The Post-Job Interview Debriefing
Behold, your secret weapon
Still feeling revved up but a little frazzled, you walk out of the Mid-Wilshire office building into the glare of L.A. sunshine. You’re reaching for your sunglasses, when you hear a familiar voice, “Hey, what are you doing in this part of town?”
“I just had a job interview.”
“How did it go?” asks your friend, sympathetically.
“That’s what I was wondering. They said they’d call, but you know....”
“This is perfect timing! Let’s go do a debriefing.”
In the air-conditioned restaurant, as you unwind over a cup of java and some apple pie, you get started. The purpose of a debriefing is to review the performance of someone who just carried out a task or mission while the experience is still fresh in their mind. When that someone is a job seeker, the mission is the job interview. Without a debriefing, you’re liable to forget what happened during the interview and repeat the same mistakes. A good debriefing is an invaluable learning experience that’s sure to sharpen your interviewing skills.
• First impressions. Looking back over the interview, how do you think you did? Extremely well…pretty good…not so good…or terribly? Be specific.
• Your prep. Do you believe you were well-prepared for the interview? Did you know about the job you were applying for? Did you do any research about the company beforehand? Were your resume and references in order? Think about how you would prepare differently next time.
• Say, what? Words are the most important tools in a job interview. Did you say anything that you wish you hadn’t? What didn’t you mention that you wish you had?
• Trick questions. Did anything happen during the interview that caught you completely off-guard? If they asked a surprise question, try to come up with a better answer than the one you gave. If they hit you with a surprise quiz, how could you be better prepared next time?
• Resume. Presumably you gave them a resume. Were they impressed by it or did it seem to hurt your cause? Did they query you about gaps or inconsistencies? How did you answer questions about your work history?
• References. Did you give them references to contact? It’s a mistake to give a past employer or supervisor as a reference and forget to tell that person about it. The worst thing of all is to give phony references. One phone call and you’re out the door.
• The 30-second speech. Your goal in every job interview is to sell yourself to the employer. Which means you have to know how to “close,” i.e., ask for the job persuasively. Do you think you closed strongly or did the interview just kind of fizzle out at the end? One closing technique is to have a short (around 30-second) “speech” prepared ahead of time in which you tell the interviewer a) how eager and excited you are about the job, b) what you believe you can do for them, and c) why they should hire you for the job. Did you have such a speech? If you did, what was their reaction to it?
• Dress to impress. Let’s turn from technique to image. Did you feel comfortable with how you were dressed and your grooming? Did your appearance fit in with the other people you saw at the company? (Keep in mind that it’s always smart to dress up for a job interview.) If you had a second shot at the same job, would you dress the same way?
• Nerves. State of mind is obviously a key to success in a job interview. Did you feel confident before and during the interview? A reasonable amount of adrenaline sharpens the mind and keeps you on your toes. Too much can mess up your performance. Do you think you were too nervous to perform well?
• Thank you notes. Don’t skip the last step. Finally, when you get home from a job interview, the first thing to do is send out thank you notes. Send them to each person who interviewed you — usually someone from human resources or a possible supervisor. (Hopefully you got business cards.) Send thank yous even if you don’t think you have any chance of getting the job. Here’s why: Let’s say they pass on you and hire someone else. Then a few weeks or months later, they realize they made a mistake about the other guy. (It happens all the time.) Do you think they want to start a brand new (expensive) recruiting effort? No way. They’ll probably dig out their short list of candidates. (You know you’re on the short list because they called you in for an interview.) There’s your name, and, just maybe, you were the only one who sent them a gracious thank you note! Voila, a second shot at the job.
Summing up, where do you think you need the most improvement in job interviews? Preparation, researching the company and job, your resume and references, being ready for questions, your appearance and social skills, or selling yourself? As you can see, debriefing is a kind of self-critique.
But debriefing cuts both ways. Now that you’ve seen the company and its offices, your actual work space, the interviewer, your possible boss and co-workers, what do you think? Do you still want the job? Do you think you’d like the work, your future supervisor, your coworkers? How are the salary and benefits? Does the job look like a dead-end or could it lead to something even better? Don’t be afraid to be the one with the power to say yes or no!
Even if you don’t get the offer, during the next interview you will be armed with what you’ve learned from the debriefing process.