So You Think You’re a Great Candidate, Do You?

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Best CandidateOne of CareerBuilder’s Facebook fans recently asked us, “Why aren’t I being hired when my résumé is fine and I make an outstanding first impression?” Can you relate?

While it’s easy to point to the obvious – Great Recession, anyone? – it might be time for some good old-fashioned tough love. Let’s take a closer look at the three parts of this loaded question; one or all of these might be the reason you’re still looking.

“Why aren’t I being hired …”

Finding a job has certainly been more challenging over the last few years, but people are still hiring. You might not be able to improve the economy, but you can control how you search. There are job openings, you just have more competition. It’s time to push the discouragement away and fight harder against your increased competition.

Try this: If you want to find a job, you have to be willing to do the work. Do your research and learn all you can about the employment outlook. Look to see which industries and occupations are healthier than others. Pretty much every industry has a professional journal or blog. Become an expert in the field in which you want to work. The more you know, the more you can show it in your applications and interviews. And that will show an employer what an asset you’ll be.

“… my résumé is fine …”

While you might think your résumé is “fine,” employers might have a different opinion. Besides, shouldn’t your résumé be better than OK? Employers want to see a stellar résumé. That doesn’t mean you need to give yourself an Ivy-League degree and inflated job experience, but your résumé should present the best professional you possible. That means crisp grammar and no typos. That means showcasing specific accomplishments and concrete skills. That means a stranger should understand your aptitude without you saying a word.

But your résumé has all that, right? If that’s the case and you’re not hearing back, you might need to start mixing things up and making some tweaks. Change the format. Add quantifiable results. Each time you apply, make sure your résumé is telling each particular employer that you’re a match for that job.

Try this: Show your résumé to someone you know who has actually hired someone before; ask for feedback and use it to improve your résumé (if it’s negative, try not to take it personally). While that person may tell you something you don’t want to hear, it will be to your benefit.

“… I make an outstanding first impression”

Really? How do you know? Did your mother tell you that? Again, you might think you make a great first impression, but an employer might disagree. Put everything under a microscope: your appearance, your handshake, your eye contact, your mannerisms, your attitude. If you’re getting called for interviews but not invited back for a second round or receiving offers, this might be your problem.

Try this: When you find out that you’re no longer in the running for a job, ask for feedback. Try: “Thank you for considering me for the position. May I ask what it was about me or my qualifications that disqualified me as a candidate? Any feedback would be appreciated.” Hopefully, the hiring manager will tactfully respond with something constructive. Whether delivered with tact or not – again, try not to take it personally – take that response and apply it to your next interview.

Do you have a question for us? Ask us below or post it on our Facebook page.

36 Comments
  1. Have been unemployed for some time – have rewritten my resume several times and still no job. Are there organizations that can do this without charging a fee. Could use some help. Thank you very much

    • Cari, I don’t know what city you live in but check out REal Estate Lives in Tampa, FL. They are on the web and also use Training Tamers as a Job Search Acceration. Check out Training Tamers on the web. That stafff is off the chart and all for just a fet bucks.

    • You can always go the the One Stop in the County where you live. It is the County Workforce Development program. Workshops for creating a winning resume are offered at all One Stops.

      The jobs are out there. Stay positive & Good Luck!

  2. I have read the article and it was very helpful. This subject matter is exactly the situation I am facing ever since I was laid off in March 2010. I was receiving vast responses to my resume, but decided to rewrite my resume to focus on my major accomplishments with each employer. I received the same vast responses and interviews with the updated resume. However, I am still not receiving any offers. I am following all the rules of landing a job (i.e. research the company and its competitors, asking the right interview questions, answering the interviewees questions with clear and concise communication, proper body posture and appearance). Still nothing. I am looking to purchase a book to research and find what are my flaws.

    • This is nitpicky, but, trust me, would-be employers will also nitpick. The 1st thing I noticed about your post was your header, “Use to Rejection” This is the kind of stuff that passes under the SpellCheck radar, but you should say or write “USED to”. You might double check your resume for possible similar misspellings. P.S. Good luck in your job search!

      • To “Use to Rejection:”

        You are the interviewee being interveiwed by the interviewer.

        Good luck and stay positive.

        Personally, I think you should change your “Name” to “Searching for the Silver Lining!”

    • Try this book (I got it from the library — hard copy as well as on CDs — I listen to chapters 3 – 6 when I have an actual interview. Some of the advice is difficult to put into motion (i.e., he tells you to come right out and ask for the job— better to know right now where you stand). Acing the Interview by Tony Beshara.

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  4. Great advice and great things to think about, Kate. I added this link to today’s blog post. Are you a recruiter or hiring manager? If so, would you be willing to share some of your insight with me? I have a few answers I, and my readers, would love the answers to in terms or interviewing, resumes and the job search.

    Thanks!
    Linda

  5. I don’t know. I’ve been out of work for almost 99 weeks?! and still NO job offers. I am applying to all kinds of entry level jobs. Had 15 interviews in 22 months most of them this year, am not getting called in to the jobs I really want; some of the interviews were for jobs I’d be happy if I got but it was not my first choice. Also either I am being lied to or after my interview a really stellar person shows up as in most cases I get the impression I got the job. The employer tells me I am qualified and I am a good fit but then I never hear back. Yes I send hand written note-cards immediately after so they know I really want the job. Very depressing. I am single so will be in dire straights if I can’t get a job. If one more person tells me to “just take any job that comes along” I will scream. If no job is offered how can I take it? I’ve tried begging that does not work, neither can you get a person to hire you because they feel bad for you. I must admit my cover letters are getting more and more depressing and desparate and I tend to get called in to interviews where I dont tell them about what dire straights I am in. Nobody wants to hear how you want a job because you need to pay for life’s basic necessities, they’d rather hear you want to work because it’s something you enjoy doing and yu want to contribute, but at this pt. I cannot BS anymore. I actually wrote Help I need a job in one recent email to an employer, they likely think I am a crazy unemployed loser. Oh well God loves me….

    • How are you dressing for an interview? I have interviewed a lot of people and it is unbelievable how they dress. Be neat, clean, and modest. Do not overly make up. Have someone critique your dress. First impressions count!

    • I hear you, Momma Bear. I’ve been unemployed since Jan 2009. I’m in the health care field here in Oregon. Oregon is the worst place to look for work -I guess – next to Nevada and California. I’m so severely depressed. I even applied at Target for a seasonal p/t job (since I had previously experiece) -I figured they’d hire me-nope! got a rejection email. Have applied to a local hospital here in town at least 30 times -not one interview. I finally have had enough! I’m now calling these HR folks and requesting that they tell me why they didn’t hire me. I am single with 3 cats and a mortgage. I’m already resign to the fact that I will lose my condo but I’m terribly afraid of being homeless and what about my “children”. What do I do about them? I have nothing now. Got my certification in medical assisting and have a degree in it but since I don’t have current experiece the number one medical placement agency here in Portland Oregon won’t even look at my resume. In fact when I applied for a position with them they sent me a nasty note stating they do not accept entry level and that I MUST have currrent experience. Past experience counts for nothing here. I can’t afford to move. Once my place forclose’s I guess I’ll have to live in my car. I’ll take anything now. I’m so angry-why aren’t they hiring me!!!

    • Yes I misspelled some words-SORRY! I’m angry! Probably misspelled misspelled too. But I make sure I DON”T make typo’s on a resume. Thank you.

    • Hi MB:
      First off I want to tell you that I totally know what you have been or are currently go through. I was unemployed for nearly 2.5 years (I had a 3 month job that ended because my new employer decided he wanted 2 people instead of 1 person so he could look like a bigger operation and got 2 “young, dumb girls for half the price” (that’s exactly what he told me). I am educated, have a great resume and a great deal of experience along with amazing skills. I have applied for probably over 1,000 jobs over the last 2.5 years! I had some interviews in the beginning but no offers. Then just recently I started to get lots of calls for interviews. I recently revamped my resume so perhaps that helped. I have had quite a few interviews lately and I felt I was perfect for almost every job! But for some reason I didn’t get hired. I have been stressing out so much over it but always approached each interview fresh and enthusiastic. (I actually have been told I interview very well). I had a lot at stake (about to lose my home, only had $40 in the bank….and 2 kids to support). I had lost my apt. 2 years ago and had to live with friends while I put everything I owned in storage….I was able to get a new place when I got my 3 month job last summer. But literally at the end of this month I would have had been evicted with no money and nowhere to go…..By some miracle I got a job….a good one in the field I love and with excellent pay! (even better salary than the jobs I didn’t get). So, anyway, my point is that it probably isn’t “you” that isn’t perfect for a job…it’s they that are not perfect for “you”….If you are doing your best and you know it, one day it will happen for you….probably when you least expect it!

  6. … make sure you’re resume …

    I don’t know about you, but I have never been a resume. “Experts” should be taking their own advice

    • Kathleen, I think you misread the article because I don’t find the mistake you point out. Anyway, even if the mistake WERE there, it’s only a small bit of irony and doesn’t negate the fact that the article is correct — everyone needs to sharpen their game in this job market!

    • Why aren’t I being hired…? The problem would be your incorrect grammar. The “great first impression” would not be very great if the hiring manager thought your grammar was equivalent to a high school drop out.

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  12. Folks,

    I am an employer of 700 in Southern Alabama. In many cases, the competition is just very tough and many thinigs you may not consider are weighed. Are you the best fit? How do we see you in our organization? The point that mistakes in your documents as well as personal appearance are critical.

    In the end, it is just tough out there, I know. At this time many are reluctant to hire and that leaves so few openings. As well, I can’t get the skills (Electircal Maintenance for instance) needed in this part of the country while many are un-employed with those elsewhere!

    Hang in there. I know hearing this is just a cycle is a poor excuse for not having a job but many of us know, buy by the garce of God, go I.

    Good luck and hang in there. Times will change.

  13. I recently had a bunch of interviews and finally landed a job. It was the last interview I had that I finally got a callback. I had to do a lot of networking to get those interviews. Find events of the industries you want and get out there. It is kind of awkward sometimes, but just meet as many people as you can. Some people are easier to talk to than others. Find a company where you get along the people that work there. Be assertive, if you don’t you will never get a word in at some of these places. Find something about you that is unique and throw it out there often. This will help you be remembered.

    When I didn’t get a call back on my first couple interviews I reflected on how it went. I of course had answers for the typical, where do you see yourself in five years questions, but I was thrown off by a few I didn’t expect. The key is to keep interviewing. I learned from the questions I was asked and came up with better answers after the interview that I could apply to future interviews. I reflected upon which answers or statements got the best reactions. This is helpful especially if you are interviewing for multiple jobs in the same industry. I always have examples that I can refer to of times I showed leadership, problem solving, or time management skills. Always stay positive, this was tough for me as I am obviously leaving to find a better job because I am discontent with my current job. Try to focus on your positive experiences at your current place of employment (if you have one) and why the job you are interviewing for is a better fit for you. I lost a lot of interviews I think due to my sincerity of why I wanted to work there. Lets face it, most of us are just hoping to land a job, not specifically committed to just one company. I actually landed the one that I really wanted out of the whole bunch and I think you could tell I was sincere about why I wanted that position. Network, practice, practice, and stay positive. Good luck.

  14. o I’ve been unemployed since Jan 2009. I’m in the health care field here in Oregon. Oregon is the worst place to look for work -I guess – next to Nevada and California. I’m so severely depressed. I even applied at Target for a seasonal p/t job (since I had previously experience) -I figured they’d hire me-nope! got a rejection email. Have applied to a local hospital here in town at least 30 times -not one interview. I finally have had enough! I’m now calling these HR folks and requesting that they tell me why they didn’t hire me. I am single with 3 cats and a mortgage. I’m already resign to the fact that I will lose my condo but I’m terribly afraid of being homeless and what about my “children”. What do I do about them? I have nothing now. Got my certification in medical assisting and have a degree in it but since I don’t have current experience the number one medical placement agency here in Portland Oregon won’t even look at my resume. In fact when I applied for a position with them they sent me a nasty note stating they do not accept entry level and that I MUST have current experience. Past experience counts for nothing here. I can’t afford to move. Once my place forecloses I guess I’ll have to live in my car. I’ll take anything now. I’m so angry-why aren’t they hiring me!!! It’s so embarassing and shameful. Thank you Governement. Thank you, Ted (what’s his name) the current Govenor of Oregon -that’s for ruining my life!

  15. Here’s an old-school, no-tech method for catching typos in your resume: read it backwards.

    The lack of context and gestalt makes those misspelled words jump right out at ya…

  16. getting a job is extremely tough, and while there are obvious dos and dont’s, which most people are privy to, the spending countless hours sifting through carefully crafted cover letters and resumes making sure every single hyphen is in place isn’t going to land you a job. it’s just going to make you frustrated when nobody notices.

    Proper grammar, dressing for the interview are extremely important; however, the majority of these tutorial based editorial content fillers on the job market are just wind.

    You have to get extremely creative to get into the job you want. Don’t hit the job boards–they’re saturated with spam, and thousands of others frantically mass uploading resumes. Rather, go to the websites of places you’d like to work at. Make a list of ideal employers. Laser target them with your knowledge of them. Target the people who will look at what you send them. Next time you look over your cover letter count the number of “I’s” you find littered throughout, or look at the amount of passive sentence structures you’ve created to minimize the use of your “I” overuse.

    Point: Cover letters tell. You need to show.

    Again, it depends on careers as more stodgy professions tend to like the long-winded, academic resume and cover letter approach; however, many don’t.

    Part 2 – once your called for the interview.

    Don’t let the drudge of months of unemployment (hard as it is) affect your attitude when asked in for an interview. Be yourself, while acting professional. No need to go into agreement with everything your interviewer says. Say what you know, but don’t act like you know everything. Again, just be confident.

    Know, however, that employers want experience. As weird as it may sound, many employers are put way off by overzealous talent. Keep your amazing track records, superfluous college awards, and over embellished job descriptions to a minimum. Many employers don’t care. They want experience. I.e. Knowing that you can work and take orders with little to no hand-holding.

    Once the interview is over, follow up…and follow up some more.

    Also,

    Another best practice is to hit up people you know on LinkedIn. Network, network network. That’s how you get jobs.

    • Come on, people! Getting a job is not a logical process, it’s an intuitive process! Don’t believe the hype! Don’t listen to these “experts” that post articles on the Internet, because they’re probably out of work too. Go volunteer, get some stellar references, mow the mayor’s lawn, walk in there with some serious achievements to talk about. I’m an unemployed student; and believe me, going back to school was not my first choice. I’m still looking for a job but no one wants to hire a student. When I’m done, I’m going to volunteer for work if I still haven’t gotten a job. I have call center experience but that doesn’t seem to matter at all. I need stellar references and achievements.

  17. By the way, proofread and revise all written communications that you send to the interviewer. This includes the resume, cover letter, and thank you note (if you send one out). All of it shows your written communication skills, which is what they look for. Make sure everything is structured logically with correct grammar and punctuation. Of course you’ll have to clear spelling errors as well.

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