People who are frequently turned down for positions tend to express that they believe it is due to their age, looks etc, when most often the decision not to hire comes down to a poor interview.
Unless the candidate is video or audio recording their interview, it is impossible to be objective about the outcome. They may "hear" themselves in the moment, but without sitting and listening to (or viewing) the entire interview - the candidate truly does not have a thorough understanding of how they are coming across to the people interviewing them. Even then, it might be difficult to be impartial. Ideally it is best to gain honest insight from the perspective employer, or the recruiter that was involved in the process.
Whether the interview was over the phone or in person, these tips will apply:
- Stating the obvious - if interviewing in person or via web/skype/video, look presentable, sit up straight, smile etc. (It doesn't hurt to do this for a phone interview either, to put yourself in the right mode)
- Not all that long ago I spoke with a friend who is a CEO of a large company. He stated that he'd been interviewing a gentleman over the phone for a couple weeks for a senior sales position, and arrangements had been made for the candidate to come into the office and have a final face to face interview. My friend was fully prepared to offer this person the role, but when the candidate showed up, he "looked like he'd just played 18 holes of golf on a hot, windy day" - his clothes were casual, wrinkled & disheveled, his hair hadn't been combed, etc. After that interview the candidate was declined for the position. In everyone's opinion, he should've known that since he was meeting with the CEO of the company, and given the role he was interviewing for, he should've taken the time to make himself presentable and wear a suit or at the very least, clean, laundered, business casual attire.
- Shut up & Listen - Remember that song "Talk Talk" from the 80's? Call it the gift of gab, call it diarrhea of the mouth, call it Chatty Cathy syndrome - whatever phrase you choose, some people just ramble, and this can be the most detrimental faux pas of the interview process. Excessive talking during an interview seems to come about for various reasons - the candidate may be nervous, they may have a habit of talking too much, or they may be trying to fill dead air.
- Relax - Don't be nervous - easier said than done, but try to pretend you're on the phone with someone you're familiar with. Don't treat the interview like an exam, but more like a fact finding conversation.
- Be conscientious of how much you're talking - are you losing your audience? How long has it been since someone else has spoken?
- "Dead-air" - its ok for there to be a pause in conversation. Often the people conducting the interview take a moment to take notes, or consider an answer that has been given. If there is a longer pause that normal, ask if the call is still connected, if yes, ask if they would like a more detailed answer.
- Be Positive, no one wants to work with a complainer or someone who over-shares.
- Unless you're talking with a recruiter you've known for a long time, the conversation should stay very positive in nature.
- Don't talk poorly about your current/previous employer, either leave that out of the interview or touch on it as lightly as possible with as much positive spin as you can.
- Things like health, marital status / issues, children, family tragedies should never be discussed unless absolutely necessary. (example - " I understand the desired start date is 10/1 and that works for me, however, I feel I should make you aware that I have a surgery planned for 10/20 and will need that week off")
- Serial complainers need not apply. If you find yourself constantly complaining about life, work, co-workers, employers, the weather ... etc., its time for a change in perspective.
- Don't oversell and Don't undersell.
- Overselling - it is never advisable to embellish your qualifications. You may be able to bluff your way through the interview process but it won't take long for your new employer to figure out you don't have the qualifications to complete your responsibilities. This is a huge waste of time for everyone - you'll be fired, the employer has to start interviewing again, and if you went through a firm to get the role, it makes the firm look bad.
- Underselling - some people are really humble, and while this certainly isn't a bad trait, it can kill an interview. No one will sell your qualifications better than you. Be confident enough to be able to speak to your experience & successes. One can sell themselves without being braggadocios or arrogant.
- Know Your Audience
- It is always beneficial to know about the person/people you will be interviewing with. What type of personality do they have? Why are they seeking someone for the position? What are their pain-points?
- If a recruiter has submitted you to the position, ASK them to tell you as much as they can about the person you will be interviewing with. If they don't know, or you don't have a recruiter, research the person who will be interviewing you - LinkedIn is a great place to start.
- Example: If you are a exuberant person who is full of energy and tend to be loud and excitable, but you learn the person you'll be interviewing with is quiet & reserved, tone it down a bit. etc.
Finally, if you aren't sure how you come across during an interview, call a recruiter you know and have them run you through a mock-interview. You can also call a recruiter that has experience with you and ask them their honest opinion on why they feel you are having a rough time landing a position. Most recruiters are open to taking a few minutes of their time to help guide you through the process. Being able to be flexible in your approach & presentation is an important part of interviewing successfully.