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I had an interview for a job where I had 2 years extra experience than they were asking for and a higher level qualification than what they asked. The feedback was that I seem very intelligent, capable, with great experience and well spoken, but they decided I am too junior for that role.

Additionally, the reason I am looking for work at the moment is because my role at my last company was made redundant. At the time they were advertising for a new role which I had a lot of the experience for, and with 3 years of experience with their specific technology from already working there. I was told that I couldn't be moved into the new role because they were looking for someone more senior. I later found out they hired a guy who is my age and with the same amount of work experience (but in a different industry), who graduated a couple of years later than I did.

I am a female in my mid twenties and I am quite young looking, I think my voice sounds younger than I am as well, but I can speak well. I can't help but think this is why I might be perceived as too junior. Are there any strategies I can use to be perceived as more mature?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – motosubatsu May 14 at 9:48
  • What field are you in? I think some parts of the answer to this question depend on what your job is. – Casey May 15 at 17:17
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The feedback was that ... I am too junior for that role.

The stated feedback doesn't match the actual data. So, it's likely either perception or an entirely different reason. You'll never know for sure.

It's entirely possible that it's because you are a woman, because you look too young, because you come from the wrong place, or because of something completely different.

Unfortunately, interviewing involves a lot of subjective perceptions. For example, being tall helps. It's not that interviewers are actively discriminating against short people, it's just that taller people are perceived more "senior."

Don't let it bother you: it's NOT a negative statement about you. If any, it's a negative statement about your interviewers. Good interviewers are aware of their biases and will work on tuning them down.

Are there any strategies I can use to be perceived as more mature?

A few other things to do first:

  1. Critically reflect back on the interview experience. Are there other things that may have gone wrong there? Maybe do a test interview with an experienced mentor. Make sure you are working on the correct root cause.
  2. Do not overcompensate: you are what you are, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with practicing being a little more assertive, but don't try to portray a person that you aren't (and don't want to be).
  3. Interviewing is never "fair". People are people and you will find anything from unconscious bias to blatant discrimination. Observe, identify, and work with it, but don't let bother you emotionally. It's just the way things are right now (and they get better over time).
  4. Research companies upfront. Many these days have clearly stated diversity policies and goals. That means there is a good chance that they are actively trying to be "more fair," which can help you.

How to show up as more mature in an interview?

  1. Go through your resume. Look for specific examples of strong leadership behavior: crisis management, conflict resolution, influencing other team members or the food chain, etc. Make sure you have these stories ready to tell and bring them up at every opportunity.
  2. Practice interviewing. Make sure you show up comfortable, confident, and relaxed. Practice with a mentor & film yourself. The less "hm, ah, duh" the better.
  3. Prepare for hard questions. "Tell me about a time you screwed up", "What are you weaknesses?," "Tell me about a time you were in a conflict."
  4. Do a culture check. For example, ask, "what are the key behaviors of successful woman in this company". That's aimed at discrimination/bias without being offensive and the answer or the reaction can be quite telling
  5. If you sense outright discrimination, just walk away. Why would you want to work in a a place like that? There are better options out there.

Good Luck!

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Kilisi May 14 at 15:18
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    Since comments explaining downvotes are encouraged, and since the comment wipe removed mine, I have downvoted this because Don't let it bother you: it's NOT a negative statement about you is dangerous advice. That OP was not hired because they were perceived as too-junior IS a negative statement about them and they should be worrying about that perception they are projecting, either because it is true and they need to improve their skills, or because they are not effectively demonstrating the skills that they have. – J... May 14 at 16:13
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    I changed my beard. I had an instant increase in how old and knowledgeable people perceived me. I honestly thought I was in an industry that evaluated people on merit and ideas and, turns out, nope, it's high school with bigger budgets. – corsiKa May 14 at 19:42
  • Upvoted since this answer emphasize on finding the correct root cause. Sometimes in interview, there is no clear "right" or "wrong"... Hence the reason they give for not hiring the OP is questionable at least (perhaps a convenient excuse). The real reason might well be something completely different. – Hoàng Long May 15 at 1:47
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One thing that I found was a problem when I was a younger woman in a male-dominated field was that the language I was using wasn't effectively communicating my confidence in what I was saying. I think many women "soften" their language to be more collaborative, but people who don't know you can often mistake that for uncertainty or inexperience.

When you are speaking from or about your own experience in an interview, try to be more certain and assertive in your statements. Practice your answers out loud for typical interview questions and record yourself. Notice when you use "filler" words (uh, like, sort of, etc.) and when you qualify your statements so they seem less certain. For example, if you're asked if you have any leadership experience, say "Yes. I led a team of 5 people." Don't say something like "I have led a team, but it was sort of informal and only for a short time." You might ask a friend to "interview" you and then give you feedback on whether the way you answered questions made it seem like you were more uncertain than you should be given your experience. You can't just memorize the right words - speaking in a way that is perceived as confident takes practice - but you may not have to change much to see a big change in how people perceive you.

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    You have to pick the right friend though. Somebody who is comfortable simply saying: "Yes!" instead of 20 sentences with softening language. Also, there are courses to train stuff like this, it can be very helpful to gain a trained outsider perspective – Benjamin May 14 at 6:54
  • +1, getting someone to train on is extremely useful. I often play that role, and it helps to have someone who can play all parts: the undecided interviewer who does not know where to go, the one who likes you, the ones who do not like you, the talker, the non-talker, the one who asks questions, the ones who does not, the one who challenges you, etc. It is important to have someone who will not be afraid of disturbing and angering you. A good, experienced friend is the best. – WoJ May 14 at 9:53
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    Unfortunately, you can be damned if you do, damned if you don't. Because of cultural biases, a woman who presents herself as confident and assertive may be perceived as "bitchy". Even by other women interviewers. Life sucks when you're on the wrong side of unconscious biases. – Barmar May 14 at 14:31
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    @Barmar You don’t have to be a woman to be on the wrong side of a social bias and need to adjust the way you communicate to be better understood. For example, workplace.stackexchange.com/q/172208/26699 Communicating with other people effectively takes skill and (for many people) a lot of practice and effort. Humans have all sorts of preconceived ideas about who people are based on how they look and sound that we have to constantly struggle against both as the person being judged and the person doing the judging. – ColleenV May 14 at 14:41
  • Indeed, I used that general term intentionally, to include unconscious racism, ageism, etc. But my real point was that no amount of adjusting you do can fully overcome it. – Barmar May 14 at 14:50
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Being too junior doesn't necessarily mean you haven't put enough years into a certain technology or role. Years of experience is just a proxy measurement for certain skills, and what companies are really looking for are those skills. It's possible that your actual skill level doesn't match what these companies are looking for. I have seen candidates with ten years of experience who are at a more junior skill level than candidates with two years of experience.

Obviously this is just a possibility. It could be any number of other reasons mentioned in other answers, but this is something I see very often when interviewing candidates so it might be worth considering.

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    THis. When we talk about someone being "junior" in interview wrap ups, it doesn't mean they don't have years of experience. We rarely know how many they have. It means they didn't demonstrate the depth of skills or understanding we expect out of that role. It means if we were to hire them, it would be for a lower level position. If they're calling you too junior, it means you aren't skilled enough (or at least not showing it). – Gabe Sechan May 13 at 19:27
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    I was looking for this one. It is pretty normal to meet people with X years of experience on the job, but skills of juniors. One of my friends doing the interviews summarized it as "some people earned their seniority, some people sit down long enough to become a senior" – mishan May 14 at 9:41
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    I've rejected a lot of $jobtitle candidates with many years of experience as "too junior" because their years were at companies that treated $jobtitle as human pagers - all they did all day was watch screens for incoming work, then route the work to other teams. Many of them had lists of skills and qualifications relevant to $jobtitle, but it was clear they'd never had to use those skills, and couldn't when pressed during interviews. It's worth reflecting whether your years of experience in your field actually taught you to do the work of the role you're interviewing for. – thatgirldm May 15 at 1:54
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I was held back in more junior roles for a while at the start of my career, and it wasn't because I was doing bad work. I was consistently praised for the quality of my work, but my contributions were too individual and too just following orders.

Seniority is about uplifting the entire group. Are you proposing initiatives that help improve everyone's quality? Are you volunteering for leadership opportunities? Are you helping drive designs that improve maintainability for large parts of the code? Do people see you as a subject matter expert? Do you actively try to pass on your experience to others? If you do these things, are you self-promoting enough that your management knows you do them?

Try not to focus on things about yourself that you can't change, like your voice and appearance. Moving to the next level is going to require getting out of your comfort zone a bit.

I was fortunate to have good managers that helped coach me past these difficulties. Perhaps you can ask your manager for coaching to improve your seniority.

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    I’ve upvoted, because pushing yourself to take on more “senior” type work is good advice in general. I’m not sure this is useful advice for someone looking for a job because they’ve been made redundant. It’s a bit too late to get that on the resume at this point. – ColleenV May 14 at 13:59
  • I think this is the best answer. The feedback is probably more concerned about things like leadership and experience than whether or not the OP physically "looks mature". – Rob Moir May 15 at 13:24
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It could be because you're a woman, because you're young-looking, or some combination of the two.

It could be because you don't actually know technology as well as your resume/CV would suggest, and that comes across in interviews.

But it could be, and in many cases when I think someone is "too junior" for a senior technology role is, that you lack contextual awareness.

Technology does not exist in a vacuum and is rarely self-serving (i.e. about itself). Generally in IT you are either supporting end users directly or you work in an embedded IT department doing line-of-business work to support some other enterprise.

It may certainly mean other things to other people, but when I think of someone technically competent as "too junior" usually what I'm thinking is that they do not appropriately factor in business concerns into their decision-making and prioritization. You may know technology, but can you add senior-level business value?

Maybe you've never had to think on that level before (literally too junior). Maybe you have adequate perspective for a senior-level candidate but did a poor job of expressing it in the interview(s). Maybe you are a victim of discrimination. Maybe some combination of those. But the business awareness aspect was conspicuously absent from the conversation thus far.

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I believe you are using the wrong medium here:

You want to be treated more maturely, and you say that you look and sound younger (less mature) than you really are. If that is the case, you won't be able to change that by asking such a question on an internet site.

I would advise you to follow a sollicitation course. I don't know in which country you live, but at least in mine (I'm from Vlaanderen in Belgium), the unemployment offices (called VDAB) give sollicitation courses, where people can learn how to do job searches, how to behave during a job interview, ..., in my case they even called the company after a job interview for more feedback. Go follow such a course and let us know how you are.

Good luck

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  • While not a Belgian native, I have followed such a course from the VDAB and can confirm they give plenty of useful advice, including on your resume as well. But not all knowledge translated well once I moved countries again, some Belgian customs around job applications (or indeed sollicitation as is often called in Belgium) are more unique to the country. – htmlcoderexe May 16 at 19:53
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It seems unlikely that you are viewed as too junior.

This seems like just an excuse. The more probable cause is you're a woman, which isn't something you can change so don't let it impact on your morale or self-confidence.

If I were you I'd brush it off and just keep trying.

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    "The more probably cause is you're a woman" - I think that's an extremely inflammatory comment to make without any real evidence pointing to it. – Duck Hunt Duo May 13 at 9:16
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    @DuckHuntDuo I honestly think this is a good guess and such bias are common. Expecting people to be without such bias is unreasonable. – Al rl May 13 at 10:32
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    Why is that "inflammatory", duck ? That doesn't make much sense. Statistically speaking that would seem to be totally correct. There are lots of idiots that see females as "more junior" just as described. – Fattie May 13 at 12:20
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    What a terrible answer. What information are you even basing your wild guess on? This literally just feeding into a victim mentality rather than actual advise on how to solve the issue. – csstudent1418 May 14 at 14:58
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    The question was "Are there any strategies I can use to be perceived as more mature?" This does not answer that question. – Leland Hepworth May 14 at 17:36

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