• Simone Brown

Reacting to Feedback

This was a question recently posed to a residency candidate for the Match 2021: How do you react to feedback?


I encourage my IMG friends to think about the two questions behind every interview question. Why is the interviewer asking that particular question? What do they want to learn about you and your character? Starting here makes it easier to prepare an answer that will connect with the interviewer.


The word, feedback, usually means "constructive feedback", or "negative feedback", so the interviewer is probably trying to determine your reaction to criticism. They probably want to know if you can maintain your professional composure, process the comments, and use them to improve yourself.


Once you understand what the interviewer is trying to ascertain, think about instances in your life when you have received negative feedback and parlayed those experiences into something positive. Here is an example from my own professional career:


Years ago, I taught a level-2 ESL Writing course at a local community college. The goal for the adult students was to be able to write a few grammatically-correct sentences in English. On the first day, two level-1 students were added to the class because there weren't enough students to make a viable level-1 class. One of the students was an elderly gentleman who wanted to quit. I encouraged him to stay and continue to work hard, but he struggled the entire semester.


The students were asked to fill out a survey at the end of the semester, the ubiquitous rating from 1-10, but also included places for written comments. Opening the packet of surveys was always a highlight for me because this was really when I could receive some encouragement, as well as continue to improve my course and teaching style.


These surveys were anonymous; however, sometimes I could identify one belonging to a particular student based on their handwriting. I came to one survey that had a written comment, the handwriting very identifiable as the elderly gentleman's.

He wrote, "This was the worst class. I didn't learn anything."


Ouch. I was wounded.


But I eventually became quite encouraged by these cutting remarks. Why? Because that level-1 student had just written TWO grammatically-correct sentences!!


I hope this story demonstrates how you can share a professional experience with an interviewer, showing your character and making a heart-connection.


If you'd like to join like-minded IMGs, working on improving communication skills, please join our Facebook group: Launching IMGs

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