Thursday, June 2, 2011

Interview feedback: an idea whose time has come?

Jim Austin at ScienceCareers points to a blogpost by Alison Vaillancourt on getting feedback from interviews:
It's a short essay; there's not a lot of advice there, and Vaillancourt really never answers the question. But two things make it worth reading. First, Vaillancourt describes the advice she long gave to people who had asked her whether they should provide feedback, before a recent experience altered her perspective: Don't tell losing candidates why they lost, she advised. Tell them why the winning candidate won. That would have worked for me: It accentuates positives, but it also would have told me what I needed to do to succeed in future interviews. 
Vaillancourt goes on to describe a situation where she did not do her best in an interview, and received some frank feedback on her performance.

I think this could be (and should be) done at most companies that hire chemists; I'm guessing that it would not add to the cost of an on-site interview to send an electronic form back to the non-hired candidate that gave some short feedback. Comments on perceived technical skill, social/'fit' issues with the group that you're going to work with, comments on communication could all be written up -- you could easily imagine a multiple-choice form that would be sent back to the candidate, along with the (sad) rejection phone call or letter.

It's my hope that companies will adopt this practice, but I'm not holding my breath. Sigh. 


  1. No company is going to ever put down anything that could be perceived as negative in writing, regardless of the good intentions.

    Hell, many companies will not even allow their people to submit written recommendations for interns/former employees for fear of having something in writing...

  2. It would be a nice addition to the hiring process, but I'm sure the lawyers would crap themselves. So, I would guess "Never gonna happen"

    I've always had really good unofficial feedback from recruiters though. Almost like feedback escrow.

  3. You are kidding, right? Nowadays 4 times out of 5 they don't even bother to send rejection letters, you simply never hear back from them. Interview feedback, my ass!

  4. So when they tell you the Winner came from a "Big Name Group" and you know even not same prestige in school/PI your project was harder/better than theirs do you think you will feel the same about wanted to know. This still seems to be highly prevalent in most companies today.

  5. Maybe in academia where reputation holds some weight, but in industry? No way. Hiring managers have nothing to gain from giving feedback and everything to lose for the interaction.

    And in my experience, Anon 8:48 is right. In my non-pharma industry, I haven't received rejection letters from the majority of interviews. If they're not even working at the basic level of interviewing ettiquette, they're certainly not going to waste any calories explaining themselves to people they rejected.

  6. @Anon 8:48, you're absolutely correct...nowadays you don't even get the automated "thanks but no thanks" form email rejection just NEVER hear back. While the feedback idea is nice, I don't see it catching on...if they can't even send you a quasi-spam rejection email, I can't see them taking the time to put some actual thought and information in a short message detailing why you failed (or why the winner won)


    I once straight up asked a company why I didn't get a job after an interview. Actually, it was more innocuous, like 'what could i have done better?' Their reply was such a form letter-like meaningless lawsuit-averting non-answer I don't even remember what it was.

  8. As a "survivor" of a rough interview cycle a few years back, I can tell you that @12:33, @DrBlur, and @8:48 have it totally correct. Oftentimes, I would fly out, have the dinner, give the talk, have the one-on-ones, and fly home, and a month or so would elapse in between, and then I'd know...

    Ironically, while I thought it would be the big companies that would be able to send me pre-fab rejections, usually the smaller firms (50-100 people) were more efficient in letting me down faster.

    Also, has anyone been told "It came down to you and someone else, and we went with them." That HAD to have been the motto of my whole search!

  9. One of my best rejections ever came from dupont when I was fresh out of college. The Manager called me and told me why I did not get the job and what I need to improve on. Helped a lot.

    I remember back in 2003, most companies did not even send a rejection letter.

  10. Oh boo hoo. Why didn't I get the job? Why don't you like me?

    Companies have no moral, ethical, etc. obligation to give feedback - and quite frankly, the feedback you get is probably pretty watered down. Ever been in those interviews where right after the seminar you know there is no way in hell that person is getting the job - those were dead men/women walking.

    Plus, will feedback actually help? All it will tell is what you did wrong for that company. I've been on many interviews where they went very well and others not so well - same talk, same everything - so would feedback really help? Doubt it.

  11. Lets presume your former boss is holding a grudge against you and you don't even know that he is giving you a distinctly unenthusiastic referencse. (He has been always so pleasant and sympathetic with your plight, and the last time you spoke with him he assured you to do anything he could to help you in your job search). So, do you expect the HR of the prospective employer to inform you that they actually wanted to give you a job but reconsidered when Dr. XY told them that you are an unmotivated as a scientist and problematic as team player?

    If you ever get any negative result feedback, it will be a perfectly pleasant lie, along the lines that "you are an outstanding candidate and we thought we could hire several excellent people like you but unfortunately we found out that due to budget we could hire only one, and that position got filled already. But we will keep your resume on file and ask again in late Fall when we might have some new openings."


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20