Q: I am new at searching for a new job. HR always seems to give me the “we’ve chosen someone who more closely meets our qualifications.” Why can’t HR or talent acquisition folks be more honest and share real feedback? What are some of the real reasons that you see?
A: I appreciate your search for candid feedback. It is important information but not always shared. Sometimes job seekers will say that they want honest feedback, but then respond in a defensive manner. If you ask, be ready to receive! Job seekers sometimes eliminate themselves from the selection process for some very “fixable” reasons.
Here is my list:
- Not checking email or voicemail. There have been dozens of candidates that I have tried to contact and I don’t hear back from them. Or I hear back from them way too late in the process. In some cases, a final candidate has been selected!
- Saying something inappropriate in the interview. Candidates complain about former supervisors, talk way too much about their kids (including showing me photos of their kids during the interview), describe their hassles with their commute or bring up topics that are irrelevant to the job for which they are interviewing.
- Candidates treat a telephone or Zoom interview too casually. I have had candidates schedule a Zoom interview while cleaning his garage, dirty shirt and all!
- Not wearing the appropriate clothing for an interview. It is better to over dress than to under dress. I have heard more than one hiring manager recommend: “when in doubt, dress for the role of your prospective manager.”
- Candidates who apply for every job … whether it is a VP of Marketing or a Purchasing Agent. I call them “perpetual posters.” They seem to apply for every role under the sun.
- Typos, poor grammar, etc. on resumes and within emails and cover letters. Or a candidate will direct their cover letter to “Dear Mr. Smith” and Mr. Smith is not the correct name but they have forgotten to edit the name. Or they identify a company in their cover letter and it is the wrong company name!
- No follow-up. Candidates should email a quick note thanking me and the hiring manager. (My mother was right. A thank-you note is important!)
- College degree. It almost always helps. Finish your degree. Completing 3.5 years of college is not the same as completing a degree.
- Be succinct, clear and concise in your verbal and written communications. Avoid the overuse of “ya know,” “like,” or profane language. It signals unprofessionalism.
- Do your research before you walk in the door of the company. Understand the company’s mission and vision. Know their competitors.
I have shared some of the many reasons why candidates don’t get offers. There are more for sure, but these are common mistakes.
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.