Ever have your spleen with cut out with kindergarten scissors?
Anyone who’s lost a bid for a dream job may consider the above statement a minimization of how they feel. Exaggerating aside, we’ve all been there and never want to experience it again. And, an endless stream of recruiter listicles (ie. The Seven Must-Do’s Before Your Next Interview) do little to prevent the pain. To retain our sanity, let’s disregard them for now. Instead of gaming the decisions of fickle hiring managers let’s focus on what we can control – our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
The following are common mistakes we make during and between interviews, and after the process ends. Avoiding them will not guarantee us the job. Then again, that may not be what we want anyways. Read on to learn why.
Mistakes DURING the Interview Process:
Missing Negative Signs
For a hiring manager, the purpose of an interview is to measure our worthiness for the job. It’s a problem when we, the candidate, rely on the interview for the same thing. When we only seek validation, we often fail to catch negative signals because too afraid to see them. Did the interviewer give us positive verbal and nonverbal cues? Did he proceed with a head-down, list-following approach or did he show real interest? Managers hire people they trust. Often this equates to someone they know. They tend to bypass formality for candidates they really like and follow procedure for interviewees who are placeholders (additional candidates used to make the interview process appear legitimate when a target candidate has already been selected). Sadly, any of us can fulfill the placeholder role at any time in the interview process.
Mistaking Friendliness for Approval
Surprise! We may not be the only person in the room looking to be liked. That’s right, hiring managers want validation as well. And, there’s no easier way to win someone’s favor than praise. Some interviewers are looking simply to get through the process unscathed. Making everyone feel like a viable candidate may be their way to accomplish this. Isn’t the ego are marvelous thing? Outwardly, it may be difficult to distinguish between an interviewer’s false approval and real interest in our candidacy. Enthusiastic praise in an interview should trigger our focus to sharpen. At this point, we should ask the interviewer for specifics on how our the skills they just complimented apply to the job itself. Any vagueness or hedging in the interviewer’s answer should hint that their praise is hollow.
Mistakes Made In-Between Interviews:
The Neverending De-brief
Did they like my answers? Did make sense to tell that joke? Was it a positive sign when the interviewer said _________? MAKE IT STOP! In-between interviews, we often analyze our situation into oblivion. In truth, we know we had one or more interviews in the past and little more. What they really thought of us and our answers is likely to remain a mystery – even if we get the job. Instead, we need focus on what we learned about the job and our prospective manager and how both stand to change our life moving forward.
Choosing Fairy Tales over Nightmares
Wouldn’t it be great to be the chosen candidate and live happily ever after? Too often, we lose ourselves in this fairy tale and, in doing so, fail to consider the prospective job’s potential to suck. It’s the job search equivalent of love at first sight. Don’t know the benefits? No worry, they’re probably good! And, surely the manager will always be as friendly as she was in the interview! How easily we chose to create the architecture of our careers in crayon. In an alternate reality, aka the REAL one, we can chose to look at the downside of a potential job MORE than the upside. Until we have a formal offer, the default answer to our candidacy is always NO. Accepting this reality frees us to make an objective comparison between the shiny and new possible job and our horrible, boring, current one. Making friends with the nightmare of not getting the offer is always the better path.
Mistakes Made Post “Dream Job” Loss:
Never Deciding Whether or Not We Truly Wanted the Job
This is the post-mortem result of fairy tale fantasizing. If we never decide whether or not we want a job, we risk forever mourning it’s possibilities. In reality, the position may have made us miserable. Denying this is futile. We know, without question, winning the lottery brings life-changing riches, yet we don’t beat ourselves up over losing. Why should we persecute ourselves over jobs we never have wanted? There’s no universal law that dictates that we must win every job offer, good and bad. Having the courage to formulate an opinion ahead of getting an offer releases us from the grip of hubris.
Neglecting to Find Closure
Recruiter wisdom often lacks the sensitivity we require after not winning the perfect job. Typically they recommend thanking every one under the sun and casually annoying them over time to “stay on their radar”. If we’ve already decided we don’t want the job, why bother? Isn’t our time better spent on the lost jobs we really do want? In the rare cases when the job fit and opportunity are superb, staying in contact with the employer and fighting to work for them is the right course. Suffice to say, if we don’t want the job now that we’ve lost it, and had some time to reflect, it probably wasn’t right for us in the first place.
One last thing, believe it or not, it can be extremely helpful to find out who actually won the job. Often the answer is only a quick LinkedIn search or grape-vine conversation away. Doing so can open a window into the hiring manager’s decision process. Sometimes the “other candidate” is truly more qualified. Other times, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You just avoided working for a manager not competent enough to recognize how wonderful you are!
For More Advice on how to prepare for job interviews, check out my earlier post “5 Reasons to Colossally Fail at Your Next Interview“
Here are a some other post-Interview/post-mortum questions to ask yourself. Can you think of more? Feel free to comment:
- Would I have gotten along with the boss?
- Was the interviewer in a hurry? Did she really seem to care about answering my questions?
- What did I find out about the previous person in the role?
- Did I fact-check the story I was told?
- Was the salary and benefits truly better than what I make now?