feedback

7 Tips For Navigating Negative Career Feedback

iStockphoto.com |  Feodora Chiosea

iStockphoto.com | Feodora Chiosea

Nobody rolls out of bed in the morning and thinks, “I hope I get some negative feedback at work today.”

No one enjoys criticism, especially professional criticism. When we receive feedback at work, the likely reaction is a (sometimes justified) fear that the feedback is a precursor to unemployment. However, feedback – positive and negative – plays an important role in the overall success of an organization, and the personal development of the employee. The good news is that you can learn how to process and utilize negative feedback to help your career instead of inhibit it.

Corporate culture has evolved into an interactive environment with a constant feedback loop. Annual/quarterly reviews have given way to an ongoing structure that is flexible and nimble enough to resolve issues, whether company-wide or individual, in real time. That means constant feedback.

Here are some tips to demystify negative feedback, help you and your career grow, and help create better work relationships.

  1. Be open to feedback. When you walk into your manager’s office and receive professional criticism, it is very easy to get defensive. Even though the feedback is work related, it feels personal, and may seem like an existential threat to your livelihood. Do your best to be calm, objective about your own performance, and to listen. Take notes.

  2. Remember, the conversation is probably documented. Whether part of a regular scheduled review, or an unexpected performance appraisal, the results will most likely go into your personnel file. It is in your best interests to maintain a professional demeanor throughout the process.

  3. Understand your manager’s position. Chances are your Manager doesn’t like to give negative feedback any more than you like receiving it. However, providing feedback is most likely a requirement of his or her job, and is necessary if he or she has an interest in your career development. Either way, your manager should be giving you feedback, and you should want it as it provides you the tools to move your career forward.

  4. Negative feedback is an opportunity. I know what you’re thinking: “I should want negative feedback? That’s crazy talk!” Negative feedback gives you an opportunity to self-correct and to develop personally and professionally. If you are not receiving regular, valuable feedback, then request it. You need to build that loop so you will control the conversation. It is in your best interests to have reviews that are more about development, and less about performance.

  5. Understand the real message. Managers may not be trained to give feedback in a clear or positive way. The true message, for example, may be buried under a mountain of operational issues, or missed sales goals. But what does the feedback have to do with you? Ask for clarification is necessary.

  6. Perception can be reality. If a perceived issue is surfaced that you believe is off the mark, you must change the perception. Speak up in a reasonable and sensible way. Defend yourself without being defensive (easy, right?).

  7. Compartmentalize the feedback. You’ve walked out your manager’s office. Even the most enlightened employee, who is wise enough to use all our excellent suggestions, is going to feel numb. No one enjoys criticism. To the best of your ability, decompress and detach yourself from the feedback. When ready, process it in as objective a way as possible, determine (to the best of your ability) how you can use it to improve your job performance and, more importantly, advance your personal career development.


Philip Roufail contributed to this article.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

5 Incidental Factors Impacting Your Job Search

iStockphoto.com ( Anetlanda)

iStockphoto.com (Anetlanda)

 

  1. If a company doesn't call you for an interview after applying for a job, it may not be about your qualifications. It could, however, be a comment on the sheer volume of applicants. A recruiter at a well known technology company told me she receives over 10,000 applicants (yes, that's four zeroes) for each job. Even if your resume checks all the boxes for essential skills and qualifications, this tidal wave of candidates can overwhelm your chances of getting a look by the recruiter. If you want to improve your chances of getting noticed, it helps to tweak your resume's keywords and terminology to better align with the job posting, and to network with key decision makers at the employer.
     
  2. Find the recruitment process exasperating? So does the recruiter. As companies push to do more with less, recruiters have increased responsibility. The typical recruiter works on filling 30 open jobs simultaneously. That's includes managing the process for 300,000 candidates (30 jobs x 10,000 applicants) from the initial job posting, filtering resumes, screening candidates, arranging and conducting interviews, preparing and negotiating the offer, and ensuring the person they hire shows up to work, as well as balancing the needs, demands, and biases of hiring managers. Recruiters spend as much time on customer service and internal negotiation as they do on recruitment. While there's no excuse for sloppy followup, bear in mind that it's incredibly stressful work and it's inevitable that things will fall through the cracks from time to time.
     
  3. There's a positive bias for "Passive" job seekers. There are two types of candidates considered for job opportunities – Active job seekers, as the word implies, actively apply to job postings online, while Passive job seekers are individuals who aren't looking tochange jobs and wouldn't have considered looking for a new position if someone hadn't tried to recruit them. Passive job seekers are believed to be more valuable – hiring managers often (incorrectly) rationalize this as, "If the person is actively looking for a job, how successful in their current job can they truly be?" Which is why companies pay dearly for premium subscriptions to LinkedIn, which they use to reach out to presumably Passive job seekers (just take a look at LinkedIn's marketing materials if you need further proof). It's absolutely in any job hunter's best interest to have a highly polished, keyword-loaded LinkedIn profile that increases the odds of a recruiter viewing their profile during searches.
     
  4. Companies often post internal positions for the whole world to see - because they have to. Many people think of these as "fake jobs," but they're really not. Company policy, union rules, or local law may dictate the practice of posting internal positions. While this can be frustrating to outside job seekers, the intention to provide current employees additional opportunities for growth and development should be considered a positive in terms of fostering employee engagement. Bear in mind that while the hiring manager may intend to hire an internal candidate for the specific role, a better qualified external may change their mind. If you're interested in a role and you have the qualifications, by all means apply; the intended internal candidate may fall through, and at minimum your resume will be in the company's database for future opportunities.
     
  5. Employers don't hold back on providing interview feedback out of arrogance or laziness. It's usually because they're crazy busy, and because they're afraid of offending by providing negative feedback in a potentially inappropriate or illegal manner and don't want to get sued by a disgruntled candidate. Human Resources departments often advise employees against providing feedback on these grounds. The lack of feedback may leave you feeling unfulfilled and disappointed, but it's important to preserve your professional brand to an employer, so don't push the issue.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

Can I Ask an Employer For Interview Feedback?

Well, that explains it...  (iStockphoto.com/kasahasa)

Well, that explains it... (iStockphoto.com/kasahasa)

A week ago you interviewed for a job with a local technology company. You spent three hours answering and asking questions with interviewer after interviewer. You figure you did pretty well, so you're surprised to find the following message from the company's recruiter in your email inbox the next day:

"We appreciate your interest in our company and thank you for the time you spent interviewing with us, and giving us the opportunity to learn about your skills and accomplishments. However, we have identified a more highly qualified individual for the role. We wish you the best of luck on your job search and your future endeavors."

You thought you nailed the interview. And, there's nothing of value in that rejection letter that provides you any insight into the company's decision to cut you loose. Is it okay to reach out to the recruiter or the hiring manager to ask why they took a pass on you?

Absolutely, you can ask for feedback. Just don't expect a meaningful answer.

Or for that matter, any answer at all.

Why don't companies usually share useful information about the interview with you? There are several reasons:

• Potential liability: Employers wish to avoid providing job seekers with anything that could be used against them in a discrimination lawsuit. Even interview feedback provided with the best of intentions could turn out to be damaging, so it's not unheard of for companies' legal departments to implement and enforce a "no-feedback" policy for this reason.

• Goodwill: Yes, it hurts not to know where you went wrong in the process. A saccharine reason like, "we have identified a more highly qualified individual," can be puzzling, but also reassuring, planting the belief that you were this close to getting the role and that a more qualified candidate showed up. Many companies are very conscious of their image as both an employer and as a brand owner. If they hurt your feelings by telling you that your interview skills were terrible and you weren't qualified for the job, would you want go back for another round of interviews should you be called for another job there? And would you keep buying their product?

• Time: Let's say a recruiter is working on 25 open jobs. They've interviewed 5 people for each open position. Doing the back-of-the-napkin math, that would be 125 interviewees with whom the recruiter would need to spend time providing - and explaining - interview feedback. At an estimated ten minutes per conversation with each interviewee, it would take more than 20 hours to communicate feedback to everybody. Add this to the recruiter's other job responsibilities, such as sourcing and screening candidates, producing reports, and attending meetings, and it's easy to see why the recruiter would opt to send you a form letter generated by their candidate tracking system. Such conversations take a great deal of time; think back to your last performance appraisal - do you remember how much time and discussion you had with your manager around each little detail?

• They've made up their mind, and you can't change it: Employers have a great deal of latitude in terms of their hiring decisions, and they don't appreciate being second-guessed. By taking your call, and by having a conversation about the interview, company representatives are opening themselves to a potential disagreement over how things went or were perceived. The recruiter may tell you that you were too light in a key skill for the role, but you points out that you have over 10 years experience and clearly meet the job requirement. It puts the employer in the position of having to defend their position to support their decision. And oh, by the way, the other candidate who interviewed already accepted the offer and is scheduled to start on Monday.

So what do you do if you would still like to get feedback on your interview?

Ask for feedback. Nicely. Email the company recruiter or hiring manager thanking them for their time, indicating that while you were disappointed that you didn't get the job and that you hope they'll keep you in mind for future opportunities. At the end of your message, tell them you'd like to continue to develop, and that any feedback they could provide would be very much appreciated. Don't push it, and don't ask multiple interviewees for their input. If they want to share anything with you, they will. Be gracious in accepting any feedback they provide you (or be equally gracious if they tell you they can't provide you any feedback), without argument. Then let it go. You'll come across as professional and mature.

Polish your interviewing skills. Work under the assumption that you could use some more polish in your presentation. Conduct mock interviews with a coach or a friend. Pinpoint your areas for development, and work on those. Then you'll be ready the next time an employer calls.

The lack of feedback may leave you feeling unfulfilled and disappointed, but it's important to preserve your professional brand to an employer, so don't push the issue.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

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