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These are similar questions I have looked into but they didn't answer my question:

Would it be inappropriate to go around a recruiter and directly contact an employer with questions before a face-to-face interview?

How can I ask my interviewers for feedback following an interview?

So I recently had an interview with an engineer and the recruiter followed up saying unfortunately we are not moving on with the process. He said the engineer had a good time and perhaps they will follow up within a year. He gave me some feedback that did not seem to correlate with what the interview suggested so I asked if he could be more specific. The recruiter said he doesn't know and is only going off of the notes listed. After which I thanked him for his time.

I sent a follow-up email thanking the recruiter for the opportunity and asking if I could get the engineer's contact info so I could personally thank them and ask for feedback. I also mentioned if that is against process, I would be happy just thanking him, although I take constructive criticism very well and simply want to grow to be a possible better fit in the future.

The recruiter hasn't responded and it's been a few days so I'm not sure if he has just not seen it, or if he just is not interested in giving the engineer's contact info.

I do know the engineer's name and after some digging, I found his business email. Would it be bad if I emailed the interviewer directly thanking him and asking for feedback? Or is the fact that the recruiter did not respond a sign that I should not be doing this?

EDIT: To clarify the recruiter did mention the engineer had a good time with me and "perhaps we could follow up in a year" which leads me to believe I didn't do poorly -- I just wasn't what they were looking for right now. If that's the case, at least to me, it sounds like there is reason to give feedback to me.

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    I stopped giving feedback to candidate who asked for it when one time a guy started to arguing that we were wrong. Also, the HR recommended us to not give feedback to candidates because it can lead that the company get sue. So giving feedback give nothing to our company, may give nothing to the candidate and may put us in a bad situation. – Sebastien DErrico Apr 12 '17 at 17:48
  • @SebastienDErrico that makes a lot of sense. I can understand if they are not allowed for legal reasons (I even mentioned this to the recruiter) – Kevin Xu Apr 13 '17 at 0:41
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So I recently had an interview with an engineer and the recruiter followed up saying unfortunately we are not moving on with the process.

All the feedback you need is right there. An interview isn't a collaborative process designed for the mutual benefit of all participants (well, unless you get hired). I understand your desire to get better at interviewing, but helping you in that goal is not the responsibility of someone who has already decided to pass on hiring you.

The recruiter hasn't responded and it's been a few days so I'm not sure if he has just not seen it, or if he just is not interested in giving the engineer's contact info.

You should assume the latter. No responsible recruiter is going to provide contact information for one of their engineers to someone who has just failed an interview. The fact that the recruiter ignored your request is a strong hint that you should drop the matter. You might be perfectly polite in your request for feedback, but from their perspective it's equally likely that you're going to harass the interviewer, badger them about the reasons that they didn't like you, tell them that they didn't understand what you meant, beg for another shot, and so on. Even the most polite response could put the interviewer in an awkward spot because it's often not easy or comfortable to explain someone's shortcomings to them. Furthermore, anything they say could become a legal liability if you somehow got the impression that they didn't hire you because of your age, race, gender, etc., whether that's actually true or not.

I do know the engineer's name and after some digging, I found his business email. Would it be bad if I emailed the interviewer directly thanking him and asking for feedback?

Yes, it would be bad. Or at least, it could be. Unless he gave you his contact information and invited you to use it, you should not contact the interviewer. Doing "some digging" to find the contact info after you've already been turned down could seem like stalking behavior. I expect that that's not your intent at all, but you have to look at it from their perspective: someone who failed an interview followed up with a questionable request to the recruiter, and then didn't take the recruiter's hint and went ahead and contacted the interviewer directly.

It might seem like you don't have anything to lose by pursuing the issue, but it's best to do what you can to stay on good terms with an employer, even if they passed this time. This isn't the last position they're ever going to fill, and if by chance you did leave a pretty good impression and just got beat out by a better candidate for this job, they might call you back for a shot at something that'd fit you better. They certainly won't call you back if they feel like you were too pushy with your requests for feedback, though.

Also, ask yourself what you really expect to learn from the "feedback" that you're asking for. Do you think they'll tell you the complete, unvarnished truth? That might be something like:

After looking at your code and talking to you for five minutes, we knew you weren't the guy we were looking for: you clearly don't get what we're doing here, and you misunderstood the first three questions we asked you. You didn't look us in the eye even once, there was something green stuck in your teeth, and we found seven typos on your CV.

Of course they're not going to say that, or even ten percent of that. Instead, you'll get something more like:

We really liked you a lot, but another candidate was a perfect match for the kind of experience that we were looking for, so we went with her instead. Good luck in your future endeavors.

Here's what you should do instead:

  1. Forget any notion of getting feedback from the company. The interview is done and you didn't get the job; get over it. This is probably not the last time this will happen to you, and the faster you learn to put that kind of thing behind you, the better.

  2. Spend a little while giving yourself an honest self-critique. Were there parts of the interview that went well? Parts that went particularly badly? Were you dressed well? Were you prepared? Did you arrive promptly? Were you able to answer their questions? If you were in their shoes, what would your impression of you be? A week or a month from now you won't remember the experience as clearly and it'll be hard to draw lessons from the experience, so write down some notes, especially regarding the things you did well and the things you could have done better. Review those notes when you're preparing for your next interview, and use the notes from all your interviews to see if you seem to be making progress.

  3. Practice. Find someone you trust, and who knows a thing or two about interviewing, and ask them to help you role play an interview. Go through it just as you would a real interview, and then ask them to give you an honest critique. Doing this a few times could be especially helpful if you find that you're very nervous during interviews, or if you have trouble thinking on the spot.

Here's another way to look at it: Think of the interview as a sporting event of some sort -- maybe a tennis match. If you're playing against a friend who's a better player than you are, it's fine to ask them for a critique, and they'll likely give you some good pointers. But if you lose a tournament match against a stranger, you wouldn't shake their hand at the end and ask them to tell you what you did wrong and how you could win next time. Even if you did, they'd probably say something nice, like *well, I got lucky with a few shots, good game, better luck next time." If you then called them at home that evening to ask for more specific feedback, they'd start to get a little worried about you. That's not what you intend, naturally, but if you look at it from their point of view, it's just not appropriate. So, be a good sport and a gracious loser. Evaluate your own game, and be better prepared for the next match.

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    I disagree with the premise that strangers/the engineer won't give good feedback if asked. Why not? I'd try, in a tennis match or an interview, if asked. And I know others who would as well and actually are in charge of interviewing. And while it might be an annoyance to get contacted by op like that, it's certainly not stalking behaviour nor “bad“. – DonQuiKong Apr 12 '17 at 11:24
  • To clarify the recruiter didn't say I performed badly. He mentioned that he would follow up in a year perhaps around this time and that the engineer enjoyed his time with me (sorry for not including that I updated my question since that might make a difference). So it's not like they have no incentive. I also agree with DonQuiKong in that your analogy isn't very accurate -- the "tennis player" is the interviewer but I didn't get the feedback from him, I got it from the recruiter which is some other person that is not included in your analogy and that makes a world of difference. – Kevin Xu Apr 13 '17 at 0:40
  • Your first few points make a lot of sense though so I'm leaning towards accepting this answer but will wait in case my update makes any difference -- I really appreciate the answers! – Kevin Xu Apr 13 '17 at 0:43
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    @user14287117 I didn't mean to assume anything about your actual performance, just trying to make the point that providing honest feedback can be awkward, and that you shouldn't expect a real critique from an interviewer or, by extension, anyone at the company. Don't take the tennis analogy too literally -- the point, again, is that you wouldn't expect an adversary to provide an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. – Caleb Apr 13 '17 at 1:37
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    Hey I realized I never responded to your comment but yes that makes a lot of sense. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment :) – Kevin Xu Apr 17 '18 at 20:48
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While I think that Caleb's answer pretty much covers this situation I'd like to add a perspective from the "other" side of the situation, since I've effectively been in the engineer's position, that might help explain why you haven't had a response.

For my sins I've worked for several years as either an IT or development manager and I've done quite a bit of hiring for technical roles. I've always provided the recruiter with constructive feedback, primarily to help the recruiter in selecting candidates that would be more likely to succeed but also because I hope it will help the candidate be more successful elsewhere. Whether this always gets passed on by the recruiter is anybody's guess but over the years I've had maybe a dozen unsuccessful candidates follow up for further feedback from me. When I was first starting out at that aspect of things I would engage back with them but I don't do that any more since I found that every person I engaged with fell into one of the following two camps:

Some people don't really want the truth

You say that you take constructive criticism well and I'm sure you probably do but sadly, in my experience many more people say that than can actually do it. Many seem unable to avoid either arguing the points or acting like I've just shot their puppy in front of them because I told them that their SQL experience wasn't sufficient for the role! Unless you can honestly say that you are prepared for quite a negative answer don't ask the question!

Some people can't take "No" for an answer

You know that really annoying thing little kids do where they keep on asking their parents for something over and over until they give in just to shut them up? Well some people seem to think the same thing will work with the job hunt and they see the giving of feedback as some sort of negotiation or extension to the interview where they can still get hired! It's supremely irritating.

Hence I now just file any such requests straight in my "Deleted Items" folder!

TL/DR

You need to remember that, as callous as it might sound, 99% of the time the interviewer really has nothing to gain from investing any more time in a rejected candidate.

It might take them only five minutes or so to have a conversation with the rejected candidate or to write them an e-mail but if they have to do that for 6 rejected candidates then it's half an hour or more of time spent not doing their actual job. Recruiting is generally a massive timesink already without adding to it!

My own personal stance not withstanding, asking for feedback after a rejection isn't "wrong" or "bad" in of itself, but I'd advise anyone thinking of doing so (especially if they've already recieved some feedback via the recruiter or directly) to remember that they are essentially asking a near-enough complete stranger to take time out of their (probably very busy) work day to do you a favour and it should be approached as such.

They don't owe you anything and if you don't get any response or don't get the one you were hoping for then you need to let it go. In this specific case you've already had the information that the organisation provided via the recruiter and a very strong hint that no further feedback will be forthcoming, at this point further requests after the silent response for example just make you look a bit needy/entitled and should you ever find yourself under consideration at that organisation again that's not going to do you any favours!

  • I respect your opinion and I want to clarify that I am not necessarily looking for feedback if they don't wish to give it -- the thing I am looking for is that if the interviewer was WILLING to give feedback and it was simply poorly communicated to and by the recruiter, I'd be willing to ask for it directly. If he doesn't want to, that's fine and the recruiter did get feedback from him but naturally he doesn't know what the real reasons are. – Kevin Xu Apr 13 '17 at 0:37
  • But I do see where you're coming from. I know a lot of people can't take criticism well and I'm sure this question comes off that I could be one of those people so I respect your answer. – Kevin Xu Apr 13 '17 at 0:46
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    @user14287117 But (correct me if I'm wrong) you've already had feedback, just not as extensive or as detailed as you'd ideally like. You followed up for more and were rebuffed (albeit silently), so what do you hope to achieve by continuing to pursue it? What outcome would satisfy you? In the nicest possible way I think you need to let this go. – motosubatsu Apr 13 '17 at 8:49
  • Fair enough. I've already let it go but I'm always curious. The feedback wasn't satisfactory to me more because there wasn't a lot of confidence behind it but what you said is correct. – Kevin Xu Apr 13 '17 at 19:11
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I would say there's nothing at stake here process wise, where you trying to contact the interviewer can potentially cause a conflict of interest. They have already decided not to pursue further with your hiring process. So any help that you may need might as well be gladly extended by the interviewer or not, which is at her own discretion entirely.

I would recommend going ahead with your plan.

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