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5 reasons you didn’t get hired

Mistakes in interviews

You’re confident you aced the interview: You wowed the prospective employer with your qualifications, waxed poetic about how you’d make a difference to the company’s bottom line and then sent a prompt thank-you note to the hiring manager.

So why didn’t you get the job?

Here, two seasoned human resource pros offer five possible reasons:


You made a bad first impression.

Even if you’re the most qualified candidate for the job on paper, you can ruin your chances from the get-go if you don’t present yourself well, says Sam Sanders, PhD, a former HR executive for Sony who now serves as campus college chair for the School of Business at the University of Phoenix Atlanta Campus.

“I once interviewed a candidate for an account manager position who had the most incredible resumé I’d ever seen,” Sanders says. “But she showed up to the interview wearing a micro-miniskirt and fishnet stockings, and she had a tongue ring. That interview was over in five minutes.” Play it safe, he says, and dress conservatively for interviews.

Sanders also asks receptionists how job candidates behaved upon arrival. “You’re being interviewed from the very moment you walk in the door,” he points out, “so don’t be rude to the admin and then turn on the charm when you meet the hiring manager.”

He notes that he won’t hire anyone who behaves disrespectfully to support staff or engages in other inappropriate behavior — like chewing gum, texting in the waiting room or asking for a smoke break.


You didn’t do your research.

“The very first question I ask candidates is, ‘What do you know about our company?’” Sanders says. “If you can’t answer that question, I will end the interview right there.” Use company websites or business information services like Hoover’s and Glassdoor to get the information you need.

Your research also must be accurate, notes Tony Di Gaetano, a former HR executive for UPS and an instructor in the University’s MBA program, who holds a master’s in organizational management. “I once sat in on an interview where the candidate did research on the wrong company,” he notes.

“The candidate interviewed very well,” Di Gaetano continues. “But at the end, he asked the panel what everyone thought of the new CEO, whom he mentioned by name. The interview was for a job with Ace Hardware, but the candidate was talking about the new CEO of ACE™ [Brand] bandages. He didn’t get hired.”


You lacked enthusiasm.

Yawning, slouching or showing general disinterest — even briefly — is a surefire way to knock yourself out of contention, Sanders says. “If you don’t smile, if you talk in a monotone, if you’re fidgeting and checking your watch, that’s not good,” he says.

“I’m looking for someone who is personable, who has the creative energy to positively impact the bottom line — and not just mark time,” he says. But you shouldn’t overdo it either. “Don’t be a laughing hyena,” Sanders cautions. “The energy level should be professional.”


You were too negative.

It’s easy to become jaded in today’s ultracompetitive employment market — especially if you’ve been laid off. Never let it show, Sanders advises.

“Don’t let a couple of bad experiences give you a mindset of failure,” he says, because that will come across during interviews. “And I don’t care if your last boss was the worst manager in the world, if you badmouth [him] during the interview, I will not hire you.”

Instead, present past challenges as growth opportunities and show hiring managers how you’ll apply the lessons learned to their benefit.


You got too personal.

Today’s job market relies heavily on networking, but that doesn’t mean you should overemphasize your personal connections in interviews.

“When I was at Sony, a [senior executive] frequently referred people from his church to job openings. Those candidates often mentioned his name every other sentence,” and that’s a turnoff, Sanders says. Constant name-dropping will signal to the hiring manager you’re relying on your connections over your qualifications.

You also should behave professionally — even if you know the hiring manager outside of work, Di Gaetano stresses. “We had a candidate come in for an interview at UPS who was good friends with someone on the interview panel,” he says. “The candidate got really relaxed — leaned his chair all the way back in the recliner position and even put his feet up on the table. We didn’t hire him.”

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