If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the 15 years of being a recruiter, it would be the fact that no two hiring experiences are the same. Every job application, interview and rejection or selection is unique. You just never know what the outcome is going to be no matter how far you read into all of the elements that make up a full hiring cycle. At the end of an interview, you may feel like you aced it, and with your stellar resumé and cover letter, job experience and references, the stars could be aligning to land your new big job offer. Or not.
The truth is, you just never know if another candidate is going to have a more competitive edge. Chances are, if you don’t get the job, you’re not likely to get any feedback from an interview. If you’ve gotten a job rejection lately and haven’t received any feedback, here are a few reasons why you might not have gotten the job.
1. You talked too much during the interview.
British Army Lieutenant-General Robert Baden-Powell said it best: “If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk.” Of course, interviews provide the opportunity for a potential employer to get to know you, learn about your work experience and see how you could potentially fit into the company culture. It’s also an opportunity for you to “interview” the company. After all, you’re also trying to see if there’s an ideal fit for you to work there. Rather than talking incessantly and trying to get as much information about yourself out during the defined time, take the time to ask questions as well. Listen intently to what your interviewer has to say. Being self-aware of the conversation and achieving a healthy balance of talking vs. listening is critical making a positive impression during an interview.
2. You didn’t know how to answer or weren’t prepared for some standard questions such as, “What is one weakness you have?”.
It seems the more seasoned an applicant is, the less likely they think questions like these will come up. My advice is to never be too prepared and have authentic, thoughtful responses. Put together a list of these types of “getting to know you” questions and review them diligently. Be honest and transparent when answering. Your interviewers can spot a “staged answer” from a mile away, so be real. Learn how to positively spin these types of responses so they work for you, not against you.
3. You applied too much or too strong a perfume or smoked before the interview.
Don’t ignore the obvious. Strong fragrances or the scent of smoke on a person can be a major detractor during an interview. This is also often a “red flag” to the person interviewing you, as there may be concern that if you wear strong fragrance daily, there may be an issue with it impacting other colleagues in the office. Be practical. Don’t over do it on the cologne or perfume and avoid smoking prior to your interview.
4. You forgot to turn your phone off.
This is a big pet peeve for many folks, and rightly so. You’re in an interview for a defined time slot, and you need to make the most of it. Leaving your mobile phone on during and interview can be a significant distraction to you and your interviewer. I always recommend leaving your phone in the car or turning it completely off before you go into your interview. This will eliminate the potential to receive text alerts, notifications or unnecessary phone calls during the process.
5. Your dress wasn’t appropriate for the environment, this includes proper grooming.
Many companies today have adopted more “business casual” corporate dress standards. While more casual attire may be permitted in the workplace, don’t risk making a less than stellar impression. Regardless of whether the job you’re interviewing for is an office job or in a plant, dress neatly and in accordance with the role you’re seeking. Make sure the clothes you’ve selected for the interview are pressed, tuck in your shirt and be certain everything fits appropriately. Grooming is also important. You want to look your best, so go get a haircut a few days before your interview. If you have a beard, trim it up to make it look sharp.
6. You couldn’t provide the interviewer with examples of how your experience is relevant to the job.
The interview process is the time when you have a chance to connect the dots with your potential employer. They’ve already read your resume, and if you’re there for an interview, they think you have the skills and experience necessary to do the job. Do your due diligence and take the job description for the role you’re interviewing for and map your most impressive work experiences to those requirements. Your future employer needs to know how you are relevant to the job and to be able to see how your skills align with the work they need you to do.
7. Your recruiter didn’t know what the job was or didn’t tell you accurately.
As a recruiter, I am almost embarrassed that I must include this in my list. However, there are recruiters out there who throw candidates “over the fence” to their clients without providing any background information to the client or the candidate. This is what I refer to as “lazy recruiting.” Sometimes there are recruiters who don’t even know the specific requirements for the job. This is a horrible practice, but it happens. If you have a recruiter lining you up for an interview, do your homework and make sure you have a one-on-one with the recruiter who can tell you everything about the role and can give you insight into the company and who will be interviewing you. If they can’t provide you this information, you need to reconsider accepting the interview, or escalate to find someone who knows more about the role.
8. You showed up late.
Never. Ever. Show up late. It’s common sense, but some people are perpetually tardy to everything. This is unacceptable. Do what you need to do to get to your interview in plenty of time. The rule is: Early is on time. On time is late. And late is forgotten (to quote a former boss of mine). There are emergencies that come up, but this is only in dire circumstances. Being late to an interview can make or break you, and it can be the single thing that differentiates you from another candidate, so don’t mess it up!
9. You were arrogant or overconfident.
Confidence and self-assuredness are phenomenal attributes to possess. You want to demonstrate your confidence to those interviewing you, but arrogance and overconfidence are turnoffs. Remember – self-awareness is a great thing! Prior to your interview, practice with someone; maybe it’s a friend, a former colleague, a significant other. Humility goes a long way. Don’t be timid but be mindful that overdoing and coming across arrogant can be a deal breaker for most people.
10. You didn’t show sincere interest in the company/opportunity.
I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating. You’re not the only one being interviewed. Your interview is a chance for you to get to know more about the company and the team you would be working for daily. Ask questions about company history, culture, policies and procedures. Employers need to know that you are sincerely interested in becoming a part of their team, so make sure they know that you want to know as much as possible. Additionally, having as much information as you can about a company can help you make the decision if you want to work for them or not.
If you’ve experienced a rejection following an interview recently, it can be a tough pill to swallow, especially if you felt you had it in the bag. It’s ok. Interviewing is a stressful experience no matter what. The key is to learn as you go. Hopefully you will be able to take these 10 lessons into consideration when preparing for your next interview. Remember, getting a job depends on how your interviewer perceives you and how you effectively demonstrate your ability to do the job. By avoiding committing any of these common mistakes, you’re much more likely to put your best foot forward to getting a job offer.