Getting called for a job interview — especially now, in an extremely difficult job market — is a major feat in itself.
Of course, you want to make it to the next round or, even better, get a call offering you the job. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes you won’t get a call back due to something completely out of your control — but sometimes, it is something you said or did that could have cost you the gig.
GOBankingRates spoke to career experts and hiring managers to find out the possible reasons you didn’t make it past the interview round.
You Didn’t Do Your Homework
If you didn’t take the time to research the company you are interviewing with, this could be a red flag to your interviewer.
“It is critical to understand the company business, intention, history and mission,” said Joe Mullings, career expert and founder and CEO of The Mullings Group. “It is not uncommon for an executive to start out testing an interviewee with, ‘Tell me what you know about our company and what we do.’ It is a very fair question to see what research has been done in preparation for the interview session. The more that you are able to articulate an organization’s goals, mission and history, the more impressive you will be. It sets a serious tone and establishes a mindset of research, maturity and preparation — all critical characteristics that are evaluated during most interview processes.”
You Didn’t Research Who Your Interviews Are With
You will typically get the name and titles of the people you will be interviewing with ahead of time. Just as you should research the company, you should also research your interviewers.
“Being able to research and understand the interviewer’s background and their current challenges that may be addressed by the role you are interviewing for is a competitive advantage,” Mullings said.
You Didn’t Send a Thank You Email
A timely, polite follow-up after the interview can go a long way. Mullings said to always send a thank you email to your interviewer within 24 hours.
“You should thank the person for their time, reiterate your interest in the role, and perhaps let the person know you were thinking about a specific challenge that the role may present and thought of different approaches that you might consider in addressing the challenge,” he said. “An important point here to keep in mind — do not cut and paste the same response to each member of the interview team. It is not uncommon for interviewing team members to share these ‘thank you’ emails with each other, and if it is a simple cut-and-paste re-gift, it will not play well.”
You Didn’t Prepare Meaningful Questions
When your interviewer asks if you have questions for them, this is still part of the interview.
“Sophisticated interviewers will judge you by the quality of the questions you ask,” Mullings said. “You should be prepared with a series of questions for the interviewers. Have them written down on a pad and get at least three to four questions out with each interviewer. Do not be afraid to have a series of questions that are similar but contextually appropriate for each person you interview with. Be sure the questions are addressing the role, the challenges with the role, why it is open and how it will impact the person you are interviewing with.”
You Just Didn’t Mesh Well With the Interviewer
Sometimes you and your interviewer just won’t have a good interview “chemistry.”
“This is not necessarily a mistake — it’s hard to avoid,” said Stacey Kaye, a job search skills coach and founder of CampusToCareer.net.
You Came Across as Uninterested
“Recruiters are human and they want to know the person is interested in their company, the role and, in general, interested in other people,” Kaye said.
If you seemed unenthusiastic, avoided eye contact, were unprepared or didn’t ask meaningful questions, this could indicate a lack of interest to your interviewer.
You Asked About Salary, Benefits or Time Off During an Initial Interview
While it’s OK to ask these questions when you are further along in the interview process, you should not bring up these topics during the initial interview, Kaye said.
“Just like with dating, there is a certain dance during the interview process,” she said. “During a first interview, the relationship has not progressed far enough to ask these questions, which come across as presumptuous. The time-off question comes across as not wanting to work hard.”
You Started Off on the Wrong Foot
The first impression can be everything.
“Starting the interview on a negative note, such as not being on time or complaining about the weather or technology [can cost you a call-back],” Kaye said. “It takes about three seconds to make an impression on other people, and it’s very hard to overcome a negative impression.”
You Spoke Poorly About Your Former Workplace
Speaking poorly about former employers or managers could be a red flag for recruiters.
“This lack of emotional intelligence and reading the room can lead to poor interview performance,” said Yair Riemer, CEO of the career development company Intoo. “There is a fine line between providing legitimate reasons for leaving a company — such as a change in leadership — and openly bad-mouthing a former manager or employer. It’s not a great first impression.”
You Pretended To Know About a Topic You Don’t Actually Know About
“I’d much prefer a candidate say, ‘I’m not familiar with that,’ and then provide examples from their past on their continuous learning, appetite for being trained and engaging with new concepts, etc., than to pretend they know about a subject they don’t,” Riemer said. “Honesty is the best policy. No one knows it all — we learn most of what we need on the job — so there is no shame in saying you don’t know something.”
You Didn’t Effectively Relate Your Experience to the Needs of the Current Position
Simply going through your resume isn’t enough to land a job — you must explain how your previous experience qualifies you for the open position.
“Interviewees that studied the position’s responsibilities and duties and relate their experience, achievements and answers to the position’s requirements show they are motivated, show they are detail-oriented, make their professional narrative and qualifications clear and, most importantly, make it very simple for the interviewer to understand how quickly the interviewee will be able to hit the ground running and positively fulfill the responsibilities of the position,” said Adriana Herrera, founder of the job-seeker tool Interview Destiny.
Your Salary Expectations Are Too High
If you’ve made it to the point in the interview process when it’s appropriate to discuss salary, be sure your expectations are in line with other salaries for the given role. You may not get a call back if your salary asks are above what the company is willing to pay — even if you’re qualified for the role.
“If you really need the job, make sure to compromise and be content with the initial offer that they can give you,” said Chris Muktar, founder of the interview tip site WikiJob.co.uk.
You Are Under- or Overqualified
Sometimes, the reason you didn’t get a call back will have nothing to do with your interview performance.
“[You might be] beaten to the post by a more qualified applicant,” said Andrew Lynch, a recruitment expert and director of the job board Teaching Abroad Direct. “On the other hand, you could be overqualified, causing decision-makers to assume that you will soon move on or demand a higher salary.”
Try to focus your job search on positions you feel confidently qualified for instead of opportunities that are below or above your current skillset.
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