It may have been insightful if the hiring manager simply give you the real reason why you didn't get the job. Have you ever gone for a job interview, thought you had it in the bag and then instead of receiving a call with a lucrative job offer, you heard…crickets? Chances are you never discovered why. You may well have been told one of the following excuses: an internal candidate got the role; there was a job freeze; another candidate with skills that more closely matched the role secured the position; you weren’t a culture match; or worst of all, you came in a close second. Ouch! You were just one person away from fist-punching the air, popping the bubbly and mentally planning out how you were going to spend your new big, chunky salary. Your dreams of a swanky new office and fancy new 5 star plus holidays had been whipped out from under your feet.
What really went wrong, though? Was there an internal candidate, a job freeze, someone else with stronger technical skills, or did you just not cut the mustard? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but chances are it’s the latter. Hiring Managers, Employers and Internal Recruiters often take the easy way out; instead of delivering hard-to-hear honest feedback they take the easy route and basically tell you the decision was out of their hands due to one of the above-listed excuses. It’s much easier to say, “sorry you didn’t get the job because the CFO has implemented a hiring freeze or you didn’t have the necessary technical skills” than it is to tell you that you simply weren’t impressive enough. They’re afraid to tell you the real truth that you didn’t demonstrate the right attitude, you don’t interview well, or, one of the most difficult pieces of feedback to deliver, you have a poor reputation in the market.
To find out why you really didn’t get the job, you need to do two things. Firstly, ask. Secondly, ask again. If you don’t received detailed feedback as to how you performed at interview and how you could improve your application, two things will happen. Firstly you won’t really understand why you were unsuccessful and will be left wondering. Secondly, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to learn, as well as improve your next application. If you attend an interview and are informed that you’re not successful via email, you have every right to call and enquire as to why you weren’t successful. Everyone in the recruitment game knows that best practise is. Email applications can be responded to via email, but if someone fronts up in person for an interview (irons their shirt, navigates their way to the office, preps for the interview, maybe even looses some sleep due to nerves) the Employer or Recruiter owe them a phone call and some half-decent feedback. If you gave up your precious time applying for a role, not only does the person hiring owe you a phone call, they also owe you some honest feedback and the opportunity to learn from the experience. If you get fobbed off or receive a one-line rejection, don’t be afraid to ask for more detail and to ask what more you could have done. Or, in the case that you’re still interested in a job with said employer, what more you could do next time in order to be successful.
Perhaps some time has passed since you were “rejected” from your dream job, in which case I’ll give you the low down on the real reason you didn’t get the job - what the Hiring Manager didn’t tell you.
There are the candidates that wow and sometimes Wow! Yep, with an explanation mark. Then there are the candidates that don’t. These candidates are sometimes referred to by Hiring Managers as “vanilla.” As much as you may like vanilla as an ice-cream flavour, it’s not a great way to be described as a candidate and it certainly is unlikely to land you the job. Candidates may underwhelm in a few ways. First impressions count and if you have rounded shoulders and a “wet fish” handshake you will be off to a poor start. Sloppy attire will also put you on the back foot. A good rule of thumb is to dress for the job you want. So basically, step it up, look professional and stylish, even if your industry does veer towards the casual. No need to go to interview in a hat and coat-tails for a creative role, but do make an effort to wear a nice shirt.
You will also underwhelm if your answers lack depth and if you give broad general answers to specific competency-based interview questions ie. any question that starts with “Tell me about a time…”
You Don’t Have the Right Attitude
It is very rare that a Hiring Manager or Recruiter will deliver you this feedback straight up. They may sidestep this one by saying you didn’t have the right competencies, but really, what they are saying is they don’t think you will give 100%, be highly dedicated, or have enough initiative or drive to be successful in their organisation. If you ask too many questions about benefits and hours of work at interview, you can guarantee that there will be a question mark over your motivations and work ethic. There is nothing wrong with asking these questions but you need to preface any question to ensure the interviewer knows that you have a strong work ethic and are not only motivated by “what’s in it for you.” At interview, you always need to demonstrate that the employer will get a fair deal if they employ you. They’ll give you a salary and benefits but in return you’ll give them real value. The interview is your opportunity to demonstrate the value you can bring to the organisation. Candidate questions are an important part of the interview. Know that you are absolutely being assessed on the quality of the questions you ask. So don’t waste this time asking about trivial things, ask well-thought out, strategic questions.
They Didn’t Like You
Ouch!! It’s hard not to take this feedback personally! Don’t worry, it’s very unlikely that anyone will actually tell you this. They’ll fob you off with another excuse. If you hear that you weren’t a “cultural fit”, this may well be true, or it may simply mean they didn’t like you. So how do you be more “likable”? The honest truth is, you can only be yourself and if your potential employer doesn’t like you, then well, there’s nothing you can do about that and it wasn’t meant to be. Chances are, if you had worked together, the working relationship wouldn’t have been great. How you can avoid this happening, though, is by being yourself. Chances are if you are your authentic, genuine and lovely self at interview, the Interviewer will like you. In many cases, the reason a candidate is deemed “unlikable” is because they weren’t themselves. They may have tried too hard to impress and come across as arrogant, or thought that all interviews had to be formal and not let their real personality shine through. The trick here is just to be true to who you are, laugh if you fumble over words, be a little self-deprecating if it’s appropriate, be humorous (if it comes naturally) and don’t be too “salesy.” Even if it’s for a Sales job, good Sales people sell through influence and persuasion, and should not come across as overly pushy.
You Have a Poor Personal Brand
Again, it’s unlikely anyone is going to give you this feedback straight. You: “Could I ask for some feedback as to why I was unsuccessful at interview?” The Interviewer :“We googled you and found that your security settings on your Facebook account aren’t tight enough and saw those photos of you in a gimp outfit at your Bachelor party. Oh and we asked around about you and basically heard you’re really lazy and rarely return from your weekly Friday boozy lunches.”
There are two things you can do to avoid these issues being the reason you didn’t land your dream job. Firstly, google yourself. See what shows up. Lock down your Facebook and other social media accounts with the exception of LinkedIn. Make sure you have a great LinkedIn Profile. LinkedIn is the key to having a strong professional online brand. Secondly, do the right thing by people and don’t burn your bridges. It is a small world, some industries are really, really small. However, you perform or behave in any role may find it’s way to your potential employer. Any employer in Australia must, by law, ask for your permission to formally contact your referees. However, a lot of “informal feedback” is often sought, especially in industries where everyone knows everyone. Oh, and it’s not only your employer you need to do the right thing by; it’s your colleagues and subordinates also. Some people only manage up and don’t support their staff. This gets back to potential employers and there’s not a great demand for someone who’s viewed as an unpopular leader.
So there you have it. If you don’t want to miss out on the job, you need to be your amazing humble self; adjust your security settings on your social media accounts; do the right thing by anyone you work with; ask the hiring manager smart questions and show up to interview looking like the winning candidate.
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