So you’ve spent some time perfecting your handshake, you think you’ve got your CV nailed and you’re keeping a spreadsheet which logs all the jobs that you’re applying for. You’re sending off application after application and you’re getting some interviews, but so far, you’re still unemployed and you just can’t figure out why. You put in all that time and work only to feel like you’re never going to get anywhere.
What else do you have to do to stand out, get hired and make employees unable to resist hiring you?
Maybe one of these reasons is why you're not getting the job. But luckily, you can fix them.
#1 | Your CV ISN'T as good as you think
This is usually the first thing you need to re-evaluate when you aren’t getting anywhere with your job applications. Your CV is the first thing a potential employer sees and is a big decider in whether to invite you in for an interview, so you’ve got to make it count. Your spelling, grammar and tone should all be perfect, with no mistakes. It needs to be neat, concise, yet pack everything in there that you need.
First off, you need to make sure you’ve got all the information on there that you need. Contact details, email address, social media links, and how about a live link to your blog? That’s definitely something you need to put on there. I wrote a post about bigging up your blog on your CV which you can read here.
You also want to make sure your professional experience is in chronological order – a little detail I know, but it makes such a difference. This was one of the first things I was told when I had my CV analysed by a professional.
But usually, the biggest mistake people make with their CV is that they just send the same one off to each job. Employers can tell when they've just got a generic version. A big reason why you aren’t getting the job could be because you aren’t tailoring it to each specific job that you’re applying for.
This doesn’t have to be a big task. There are two main ways you can do this. The first is instead of addressing it to sir/madam, actually research and find out the name of the person you need to send it to. For instance, Tom always makes contact with a company before he sends his CV off to them and it really makes a difference, because they already know who he is. You can also use words in the job description throughout your CV – that way, the employer can tell easily that you’re who they’re looking for.
#2 | You WEREN'T prepared enough and DIDN'T know enough about the company
You've gone through the job description, googled the company and memorised your CV and covering letter, so you’re good to go, right? Wrong. Think about it – how much preparation did you actually do for your last interview? Was it enough? Did you consider what questions you might be asked? Preparing for that is what’s going to make you stand out.
Knowledge is great until you’re actually asked to demonstrate it. You might say you’re an active user of Excel, but when a test is put in front of you, that’s when it’s make or break time. It’s happened to all of us. The moment when we’re asked something and we think, “oh god”, and spout out a rushed answer that isn't really relevant. It’s OK to do that. You’re not going to be able to predict everything you get asked. But you can prepare for many of the questions.
Here’s what I do when I’m preparing for an interview. I write down a list of all the possible questions I think I could be asked off the top of my head, based on interviews I’ve already had. Things like, “tell me about yourself”, “what would you say is your biggest strength” and “why do you want the job?” Then I go through the job spec and try and pick out questions based on information in there. Next, I head to Google.
This is magic right here. If you Google “questions I’ll be asked in a marketing interview”, a whole host of articles will come up. If you find some common questions in there, you need to practice answering them. Write down some notes and then try answering the questions. And remember to have at least one or two questions to ask them at the end of the interview too.
#3 | You're not PRACTISING your performance
When you’re in a job interview, it’s like you’re acting. You’re basically putting on a show about yourself. The way you deliver your answers is, in a way, just as important as the context of your answers.
In a survey, 56% of employers said a candidate didn't get the job, because they didn't show enough interest and excitement. When you’re going through your answers in your head, you won’t know how they’re going to sound when they come out of your mouth. Saying them out loud will help you understand how your employer is going take your answers in.
The best thing to do is to get someone to interview you. I get Tom to interview me and I always interview him too. It’s not only great to get some feedback on your answers but on your performance too. They’ll be able to tell if you’re thinking too much about what you’re saying rather than speaking naturally, and whether you’re speaking too quickly, which is another biggie. Even practising in front of mirror will help you out a lot.
It’s all about your body language too. In an interview, you want to show that you’ve got some control over the situation. Sitting confidently will help you with this. The way to do it is the power stance. Sit with one foot crossed over the other, have your hands clasped, palms facing towards each other with your two index fingers straight out pointing ahead of you. At first, you might feel too authoritative doing this, but it’s actually a very subtle way of saying, “I’m ready.” If you’re at a table, rest your hands on the table, and if you’re not, place them on your knee in the same stance.
#4 | You focused on yourself more than the company
I know I said that the whole job process is basically a show about yourself, but there’s one thing that many people forget, which is actually a game-changer in whether you get the job or not.
In the same survey I mentioned earlier, 54% of employers said a candidate didn't get the job because they focused too much on what they wanted rather than what the interviewer was saying. So as well as remembering your answers, you’ve got to be a good listener to make sure you’re going to answer the question in the right way.
But employers don’t just want to know you’re going to be able to do a good job. They want to know that you’re going to be a good fit for the company too. So you need to tailor each of your answers back to the company. Demonstrating to an interviewer that you’ve not only got the right skills, but you’re a great fit for the company too, means you’ll have their attention the whole way.
If you want a bit more info on how to tailor your answers to each company you’re applying to, you can read this post here.
#5 | Nerves got the better of you or there was no chemistry
Now we’re getting onto the things that unfortunately, you just can’t control. Employers get it. They know job interviews aren’t really a pleasant experience and the best interviewers do all they can to make the experience as calm as possible for you. I’ll never forget the job I went for in London – I was asked about myself and what I did in my spare time. It opened up a whole conversation between myself and the panel that made me completely relax and show my personality.
It’s understandable if you have to take a beat to find the right words for your answer or stumble a bit. But if you fall to pieces, it really gives off the wrong impression. It tells employers that you don’t have confidence in yourself or your abilities, you find it difficult to work under pressure and you’re not very sure of yourself. These are qualities that employers don’t want. Believe me I know how difficult it is. I’m naturally shy and suffered from anxiety for years. But if you really want the job, you’ve got to let yourself relax. Dressing like yourself and politely laughing off any minor slip-ups will help you stay in control of the situation and show off your personality too.
#6 | The job went to someone internal
This is a frustrating situation to be in, believe me. I went for a great job once when I was first applying. It was for a Web Content Editor at a wedding website (I know right). The interview went really well and I was invited back for a second one. But then I didn't hear anything. It was awful. So I bit the bullet and emailed them, which is when they replied saying the role had been taken up by someone internally.
It’s frustrating, because there’s really nothing you can do. It’s not any reflection on you or your abilities. You just can’t usually beat out any competition that comes directly from the company itself. They already know everything from the brand values to the office systems.
There are no cheat codes. It’s just something that happens. So don’t beat yourself up about it, move on and keep trying your best.
#7 | Someone ticked one more box than you
I left this one until last, because it really is the worst one. And believe it or not, I’ve actually had this line used on me before.
Standing out from the other candidates is the hardest part of the job process. I remember for the job I’m in now, myself and the other candidates where all in the staff room at lunchtime. It was really unnerving all of us being together. I remember thinking to myself, “what I can have that possibly makes me stand out against all these other people?” Usually, rather than your skills, it comes down to personal attributes. The value you can bring to the job is what makes you stand out. So when you’re asked, “why do you want the job” or “why should we hire you over someone else” – that’s an answer you need to have prepared so you can boss it.
Just because someone ticks one more box than you doesn’t mean they’re any better than you, and it definitely doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you do. You can actually learn from it. When I got told this, I asked for feedback and got told that I didn't have enough experience to talk about, so used the same role in all my answers. This was perfect – it told me that I needed more experience and that’s exactly what I did.
It stings, knowing there’s someone with an extra box than you, but then you’ve got the power to get that box ticked in time for your next interview. Play the game. Get up, dust yourself off and try again.
I’ve just got one last thought about this. Be yourself. Don’t try to be a different version of who you are. Be natural. Smile, laugh, show warmth and let your personality shine. Employers can see through an act – one thing they appreciate more than anything is honesty. That’s one of the most important traits you can have.
Let's chat in the comments - have you ever not got a job because of one of these reasons before? Is there anything else you'd add to this list?