The Real Reason You Didn’t Get that Job

Posted by Kurt Rakos on 11/1/18 2:04 AM
Kurt Rakos
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6 Little Ways Your Attitude is Undermining Your Job Interviews

You’re the perfect candidate for this job.

And you nailed that interview…

So how come you just got a rejection email?

There could be a thousand reasons, many of which are simply out of your control. But here’s a little secret I wish more candidates understood: often, the candidate with less experience and a less impressive resume is the candidate who lands the job. 

Often, that’s because of how they conducted themselves during and after the interviews.

Keep in mind that employers don’t invite candidates to interviews so they can fact check their resumes. The real purpose of the interview is to check for something else: a comfort level with you as a new member of their team, as a dependable contributor to organizational performance, and as a reliable source of positive, productive workplace energy.

In other words, most wise managers (you know, the kind of manager you really want) know that aptitude and attitude are far more precious characteristics in a candidate than years of experience or skills.  With the right aptitude and attitude, everything else is earnable, learnable and trainable.

bad interview

Here are 6 of the most common mistakes I see great candidates make during their interviews. If you’ve been blindsided by an offer disappearing after you were certain it was yours, check these out – and fix them before your next interview.

  1. Bad Handshake

Truth is, an employer isn’t going to pass on an otherwise perfect candidate just because of their dead fish handshake. But here’s what’s also true: your handshake can generate a powerful first impression. A great handshake signals that you are confident, approachable, and eager to work together. A bad handshake does the opposite. For an informative (and pretty amusing) tutorial on how to master the perfect handshake, check out this perfect little infographic from The Muse.

  1. Failing to Support your Resume with Accomplishments and Methods

Hiring managers are increasingly sophisticated interviewers.  They’re looking for evidence that you’re really as good as your resume makes you look. So when you’re asked to describe your time in a particular position, you need to speak to your greatest accomplishments while there, describe the specific strategies and tactics you used to achieve them, and – most importantly – tie those actions to the highest priorities of the job for which you’re interviewing.

  1. Coming Off As Inflexible

You’re entering a high stakes conversation with a potential employer. In an effort to truly discover “the real you,” the employer might ask you oddball questions for which you could not possibly have prepared.  You’ve heard of these:  “what’s the most efficient way to fill an airplane with golfballs…” or “tell me about your favorite animated superhero…”  Is there really one right answer to these kinds of questions?  Of course not.  But there is a superior way of responding. Your task here is to demonstrate that you can handle curve balls without losing your cool, that you’re a problem solver, and that you can do all of that with grace and humor. These expectations apply at all times during the interviewing process. What if the receptionist apologetically informs you that, due to unforeseen circumstances, they’ll need to reschedule your interview?  What if someone spills their coffee on your shoe just as you’re walking into the hiring manager’s office?  Again: grace, humor and flexibility are your friends.  No matter how many times you’ve prepared for the interview, the hiring manager wants to see how you handle the unexpected.

  1. Poor Eye Contact

“We just didn’t click,” is how some hiring managers describe their disappointment in a candidate who was great on paper but a dud in real life.  Good eye contact helps build and sustain the interpersonal connections you’ll need if you want to convince someone to invite you onto their team. Failing to establish eye contact undermines that goal.  But beware: staring into someone’s eyes without shifting your gaze is even worse. Thankfully, you can learn how to maintain eye contact without getting creepy.  For an easy how-to on the “triangle method” and other tricks, start with this handy guide at

  1. Other Acts of Disengagement

In addition to successfully navigating “the eye triangle,” you’re also expected to remain fully engaged, attentive and aware of everything the interviewer is conveying.  It’s not as simple as bulldozing through your resume or rattling through all of your carefully prepared responses. You need to be fully present, registering appropriate emotional responses to the tone and content of the conversation.  So, for example, if the interviewer says he’s sorry but he’ll need to leave the room to make a phone call because his child is sick, it is not sufficient to respond by saying, “that’s okay!”  Really buddy, it’s not okay.  What is okay is an empathetic response such as, “That’s no problem. I’m so sorry to hear that your son is sick. Please let me know if you need to reschedule.”

  1. A Cookie Cutter Thank You Email

Ladies and gentlemen, the thank you letter and/or email is not a speed sport.  If you’ve been under the impression that a rapid-fire thank you, sent mere minutes after you walk out the door makes you look efficient, please think again.  One of the worst things you can do is send the same polite, generic string of sentences that you obviously wrote before the interview, and that you could (and probably did) send to every interviewer after every interview about every job.  Instead, give yourself a half hour after the interview during which you can reflect on everything that was covered, the strengths you presented well, any key items you may have missed, and the highest priorities the interviewer shared with you about the job. These are the building blocks of a great thank you letter.  For great tips on how to send a powerful, two-punch thank you, using both snail mail and email, check out this how-to by Liz Ryan at


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Topics: For Job Seekers, Interviewing For Job Seekers