Interview_FrustrationsRichard’s eyes lit up when he saw the job posted. He couldn’t help but smile. He was perfect for the job. He just knew it. Once he completed the online application, he was sure it would only be a short time before he received a call for an interview. He was shocked when in just a few days he received an email indicating he did not meet their qualifications. “How could this happen?” he thought.

Nancy hung up after her phone interview discouraged that she did not feel she had personally connected with the interviewer. She felt like she was struggling to really convey her value over the phone. She was sure she would have been more effective in person.

Ruben had been very excited about the opportunity for which he was interviewing, and the enthusiasm people within the organization had shown toward him. When he found out later that he had come in second, being that close made the disappointment that much greater.

Most job seekers experience a combination of stress and discouragement when it comes to interviews, or the lack thereof. Here are some of the more common challenges:

Not Getting the Interview

Most people have been there. Scanning job boards and company websites for that “right” position. And there it is. It seems like it was written just for you. The correlation between the requirements and your experience and abilities is startling. You eagerly prepare your application or resume for submission. And then you wait… and wait… and wait. “What is wrong with these people?!” you think to yourself. “Can’t they see it? I’m perfect for this job.”

In all likelihood, by the time you saw on the job post, they already knew who they wanted. They may have been posting the job as a formality. Even if they did not have someone in mind from the beginning, word of mouth has spread. Current employees have been telling their friends and acquaintances about the developing opportunity and someone has already emerged as a strong candidate. The odds of a sterile resume or application beating them out is unlikely at this point. And then there is the fact that even if no leading candidate has yet emerged, you are now likely one of hundreds of applicants, many of whom saw the posting with the same initial optimism you had.

At this point, a number of people think they need to get more education or certifications to make their resume better. Improving your resume by adding credentials is not a bad idea, but it will likely have a modest effect. The odds work against you when you are one of the masses. Your best bet is to have a strategy to develop new targeted contacts, which will not only help you in your current search but bring potential long-term benefit as well.

Phone Interviews

I once heard someone say that having a phone interview is like trying to run a sprint with snow skis on; it is difficult to be effective. Many people feel that the interviewer doesn’t really get to know you. It has an impersonal feel to it. To overcome this, you can do a couple of things in addition to your normal interview preparation. First, smile. When you smile, it brings a warmth and friendliness to your voice that the interviewer will sense. Also, stand and use hand gestures. Obviously, the interviewer can’t see you, but standing and using hand gestures will animate your voice and give it energy. This can make a significant difference in how the interviewer thinks of and remembers you. Skype interviews enable you to see the person but it is still not the same. Sometimes, there can be a slight delay which can be both annoying and unnerving. Again, be sure to smile and consider practicing with Skype or FaceTime so that you become more relaxed and comfortable using the technology.

Interviewer Competence

Job seekers frequently tell me they experience interviews in which they feel the interviewer lacks sufficient expertise for evaluating their talent. This is more likely in an initial interview when the task seems more about screening than selecting the right candidate. A recruiter may be charged with looking for specifics (education, certifications, industry experience, etc.) and simply lack the knowledge and perspective for what a particular candidate has to offer. Sometimes, an interviewer may simply be having a bad day. They may be tired because they have talked with a lot of candidates. Other responsibilities may be distracting them. Nonetheless, it is important not to become frustrated and to communicate warmth and professionalism. These are the things you can control.

No Feedback

When you don’t get an interview, don’t make it to the next round of interviews, or don’t get the job, you want to know why. It’s natural; you want to know what you can work on or improve to give yourself a better chance next time. In the vast majority of cases, you will not get any feedback. First, the interviewer is not going to risk saying the wrong thing and create a potential hiring incident. Second, they don’t want to let you down or hurt your feelings, so they avoid talking with you. Occasionally, you may hear that you are “overqualified.” In some instances, this may be true. In most cases, it is a bit of a backhanded compliment designed to appease you.

If you want to know how you are coming across, get a set of typical interview questions (largely behavioral/performance-based) and find someone you know that is a recruiter or has experience as a hiring manager and role-play the interview with them. Ask for ruthless feedback.

Always a Bridesmaid

Coming in second, that’s tough. Of course, you got further than most, but that is little consolation. You didn’t get the job, period. If you find yourself coming in second, it may be time to consider taking things up a notch. Increasing your effectiveness in communicating your value proposition and better distinguishing yourself from your competition may involve nuances and subtleties that you are unaccustomed to dealing with. Since you are rarely addressing these issues, it may be time to find a coach that works with people on these things all the time. Be sure to find one with a reputation for personal marketing and branding.

The bottom line:

  1. Understand what is really happening. The job market is not as much about ”openings” as it appears. It is more about opportunities that tend to develop more informally. Work on becoming the informal candidate. When someone has met you and begins to see how you can help their organization, you will notice that moment when things turn more formal and you will be the one with the advantage.
  2. Be clear about your message. Know what you want to communicate. Don’t expect an interviewer to figure it out. Be prepared to get your message across even if you are not asked the right questions. Don’t go into an interview without knowing something about the organization’s objectives or problems and how you can make a contribution.
  3. Don’t get frustrated. If you do, don’t let it show.
  4. Communicate warmth, professionalism, and energy. Strength and likability are attractive qualities.
 

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