Career Advice

5 Mistakes That Will Keep You From Getting Hired

Woman discussing ideas and strategy in studio office

Sometimes you have all the skills needed to land a job, but somewhere in the process, everything falls apart. Maybe you never even land an interview, or maybe you do, but you never hear from the company again.

It can be frustrating when it feels like you’ve done everything right, but you still don’t get hired. Sometimes there’s nothing you did wrong, and any of a thousand things could have resulted in someone else landing the position.

In many cases, though, people torpedo their own candidacy by making little mistakes. This can happen anywhere in the hiring process, and it’s easier to make a fatal error than you might think.

1. You moved too slow

Back when I hired people, I would post an ad, then interview the first three people who sent a resume that made them appear qualified. Anyone applying after the initial three got put into a “no,” “maybe,” and “next best” pile.

Not every company works that way, but if the need to fill the opening is pressing, then time will be important. Even when it’s not, it’s generally best to apply as soon as a job gets listed. That makes it clear you are engaged and serious about landing a new position.

2. You messed up in applying

A lot of qualified people never get an interview because their cover letter and resume were not up to snuff. That could be because of something obvious like spelling errors, but it can also be because you didn’t address the specific job in your cover letter.

Customise each application, and make sure you address anything asked for in the ad. If the company wants information you don’t want to share — like salary range — at least make a comment acknowledging the request and why you have chosen not share.

 3. You left a bad taste

Sometimes I have interviewed someone and most of it went well, but one line or comment stood out to me afterward. Maybe they badmouthed a past employer or said something that raised a red flag or suggested that the personality being shown was perhaps not who the person truly is.

Keep your interview positive and upbeat. Be yourself, but be your best self, and show that you’re a pleasant person who would be good to work with.

4. You didn’t say thank you

It sounds silly, but when someone fails to send a thank-you note after an interview, it causes me to question their basic competence. It’s easy to do and is simply proper manners. Not doing so may not always kill your chances, but it could be the deciding factor if you’re facing a rival for the job.

In addition, a thank-you note gives you a chance to reinforce something said in the interview or make a new point. That can be an important way to show how you plan to address a fault or deficiency that came up during the interview.

5. You did not ask your references

Back in my job application days I always let my references know to expect a call, giving them some basic information on the job. I also gave them the option to opt out. In one case, a good friend asked me not to use him because he was travelling remotely for multiple weeks. He knew he may not be able to return a call and did not want that held against me.

In another case, I was asked to be a reference for an employee who wasn’t all that reliable. I liked her, and she did a good job when she was there, but she had trouble making it into work every day. There were reasons for that — good ones, that explained why I did not fire her — but I made it clear when she asked that I would answer all questions honestly.

She chose to use me anyway, and the hiring person never asked me about her reliability. She got the job, but things easily could have gone the other way.

Cover your bases

Getting a job is essentially a job in and of itself, and you need to treat it like one. That means preparing for each step of the process and making sure you give yourself the best chance possible. That won’t always result in getting what you want, but it will improve your success rate.

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