After high school I remember my daughter Leah interviewing for her first real job. The decision-maker told Leah at the end of the interview that they were 98% sure she had the job. We even went out and bought Leah new work clothes. A week later she heard nothing, then after another week I encouraged her to follow-up. When Leah called the company she was told they went with someone else. So, what can you do to avoid this from happening?
Let’s look at what can happen between the interviews and the job offer. (Note: Some of the reasons may surprise you).
Reasons fit into two categories:
You remind the interviewer of their ex-wife/partner/or someone else they dislike. Or maybe you look like the interviewers archenemy from high school. Now this sounds prejudicial and it is. As human beings, sometimes prejudice or rules can get in the way of the decision-maker’s judgment. It’s not fair, nor is it right, but it happens. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about it – unless of course you have considered plastic surgery!
Hidden agendas might include companies hiring only family friends and relatives. Sometimes it is that the interviewer has low-confidence and self-esteem. They may be intimidated by your qualifications and not want to hire someone that they think is smarter than them, due to their education or other factors. Or they want to give the impression of a youthful company so they only hire people under 30. Against Human Rights? Yes! However, it is very difficult to prove that these hidden agendas caused you to not get the job. And if you do uncover the real truth, do you really want to work for one of these places?
Companies have been known to advertise jobs because it is a requirement or policy, when all along they have an internal candidate in mind for the role. They may choose to interview external applicants to check out the competition. Or a hiring freeze can happen right in the middle of a recruitment process, effectively shutting down the possibility of filling the position.
Do you fit within the team/organization/culture? You don’t know ahead of time what the team and company are like, so for the most part whether you fit or not is beyond your control. Information interviews can provide some insight into the company culture and the team. If, for instance, the decision-maker is looking for a particular personality type, this is beyond your control, apart from “faking it,” which I don’t recommend.
Sometimes companies are mandated to hire people that are in a minority (could be race or disability). If you don’t fit into this particular sector you may not get hired. This can happen in government or public organizations.
A good recruiter will make you feel comfortable so you will reveal things about yourself. In my experience recruiters do want you to answer to the best of your ability. Recruiters may purposely make you believe that you are going to get the job—when this may not be the case. As well, the recruiter or interviewer may not be the one that actually makes the final decision. It could be someone else in the company that you never get to meet.
Researching the company prior to your interview, and even before submitting your application, is a priority. Knowing about the company and its goals, values and culture will give you the competitive edge you need. Often the last question you will be asked in an interview is, “Do you have any questions?” If you ask something that you could have found out by looking at annual reports (public companies), on the web or other social media, it demonstrates you didn’t take the initiative to do some research. To be a successful candidate you want to stand out from the competition and that means taking the time to do your homework—so do your research.
You may not have the skill set or amount of experience the company is looking for. The decision-maker may feel you cannot do the job. It is your place to bring out your experience and strengths in the best way you can. That’s within your control. Having the right amount of experience that a company wants is not within your control. However, there are ways a career coach can help you identify transferable skills and strengths that can help in this category.
Your references can make or break whether you get the job. Make sure you know what your references are going to say about you. If in doubt have a friend do a reference check on your behalf. And provide your references with your updated reference and the job posting/job description for where you are interviewing.
Not being adequately prepared is not a good thing. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. This quote, attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca, shows that we make our own luck. Don’t leave your success to chance. In the case of employment interviews you need to treat the interviews like studying for an exam. Prepare and practice! A good way to prepare is to write down all the questions you think might be asked (these days many are behavioural questions) and then write your answers down as well. This uses the other side of your brain and helps the information “stick.” Then elicit the help of family or friends to do mock interviews. This is also where a career coach can help.
When Bill* was looking for a promotion to management within his organization, he hired me to help him prepare for the interview process. Bill and I spent three sessions going over the types of questions he might be asked, doing a mock interview and focusing on the values he wanted to show up in. Bill got the job and attributes a big part of his success to our coaching sessions and the preparation he made. A colleague of mine, Sally* used to practice interview questions with her family at dinner every night. Rehearse and have answers formulated.
80% attitude over 20% aptitude is one of my favourite sayings that I tell my clients. Ask most recruiters and they will say attitude really matters. Many employers are willing to train the right person, but if their attitude is negative they won’t be interested. Speaking of interest – employers love to hear that you are interested in working for their company. Think about the common interview question, “Why do you want to work here?” This is the time to demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest in both the role and the company. Employers hire people that want to work for them! So say it —enthusiastically!
Ultimately, there are factors in the hiring process that are out of your control, but many are within it. Working with a career coach can help you polish your interview skills and other job search skills and provide support and accountability so that you get hired for the job you want!
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality
Mary works with overwhelmed professional women who are stuck in their career, by helping them rise above the competition, get the job they truly want and the money they deserve - faster and with less hassle. She specializes in working with mom’s, (she’s a mom too!) - helping them gain balance, clarity and success, taking back their lives as she did with hers. With over 10 years of coaching, Mary has helped more than 1,200 people overcome the isolation, frustration and discouragement job search can bring. Contact Mary on Noomii or her website to find out how she can help you find the job of your dreams.