So, How Did I Do?

Feb 25, 2008

Here’s a scenario that recruiters and hiring managers are often faced with. You’re interviewing a candidate. The interview is mediocre at best, you’re not “wowed” by the candidate by any means, and they ask, “So, truthfully, how did I do?”

Every time I’m asked this question, I want to mimic the scene in A Few Good Men and say, “You can’t handle the truth!”

After all, we know that most candidates who ask this question really don’t want to know how poorly they did in the interview. Instead, they are feeling the recruiter out to determine whether they are going to get the job.

Candidates who ask this question are already at the point of self-discovery. That is, at least during some part of the interview, they questioned their ability to adequately sell themselves. However, despite your overwhelming urge to roast the candidate, this is when recruiters or hiring managers really need to be sensitive to the candidate and respond cautiously.

So what’s the harm in giving feedback? Is it a disservice to send them away with no feedback even when they ask you for it? What’s the big deal about telling a candidate that they had poor eye contact and lacked interpersonal effectiveness? Wouldn’t they want to know that they came to the interview improperly dressed? When is it not appropriate to tell a candidate that chewing gum throughout the interview is a big no-no?

I polled several colleagues about how they respond when asked the dreaded question, “So, how did I do?”

My “gut feeling” to avoid saying anything negative to the candidate was confirmed. One colleague said, “Spending more time up front in the interview and providing the candidate with a very detailed description of what types of answers you’re looking for” will drive their interview presentation. She went on to say, “Give them an example of a behavioral question, and the appropriate superstar response. This sets the expectation for them and increases the chances that you’ll get the type of information you need.”

Candidates should walk away from the interview feeling as though they were treated as well as anyone else. “They may not feel this way, especially if they are not receptive to feedback, and most interviewers do not want to focus on anything negative because it may become confrontational,” according to another colleague.

Wise Replies

Here are a few comebacks that several recruiters shared with me when asked, “So, how did I do?”

  • “How do you think you did?” Although this puts the candidate on the spot, they most likely will stop probing for information about their interview.
  • “Overall, I felt like you were responsive to my questions and I enjoyed meeting you.” This does not directly answer their question but it does allow the interview to end on a positive note.
  • “Your skills and answers to the specific questions will be compared to the other candidates who are interviewing for the position.” Again, this doesn’t provide a specific response, but at least the candidate should walk away feeling that he/she will be given some degree of consideration.

A peer points out that being honest with the candidate is okay. For example, “This position requires five years of manual rating experience with a national carrier. I noticed you have only one year and it was with an agency.” Feedback of this nature helps to establish expectations throughout the interview, which hopefully will minimize opportunity for the candidate to ask for further response at the conclusion of the interview.

At any rate, from the candidates’ perspective, the interview process should appear seamless and fair. Recruiters and hiring managers should use good judgment when offering information to a candidate about their interview.

Typically, a candidate who comes across in a confident (not cocky) manner during the interview will most likely not ask the “how did I do?” question. Unless you are in a setting where giving feedback to prospective candidates is appropriate (e.g., at a job fair where no interviews are being conducted, though even then, use caution), err on the side of ambiguity and preserve a positive interview experience for the candidate.

So, how did I do? You can spare me the feedback as I’m no stranger to self-discovery.

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