Can Bad Feedback Help?

Q. I am over 40 and work in a female dominated field (Biotech). I can’t even get an interview; younger female candidates get hired for jobs that recruiters tell me I am not qualified for. I have years of experience and lose out to people with a fraction of my experience. What can I do besides getting a face lift and a sex change?

A. There are so many reasons people don’t get offered interviews, jobs promotions, raises or bonuses. There is an equally long list of reasons people think they didn’t get those same opportunities. They may think it is gender, age, too much experience or too little experience. Age and gender bias do exist, and they are real obstacles for job seekers. Perceptions may also be blinding you to other issues and the basic challenges of finding a job in a slowly improving economy. You believe biotechnology is female dominated, yet research does not show that to be accurate. What you can do is control what you can control, gather real feedback and information and commit to becoming the best job seeker you can until you are successful.


So first, gather feedback. If recruiters have given you information about jobs you are not qualified for, ask for more detailed feedback. Most often when people are given negative feedback they argue or accept the information and not probe further. When someone tells you that you are not qualified for a specific role, you can say, ”I am disappointed to hear that you don’t think I am qualified for this role. Can you tell me more about the skills you see that I have and the level you would need for this role?” Continue to probe if you can, especially if you are getting information which you can put to use as a candidate.

You may also find that expanding your questions can help. For example you might ask, “Thank you so much for that information. Are there other positions you think might be better targets for me?” If you are finding cooperation in the recruiter, take the risk of, “Is there other information you can give me that will help me in the job search process?” Your goal is to get feedback on your presentation or demonstration of soft skills, such as your communication or interpersonal style, .

Job seekers often feel the only feedback they need is whether they got the offer or not. Use all feedback you get to refine your interview skills. Find out if you are using strong examples of your work success. Do you demonstrate an ability to lead a team and work well as a colleague in a team? Do you show a potential manager you will be easy to manage? The sad truth is it isn’t always the best person to do the job who gets hired, but the person most capable of presenting themselves as the best person to do the job.

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