You agonized over application materials and resumé tweaks, eagerly awaited an interview, and maybe you even got a call back. It seemed like everything clicked during your interview, but after an exhausting wait, the dreaded message has finally landed in your inbox, short and sweet:
Thanks for your interest, but we’ve picked someone better and smarter than you!
XO, your Dream Job
…So what went wrong?
For any application or interview process that doesn’t end in your favor, you’ll never actually know why you didn’t get hired.
Let’s face it, the odds are stacked against us when it comes to many job applications. Studies show that the average corporate job posting receives 250 resumés per job posting, and only 2% of applicants make it through to an interview. Perhaps worst of all, the average hiring manager spends just 6 seconds looking over a resumé.
Feeling worse? Don’t fret, as a career coach, I have helped thousands of clients through the application process and found there are 7 key reasons why you’re not getting hired. Take a look.
- Your social media presence caught up to you.
Social media is a creative outlet for so many of us, and yet it’s a double edged sword for your job search. Data shows that 70% of employers use social media as a tool to screen candidates; in fact, 54% of employers say they have rejected a candidate based on their social media.
…Thinking about setting everything to private, or just deleting all your handles? That’s sadly not a good solution, given that 57% of employers say they are less likely to interview a candidate who they can’t find online.
While you should never make assumptions about the opinions and values of a recruiter or hiring manager, you should bet on them making assumptions about you based on your social media presence. That’s why it’s time to keep it PG, and remove your South Beach EDM pool party pics. If you really want to share your exploits with your nearest and dearest, consider making a private Finsta, and making sure that your public profile looks polished and professional. Get very comfortable with Facebook’s privacy settings, to make sure that your profile is visible, but doesn’t give too much away.
And don’t forget about those old embarrassing Flickr albums from college, MySpace profiles, LiveJournal blogs, or the like… After all, the average internet user has more than 5 social media pages. And you should count on future employers finding them all. Here are a few extra steps you take to protect your media accounts and ensure the portray the best version of you.
- Search for yourself. A LinkedIn report noted that they removed 21.6 million fake accounts in just six months. Search to ensure that your identity is not being duplicated online.
- Read the fine print. Take some time to review what each website and platform uses your information for. If you are setting up a new account, be cognizant about how much information you are readily handing over. Many sites give you the choice to login through your Facebook credentials and while this may be convenient, you could be providing the platform access to more personal information that you assume.
- Audit privacy settings. Look at each account and ensure you feel comfortable with the settings that are set. For instance, on Twitter you can set photo tagging settings and limit the ability for anyone from tagging you. That photo from a college Cancun trip might not be something you want to discover you are tagged in on a #flashbackfriday.
- Subscribe to a policy tracker. Consider subscribing to an RSS feed for (or following) a program such as Tosback, a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to track changes in website policies.
- You’re not taking full advantage of your network
The old adage holds true: it’s all about who you know. This truth doesn’t stop there, because it’s not just about who you know; it’s about who knows you. That means you’re committed to investing in relationships more deeply, and forming a network of quality and not just quantity. Given that you’re five times more likely to be hired by a referral, it’s time you ask yourself how to come up with a list of strategic cold contacts (ideally people who you’d love to hire you), and set the intention to reach out to them when there’s no job on the table, so you can actually get to know them via zoom or coffee, and turn them into a warm contact.
Start by exploring opportunities at companies where you have meaningful connections. If you have to have a 2nd or 3rd connection with someone via LinkedIn or your personal social media, see if a friend would be willing to connect you. Plus, a warm lead– even if they’re on a team unrelated to an interest you have– is more valuable than a cold lead on the proper team you’d like to work on.
Remember that 60% of jobs are found through networking, not through online postings. By exploring your network, you may find out about better opportunities.
- Your resume never made it to an actual human.
Studies show that 95% of Fortune 500 companies use Applicant Tracking Software to sort through resumes and streamline the recruitment process. In fact, 75% of resumes get rejected before they make it to a hiring professional!
Follow some simple guidelines to make sure your resume passes the ATS test. Scan job postings for keywords related to job titles, qualifications, and skills, and make sure that you integrate the keywords into the language of your resume.
Don’t get too creative with your formatting. Avoid headers and footers, and keep section titles simple with language like “Work Experience” and “Skills.” Complicated formatting and unusual language can confuse the poor robots, and might lead to the information in your resume not getting processed correctly, in the correct order, or at all.
- You’re taking yourself out of the running for opportunities.
Applications can be a drag, which is why so many job seekers find reasons to quit before they give themselves a chance. Accordingly, 60% of potential applicants give up on a job because they feel the process is too long. There may be many reasons to convince yourself you don’t have a chance at a certain position: you may feel you lack certain skills or don’t have enough relevant experience. And while 55% of hiring decisions cite experience as very important, that still means there is tons of wiggle room to use your personality to shine and override the job description, or areas you’re not as experienced in.
Just because your experience doesn’t exactly match every line item on a 5 page job description, doesn’t mean you should eliminate yourself from the running. Your uniqueness is what makes you shine, and skills are often transferrable– know that the people skills you cultivated in your last job, for example, applies to your next job. Companies are increasingly willing and motivated to hire people who are less qualified and train them. In a recent study, 84% of HR leaders say they are willing to hire and train candidates who do not have the stated required skills, so you never know what might stand out about your application.
Remember that applying and interviewing is a skill, and if nothing else, each application is also a chance to build the right muscles.
- You’re not truly enthusiastic about the jobs to which you are applying.
Hiring managers, recruiters, and HR professionals read applications and conduct interviews for a living, so it’s safe to say that they can usually tell if you’re not excited. The job search can be exhausting, especially when you face the fact that the average job search in the US takes 5 months.
Moreover, be sure that you don’t let fatigue set in when it comes time to write cover letters, make resumé tweaks, and especially not when it comes time for an interview. 78% of recruiters believe that enthusiasm during interviews impacts hiring decisions.
When you sit down to complete an application, take the opportunity to research the company and find things that make you even more excited about the job. Let them know that you’ve done this extra research and that you are enthusiastic about specific aspects of the company and the chance to be part of the team. Whether it is your first interview, or your fifty-fourth, come in with the same level of excitement. Here are a few pointers if you are feeling yourself fall flat:
- Research who is interviewing you. There is nothing more flattering than sitting down with someone who clearly has already taken a vested interest in you. This shows you aren’t just there for the job, but you want to build relationships with the people you would work alongside.
- Combine your goals with their mission. When answering interview questions begin to marry your career ambitions and skill set directly into their goals. Show enthusiasm through painting a clear picture of how you would fit into the role.
- Always have questions ready. As the interview comes to a close and you are likely given the floor to ask questions, have a few prepared, such as: “What would success look like in this role?”
- You didn’t present well in the interview
Interviews are daunting, and first impressions have a major impact on your chances for success. In fact, 50% of hiring managers believe that how a candidate dressed, or walked through a door could be reason enough not enough not to hire them, and 40% felt that a lack of a smile was also ground for tossing out an application.
Surprisingly, a survey of 2,000 hiring managers found that 33% will know if they want to hire you within 90 seconds! I bet you feel that one in the pit of your stomach. So how do you get confident and make an impression? You practice, because practice breeds confidence. Here are a few quick tips to consider before you walk into your next interview:
- Dress for success. What you wear actually matters, not just for how the interviewer perceives you, but how you perceive yourself. It’s always wise to dress slightly nicer, don’t underdress, but also don’t overdress. Research the company’s culture and search for images or media to understand how their employees show up to work. If you know anyone personally who has worked or works for the company ask for their input.
- Smile. Before you head into an interview consider watching a quick funny video, or listen to a comedian on the drive over. Put yourself in a lighter state to ease the tension and put a natural smile on your face walking in. When you smile you experience an increase in mood which also improves the mood of those around you, and make it real because our brains can feel out a real smile versus a fake one.
- Prepare your posture. How you carry yourself has the power to not only influence how others perceive you but also your own body’s chemistry. Before you head into the interview, consider standing in a power pose for a few minutes to build your confidence and excitement.
- It’s not you, it’s them
If this list has given you a few heart palpitations thinking about all the missteps you may have made, use this opportunity to take a deep breath. The truth may be that it had nothing to do with you. Another candidate may have had a great referral from a top performing executive, or maybe just been the CEO’s cousin’s dog-walker’s preschool teacher’s daughter. The company may have promoted internally, or hired someone directly from a competing firm. Don’t forget you can only put your best application in, and you can only put your best foot forward when stepping into an interview.
As my grandma once told me, “Ashley, you could be the best peach in the world, and there will always be someone who doesn’t like peaches.”
Just remembering these pitfalls, give it your best shot.
…And remember your own sweetness.