The Importance of Doing an Interview Post-Mortem

When it comes to job interviews, there are a lot of reasons why you might be out of practice. Some people are fortunate enough to have held a job for years, and haven’t had a need to interview. But for many returners, taking a career break to care for loved ones might mean it’s been a long while.

Regardless of the circumstances for why you’ve been out of the interview scene, conducting an interview post-mortem can give you valuable insight into your performance and help you identify opportunities to improve your interviewing skills as you continue your job search.

What is a Post-Mortem and Why is it Valuable?

A project post-mortem looks back and identifies what aspects of a project were successful and unsuccessful. You can apply this same technique to your job search, using it to improve your experience and become a stronger applicant. This type of self-reflection forces you to think objectively about your interview, review your performance, and look for areas where you can take action to change the outcome next time.

Why Post-Mortem Documentation is Important

I dedicate a notebook specifically for the purpose of collecting my post-mortems. Immediately following an interview, I perform a self-review and reflect on my experience. I often write down areas that needed improvement, like places where I should have done a little more research or could have used better preparation in my response. Before my next interview, I’ll reference these areas to make sure I’m more equipped if the situation comes up again. Even if it’s been a year or two since my last interview, I can successfully prepare by referencing this list and reviewing my post-mortem.

5 Tips on Conducting Your Post-Mortem

Being on the job hunt means you might have to sit through a lot of interviews. Even if it seems exhausting, the amount of professional growth that you can achieve during the process is tremendous. Here are a few tips on how to conduct a productive post-mortem that enhances your skills and moves your job search forward.

1.  Employ a growth mindset 

The most important aspect of conducting an effective post-mortem is to be positive and learning-focused. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t use this as an opportunity to throw a pity party. Focus on your strengths and things you can change next time.

2.  Write a recap

Write down facts about the type of company, time of day, and situation leading up to the interview. Did you have a hectic morning trying to get the kids to school? Try to adjust your timing next time. Because I wrote down how many people were interviewing me, I noticed my overall performance was weaker when I interviewed with a panel. Now I take more time to mentally prepare and rehearse for interviews with more than one person.

In your recap, write down the discussion and interview questions. Keeping a list of every question I’ve been asked helps me identify trends, allowing me to craft and rehearse stronger responses when I encounter these questions in the future. Different companies have different interview styles, so documenting the process can help you spot trends and allow you to refer to the initial discussion if they call you in for a second interview.

3.  Ask these three questions

When conducting your post-mortem answer the following questions:

  • What went well?
  • What needs improvement?
  • What can I do differently next time?

The answers to these questions will help you grow as an interviewee. Be sure to address any situations you stumbled through, how you spoke about your career gap, and how you told your professional story.

4.  Take action

Use these insights to impact future interviews. Here’s how: Prepare and practice strong responses to questions you didn’t answer strongly.

Did you trip because you couldn’t think of a good answer, or because you could, but didn’t articulate it well? If it’s the latter, practice your stories until you know them cold.

If you felt weak discussing your career gap, find out why. Write down a stronger version of your story and then change the narrative next time.

5.  Refer back

The reason to keep a notebook is so you can can reference it, even if it’s been years since your last interview. If a notebook isn’t your thing, try using a Google or Word document. The point is to have it easily accessible. The review and reflection stored in this document will help you prepare and elevate your upcoming interview performance.

Even if you nailed the interview and were offered a job, the lessons you learn in a post-mortem can be useful in your career. Treating each job interview as a learning opportunity will help you continually improve your interview techniques and overall public speaking and presentation skills, setting you up for long-term job success.


Tami Forman is the founding executive director of Path Forward and a frequent speaker on issues related to caregiving and workforce participation.

Originally published January 2018.