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Job Doc

In job search, focus on what you can control

Q. I am over 40 and work in a female-dominated field. I can’t even get an interview; younger female candidates get hired for jobs. 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 many reasons people don’t get offered interviews, jobs, promotions, or raises. There is an equally long list of reasons why people think they didn’t get those opportunities.

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Instead of speculating, your focus should be to control what you can control, by gathering real feedback and information and committing to becoming the best job seeker you can.

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 that you can put to use.

You may also find that expanding your questions can help. For example, you might say, “Thank you so much for that information. Are there other positions you think might be better targets for me?” If you are finding cooperation, take the risk of, “Is there other information you can give me that will help me in the job search process?”

Job candidates often feel the only feedback they need is whether they get the offer. But they should seek all types of feedback, particularly on interview skills. Do you present strong examples of your accomplishments? Do you demonstrate an ability to lead? Do you show a potential supervisor you will be easy to manage? The sad truth is it isn’t always the best person for the job who gets hired, but the person who presents themselves as the best person for the job.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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