Why You Didn’t Get the Job

Hi!

I’ve been applying for positions non-stop for 2 months and have had 3 face to face interviews. When I’ve been given a phone interview, I pass with flying colors and onto the next stage. When having the face to face interviews I leave each one feeling confident that I would have an offer. I’ve now received letters stating they found a better fit for the position. I’ve worked in Call Centers for the past 8 years in a customer service role, so experience was not an issue. Could it be my age? I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong, if anything. Is it in bad taste to ask why I was passed over? I’m of the opinion if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, I can’t fix it.

Dear, Whys and Wherefores,

Readers often write to ask “Why wasn’t I hired? I though the interview went well.” I’m not related to Big Brother, so I don’t have access to the surveillance footage of your meeting. But I can make offer some theories.

Mentally review your past interviews to see if you made any of these missteps.

  • Divergent appearance. A wardrobe mismatch can be more than just wearing brown socks with black trousers. You may actually be overdressed in a Wall Street suit and tie for an interview with a hip startup, where everyone is dressed more casually. But if you’re a tattooed, pierced individual, you may want to take out your septum ring to avoid distracting a buttoned-up interviewer in a more corporate environment. This Super Bowl “Talking Stain” commercial from a few years ago reminds us all to avoid messy lunch foods right before an interview.

  • Body language. Eye contact without staring, a firm but not bone-crushing handshake, smiling and nodding (but not too enthusiastically!) are all non-verbal communication skills you should brush up on.
  • Poor performance. You stutter, you interject “um” or “like” too often, you can’t even think of the answer to a simple question! Calm your nerves, take a breath before answering your interviewer’s questions, and don’t speak too rapidly (chances are, the hiring manager is taking notes). Public speaking may not be your forte but with proper preparation and practice, you can improve.
  • Lack of follow-up. Without being “dimpatient,” be sure to maintain communication after the interview, starting with a “thank you” note. HINT: If you are kicking yourself after forgetting to mention a pertinent point in your interview, mention it in your thank you message.
    (For more tips on acing interviews, download my free e-book, Anita Clew’s Jitter-Free Guide to Job Interviews.)

You could request honest feedback from your interviewer via email – but never put them on the spot in person or by phone. “While I’m disappointed I was not chosen for the position, it would really help me in my next interview to know if you saw any areas in which I can improve.” Be forewarned, warns EvilHRLady, some recruiters and hiring managers may be hesitant to offer constructive criticism. If you do receive remarks, respond graciously even if you think their observations are way off base.

Readers: Have you ever asked for – and received – a critique from an interviewer?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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RELATED POSTS:
How to Get Past the Phone Interview
Top 10 Interview Fails
Dress for Success
Hiding the “Gray” on Your Résumé (and Beyond)
Being Body Language Conscious
Reasons for No Résumé Responses

Top 10 Interview Fails

Dear, Anita,

I just sent a follow-up letter to a highly desired position I applied for by email using a draft for another industry. Unfortunately, I didn’t make all necessary changes that apply and cannot stop beating myself for this silly mistake on such a grand opportunity. Any words of comfort?

Dear, Oopsy Daisy,

There, there; everything will be all right. Seriously, don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve all made mistakes before we hit the “send” button. It won’t be your only grand opportunity and maybe not even the best one for you.

Oops keyYou may be wondering if you should send a follow-up email apologizing for the error. I would not. Who knows? The recipient of the email may not have even noticed your mistake, and calling attention to it would not be wise in that case. If they did notice it, it will either be significant (and they won’t call you back because of a perceived lack of attention to detail) or it won’t (in which case your bringing it back up will mean nothing – or it will make them change their mind about its significance).

So, take the lesson – proofread everything twice before sending – and move on.

To make you feel better about your smallish error, here – in no particular order – are 10 interview fails I have seen in my ample years.

  1. Bringing your boyfriend to an interview. Or your mother. Or your kids. If you need a ride, get dropped off. The few dollars you spend on a babysitter is money well spent toward your career.
  2. Arriving for an interview with a cup of coffee in hand. While Starbucks would be proud to have infiltrated the interview space, this is not a casual chat with your best bud.
  3. Wearing flip-flops. No matter how relaxed the work environment, dress appropriately and professionally. Interview outfits should be a notch above what you’d wear once you land the job. (Side note: I once interviewed a college student who committed both #2 and #3.)
  4. Answering phone or texting during an interview. Cell phones should be silenced and out of view, and for goodness sake, take off your Bluetooth earpiece.
  5. Trash-talking your former boss or co-workers. While you may not be able to take grandma’s advice, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” frame your responses about your less-than-perfect previous jobs in neutral language.
  6. Showing up late. Take traffic into account when planning for your appointment. If you arrive too early, drive around the block so you’re not staring through the office window at your interviewer.
  7. Showing up deathly ill. An interview is an important meeting not to miss, but nobody wants to share the air with a walking Petri dish. Call and let the interviewer choose to reschedule or not.
  8. “Ummm, I’m, like, such a people person, ya know?” Practice answering interview questions with a friend to minimize your speech idiosyncrasies.
  9. Interrupting. Curb your enthusiasm and wait for the interviewer to finish his or her thought or question. Just like on the Jeopardy, if you buzz in too early, you’ll likely lose points.
  10. Acting desperate. Telling the hiring manager that you really need the job, or sharing your financial hardships will backfire. Just as in dating, desperation is a turn-off for employers. Self-confidence will bring respect, while sad sack stories will just bring pity.

Readers: Don’t be shy! Share your interview faux pas.

Need some job advice? Anita Clew is happy to help. Click here to Ask Anita.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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