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Why You’ve Gone on a Dozen Interviews and Were Not Hired

By Crystal Cotton

With 20+ years of experience in human resources, I‘ve had my share of really bad interviews. I confess, early in my career, the bad interview experience could have been my fault. After all, the interview process can be just as grueling for the interviewer as it is for the interviewee; especially if either are inexperienced, overly nervous or just have poor communication and social skills. But, as I became more experienced, more precise with my questions and skilled at soliciting critical information without crossing any lines of legality – this takes a great deal of intuitive skill – it became apparent that sometimes…no, most of the time; it’s not me, it’s you. Yes, you…the ill prepared, inexperienced, uninformed and unprofessional job applicant. You are the primary reason why you’ve gone on a dozen interviews and were not hired.

It’s the most perplexing part of the job search. What did I do wrong? Why didn’t they call me back? How do I convince them that I’m the right person? When you’re getting interviews but no offers, you must look at yourself more closely. Something could be amiss.

At a round table discussion with several of my HR colleagues, I posed the following question, “Assuming all major qualifications are met, what’s the one thing that makes you think twice, or even disqualify an applicant for hire?” These are the things that make a difference when the playing field between you and another candidate is leveled and now the employer is making judgments calls about the right fit.

Eager to air their pet peeves, my colleagues all chimed in, almost simultaneously. It was like HR harmony as they vocalized their top reasons for not hiring an applicant. It echoed my experiences over the years and comments heard time and again from employers and recruiters. It’s you and your inability to make a good and convincing impression. So, take heed, these are opinions of people who influence or sometimes make the final hiring decision and give weight to these things when deciding who gets hired and who doesn’t.

1. You are dressing inappropriately. Clothing with too much cleavage or too body conscious. It’s a job interview, dress like you have a clue, and tone it down. Ok, I get that some people don’t have a suit, and no-one’s saying it has to be Armani, but at least put on a blazer. Remember that flip-flops are traditionally beach wear, and even if they are embellished with rhinestones, or made from the finest leather, they are not appropriate for a job interview. Tuck your shirt in and make use of the iron for a neater appearance.

2. You are not prepared. Did you do your homework? Employers are impressed when you know more about the job than what is on the posting. It shows you have a sincere interest in the job and the company. Take what you’ve learned about the company and formulate some questions to ask at the interview.

3. You cannot clearly explain your accomplishments, goals or potential worth. So you’ve got skills, but what have you done with those skills which demonstrate your successes? Can you clearly state your goals and align those goals with the company in mind? Worth, in this sense does not mean salary, it means value. What value do you add to the company? What will be your contribution to their bottom line? Know how to express these things and you’re well on your way to your next job or career move.

4. Your resume does not support your interviewing skills. A prime reason to draft your own resume – get the help of a professional, if necessary – is to make sure it accurately reflects your skills and capabilities. When I work with people to re-write their resume, we do it together. I get their input and see that the client understands how to present it to employers using comfortable language. The resume is an extension of you and your first impression. Know it like you know your birth date and social security number.

5. You did not remove doubt. Let’s face it; everyone has some past employment experience they’d rather not discuss, even if it was something that happened due to no fault of their own. And when your barriers or issues are more obvious – long employment gaps, terminations, criminal or poor credit histories – the employer will have legitimate doubts about hiring you. It’s your job to give reasonable explanations assuring the employer that their initial concerns are a non-issue. This is where your power to influence and sell yourself comes in handy.

6. You brought your negative alter ego to the job interview. No one can be cheerful and happy all the time. Yes, bad things do happen to good people causing a multitude of emotions including anger and resentment. But, the job interview is not the time to let your anger, disappointments and frustrations out. Never complain about prior employers or people who didn’t like you. Most importantly, do not disparage yourself; refrain from making statements that highlight your insecurities.

7. You’ve forgotten your manners. Never underestimate the power of being polite. Confirm your appointment, this shows responsibility and interest. If by some freaky chain of events you are late, then call. When you arrive, apologize and offer some explanation; short and simple. Save the melodrama for your friends. Don’t interrupt the interviewer when speaking. It might lead to the impression that you have control issues. Lastly, say thank you for the opportunity to interview and follow up. A simple thank you letter may just tilt the scales in your favor.

8. You don’t fit in. So admittedly this one may not be your fault. At the risk of sounding too cliché, you are who you are and everything isn’t for everybody. Sometimes you don’t get the job because you just don’t fit. Every workplace has its own culture. Generally, employers try to find people who will easily fit in. Even in extremely diverse workplaces, they look for people whose skills, experiences, personality and character align with their goals or compliment existing culture. All things being considered, if the employer doesn’t think you fit in, there may be nothing you can do to convince them otherwise. Remember the job hunt is not just about them choosing you, but also about choosing the right job for you. So spend some time researching the company culture.

Believe it or not, these things can be just as important as your skills. Make one of these faux pas and you may still be a contender. Make a few of these at once, and you’ve earned yourself a standard rejection letter. So the next time an interview doesn’t go well, think about what you could have done differently.

Crystal Cotton headshot
Professional development consultant Crystal Cotton owns Crystal Clear Connextions, which helps job seekers improve their communication skills.


  1. Diana Rivera

    Great article!

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