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 substantial or trivial.
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 company reputation and just 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. Insist that people tell you at least one thing you can improve.
Ask for feedback about:
- 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.
- Your breath and your scents. Avoid scented products, which may be more overpowering than you think. If you have breath issues, brushing and mouthwash may not be enough; you may want to take herbal capsules such as MintAssure.
- The three items mentioned above: your handshake, email address and business card.
- Your email signature.
- How you talk. Are you easy to comprehend? If not, can you accommodate your listeners by speaking more slowly, pausing often, and making sure you have a static-free phone connection?
- Your resume, social media profiles, cover letters and other job search documents.
Some special tips may be in order here: If you’re working with a professional writer, let them know you’ll be gathering feedback and discuss when and how you’ll work that into the editorial process. Asking for changes after the project is finished may result in extra charges.
Also, ask more than one person, and take their opinions with a grain of salt. You may find that if you ask 5 people for their opinions on your resume, you’ll get five very different opinions, some of which directly contradict each other! Discuss the responses with your writer, and look for repeating themes.
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!