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How to Gather Feedback for Your Job Search

Remaining objective about your personality and career can be a difficult task during a job search. This problem doesn’t relate only to job seekers; even long-employed professionals struggle with really knowing what they’re good at and what they need to improve on. But a tool called 360-degree feedback, or multi-source feedback, allows a subject to receive honest input from his peers and managers.

Today, almost one-third of all U.S.-based companies rely on some kind of 360-degree feedback system to improve employee performance. You want to take advantage of this type of feedback in order to better understand your strengths and guide your career search. A brand is only as good as people perceive it to be. If you know how people perceive you, you have greater control over your branding choices later.

You need to be able to ask your peers and colleagues for honest, constructive feedback and to apply that feedback to your personal brand so you come out looking even better than you did before.

If you just go up to someone and say, “Hey, tell me what I’m bad at,” you’re not likely to get an honest answer. That’s why you have to either put some time into crafting your questions or use a tool that asks the questions for you.

Gather feedback yourself

If you plan to conduct your own 360-degree feedback, be sure you know exactly what you want to get out of feedback before you send out e-mails or develop survey questions. If you need this feedback to double-check your values, find out what your passions are, or see whether the next job is going to be a fit, be sure to ask questions that get you the information you need.

For example, if you’ve done blue ocean analysis and a values-elicitation exercise and the results show that you’re enthusiastic and optimistic, then you may want to make sure people really perceive you this way. So your questions may be something like this: “On a scale from one to ten, how enthusiastic would you say I am?” or “At any point, has my enthusiasm ever come across as inauthentic or annoying?”

You also need to pay special attention to the sensitivities of your friends and co-workers. They may not have the time to write feedback for you. Or they may be afraid of offending you. So before you blast an e-mail out to everyone you know, asking them what they think about you, follow some of these tips:

  • Frame your questions in the future tense. Asking “What can I do to be better at…?” moves the focus from feelings to future processes. People find it easier to respond honestly when they don’t have to worry about offending you.

  • To respect people’s time, offer them a chance to respond with numerical values. “On a scale from one to ten, with ten being the highest, how passionate would you say I am about serving clients?”

  • Make it possible for people to provide anonymous feedback. The more anonymous the feedback format, the more accurate the answers. You may consider using Google Drive to create a survey form or using SurveyMonkey, which is a free online survey tool.

  • Keep your opinion on the feedback to yourself. If you’re receiving feedback from someone in person, the only two words you should say when they’re done are thank you.

Conducting your own 360-degree feedback is great for keeping complete control over the types of questions you want to ask and is also much more personal than the form e-mails some tools send out.

Use the 360°Reach program

William Arruda, a personal branding coach and coauthor of Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), developed a very handy little tool called 360°Reach, available at www.reachcc.com/360reach.

It asks you approximately 100 questions about your values, who you are, and so forth. Then you type in the names and e-mail addresses of at least 20 people you want feedback from. Reach then e-mails them and asks them the same questions. By comparing how you see yourself and the aggregate of how others see you, you gain insight about your personal brand.

Pick people who you know have time to respond to the survey and whose opinion you value. This group of people can be any combination of friends, family, and colleagues.

The response rate to Reach’s e-mails aren’t the best. Many times the e-mail lands in the spam inbox or the recipient simply doesn’t know what it’s all about or have the time to figure it out. So consider giving your list of 20 people a heads-up, telling them that you need their help and that they should expect an e-mail from Reach soon.

The benefit of using the 360°Reach program is that it gives the reviewer a sense of anonymity around giving you direct and candid feedback. You’ll receive answers that may not come from more personal communications. And because the program is fully automated, all you have to do is log in, answer the questions, and wait for your responses.

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