Are you going through one of those patches where you get tonnes of interviews, and receive very few job offers? It can be disheartening, especially if there’s no clear reason why employers aren’t taking your application forward. While winning employers over isn’t an exact science, we can take a few precautions as job hunters to make sure it isn’t interview technique holding us back.
Our graduate users told us they felt they weren’t getting as many job offers as they had hoped for due to a lack of experience. However, employers state time and time again that career experience is not top of the list when it comes to making a hiring decision – in fact, according to career expert Jessica Simko, less qualified candidates are often hired over their more qualified competitors.
So what’s the real reason?
Lack of Experience
You: Err, I thought you just said a lack of experience doesn’t stop you getting hired? What’s the big idea?!
I know, I did just say that. However, if you’ve been stretching the truth and talking yourself up on your JobLab profile or CV it quickly becomes obvious at interview. In these circumstances a lack of experience really will result in you being cut from the longlist, quicksharp.
Stick to selling your strong points, rather than claiming you managed the shop in your bosses’ absence. When it later transpires this experience was only during your bosses’ prolonged visits to the loo in his ongoing battle with IBS, the interviewer will know you didn’t manage the shop but that you were in fact on your own in the shop a few times.
Lack of Enthusiasm
Would you believe me if I told you that genuine enthusiasm was the difference between you and the less qualified candidate who gets the job offers? Well, you should. Employers are like nervous dates, all they really want to know is that you want them, and only them.
If you’re the most qualified candidate, an employer is likely going to be excited to meet you. If you answer questions in a flat voice, barely raise a smile, or express enthusiasm to progress into a role other than the one you’re interviewing for, employers will fear you’ve already got one foot out of the door.
Of course you could be shy or reserved, but it’s worth taking down those walls and getting ready to let an employer in again.
Lack of Discretion
I’m facepalming at the prospect of writing this, but here goes: don’t diss your former boss in a job interview. Even if they were a real piece of work, why would you bring it up? It’s like talking about your ex on a first date. Remember you want people to know you’re a positive, charming person. Going over where things went wrong immediately sets alarm bells ringing, so avoid talking about your history in anything other than a positive light.
Lack of Game
You didn’t do your research. That’s a serious lack of interview game, my friend. You should always research the company you’re hoping to join, the interviewer, and the role wherever possible.
You should also try to think about the questions you might be asked which are specific to your industry and prepare for those, too. Hiring managers are always impressed when candidates have done their prep. What’s more, doing your research means you’ll have thought of plenty of pertinent questions to ask at the end of the interview – further impressing your employer.
Lack of Value
Our employers have told us that throughout the whole process the candidates who stand out are the candidates who tell the world what they have to offer in terms of skills and attributes. Yes, we work because we have certain needs and aspirations, but employers hire because they have certain needs and aspirations too. You have to let them know why hiring you is a good idea, how you would like to help grow their business and how you could improve productivity in your area.
If you don’t know the answers to the last two, you could even pose those questions when you’re given the floor at the end of your interview. E.g. “Is there anything holding your business back at present, how do you feel the right candidate could help?”
Don’t leave at interview without demonstrating your value or at the very least showing you’re thoughtful and looking for ways in which to contribute.
The Sneaky One – You Don’t Fit the Company Culture
This is a tricky reason to work around, and the truth is you might not want to work around it.
A company’s culture is a shared set of values, behaviours and practices – there’s no better place to get a sense of company culture in action than Lush cosmetics, the smelly soap shop. No matter where you go in the country, the staff have very similar, extroverted, bubbly personalities, an alternative dress sense and American-style customer service. It’s so uniform, and it’s no accident. Lush are carefully hiring to keep their staff “on brand”.
Now imagine you turn up for an interview at Lush, but you’re an introvert who believes the best service you can give a customer is to leave them alone to shop in peace. You’re not going to seem like a good fit, (even if you have a point and you’re a pleasant personality with good social skills,) because you simply don’t share their beliefs.
You can gauge company culture from most job descriptions. Don’t let it stop you from applying for a job if the ideal candidate description echoes your skills but not your personality, just be aware a similarly skilled candidate with the right personality profile will most likely be preferred. Equally, be careful accepting job offers from companies whose culture you know you’ll have to compromise a lot to fit in with – it could work out, but it could also be very stressful!
My Personal Experience with Bad Luck
I don’t like to play the blame game. Sometimes you can do all the right things and be overlooked for a reason that has less to do with how you behaved at interview. I think I was in this position once (get your tiny violins ready). I’d love to know whether you guys have gone through anything similar, let me know in the comments below.
After university I interviewed for a teacher training programme. I had experience as a private tutor and as a trainer in various corporate roles, so I was suitably qualified for an interview. I was asked to prepare a short lesson and delivered it to a year 8 class in front of the interviewers.
I gave a solid lesson, I was told I gave the best interview. I was told that they wanted to hire me and I was even told I had more of the skills they were looking for, but I didn’t get the job.
On the day of the interview I found out I was already on a shortlist of two, which I found really surprising – I wasn’t that qualified… Then I met the competition, an internal candidate who had already been working at the school for a year.
It struck me that the job was always going to go to the internal candidate, and that I had been drafted in to legitimise the process – it’s not an uncommon situation. In these times there’s not a lot you can do. Short of giving a Robin-William-in-Dead-Poet’s-Society calibre lesson, there was no way I’d have beaten the internal competish.
In retrospect, the employer made the right choice, too. The winning candidate had committed to the teaching profession, and that school, for a whole year. He’s probably still there now. I, on the other hand, haven’t applied for another teacher traineeship since.
If in light of this article you feel your interview technique has been slightly skew-whiff, check out the rest of our blog. We’ve written extensively about interview technique and you can find all of the relevant articles here. Read on for more steps you can take in the meantime.
Aim for More Relevant Opportunities
Look for opportunities which are relevant to your experience, your career aspirations and your way of working. Sometimes, when we’re looking for any and all job offers we can end up trying to mould our applications to fit jobs we’re not totally suited to – and it’s no surprise we don’t make it through the interview stage. Because employers get to search based on skills and personal attributes, JobLab candidates have told us that it’s broadened the opportunities available to them.
Ask for Feedback
If you have been aiming for relevant opportunities, have you been asking for feedback? You aren’t always guaranteed an in-depth response, but most of the time employers will be happy to give you some pointers. Listen carefully and take their comments on board, even if you disagree it might be worth a little self-reflection. Using constructive criticism could boost the number of job offers you receive.
Keep the Door Open
If an employer tells you that you were in their top two choices during your feedback call, keep that door open! Find out what won the other candidate the role and make sure you tell them that you’re still very interested if for any reason things don’t work out with their top choice. Upskill or gain more experience, and if it was a dream job, get back in touch with your contact to find out how things are going a few months down the line. Let them know you’ve taken the opportunity to work on your skills set and ask if they’re considering hiring for any suitable positions in the near future.
This pays off more often than you would realise – candidates who follow up and stay in touch show a level of interest and perseverance that employers reward – with job offers.