Interviewing: Feedback and Growth

In the years I've been a hiring manager, there's one pattern I've seen again and again: candidates who, after receiving a rejection, ask for feedback around what they could have done better or how they could improve for future interviews. If you're one of the candidates who has sent an email like this, have you gotten many (or any) responses? I doubt it.

I'll shine a light on why this is and give you some tips on what you can do in the future to get better feedback from your interviews.

Dealing with rejection

First off, getting rejected sucks. I've been there– many times I've seen a form rejection and felt the deflation that comes from a hopeful future, erased. If that's wasn't bad enough, all sorts of beliefs around worthiness can crop up, adding to the overall bummer of this experience.

If you're in this spot, the best I can do is pass along the advice that's helped me the most in this area:

"Being rejected is kind of awesome. It means you're playing with your upper limits. A lot of people don't get rejected at all– they're playing it safe... Rejection is a big part of life and I hope you get rejected a bunch more, because it means you're trying your ass off."

– Ze Frank, Dealing with Rejection (

This idea– that rejections are positively correlated with growth– was a huge shift for me. Rejections became something to be sought out, not avoided. Failure, over time, became more associated with inaction than rejection. So, good on you for getting rejected. Good on you for leaning into growth.

Why no feedback?

To understand the radio silence, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your counterpart– likely a hiring manager.

From my perspective, I'd love to give candidates feedback but there are no incentives to do this, especially at the end of an interview cycle. In fact, I'm actually disincentivized from giving feedback.

High quality feedback takes thoughtfulness and care. My current many-hat-wearing workload pushes me to an extreme level of prioritization. Unfortunately for candidates, the time it would take to meet or write a thoughtful email is time that could be spent finding the candidate who will fill the role I'm hiring for.

Even if I could find the time, I wouldn't be able to provide feedback. Giving feedback after an interview loop has closed can expose a company to legal risk. Because of this, many companies have explicit policies not to provide feedback after rejecting a candidate.

It's a bummer. I want to be supportive to folks navigating the job hunt, but there's very little I can do currently. (This post being my best effort to help at the moment).

What to do then?

Not all is lost. Below are some tips on getting signal for how you can improve.


Reflecting on your own experience will likely be the most valuable use of your time. Interviewers may give you a shallow glimpse into how you may have hit or missed a mark, but their perspective is limited and ultimately has more to do with how you fit what they're looking for instead of your own vision for your growth and development. Your most valuable tool (though it requires more work on your part) is some introspection– here are the questions I've asked myself in the past.

  • How did the interview feel? Were there moments you felt less prepared for or that kicked up nerves? Why do you think that was? How might you approach future interviews better prepared?
  • What questions did the interview ask? What qualities might they be looking for with these questions? Were there any that tripped you up or gaps in your ability to answer that you registered in the moment?
  • Reread the job description. How would you rate your own performance in the interview compared to what was asked of you?
  • Was there any guidance provided, whether before or during the interviews? Can you glean anything about the interview's rubric from this? Did you accomplish or demonstrate proficiency in the stated goals?

The Magic Question

There is one way to get feedback from interviewers that may work, but it depends on whether you've established some rapport and for the interviewer to be candid with you, so your mileage may vary here. At the very least, it should give you signal about how an interviewer perceived you, which is useful in and of itself. (Note: This question works best while you're still in an interview loop as an active candidate.)

In most interviews, you will get some time at the very end to ask questions. Rather than wait till a rejection, you can use this time to get the signal you're looking for. Ask the question, "Is there anything about my experience that you’re concerned about or gaps that I can fill in?"

Remember: any answers to this question are largely concerned with your fit for the certain environment and role you're interviewing for. Ultimately you may decide a job wasn't right for you anyways! "Rejection is protection" as the saying goes. Figure out what resonates and leave what doesn't.


10 years ago, just a month after I moved to SF, I was fortunate enough to see Radiolab's Jad Abumrad speak at the Nourse Theater. He spoke about an early radio assignment focused on Wagner's Ring Cycle: a daunting subject, let alone for a producer in the early stage of his career.

What stuck with me was a metaphor he used for the experience: it was like entering the wilderness without a map.

Everyone goes through these moments in life. Times we feel lost or totally uncertain about how things will work out or whether we'll even make it out of the woods.

Fresh to SF and interviewing to find a job I hoped would allow me to stay, I felt this. "Yes! I'm in the wilderness now!"

Just knowing I was in a wilderness helped. It focused my attention and pushed me to get clear on what mattered and what I needed to find my way through the woods.

Now, 10 years later, I've been in and through many wildernesses and found that the more times I dive (or am ungraciously thrust) into one, I emerge with a deeper okayness with the whole experience. Uncertainty is a fact of life, but it needn't be an unpleasant one.

You've likely been in wildernesses before. You might be in one now. If you are, it's because there's something for you in these woods. I believe in your ability to find that thing and emerge more rich in experience, more able to navigate the wildernesses of this existence.