Ever sailed out of an interview, fully convinced you’ve nailed it and got this, only to never hear from them again? Getting ghosted by a would-be employer is bad enough as it is, but being clueless about what you did—or maybe didn’t do?—is especially embarrassing. And not just for you.
Mathieu Baril, an organizational business psychologist with HR consultancy DDI, trains both interviewees and interviewers. He’s seen it all, but when it comes to saying it out loud, will usually throw some sugar coating on it for everyone’s sake. But not today! Here’s the whole, real, even-if-it-hurts truth about why you dropped the ball.
Reason #1: You talked too much
Both confident and nervous people tend to talk and talk and talk—but if you imagine your responses in written transcript form, are you actually saying anything? Take this common example: A time you solved a problem. “Then the person says, ‘Well, when you sell, you need to make sure you understand the client, and position your solutions, blah blah blah.” Remember that HR person has to go to their boss to discuss, so anything vague or conceptual will be totally lost. Instead you want names, dates and numbers: “When I was at this company, I sold this much to that company, and the result was an increase this much.”
Reason #2: You were a know-it-all
Firstly and for the record, homework is good and you should do lots of it. “I’m a strong proponent of doing your research and don’t think it’s possible to do too much.” That said, it’s very possible to know so much about the company that you forget you’re there to sell yourself. “It’s great to know all that, but don’t waste time talking about the organization and forget to connect yourself back to it.” And whatever you do, when it’s your time to ask questions, ask some. You do not know it all.
Reason #3: You came on too strong
Not unlike a date, read your interview for cues and proceed accordingly. Would you show up to the movies in a prom dress? (“You want to be one step above typical attire, not more.”) Would you show up at your date’s door an hour early? (“It creates discomfort, it’s overkill and it raises flags.”) Even over-the-top positivity can feel oddly like desperation. “If you’re not being authentic it will be sensed immediately by any HR person.” Be yourself, but be warned…
Reason #4: They just didn’t like you
Sometimes you’re on time, you look great, you deliver the goods and you still fail. “Even if you’re an A candidate, there might be fifty others. If you don’t stand out, that’s it.” You could be not that special, or you could be the dreaded bad fit. “Maybe you came in talking about how independent and competitive you are when the company is specifically trying to become more collaborative.” This sucks, of course, but not as much as working somewhere where your personality just doesn’t mesh. Try to see it as a blessing in disguise and better luck next time!