

When you ask a friend to read your resume and tell you what they think, that’s feedback. When you go to networking events and give your elevator pitch, what you hear (or don’t hear) afterwards is feedback. Whether you get called for interviews, that’s feedback. During the interviews themselves, the questions you are asked is some of the most valuable feedback you can get. 

Sometimes feedback is direct: a recruiter tells you why you’re not a fit because of XYZ or someone tells you how to fix your resume. Often, it’s indirect: people don’t call you back, people say generally positive but non committal things, people don’t ask you follow up questions.

Indirect feedback insights:

If you hear nothing. If you hear nothing, this should inspire you to make changes. Hearing nothing is generally a signal of a lack of interest or a mismatch for your target audience. Either you’re talking to the wrong people or the right people aren’t interested in talking to you. Or, you somehow come across as a person who people don’t want to talk too—this is often the case when job seekers talk too much and the people they’re talking to are trying to break away.

If you hear positive, non-committal feedback. I call this the “cheerleader effect.” Perhaps you have a friend or spouse who is emotionally invested in your success, and they feel like cheering you on will help you get a job. While it feels good to receive this, dig deeper and ask people to provide feedback “as if you didn’t know me.” 

You are asked “dumb” questions. Your resume, cover letter, elevator pitch, LinkedIn profile, and even the emails you send are part of your whole marketing package. If you’re getting asked “dumb” questions—ones that you think should be obvious—there exists a communication gap between what you’re saying and what people are understanding. Try recording yourself speaking and printing your resume to read it out loud. What is clearly spelled out and what do you have to “read in-between the lines” to understand? What requires industry experience to understand? I’m a big fan of making it all clear enough for a layperson to comprehend.

Direct feedback insights:

Listen, don’t defend. It can be tempting justify or defend why we’re doing things the way we’re doing things. Direct feedback is a tremendous gift that takes courage to give. Listen to what is said and thank them for their feedback.

Listen to all, implement some. If you ask a dozen recruiters for feedback, you may well get a dozen different opinions. Sometimes we’re tempted to take the feedback of those who are most persuasive. Be careful about the pendulum effect. 

Listen for consensus. What’s more valuable than one person’s opinion is multiple people’s opinion. When you start seeing shared insights, that’s when you should really consider making rapid changes.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Learn to adapt and be flexible. Have multiple versions of your resume and elevator pitch and be ready to change things on the fly based on who you’re talking to.

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