Career Advice

Feedback Matters

John Smith

About twelve years ago I was stood at a university careers fair (bear with me the story gets better from these relatively dull beginnings). I looked up to see a young man walking directly towards me with a smile on his face and that sign of recognition in his eye. Oh no I thought. Who is he? How does he know me? Could it be from a conference? No. A presentation or event then? Argh! Come on brain… but it was too late.

“Hi Rebecca.”

Horror, he knows my name! And I don’t know his. Mercifully this was quickly followed by “I’m sure you don’t remember me. My name’s Rob” and then the biggest surprise of all, “I wanted to come over and say thank you to you. You changed my life!”

Sorry, what? Back up. How could I not remember someone that I have had such a big impact upon? We got chatting and it turns out that Rob had applied to my graduate scheme a few years earlier and got all the way to the assessment centre. He didn’t get the offer but I spent about 45 minutes with him afterwards to go through all his feedback. We discussed where his strengths were and his development areas, why these weren’t a match for us but how they could be for others. I encouraged him to consider his strengths, his values and look at the types of organisations and jobs that would be a great fit for him – rather than him trying to constantly mould and present himself as the perfect candidate to each employer.

After our feedback conversation, Rob completely re-evaluated the companies and jobs he was applying for. He applied to far fewer organisations, but in a much more targeted and thoughtful way. He’d then gone on to quickly secure a role, doing something he loved and was still there years later. He wanted to say thank you.

As recruiters it’s so easy to forget the impact we can have on people and their long term careers. I know not everyone offers feedback and trust me – I have been evangelising about that for years trying to change it. If you get all the way to an assessment centre stage most employers will offer you feedback. So if you get chance to have that crucial feedback conversation here are my top tips for getting the most out of it – just like Rob!

  1. Ask for feedback if it isn’t offered; most will provide it by assessment centre stage.
  2. Arrange to have the call at a time when you know you can focus and won’t be distracted or interrupted.
  3. Have a pen and paper ready to take notes.
  4. Think in advance about what you want to get from the conversation.
  5. Reflect on what you thought went well or went badly.
  6. Prepare some questions on points four and five to find out what you’d really like to know e.g. “I felt my answer to that question was really weak. How did it come across?”
  7. If you’re not automatically offered any, ask about your strengths as well as your weaknesses.
  8. Be open and prepared to really listen – you might hear things about yourself that you don’t like or didn’t know. This is where the really powerful learning comes. Try not to be defensive about their observations and if you’re unsure, simply ask more questions to understand their point of view.
  9. Be sure you write down what went well as well as what went badly. Otherwise at the end of the call you just end up with a depressing list of stuff you’re not good at, rather than the often more balanced feedback you’ve actually received.
  10. Finally, make space after the call to think about what you’ve heard and what you want to do about it – insight is meaningless without action.

Remember, if you’re making it all the way to assessment centre you are already doing lots of things right. On average about one in three people at the assessment centre stage get an offer, so the odds are great by that point. It’s often a matter of time and finding the right organisation/opportunity for you. Embracing feedback and learning from your early mis-steps can be a hugely positive way to not only improve your performance at subsequent assessment centres, but more importantly open you up to learning more about yourself, your impact on others and working relationships. These are all key to your long term career success.

Interested in building an exciting career using the latest technologies? FDM currently has many business and technology career opportunities available in one of our many global locations.