Is there a greater agony than being turned down for a job you really wanted? Why didn’t you get the job? If I ask job hunters I’ll hear everything from, “They were prejudiced against me because I’m ….” to “Everybody was more qualified.” Now, let’s ask people why they chose one candidate over another. Here are the three reasons we hear most often — and yes we ask this question regularly.
1. Fit. It’s that simple. One candidate was seen as a better fit with the manager, job, and/or organization. This isn’t rocket science. The manager making the buying decision wants to get along easily with the new hire. Any hint that a candidate doesn’t or won’t buy the total package from the boss to the culture is bad. It’s not only hirers who try to screen out what burned them last with telling questions. Job hunters do it as well. For example, “How do you feel about employees leaving when the work is finished,” suggests a hidden agenda. Could the candidate have dissed the manager about requiring face time in an exit interview? Yes!
2. One candidate wanted the job more. That candidate did everything but tap dance his interest. Since this happened during three separate interviews, the hirer believed that this was the candidate most likely to work hard. He may not succeed in the job but that’s a different story. He definitely sold himself repeatedly and stayed on message. The most exacting hirer will admit that vocally wanting the job while others are merely interested is persuasive. (Twentysomethings take note: neutral is not a winning strategy.)
3. One candidate asked thoughtful questions while several others asked none at all. Questions are a test of engagement. You may think you know everything about the organization and what it does. You can’t, even with extensive research. How many former employees did you interview? How current was your research? Last year’s annual report is potential birdcage lining.
What’s the point? The greatest danger for job hunters who’ve been at it more than two months is that their excitement and enthusiasm were early casualties — perhaps they never existed which is a certain sign you need to rethink your job objective. One manager said that the candidate with the best resume often seemed least interested in the position. Could it be that candidate had run out of steam, not to mention enthusiasm?
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