Job Search Question Of The Week: How Did I Do?

Jun 30 2010 in Featured, Interviews, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

Often candidates feel they performed better during an interview than they actually did. How can you tell what the interviewer really thought?

As a candidate, it’s easy to have a skewed sense of reality – after being told no (or ignored) hundreds of times, it’s human nature to hang onto a thread of good news. Congratulating yourself on the awesome interview you just nailed may be great for the ego – if the interviewer felt otherwise, it’s terrible for your job search to hang onto hope for a next interview (or offer) that’s not happening.

This was a question from one of my recent Resume Revolution! complimentary webinars (

“What’s the best way to learn if I’ve got a real shot at a job opening during an interview?” – D.L.

Realistically, it’s important to gain a clear understanding how you actually performed in an interview – not from your personal point of view, but from the interviewer’s side of things.

Why Is This Important?

  1. Manage your expectations: Isn’t it better when you know when you’ve done well? Otherwise, how can you tell when your internal gauge is giving you the right feedback? Why get excited about the opportunities that won’t give you the chance to move forward?
  2. Compare opportunities: As you start to see a more opportunities, understanding interviewer feedback gives you an idea of where you have the best chance of success.
  3. How they answer may impact your interest: Are you likely to be more interested in a company that gives you a lukewarm response, or a company that really wants you to come back for the next interview round?
  4. Time management: Gaining clear interviewer feedback gives you better information on how to manage your job search time. You’d be amazed at how much job search time candidates waste chasing after opportunities where they didn’t know they were out of the running.
  5. Gain understanding of hiring process: Gaining feedback gives you a better idea of the hiring process, so you’ll know how to read response … or lack of response. If you know up front that a company is taking 3 more weeks for interviews before scheduling a second round, you’re less likely to freak out if you haven’t heard back in 7 days.
  6. Opportunity pipeline management: Candidates often keep dead opportunities in their pipeline, giving them false hope. Worse, this can also cause dependence on current opportunities instead of spending time developing new opportunities. Depending on a pipeline of dead opportunities won’t get you closer to your next job.
  7. Demonstrates interest in job: If you don’t ask how your interview went, you give the impression that you don’t care … because you’re not interested in the job.
  8. Using as a closing technique: Some hiring managers (especially relevant for sales positions) won’t consider a candidate who doesn’t try to close them, or at least ask how they’ve done in the interview.
  9. Feedback: Aren’t you the least bit curious?

How To Find Out:

Before we discuss how to find out, let’s discuss when.

Ask to meet with the hiring manager (if available), or your main HR contact at the end of the interview day (if multiple interviews). Ask at the end of your interview session. Asking after the first interview is premature, and calling back the next day to ask how you did puts you out of the interviewer’s mind (remember, they are probably interviewing dozens of people).

Worse, it raises the question in the interviewers mind at the end of your session if you really want the job – it’s difficult to reverse that perception once it’s set.

Now let’s discuss how.

Here are some of the approaches I’ve found to be most effective from See the article for other approaches that I didn’t list here – I just went with my favorites.

  1. Direct Approach: “I’d really like to work for your company – the job sounds perfect for me”. While it’s the most popular approach, this method has problems. It’s centered around what the candidate wants (WIFM), not what the company wants (WIFT – see If delivered with the wrong tone, in the wrong situation, or to the wrong person, it can be perceived as desperate or pushy. This approach doesn’t ask the interviewer for their feedback of the candidate, which can even appear insulting, and gives the candidate little information. Where this can work – for a high pressure, transactional sales position, this demonstrates an ability to go for the close. At an employer that values relationships, this approach can ruin an otherwise great interview.
  2. Feedback Approach: “So How did I do?” This approach asks the interviewer for feedback, and puts them a on the spot. If you are one of the leading candidates, and the interviewer definitely has you on the callback list, you’ll probably get a strong answer. The problem with this approach is if you are on the bubble for callback, you’ll rarely have an interviewer tell you this (interviewers don’t want confrontation, or to make a discussion uncomfortable – plus they probably have to move on to the next candidate). If you’re on the bubble, you’ll probably get a non-answer telling you that they will review all candidates and make callbacks in the next week or two … basically “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”.
  3. Next Steps Approach: “What’s our next step?” While a favorite among salespeople, this approach can have drawbacks also. This approach uses an assumptive close technique common in the sales world, of assuming there’s a next step and that the interview process will move forward. If you’re a leading candidate, you’ll likely get the response you want, otherwise you’re likely to hear that the company is still reviewing candidates and …. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”.
  4. Objections Approach: “Do you have any remaining concerns about how well I could do the job?” This is another approach that might work more effectively for a sales position than for others. For a transactional sales position, it demonstrates closing techniques. For non-sales positions, it may not ask the right question. The interviewer may not have remaining concerns, as they may have already decided that you are not a good fit.
  5. Ranking Approach: “In comparison to other candidates for this position, how do I rank?” This is a better approach, which can give the candidate insight as to chances of getting the job. One of the advantages to this approach, is the type of feedback you are likely to get. You open the interviewer to give some great quality feedback allowing you to compare how strong of a fit the interviewer perceives vs your own perception of how the interview went. If the response that doesn’t translate into you’re one of the top candidates … move on, and don’t wait by the phone.
  6. Fit Approach: “How do you see me fitting in with your company?” This approach can uncover unstated objections in an interview and can give feedback to understand how well you “read” the interview (do your perceptions of fit match the interviewer’s perceptions). This can be effective especially when a key criteria is sensitivity to others. If the response isn’t excited and glowing, if the word “fine” or something of similar blandness is used, or if the interviewer is waiting to review all the candidates, you just aren’t a top choice. Again, move on and don’t wait by the phone.
  7. 1 to 10 Approach: “On a 1 to 10 scale (10 being best), how do you think I’d do in the position?” For many situations, I like this approach best, other than for transactional sales positions. The 1 to 10 approach treats your desire to get feedback as an employee review, showing that you truly seek constructive criticism. It’s also a process that HR personnel, recruiters, and hiring managers are very familiar with, increasing your chances of getting an honest response.

    To get additional feedback, you can ask a secondary question “What could I do to make that a 10?” This approach gives you a very clear idea of where you stand and your best shot at understanding any objections in the interviewer’s mind – maybe even a chance to clear up any misunderstandings. If you get anything but a 9 or a 10, move on.

I find that the Ranking Approach and the 1 to 10 Approach are the most effective – while the Direct and Feedback Approaches are most often used by candidates.

You’ll find that there’s no single answer that’s best for all situations. I recommend experimenting with some of my favorites and see what responses you get. Learn, adjust, and repeat the next time.

So … On a 1 to 10 scale (10’s best), how helpful did you find this article?


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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