Interviewing – Why Can’t I Get Past The 1st Round? Why Can’t I Break Through?

A little background:

I have been meaning to write this for a while.  I have been kicking around the idea for the last few years   It started back in 2006 after I was laid off from a job I had held for 7 years.  I had been working in Belmont, CA as a Proposals Specialist for a semiconductor supplier and life was reasonably progressing.  I had gotten married a few years prior.  We were discussing the future, including kids, a new home, etc.  Then the economy did a nose dive.  My job was eliminated, and I was on the street with about 5 months of severance and absolutely no clue what to do with my time.

To be honest, the first few weeks were really unnerving as I was so used to the daily routine of getting up every day at a certain time, stressing out to catch a train to get to and from work, checking email, working through my daily tasks, trying to ensure that my work deliverables were met, and fighting to keep smiling in the face of ever-increasing scrutiny and stress.  In the end, being laid off was ultimately very rewarding, because I now had a reason to pursue my real career interests and move on with my life.  Not easy, mind you, because nobody typically hires you to recruit, or even coordinate for recruiters, if you haven’t been doing exactly that for the few years prior.  But I digress.

What about the interview?

In the time between losing this job to today, I have been on countless interviews.  Both to be hired, and more recently to find candidates to hire.  Some have been stellar, some were so painful, that I wish I had an amnesia button to press for instant forgetfulness.  In the end, though, I have learned a few lessons regarding the art of selection.  There are a few factors that seem to contribute to either long delays in responses from hiring companies, managers and/or recruiters.  Hopefully, what little insight I can provide can help shed some light.

Fact or Fiction:

Premise: If a recruiter does not call me immediately following the interview, they are not interested, and I should just move on.

Steve’s Verdict: Fiction

As far as I am concerned, not all recruiters can turn around feedback on a dime.  Sometimes, it could take a few days (if not longer) to get feedback to candidates.  Keep in mind that for much of the time,  feedback is not being sourced from the one, but many evaluators, all of whom may have other pressing priorities in their working lives.

That said, it would then be prudent to balance patience with a bit of prudence.  I would recommend expressing interest in the role following the interview, perhaps even articulating a few points from your conversation, then letting it stew for a couple of days.  Offer to instead, provide a definite future date for a check-in call.  This minimizes the anxiety and uncertainty of the random call, and allows recruiters and the hiring manager or team to plan accordingly.

That said, getting the immediate call or quick follow-up is ideal, but don’t read into it too much if it doesn’t come right away.  In my view, I would be very wary of anyone trying to pressure you with moving to offer and instantaneous acceptance, without the opportunity to at least contemplate what they are willing to offer.

Premise: I interviewed, I thought it went well, they were very excited to talk to me, they asked me plenty of questions, I responded well, I am a shoe-in, right?

Steve’s Verdict: Fiction

I hate to burst your bubble, but interviewing teams are typically trained to put the company and their respective team in the best light possible.  In that respect, the intent of evaluators during interviews is to “sell” the candidate on the prospect of joining the company.  The idea is to make the candidate feel that this is the best place for them to work, that this is the only place worth considering joining, and that they highly desire and value you as an employee and the contribution your will provide.  That being said, it does not mean in retrospect that they necessarily value or weigh every candidate equally, and it does not mean that if they seem to like you when you show up, that this automatically means you are hired.

I look at this similar to going to a car dealership.  No matter who you are, and what your intent is when you show up at the lot, the sales personnel will treat you with the highest level of attention and care, because depending on how well you are treated could mean either you buy today or buy tomorrow or buy sometime after that, or even influence someone else into buying.  It does not mean that they want to become best friends, but you never know.  The best sales staff are trained to treat every customer like they are on the verge of buying, without making them feel uncomfortable or pressured to make decisions.  This may be a form of soft-sell, but it speaks to the capacity for successful sales teams being able to move clients in the direction they intend to go, while still allowing them to feel like they are in control of their own decisions.

Premise: They passed , rejected me, or decided to move on with other candidates. I must suck, right?

Steve’s Verdict: Fiction

I say this with a grain of salt, but I do not believe that every candidate that is rejected or passed on for roles are necessarily awful.  I do believe, however, that not every role is suited to every candidate.  I also believe that sometimes companies and hiring teams, managers, and even recruiters and sourcers make mistakes.  We all do the best that we can with what information we have at our disposal.  Sometimes, we make rash decisions, and sometimes good candidates are left by the wayside, in the pursuit of the ideal.  Persistence counts in the pursuit of a new job.  This may come in the form of multiple applications to various roles in the same company, or different applications (and hopefully interviews) with different companies.  It may take reaching out to friends to get you a leg up, or enough visibility to get a chance for consideration.  Any and all means to get your face, profile and name out there.

The Bottom Line:

Applying and interviewing for jobs is more akin to art than science. There are no specific and absolutely perfect strategies for landing a job.  What it takes is quite a bit of trial and error, a thick skin at accepting failures, and learning from them, and the persistence to push through when the timing is right.

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