Recruiters and hiring managers don’t really explain why I didn’t get the job. Why won’t they tell me, and how can I correct my mistakes if they don’t?
The short answer on this one is… lawyers. Because there are so many laws these days that can come back and bite hiring managers, the general rule of thumb to keep everyone safe from litigation is to give all candidates the same generic ‘thanks but no thanks’ rejection letter. Most companies expressly forbid providing any reasons for declining a candidate, because of fear of litigation. Most recruiters follow that rule as well. With that said, if you have developed a working relationship with a recruiter and she is going to be presenting you for future roles, she will undoubtedly coach you on how to improve your interview skills. Role playing can be a tremendous help in preparing for an interview.
Remember that even Oscar winning actors rehearse!
Hiring is a very subjective thing, and hiring managers make decisions based on all kinds of criteria. A candidate may remind them of their ex-wife’s new husband, or in some cases, even their current wife! The point is, you just never know.
The candidate may have bombed the personality assessment and while it is illegal to base a hiring decision based strictly on that, many hiring managers place a tremendous amount of weight on those, but cannot say that is the reason. The competition may be intense with the hiring manager blessed with 5 incredible candidates, all highly skilled. Or the company may be dying to break into a highly coveted new client and a candidate has an existing relationship with a key decision maker within that company. You can literally drive yourself crazy trying to determine what went wrong.
However, with that said, if you go on a few interviews and are not getting past the first or second step, it is a pretty good bet that you are not knocking it out of the park, and your interview skills can be improved upon. There are interview coaches that can give you unbiased feedback on your presentation skills and it would be a smart investment to sign up for a class or two with one of them.
Personally, I always think that ethically it is important to share with candidates when we get feedback and there is something that the candidate can do to fix it for the next time, so I will share feedback in an indirect manner, always making sure to protect my client.
For example, we recently had an extremely accomplished candidate go in for a final interview for a VP role. After two interviews with lower level managers, he had the final meeting with the CEO of the company. Ultimately, the CEO passed because he felt that the VP candidate did not look the part. This office is in NYC and within the Financial Services sector. I have worked with this CEO for years, and know that he is a wonderful, ethical man and makes excellent hiring decisions. He has hired dozens of candidates of mine, including many diversity as well as older candidates. The feedback was that the candidate had failed to polish his shoes, his briefcase had seen better days, and his suit was just not of the caliber needed to present the polished look that the firm requires for the caliber of clientele that they work with. Stray ‘ear hairs’ were mentioned by the secretary that I have befriended over the years as well. You get the picture. Mind you, this was the feedback that we had received during the first interview, and I told the candidate that the people in the office made a lot of money, and I think they all spent at least half of their paychecks on clothes, because they all seemed to be really dressed to the 9s and appearance was extremely important to the firm’s image. So I gave him coaching but not direct feedback on his personal appearance, hoping he would pick up on it. I suggested he go to a barber and pay particular attention to facial hair, treat himself to a really nice full treatment, and invest in the best suit he could possibly afford. Even as a VP level candidate, I learned long ago never to assume anything, so still always include in my interview prep that it is absolutely essential to pull out all the stops to dress for success, etc. But some candidates simply do not absorb suggestions and unfortunately this gentleman was one of them. So this particular candidate happened to be an older gentleman and a diversity candidate as well. There was no way in the world that I would ever share direct feedback from my client, because if I had in fact shared with him that the client had said that he was not going to proceed to the offer stage because of his appearance, it could so easily be perceived due to race or age, even though I know for a fact that this hiring manager has hired dozens of candidates within that demographic in the past. The problem was truly his grooming habits and wardrobe and not discrimination on the hiring manager’s part. And unfortunately even after coaching, he was not able to take his look up to the level that was required.
So the moral to the story is to keep in mind that you may not always be receiving direct feedback but keep your ears open (and free of hair!) for indirect coaching and suggestions to help you improve your chances for success.
Have a question you’d like a recruiter to answer? Write to me at AskAnn@execunet.com
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