After several meetings with a potential corporate client, they said they were going with ChatGPT instead of me. How can I get more feedback on why they decided not to work with me? – Communications Firm Business Owner
If it’s any consolation to this business owner, they aren’t the only ones battling AI for work (this freelance writer lost all of his clients to ChatGPT). Job seekers may also lose jobs to AI – or simply to other job candidates. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or employee, there will be times you hear No, and it would be helpful to get some feedback. (You also want to get more comfortable in general moving past No, and this top 10 tip list on fearless negotiating can help.)
However, prospective clients and employers don’t usually provide detailed feedback. If you ask at the end of the process, you’ll get a general reason, such as another choice being a better “fit” (and no offer to clarify what makes them fit better). You might not get any response at all. Many recruiters are loathe to share feedback with candidates who aren’t hired. (In a previous post, I did collect some general feedback from recruiters about why even qualified candidates don’t get the job). Generally, a recruiter’s first priority is to ensure the candidate had a good experience during the interview process, and sharing feedback about a negative outcome doesn’t lend itself to that good experience.
At the end of the decision process, you could ask if there is any feedback the decision-makers can share on why they selected another option and what you can do differently next time. However, ideally you maintain an ongoing process for feedback-gathering, including these four steps:
1 — Collect feedback along the way, not just at the end
Feedback shouldn’t be a surprise. At each sales meeting or job interview, confirm that you and the other person are in agreement about next steps and timetable. For a business owner, this means that you understand what else needs to happen before a final decision is made – e.g., do you need to meet other people, does the client need additional information. As a job candidate, this means that you know which stage you are in the hiring process – e.g., how many more interview rounds remain, who do you still have to meet. Asking about exactly where you are in the process gives you an indication of where you stand because, even if the prospect cannot confirm the exact next step (maybe they need to get buy-in before inviting you to the next round), their willingness to discuss the overall process often gives you a sense of how enthusiastic or hesitant they are about continuing discussions.
2 – Confirm support after each meeting
Not every meeting or interview results in a firm decision, but you can at least confirm support from the other person. At the end of each meeting, ask the person you just met if they will be recommending you for additional meetings or interviews. If the answer is an enthusiastic Yes, nurture that relationship since you now have an ally in the process. If the answer is vague or halting, probe for more information right then and there.
3 — Ask for clarification about hesitations or objections
Whenever you sense hesitation (e.g., the above example) or you hear an outright objection (e.g., that fee seems high or that salary expectation is beyond our target budget), get curious instead of defensive. Ask questions to uncover what their target budget is or why the fee seems high. It could be that they don’t understand your full business offering or your full candidate background. Your goal here is not to convince them to drop their position in favor of yours. Rather, your questions should be directed at confirming what the company wants and needs – what their objectives are and what constraints (like budget) or other concerns they may have. You can’t make a fully convincing argument of why they should hire you, if you don’t fully understand what exactly they’re hiring for.
4 – Role-play your close with people who can help
If you are confident that you comprehensively understand the job at hand, then tailor your closing pitch to the items you have confirmed the prospective company really cares about. More importantly, practice that closing pitch with people who can help – a coach who can help tailor your pitch, a mentor who will provide candid feedback. Set up your role-play so that it’s in as close to the same conditions as you’ll experience in your final pitch – if that means a conference room, then rent a space and meet someone live. You don’t want the first time you’re making this pitch to be the actual pitch meeting or final interview.
Don’t read too much into any one decision
Even if you incorporate all four steps into your ongoing sales cycle or job search, there will still be jobs you don’t get. The best you can do is to always have multiple leads in play so that you have ongoing forward momentum, even if you encounter a setback. For the business owner, this means maintaining your marketing activities and scheduling those sales calls, even when you’re busy executing what you have already sold. For the job candidate, this means nurturing your network and continuing to apply for jobs, even if a job offer seems imminent.
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