Failing job interviews? No feedback to improve? Here's a technique to learn from rejections

Jun 01, 2020

You invested so much time and effort into learning to code. You forced all this knowledge about HTML, CSS, JS, and React in your brain. You implemented practice projects and built a portfolio.

You're really close to achieving your goal: becoming a professional software developer.

But landing your first job isn't easy. There aren't many entry-level positions, to begin with. The competition is fierce. You send out application after application. You get a lot of rejections. But eventually, you're lucky and you're invited to an interview.

But often job interviews don't result in an offer. And unfortunately, you don't receive any feedback. You'd like to improve your interviewing skills. But how is that possible if you're rejected with generic messages like "We've decided to go forward with another candidate"?

It would be so great if someone could tell you how to improve. But even if you explicitly ask for feedback nobody tells you the truth! It feels like you're stabbing in the dark.

What if you didn't need to ask for feedback? What if you already knew what went wrong?

That would be great! You'd be able to improve your interviewing skills. The interviews would be way more relaxed. And eventually, you'd receive job offers. Maybe even several at once. You could select the one that you like most!

Let's be honest though, this will take time and practice. But with the simple process in this article, you will at least have a guideline for improvement.

The feedback is already there

Even if you don't get direct feedback: you have access to a lot of potentially valuable data in your memory. After all, you were present during the whole interview, right? You know the questions and your answers, you saw how the interviewers reacted, their facial expressions, the tone of their voice. That's a lot of data you can harvest.

The problem is that this data is a bit tainted once the interview is over. The memory of the beginning of the interview started to faint already. You've got a bias towards memories of the end.

However, you can get a much clearer picture when you conduct an

Interview Review!

From my personal experience, this can give you a more objective perspective on your performance and the ups and downs of the interview.

Similar techniques are very popular in the self-improvement community. For example, it's common to set yourself goals and review them at the end of the year (aka end-of-year review).

So why not use this technique for improving your interview skills as well?

How to conduct an interview review

Once the interview is over take a piece of paper or your phone and start writing bullet points as soon as possible. You can start with questions like these:

  • What happened when you entered the office?
  • What did you say during the introduction round?
  • What kind of questions did they ask you?
  • What were your answers?

Basically, go through the whole interview step by step. You'll probably remember questions, answers, or other details that you almost forgot about already.

These details can be very important. For example, you can double-check your answers to the interviewers' questions later on. How accurate were they? If you're unsure you can ask friends or other developers in online communities.

At least as important as the technical side of the interview (your answers to their questions) is the soft part of the interview.

A team selects candidates that they like to work with daily. So if you come across as being a jerk, a lier, or simply not a good match for the team in any way they will rather go for another candidate. Even if you knew all the answers to the technical questions.

So try to review the soft part of the interview as well. You can ask yourself questions like these:

  • How did your interviewers welcome you?
  • How did you react? What did you feel?
  • What was their facial expression?
  • How confident were you when answering certain questions?
  • Were you making up stuff?
  • Did you show interest in the job and company? Did you ask questions?

Try to be as objective as possible. Recognize what went well and what didn't. You can use this data to learn something about yourself and your strengths and weaknesses.

Now you should have a good foundation for improving your interviewing skills. Even if you get a rejection for this interview you will be better prepared for the next.

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