It is no secret that the job search process has a lot of moving parts. Crafting resumes, practicing your pitch or planning for questions and answers for your interviewer are just a few matters you are responsible for. Unfortunately, it can be easy to overlook “small” things that can torpedo your candidacy.
As a result, certain job rejections can be puzzling, especially when you’re unsure what went wrong, according to a new report issued by The Execu | Search Group, a recruiting firm that focuses on serving accounting firms, boutique hedge funds and private equity funds.
To ensure that you’re aware of what to avoid, we offer 10 reasons why you might have been turned away, with comments by executive recruiters:
1. You gave a bad first impression.
It’s no surprise that first impressions mean a lot during the interview process. Although the actual interview might have gone well, the little things you did might come back to haunt you. For example, you arrived five minutes late, your attire wasn’t entirely professional, or you were fidgety.
2. You didn’t follow directions.
“Please send your resume in a pdf format.” “Please bring at least five copies of your resume to the interview.” These are typical requests a hiring manager might have throughout the interview process. If you chose to send your resume as a “doc” or forgot their specific request, this will indicate a lack of attention to detail—a quality that employers tend to expect in new hires.
“Following directions is critical,” said Stacy Pursell, CEO of executive search firm The Pursell Group. “Attention to detail is key. You are being tested throughout the interview process. If you can’t handle the small details, how can they expect you to handle the big ones?”
3. You were unprepared.
You should always be putting your best foot forward when going into an interview. Regardless of what stage of the interview process you are in, not preparing answers to common interview questions, or thoughtful questions for your interviewer can be an immediate deal breaker.
“Since a job interview is your chance to make a great first impression and an opportunity to prove that you’re right for the job, you need to do your homework before the interview,” said Dan Charney, president and CEO of Direct Recruiters, Inc. “This includes browsing the company’s website, researching the people you would be interviewing with on LinkedIn and reading their company reviews on Glassdoor. If you’re working with a recruiter, ask questions about the company and why the position is open. Also, try to find out the core values. Many companies post those online now.”
4. You lied about something.
Lying about anything throughout the interview process never ends well for the candidate, as employers have ways to fact-check and verify what you’ve said. For starters, avoid being dishonest about your education, experience or personal references.
5. You weren’t a good cultural fit.
Keep in mind, “fit” plays a major role when employers evaluate whether they want to hire certain candidates. Whether you prefer working in a certain type of environment, or working with a particular management style, if your prospective employer practices the opposite, this could be the making for a poor cultural fit down the road.
6. You were too casual or overconfident.
If your interview seems to be going well, it can be tempting to let your guard down and start building a friendlier rapport with your interviewer. Becoming too casual, however, by using slang or making jokes could be a big mistake. As a result, you can appear to be playing around and not taking the role seriously.
7. You have an unprofessional online presence.
Social media is a great way to express your ideas and opinions, but without proper context some postings can be misconstrued and work against you in the interview process. If a quick Google search reveals that your online presence might be an issue, a hiring manager might just move on to another candidate.
Ms. Pursell said: “One candidate had a different employer listed on his resume than was on his LinkedIn profile. Why? His resume was current but his LinkedIn profile was not. The hiring manager felt the candidate was not “up with technology” since his LinkedIn profile didn’t match his resume.”
“Your online presence matters. It is one of the first things hiring managers look at,” she said. “Another candidate’s Facebook presence was littered with drinking pictures. The hiring manager was not impressed and moved on to another candidate.”
8. You didn’t send a ‘thank you’ note or follow up.
Whether you have gone through a first-round phone screen, or have made it to the final interview stage, writing a thank you note to the hiring manager is more than a best practice; it conveys your respect for your interviewer’s time, demonstrates your interest in the role and keeps you top of mind during the decision-making process. Failing to send a thank you note will be viewed as a major red flag to a prospective employer. Remember, if a recruiter has coordinated your interview for you, they will most likely facilitate all of the conversations outlining next steps.
“Never underestimate the value of a thank you note after you finish an interview,” said Mr. Charney. “Here’s an example why: After our candidate had two phone interviews, one face-to-face interview and an invitation to their headquarters for a final face-to-face interview with one of our clients, both parties shared that it was a perfect match. However, several days went by and our client went silent. The reason was that the candidate failed to send a thank you note or email when interviews were concluded. To them, that was a deal breaker,” he said.
“I’ve had it come down to two candidates at the end of the interview process,” Ms. Pursell said. “One candidate sent a thank you note and the other candidate did not. The candidate who sent the note got the offer because the hiring manager said it made the difference in his hiring decision. He felt the candidate who did not send the thank you was not courteous to not follow up with a note after the interview.”
9. You didn’t sell yourself well enough.
All too often, exceptional candidates miss out on great opportunities because they fail to use their interview time strategically enough to sell their skills and experience. Instead of rehashing the skills and experience already listed on your resume, clearly articulate what about your background specifically makes you the best candidate.
“In this candidate-driven market, many candidates think they can just show up to get the job,” Mr. Charney said. “It doesn’t work like that. Even in a candidate-driven market, you need to sell yourself upfront. This way, you’re more likely to get an offer and have greater negotiation power. Many of the positions we fill are customer-facing and commercial roles so our clients are looking for signs of a sales demeanor during the interview. We always suggest to candidates to close the interview as if you were closing a sale.”
10. You didn’t connect with the hiring manager.
In the end, the connection you establish with your interviewer will play a major role in their decision to hire you or not. Although you might be qualified, have stellar credentials and were enthusiastic throughout the interview, if the chemistry isn’t there, there’s not much you can control about this.
“In a job interview, it helps to establish a connection with the hiring manager right from the start,” said Mr. Charney. “First, a solid handshake, good posture, eye contact, and a smile are critical. Next, because you checked out their profile on LinkedIn, you may have something in common which could start a rapport.”
“Then, and most importantly, you will need to listen more than you talk,” he said. “Jobs are lost when you talk too much. You can actually end up talking your way right out of the job. Also, pay close attention and listen to what’s important to the hiring manager and what they reference. Model your answers accordingly. For example, if they refer to percentages and metrics, you need to do the same. Make sure to talk about such things as how much you saved your company or by how much you exceeded your sales quota. But stay humble and don’t overdo it.”
“It is not always the most qualified candidate who gets hired,” said Ms. Pursell. “It usually comes down to the person the hiring manager and/or team like the best. Building rapport, finding common ground and ‘fitting in’ with the team and culture is key.”