Always a runner-up?

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Q: How do you know if you got the job when you go to an interview?  I have gone to an interview and I am well qualified for the job but don’t get it. I feel like the interview went really well and they even ask me about my schedule for follow-up interviews.

A: There are probably hundreds of reasons why a candidate does not receive an offer after feeling an interview went well.  Some of the possible reasons include:

  • Several strong candidates have applied. When an employer or hiring professional posts a job online, there is often an onslaught of candidates who apply.  Often times our client will painstakingly go back and forth between two or three final candidates.  Only one offer is extended, but the other “runner-up” candidate doesn’t realize how close it was with respect to the final choice. I have had several clients share with me that they feel like they could have offered the job to any one of the final candidates because all were qualified and capable.  Competition is fierce.
  • The opportunity no longer exists. It is uncommon, but sometimes an open position is put on hold and the company is no longer actively recruiting for the role.
  • Sometimes an internal employee is moved into the vacant position.
  • Often HR or the hiring manager does not want to give candid feedback to candidates who are rejected. A candidate can sometimes become angry, hostile or downright nasty if candid feedback is given.  Or a candidate can be argumentative about the reasons for not being selected.
  • Sometimes a candidate’s skills, background and qualifications are not on target for the role. Interviewers can sometimes learn a lot during the hiring process.  A hiring manager might think that 7-10 years of experience is required in the early stages of the recruitment process.  Yet when the hiring manager interviews a candidate with 5 years of experience, the hiring manager now thinks that candidates with fewer years of experience should be considered.
  • Or a candidate may think that they aced the interview, but the talent acquisition professional would disagree with that assessment of your qualifications. Sometimes we all don’t see our own shortcomings, flaws and weaknesses.  We all have them but we are not able to see them as others may see them.

The good news is that with each interview, your interviewing skills should be improving.  You should feel more relaxed and confident when meeting with recruiters, HR or hiring managers.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.

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