While driving the other day, I was listening to a caller on a talk radio show complaining about age discrimination in employment. The caller said he was in his 50s and that had been on 14 interviews since losing his job as an engineering manager. Surely, he said, the reason he had not gotten an offer was because of age discrimination.
Just a few days ago, I talked with a frustrated recruiter who had phone screened someone she thought was the perfect candidate, but when she met him in person, clearly, he was not. She said he was nervous and twitchy, and he made such strange facial expressions that, as she put it, “he looked like a baby with gas.” When she told him he just wasn’t a fit for her client, he got angry and asked to speak directly to the client.
Last month, I had a networking meeting with an unemployed technical trainer, who was referred to me by someone I know. During the course of our lengthy conversation, she never smiled once, she slouched in her seat, and when the bill came, she never offered to pick up the tab for our coffee. Her take on why she hadn’t gotten a job offer? She is a victim of sex discrimination, because “technical companies only want to hire men.”
What do these three unemployed job candidates have in common?
Instead of figuring out what they may be doing wrong on an interview, they all chose to blame someone or something else. It’s the recruiter’s fault, it’s age discrimination, it’s sex discrimination.
Guess what. It’s the candidate. They all need to improve their interviewing skills. Each one of them apparently had a good enough resume to generate interviews, but once they appeared in person, they bombed.
Rejection is hard to take. We like to make excuses to dull the pain. But that won’t generate job offers. Figuring out what to do differently or better will.
Here are some tips on how to determine what you need to change in order to get an offer instead of a rejection letter.
Prepare for interviews by practicing out loud. If you only rehearse in your head, you will sound brilliant – but you will fall flat in the interview unless you have rehearsed out loud.
Even better, practice out loud in front of a mirror or with a tape or video recorder. Or have your spouse or trusted friend conduct a mock interview, then give you honest feedback on how you came across.
Practice speaking about concrete examples of how you made a difference for your past employers: how you have saved money, came up with creative ideas, fostered teamwork, did the job better or faster. Paint a picture for the interviewer by giving specific examples, not broad statements such as, “I always had good performance appraisal ratings.” Instead, be specific: “In my last three performance appraisals, my overall rating was ‘Exceeds Expectations’ because I frequently suggested ways of streamlining production,” and then go on to give one or two brief examples of how you actually did that.
Pay attention not just to your words, but also to your body language. How’s your posture? Do you have good eye contact? Are your hands in your lap or flailing all about?
How’s your voice? Are you enthusiastic and upbeat? Do you speak with confidence and articulation? Do you vary your pitch and pace to hold the interviewer’s interest?
Top all of this off with a terrific interview outfit (nothing that is dated, revealing, wrinkled, or worn out), and then, the offers will flow.