The more we practice, the better we get.

That statement holds true for most everything we do, including preparing for a job interview. The key to effective preparation is to practice the right things. If we practice methods that don’t help us get hired, we simply get better at not getting hired! Vince Lombardi said, “Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” Lombardi knew that in order to win, he had to learn from his failures so he didn’t repeat them.

So, how do you practice “perfectly”? How can you learn from your previous job search “failures”? I can think of at least two ways. First, Ask the person who didn’t hire you to offer some tips on how you could become a stronger candidate in the future. Secondly, review and scrutinize all aspects of your job search yourself, and then ask others (such as the staff at the One-Stop Job Center) to help identify ways to improve your job seeking skills.

Let’s start by discussing feedback from the employer that didn’t select you. Most employers will give you honest feedback unless you seem angry or confrontational about not getting hired. Call the interviewer and explain that you are doing all you can to be better at interviewing so that you can get back to work as soon as possible. Make sure to begin by thanking them for taking your call. Remember, though, they do not have to talk to you. If the employer prefers not to share their observations, politely thank them for their time and focus on your task at hand – getting better at getting hired.

If the employer appears willing to share their observations, ask if there are areas where you could improve, and if there were areas you did well. If their answers are vague, ask more pointed questions such as: Was my application and/or resume complete? How did I do score on the pre-employment test? How did I do in the interview? What could I have done differently? And, were my references appropriate for the position? Thank the interviewer for their time and feedback, and don’t miss the opportunity to ask if they are aware of anyone else who is hiring.

Remember, this is not the time to argue or challenge the employer about their perception of you or your skills. This is a time to listen and learn, even if it is a bit painful. It’s also a good idea to stay on good terms with the employer. There’s always a chance the person who got hired will not work out. If that is the case, you’ll want to be well positioned when the employer scrambles for a replacement. You might even end the conversation suggesting that you are still very interested in the position and would appreciate it if the employer keeps you in mind for future openings.

Remember that honest feedback can be an uncomfortable thing. You may be tempted to get defensive and start blaming the lack of success on others. My experience has been that most of the time the delay in getting hired isn’t because of a lack of skills, but rather the job seeker’s inability to express those skills effectively in an interview.

In addition to the employer, there is someone else who can give you input – You! After your interview, immediately write down each question you were asked. This will not only help in evaluating your answers, but will also develop a list of questions that you can prepare to answer in your next interview. Next, you should do some self-evaluation on your appearance, your preparation for the interview, your attitude, your responses to the questions and your questions of the employer. Assess your strengths and your weaknesses, and be honest with yourself.

You’ll want to take your newfound interview tips, and practice your new skills. The best way is to find a friend or relative that will help you practice and be honest with you. Use your list of interview questions, or ask the staff at the One-Stop Job Center for a list of questions you are likely to be asked. If you have access to a camcorder, tape your interview. You may be surprised at how you present yourself. Take all the suggestions and your observations and put your new skills into practice at your next interview.