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It’s always demoralizing, sometimes devastating when you don’t get the job. Sometimes you know why. You didn’t have most of the requirements, but figured you’d give it a shot. Maybe your gut told you the interview wasn’t going well. You’re not happy but at least you’re not left wondering.
It’s more frustrating when you haven’t a clue.
In many cases you’ll never know. One of the reasons you get vague, if any, reasons from HR is because companies are concerned about litigation. Last year employers were put on notice by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that “discrimination in hiring practices” would be one of its top priorities for the next three years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
So what’s a job seeker to do?
Try to evaluate yourself as objectively as possible. Did you go into the interview prepared to sell yourself? Do you have a value proposition that illustrates what you can offer the employer and makes you stand out from the competition?
“We are always looking for something that stands out” says Nicole Eissa, Director of HR for Cultural Vistas, a nonprofit that specializes in international education. “If someone is quick on their feet and can present their candidacy in a compelling manner – whether through words, actions, or expressions – they are more likely to standout as we look to make our hiring decision.”
One key is to focus on what you can do for the employer NOT what they can do for you. “Many times, candidates get caught up in the me-me-me aspects of their job search toolkits, adding impressive info to their resume and talking about their amazing credentials, experiences, and accomplishments,” says Rafe Gomez, The Rehirement Coach. “But unless job seekers focus on the you-you-you aspects – specifically, how all of this info can benefit a potential employer – candidates will have an extremely difficult time getting hired, regardless of where they went to school, how awesome their resumes, and how much they sell themselves in an interview situation.”
It’s also essential to know when to stop talking. “Candidates aren’t hired because they talk too much during the interview and the interviewer can’t get a word in edgewise,” cautions Anne Howard, a recruiter withLynn Hazan & Associates.
Another no-no is badmouthing your current (or past) employer – even if your boss is a world-class jerk. “Regardless of why you’re considering leaving your current job, don’t throw your current company under the bus to perfect strangers,” warns Beth Taylor, HR Supervisor at Situation Interactive a digital marketing agency. “It may make me think you may have a tendency to do the same with co-workers, and who wants to hire that person?”
What can immediately disqualify you is your social media presence. Most employers will research you during the hiring process. What they find can have an impact on whether or not you even get a call. But, it’s not only vulgar posts and pictures of you partying that turn employers off.
“I check every inch of their social media myself. I also do extensive Google searches to see what surfaces,” says Noelle Federico, CFO/Business Manager of Dreamstime a multinational stock photo site. “Do they inspire people with what they put out there on social media or do they use their social media sites to vent, complain, give negative commentary, etc. What kind of social activities are they involved in? Are they walking a 5k for charity or are they posting negative restaurant reviews every time they go out to eat?”
“Recruiters are not online looking for ‘digital dirt’ only to disqualify candidates; they want to ensure great hires,” says Robyn Greenspan, Chief Content Office of Execunet which pioneered research about digital identity optimization. “Candidates can improve their chances of being hired by enhancing their positive search results. Great techniques are publishing articles that demonstrate your subject matter expertise, having a profile that shows connections to top leaders, being mentioned in press releases, and contributing to thought leadership blogs or discussions.”
Job hopping hurts you too. All things being equal the candidate with the better track record will likely get hired. “Repeatedly working for six months here and a year there, especially with time lapses between jobs, just doesn’t look good,” cautions Barbara Bergin, M.D. founder and former Managing Partner of Texas Orthopedics, Sports and Rehabilitation Associates.
Then there’s the fact that interviewers are human. They may think you’re too young or too old to fit with the company culture. You may remind them of someone they don’t like. It often comes down to whether or not you “clicked” with the interviewer. “Hiring is at least as much about likeability as skill set, so make sure focus on the people as much as the content. Even little things like your smile, handshake, eye contact, listening, and being friendly can add up and make a huge difference,” says Michael Junge recruiter and author of Purple Squirrel, Stand Out, Land Interviews.
Finding the right job isn’t easy. Do your best with everything that’s under your control and try not to obsess about the rest. Remember you can’t lose a job you didn’t have in the first place.
About Annette Richmond, MA
Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.