Why feedback is important, especially for recruiting

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If you applied to over 50 jobs without landing one interview, should you continue doing the same thing over and over again?

Of course not, yet many get caught in this never-ending cycle. People are naturally set in their ways. Especially when this is coupled with the tendency to keep one’s recruiting process, strategy, successes, and failures secretive.

You can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. How do you turn it around?

The answer is surprisingly simple: ask others for feedback. Open up about your struggles and failures and ask friends for help. It’s not rocket science, and yet few are willing to be vulnerable and solicit feedback.

Furthermore, this doesn’t just apply to recruiting, it applies to nearly everything in life. We see this happen in technology everyday.

Artificial Intelligence is a field in which scientists and engineers teach computers to solve questions by mimicking the human learning process. One way they do this is by posing a question and providing data for the computer algorithm to come up with an answer.

For example, Pandora, the music streaming service, wants to suggest new music that its users will enjoy.

To determine whether a user will enjoy a certain song, Pandora uses a recommendation algorithm that leverages data about your listening preferences. Some examples of data may include:

  • The music you listened to in the past
  • Music you  upvoted or downvoted
  • Music liked by other people with similar taste to yourself

After executing this process many times, Pandora’s algorithm gets very good at spitting out the right answer. Perhaps it determines that you will like “Despacito”.  

But what happens if it’s wrong? If you don’t like “Despacito,” Pandora gives you the ability to downvote the song.

As soon as you downvote the song, that data is sent to the algorithm as feedback. Basically you are saying, “Hey Pandora, you were wrong. I don’t like this type of song. Don’t make that mistake again.”

feedback loop

And over time with consistent feedback, the algorithm becomes incredibly accurate.

As mentioned earlier, these algorithms are based on the way humans learn. Naturally, what we know (beliefs, values, ideas, etc.) is largely shaped by feedback from our upbringing. But what if we learned something incorrectly or developed a bad habit?

I believe the best way to fix this is to consistently seek feedback from others. Feedback is our version of Pandora’s upvotes and downvotes. And without this, we are just guessing and hoping that we are right. I see this happen all the time with recruiting.  Answer truthfully to the following:

  • Did you ask others for honest feedback on your resume before submitting it to employers?
  • Did you try to find out why applying to 50 job postings didn’t result in any interviews?
  • Did you ask your last interviewer why they didn’t pass you on to the final round?

It’s important to troubleshoot why you’re not using feedback to your advantage. We all engage with feedback differently, and categorizing yourself into one of the four buckets below can help provide clarity.

feedback framework

Rejecters immediately close up and reject any constructive feedback someone gives them. They view constructive feedback as an attack on their self-esteem. On the other hand, acceptors embrace constructive feedback as a gift -- a valuable opportunity to improve.

Non-seekers are people who let feedback come their way, while seekers proactively solicit feedback from others.

Wherever you think you are now, strive to be an acceptor and seeker of feedback.

To become an acceptor, focus on listening without defending yourself. Keep an open mind and hear the other person out. Before you respond with your thoughts, give yourself time to digest the feedback. In fact, sometimes I give myself up to a week to think through the feedback.

To become a seeker, constantly push yourself to ask for feedback. For projects or teamwork, I find it helpful to schedule check points for feedback in advance (eg. start of every month). For spontaneous, one-off situations (eg. an interview), always follow up by asking the other person for feedback on your performance (regardless of whether you did well or not).

True improvement requires a willingness to change. If you feel like you’re hitting a roadblock in your growth, think about how feedback can help you overcome it.

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