Why You’re Always the Interviewee and Never Hired

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I just finished interviewing potential hires for two open positions at my company, and I was reminded why I founded Come Recommended in the first place.

Back in 2009 when Come Recommended launched, it was a professional networking site for internship and entry-level job candidates and employers. But in order to gain access to the community, all members (including employers) had to “come recommended.”

Our technology allowed potential members to send recommendation invites, which brought recommenders to a page that first asked for their relationship to the candidate or employer and then provided a specific set of questions depending on that relationship. Unlike LinkedIn, Come Recommended members couldn’t choose whether or not to show these recommendations…they immediately appeared on the member’s profile after the recommender hit Submit. Once a member had three recommendations (good or bad), they were granted full access to Come Recommended’s online community.

Why all the trouble just to get into a networking site? Because I was fed up with the exact reason I’m writing this post today: Candidates often look great on paper, only to disappoint majorly at some point during the hiring process. Even though Come Recommended is now a content marketing and digital PR consultancy (I know, complete change of direction), I still find myself butting heads with this issue.

I am convinced — as I have been for a long time — that many more people would be employed if they just took a closer look at what they might be doing “wrong” during their job search.

Instead, they get angry and blame employers and hiring managers for their troubles. Don’t get me wrong, there are way too many companies out there looking for the “perfect” candidate they will never find. But you need to take control of your job search — your career — if you ever hope to be happily employed. And that might even mean paying someone (oh, the horror!) to help you perfect your application materials and hone your job searching skills. Believe it or not, career coaches and resume writers exist to help you — and have valuable skills worth paying for.

I wish I was wrong, I really do. I wish candidates that truly weren’t a good fit for my position looked just as bad on paper as they do during the interview process. Trust me, it would save me a lot of valuable time. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. And that’s not to say these folks aren’t a great fit for some other position out there — they very likely are — but not mine, which is my primary concern.

For one of the two positions I had open, I interviewed approximately 25 people — and had zero problem narrowing the list down to three after interviewing everyone. By their experience on paper (or in this case, their LinkedIn profiles), all 25 should have made excellent hires for this particular position. Why didn’t they? Here are just a few examples:

  • Nervous laughing: I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and call it nervous laughing, although one candidate was laughing so hard during the entire interview that I thought I was being punked on a radio show.
  • Going for a world “you know” record: How many times can someone say “you know” in the same sentence? Six, apparently. In. The. Same. Sentence!
  • Disliking a virtual working environment: One of the questions I ask candidates is what they liked most and what they liked least about their previous positions. One candidate told me she disliked working in a virtual (sometimes called remote or telecommute) environment…which Come Recommended happens to be. (This is made clear in all our job ads.)
  • Calling from a rave: Not one, but two candidates I interviewed had loud music and conversations going on in the background of their interviews. While I can’t confirm they were clubbing, it sure sounded like it.
  • Putting me on hold: Yes, that’s right, one candidate put me on hold for a while to confer with someone else in the room before answering a question.
  • Telling me your life story: The first question I ask candidates is the ol’ “tell me about yourself.” Your answer to this question should be anywhere from 30-90 seconds. Two candidates took 30 minutes (yes, minutes) to respond.
  • Never leaving your script: I have a feeling one candidate got a hold of my full list of interview questions from another candidate…because she stopped me at one point and told me I “missed one” that she really wanted to answer. She proceeded to tell me what the question was and clearly read her answer to it from a piece of paper.
  • Not truly wanting to work for my company: Nothing gets my attention more than a candidate who tells me she’d rather be in grad school or working at a law firm than my company. (Sarcasm.)

Unfortunately, this list could go on…and on. Some of you reading this might not even believe these stories because they seem too (trying not to write “stupid”)…unbelievable. I would never do something like that, you’re thinking. Really, are you sure? What I find unbelievable is that people would purposely tank job interviews. Perhaps it’s time you evaluate what you could be doing wrong in the eyes of hiring managers and recruiters…and do something about it.

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Heather Huhman

Heather Huhman

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle (2011), #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.Visit Heather at http://www.heatherhuhman.com.

5 Comments

  1. Wow – I’m shocked by some of these responses that popped up. But, you’re right, as much as I want to say “Well I would never do that” I have made my fair share of silly mistakes in interviews. Hopefully those candidates see this, realize their mistakes, and perfect them moving forward.

  2. Stephanie,

    Thank you for your comment! Yes, that’s exactly my hope with this post. I wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t want people to learn (despite what some people might think about my reasoning).

    There are always going to be stories out there that sound so outlandish that there’s no way they’d happen to someone you know, let alone you…right? I’m hoping that hearing this from a familiar voice (me!) distinguishes that assumption.

    Heather

  3. Heather, Thanks for the article, I’m finding more overt reasons to reconsider a job candidate. How would you rank not putting the direct employer, temporary agency, but the contractor as an employment reference? Confused or embellishment?

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