Three pitfalls to avoid when interviewing.
“Why am I getting interviews but no offers?” is a question that is often asked by frustrated job applicants. The response to that question should always start with a “Congratulations.” The fact that you are getting interview requests means that you have a compelling background and a well-written resume and LinkedIn profile. You stood out over hundreds of other applicants. However, showing your landlord your “interview-getting” resume does not actually pay your rent. While many variables are in play when it comes to hiring, here are three of the most common reasons job seekers don’t get to the finish line.
First, you didn’t fit in. The most frequent reason a seemingly qualified applicant doesn’t move forward in the interview process is because he didn’t mesh with the culture. Applicant tracking systems, keyword matching of resumes and online skills assessments are all logical ways to match a candidate to a role. However, hiring is still a very human process. There is an emotional element – managers seek to find people who will fit in with the environment and work style.
This is no different than how many of us picked a college, our home or significant other. We may have had a list of requirements, but if given a choice among options, most of us “go with our gut.” In other words, we usually err on the side of what feels most complementary to ourselves. You can use the interview preparation process to increase your odds. Start with a thorough online investigation of the company website and social media. Next, conduct informational interviews with other employees or clients, review Glassdoor comments and check out the profiles of employees on LinkedIn. Move beyond a quick skim, and you have a much better chance of conveying your fit.
Second, you said too much but not enough of what matters. A common pitfall is to answer questions with generalized, surface-level responses. Great interviewees customize their responses to what is relevant to the interviewer. Plus, they give specific (and succinct) examples that demonstrate mastery of (or the capacity to master) a desired trait or skill. Let’s examine the difference in approaches between two applicants for an entry-level sales role with the common question, “Tell me about yourself.” Candidate 1 replies, “I was an average kid at Sunshine High School. Next, I went to my local college, drank some beers and attended some classes. I was offered a job with my dad upon graduation because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. After working there for 10 years, my dad told me I needed to do something else. So, I applied for this job.” Many of you may be thinking this is a made-up answer. You would be surprised at how many times this author has heard similar responses from interviews.
Candidate 2 replies, “I first learned how to make outbound calls while I was in college and I worked for the alumni association to generate donations. I enjoyed that experience and took pride in getting contributions for my school. I pursued a career in customer support and operations after graduation so that I could better understand all the components that go into a successful company. After learning about different roles at X company, I was most intrigued by the pace and competitiveness of the sales team. When I saw your posting, it looked like a very ideal match of my skills and interests.”
The interviewer is not in your head – so you have no obligation to say everything you are thinking. A great response factors in what is of value to the audience – a hiring manager wants to hire the best employee possible. The answers should also be specific, to the point and should add dimension to who you are. Every word should strengthen you as a candidate. If it does not, find another answer that does (and is still truthful).
Third, you don’t seem very interested. Passion counts. More than ever, employers complain that they are passing on what looked like an ideal candidate because they never saw his or her eyes light up. As referenced earlier, hiring is personal. Employers and managers want the best they can get for their salary dollars. A qualified job seeker who does not exude a high level of interest is not likely to get hired. This is true even at the companies with boring, unglamorous jobs.
Here is an example. You would like to hire someone to clean your house and have a choice between two cleaners. Cleaner 1 tells you her credentials, lists four happy clients that you can call for references and clearly takes pride in her ability to be on time and provide great service. Cleaner 2 says, “Yeah, I can clean your house. See, I have all the supplies here in my bag. I can move my hands in every direction and I have done this work before.” Whom would you hire? Even if the work in and of itself is not exciting, the opportunity to work, learn skills, make money and build a reputation for yourself can be motivation. Cleaner 1 conveys a passion for providing a valuable service. Unless an employer is desperate, the hire will go to the person who is not only qualified but also interested.
Getting hired is a numbers game. This means that if four qualified candidates come in for an interview, 75 percent will not be hired. However, to maximize your competitiveness, make sure you are well-prepared to address how you would be an enthusiastic and ideal fit. The odds will increase in your favor if you are an excellent interviewer and avoid making key mistakes in your job interview.