Giving Feedback: An Ability You Can and Should be Measuring in Interviews

Most companies look for certain qualities in the interview process. Technical skills. Achievements. Past jobs. But one that often goes under-valued or completely missed is the ability to provide quality feedback.

How do you know if someone will be any good at giving feedback? It's actually quite simple, and it starts with experience.

One of the most valuable things that experience provides is a vocabulary for explaining shortcomings and successes. An experienced writer can function as his own editor; he can review his work, find a flaw, and say to himself, "That semicolon shouldn't be there. That's not the kind of statement I want to make. That's not the type of pause I want the reader to take."

The inexperienced writer goes back and says, "I know something isn't right, but I'm not sure what." Telling the difference between good writing and bad writing, or good design and bad design, isn't difficult -- what's difficult is turning that knowledge into actionable feedback.

Based off this knowledge, evaluating someone's ability to provide feedback should be straightforward. If they're going to be overseeing some of your employees, show them those employees' work, then get their feedback. If their feedback is clear and detailed, bingo! You've got a ringer. If their feedback is vague and imprecise, you might want to reconsider. If they can't give actionable feedback, then they're going to be ineffective.

Written by Chris Allison on June 22, 2010


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Chris Allison