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…So over the past few days I’ve read two great articles on feedback. The first one (from Tim Sackett here) talks about how watered down feedback is an epidemic problem in corporate America. From the piece:

Here are the types of “critical” feedback people can handle:

“You’re doing a good job, would love it if you could get that big project off the ground. That would really help us out!”

Here’s what you really want to say, critically, but can’t:

“You do good at things I tell you to do, and all basic day to day duties of the job. I need more from this position and from you, and I’m willing to help get you there. I need someone who can take a project from scratch and kill it, without me having to babysit the entire thing. You’re not doing that, and that’s what I really need you to do. Are you willing do that?” 

…and he then goes on to describe how companies that create a culture where employees expect to receive the latter (real) feedback win the culture war because employees working at that company understand that they won’t be able to get honest, developmental feedback that helps them move the needle almost anywhere else.

…So I ruminated on that a bit, and then a few days later I read this article from Kris Dunn. In the piece, Dunn shares a letter from a candidate that his company received several months after DQing said candidate in an interview process due to a lack of attention to detail. After receiving feedback from the recruiter that he was eliminated due to having poor detail orientation, the candidate recounts the following (snippets from Dunn’s post below):

…In your email, you pointed out that I showed a lack of attention to detail and didn’t have the writing style you were looking for, but that I had impressed you and <name withheld> with my interview and knowledge. I wanted to thank you for that email. It really hit hard that I missed out on the job opportunity because of an attention to detail.

…Right around that time I decided to get my (expletive) 100% together (or as close as I could).

…I started with a clean car, then a clean room, then a clean house. I trashed what was trash and some stuff that wasn’t, I kept what was really worth keeping, and I finally put some decorations up so that Atlanta felt like home. I have always been a very messy person, it’s been fine with me, but I no longer have anything out of place without a damn good reason. I want to thank you for that.

…Finally, once I had all of these things in order, I landed an interview for a dream job, a (position withheld). The interview came from and knew her boss was hiring for the position. I think if this girl knew who I was a year ago, she wouldn’t have thought about recommending me. But after seeing how ordered I kept my life, on top of the fact that I enjoy fast-paced creative work, she figured I would be a great fit. I want to thank you for that.

I have been working at , for about seven weeks now. I have already been promoted and given a raise, and I love everyday of my life more than the day before. I want to thank you for that.

Okay; so I do a lot of interviewing, and after reading these pieces over the past two days I’ve been giving candidates feedback on strengths and weaknesses I identified in their answers… immediately after the interview. I’ll say:

“Okay, so I love _________ about you as a candidate; with that said, my concerns are about you being able to succeed in this role are __________. What do you think of that?”

This question has been transformative in the additional information it helps me to identify about the candidate: When pressed this way, a candidate has one of two responses; they either (i) get flustered and thank me for my time, or they (ii) rise to the occasion and make a powerful case for why those deltas either don’t matter or are overcomeable. I identified one gem of a candidate that I’d have missed if I hadn’t shared his deltas feedback immediately following the interview, which – to be fair – on one level shows me I need to dive deeper with the questions I ask… but it has also taught me how to learn how a candidate takes constructive criticism. Do they shrink from it or address it?

I think the answer you get to a question like this tells you a lot about how a person will do in your organization since most new roles have a learning curve, and as part of that process there are bumps in the road. The ability to respond to and progress past those bumps in an optimal way is integral to success.

Or at least I think so. As always, let me know if I have this wrong in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

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