Chances are, you’ve encountered the following scenario at some point during your job search: You cruised through your initial phone screen with ease and were invited into the office for an in-person interview. You could’ve sworn you nailed your interview, but as the days turned into weeks, you started to question whether you’d ever hear back from the company.
Even if you received an official rejection email, the message was likely brief and painfully vague. When this happens, your eyes glaze over and your mind hurtles into a series of unanswerable questions – Where did you go wrong? And how could you possibly fine-tune your interview skills if no one gives you any insight on where you went astray?
To help shed some light on why you didn’t make the cut, here are 6 common reasons job seekers fail to make it past the first interview.
The First Impression Fumble
You only have one opportunity to make a strong first impression. Whether you’re an interview rookie or your confidence refused to walk into the meeting with you, when you don’t put your best foot forward, the hiring manager will be quick to dismiss you as a candidate. Your body language and how you choose to present yourself is key. Always greet your interviewer with a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, and avoid fidgety or distracting behavior during the interview.
Your attire is also an important part of the equation. It’s always better to dress a step above the dress code then show up in ripped jeans and a tee. Avoid heavy perfume, brush your hair, take a shower, and show the interviewer that you are physically prepared to slay this meeting.
The Tardy Arrival
Having respect for the interviewer’s time means arriving 10-15 minutes prior to the start of your scheduled meeting. Canceling last minute, ghosting, or arriving late without a proper explanation will quickly knock you out of the running. Unfortunately, emergencies and unforeseen circumstances do arise from time to time. If you find yourself in this situation, exercise transparency with the employer and clue them in on what’s going on. Apologize for the inconvenience, convey your sincere interest in continuing to pursue the opportunity, and get your interview rescheduled as soon as possible.
The Unenthusiastic Party-Goer
Why attend a party if you plan on socially isolating yourself and allowing apathy to ooze from your pores? Think of your interview in a similar light. If you can’t convey a genuine interest in the position, or provide a compelling reason for wanting to work for the company, then why agree to an interview in the first place? Before your interview, consider the following: What about the company’s services or values do you find attractive? What was it about the company that captured your attention? When you picture your long-term career goals, does this position align with your professional aspirations? Being able to communicate your enthusiasm and show how you are inspired by the company’s mission will help set you apart from other candidates.
On a similar note, you want to keep the interviewer engaged throughout the conversation, which means asking questions. After all, this should be a two-way dialog. By asking insightful questions - such as, “What are some of the challenges I may encounter in this role?” – you’re not only demonstrating a sincere interest in the opportunity, but you’re also showing the hiring manager that you have a long-term vision.
The Unwilling Participant
Forget the excuses. If you shrugged off putting in some pre-interview preparation time, it’ll be glaringly obvious when you’re speaking with the hiring manager. Although there are some elements outside your control, like whether or not they believe you align well with their internal culture, you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to preparing for your interview in advance.
Visit the company’s website to ensure you have a strong grasp on their products, services, and values. Enlist the help of everyone’s trusty sidekick, Google, to read up on their competitors, what’s trending in the industry, and any noteworthy mentions of the company in the news. In addition, check out their social media pages and use LinkedIn to research your interviewer(s). Lastly, thoroughly review the job description of the position you’re interviewing for. Your conversation should be tailored to highlight how you’re experience and accomplishments harmonize with the needs of the role.
The Gordon Ramsay
Ahh…Gordon Ramsay. He’s one of TV’s most entertaining chefs; always aggressively proclaiming his feelings towards food. If there’s someone you should NOT imitate during your interview, it’s Gordon Ramsay. Any behavior that reads as arrogant, pushy, or overly assertive, will not translate well if you’re trying to sell your candidacy.
Interrupting the hiring manager when they’re speaking or pretending as though you have all the answers proves that you still have a lot to learn. Employers want to see candidates deliver responses that are creative and well thought-out – and you certainly can’t do this if you’re jumping down the interviewer’s throat. As for post-interview behavior, while follow-up emails and ‘thank you’ notes are encouraged, don’t be a buzzkill and bombard the hiring manager’s inbox with a slew of messages.
The Out-Of-Sync Cultural Fit
This is where doing your homework before the interview can save you some time. Maybe the company you’ve applied with is looking for independent workers and you thrive in a collaborative environment. Or maybe you’re interested in a high-energy, active environment and this company has a more formal atmosphere. Understanding how you align with an employer culturally, is an important part of determining whether or not the opportunity is the right fit for you. Even if you think you have a good grasp on the company’s overall culture, make sure to ask about the dynamic of the team you will be working with, as their preferred communication tactics and behaviors may differ from the rest of the company.
Your Next Attempt
In addition to tweaking some of the above areas, never forget to show up to each interview with a friendly and positive attitude. If you’re rude to the receptionist, badmouth your previous manager, or act pessimistic during your interview, it will be a major red flag for the hiring manager. Always strive to leave a positive impression, even if you don’t receive a job offer, as you never want to disqualify yourself from future opportunities or ruin your chances of adding to your professional network.