Martinak15/Flickr
Source: Martinak15/Flickr

So you're a great candidate with a great resume. You're getting interviews—maybe even second or third round interviews—but then it stops. Somebody else gets the job. Your inner critic chimes in and starts beating you up over what you potentially did wrong. 

The good news is, your application materials are working. Your resume and cover letter are getting you in the door and that can be the biggest hurdle. Now it's time to fine tune your process.

Here are 20 questions to ask yourself when faced with this career conundrum:

  1. Are your references as good as you think they are? Is it possible that your references are outdated and/or giving employers lackluster responses? Maybe you need to try adding some fresh faces.
  2. Are your salary requirements making you less competitive? It's tricky to find that balance between asking what you're worth and demonstrating to the employer that you're serious about this position and flexible with your terms.
  3. Are the positions you're applying for one step too senior? Or too junior? Do you need a stepping stone in between where you are now and where you want to be? Perhaps your experience is close, but not quite there. Or perhaps you're overqualified.
  4. Did you over-embellish your resume? Perhaps you aren't effectively backing up the claims you made in your materials. Sell yourself, be a stratetic bragger, but keep it honest and be sure you have specific verifiable examples to back up your claims.
  5. Are you state-of-the-art? Perhaps you look qualified on paper but don't sound specialized in your presentation. Are you using relevent industry terms and staying up-to-date on policies and trends? Perhaps it's time to enroll in a course, teach a course, obtain a certification, volunteer, become a mentor through your alumni association, or become active in an association.
  6. Are you positioning yourself as an employee or an expert problem solver? I don't care if you're flipping burgers or leading a Fortune 500, no matter the position, be great at it. Anybody can be a decent employee, but greatness will set you apart. Demonstrate greatness to the prospective employer by showing that you're eager to solve their problems starting on day one. What's your track record of being great and solving problems? 
  7. Is your online presence/social media image hurting you? Your LinkedIn profile should be polished and have a professional photo. Your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts should be cleaned up and/or made completely private. Google your name to see what's coming up...just like the prospective employer will. And don't forget to do a Google image search of your name to find those incriminating photos!
  8. You're not following up enough—or too much. Connect with the hiring manager on LinkedIn and thank her/him for the interview. Follow up in a week. Then stop. If you keep bothering them you look like a pest...and who wants to work with a pest?
  9. Are you speaking clearly and projecting confidence? Practice interview questions in the mirror or with a friend. Are you stumbling and using colloquialisms that feel awkward? Or are you presenting as friendly and relaxed, yet professional and confident? Look at your posture—sitting up straight helps you feel confident, helps you project your voice, and makes you look like a leader. Keep your hands above the table. Make eye contact with everyone in the room. Smile!
  10. Are you talking too much or not enough? Again, practice with a friend so you can get feedback on your pacing. Avoid abrupt yes or no responses, but don't ramble.
  11. Are you memorable? In the right way? Your entire presentation—from resume to interview—tells your story. It needs to be believable, yet it needs to make you standout. How? By being authentic and engaging. By concisely describing specific examples and using quantitative figures that demonstrate skills and accomplishments.
  12. Are you likable? It's one thing to demonstrate your abilities, but have you done it in a likable way? Remember, the hiring team is thinking, "Do I want to work with this person day in and day out?" They don't want to work with a jerk.
  13. Are you too humble or not humble enough? You must be able to express your awesome accomplishments, but do so in the context of how it helped forward the mission of your previous employers or how it helped make your team run smoothly.
  14. After the interview, are you asking for feedback? It's okay to ask the hiring manager for feedback on your performance. Simply ask what would have made you the top choice for the job and request that your resume be kept on file in consideration for similar positions.
  15. Did you research the company and the position well? Do your homework and do it well. Learn everything you possibly can about the company, its mission, its stakeholders and executive team, its reputation in the community, and every detail about the position. The time will come in the interview when your insight will knock their socks off.
  16. Did you ask great questions? This is where #15 comes in handy. As a result of great preparation, you should have a list of questions for the hiring team. Genuine questions, not time fillers. Smart questions impress hiring managers.
  17. Are you jaded? Is your dissatisfaction with your current or former job/boss showing up in your interview respones? Perhaps the hiring team can read between the lines and sense your negativity. See #11 and #12. Be a positive, enthusiastic, and passionate presence in that interview chair.
  18. Have you been practicing enough? Too much? You should practice sample interview questions, but not so much that the responses sound rehearesed in the interview. You should feel natural and loose enough to go off script, otherwise the meeting will feel awkward. If you are well prepared with examples, story ideas, and quantitative figures, you'll be an engaging and interesting interview.
  19. Is it a matter of timing or competition? Not everything is in your control and the lack of offers isn't necessarily your fault. If you feel good about the questions above, perhaps there are other outside factors affecting hiring. Is there a ton of competation for these positions? Did the recent graduating class just flood the local job market? 
  20. ​ Is the interview just a formality? It's an unfortunate reality that some jobs are already spoken for and the job posting is just a corporate formality. Perhaps a company has an internal candidate in mind but they are required by law or by corporate policy to post a job and interview external candidates.

So there you have it—an honest look at some of the potential factors causing you to hit the employment wall. Let's face it, you might be a terrific candidate but someone ahead of you was just an ounce better. With a little detective work, are you able to find out why? Do your homework, examine your process—tweak and practice—and you will soon be that next great candidate. If you're still feeling ovewhelmed or stumped, reach out to a mentor or hire a career professional who is willing to give constructive, supportive critique.

Can you think of more interview problems/solutions? Feel welcome to comment below!

Brad Waters, MSW provides career coaching and consultation to clients by phone nationwide. He helps people clarify their career direction and take action on life transitions. Brad holds a Master's degree in social work from the University of Michigan and is a preferred career coach for the University of Michigan Alumni Association. More info at BradWatersCoaching.com

Copyright, 2015 by Brad Waters. This article may not be reproduced or published without permission from the author. If you share it, please give author credit and do not remove embedded links.

​ 

You are reading

Design Your Path

My Job Sucks and I Don't Know What Makes Me Happy

On job satisfaction and finding fulfillment.

10 Ways to Uncover the Hidden Job Market

Thinking outside the box to find your next job

How to Reinvent Your Career

Steps you can take right now to find a new job on a new path.