- You are good at doing your job but not doing the interview.
If you are a qualified candidate, I have no doubt you are good at what you do. However, because interviewing is not your job, most people are not well trained or practiced enough with the right guidance for interviews. That’s why they fail! You don’t know how to DO the interview. It’s extremely sad and unfortunate if you miss a job offer because of this. Especially because at the end of the day, what matters is not how well you interview, but how great you do the job.
- You talked to the wrong gatekeeper.
Big companies have large volume of hiring and they have deep pockets to hire HRs and in-house recruiters to do the first round screening. If you unluckily have your first round of interview with a HR personnel whose priority is to get cheap labour or cut cost rather than securing the best talent for his/her hiring managers, you will be screened out if your current salary or salary expectation is over their budget. Additionally, if they don’t know the business well, their judgement on your capability can easily go wrong.
- The interviewer is not good at interviewing, and as such your interview performance is affected.
You are good at doing your job but not necessarily the interview- same for hiring managers. They are apt at what they do, but not necessarily well trained to interview. If they are not well prepared, properly coached, or if the company has standards for the interview process, you may be asked dumb questions that screw up your interview performance. I’ve seen the best candidates failed, not because they didn’t know what they do, but because the questions that they were asked were really ‘no brainer’. As such, the hiring manager was unhappy with the answer. Of course dumb questions can only generate dumb answers. I had a candidate politely tell me: “Mr XYZ asked me a very interesting question that I’m not sure he knows what he does. As such, I feel very lucky that I’m not shortlisted for further round of interviews.”
- Not your problem. Just the wrong fit.
Sometimes interviewing is like dating –if the chemistry is not there, the job won’t be yours. It could be the fit between you and the hiring manger or you and the company culture- neither party’s problem. It’s just a fit question which is as important as the job fit.
- There is a preferred internal candidate
When there are internal applicants for the role, most companies will give internal candidates first priority because it is good for internal staff morale, talent development and retention. If there is not a significant gap between external and internal candidate, the internal candidate will highly likely get the job. Why? Because they have already been working for the company for some time. They have already proved their competency, cultural and team fit- while landing a total outsider is much riskier for the company. In addition, the insider has an advantageous edge outsiders don’t, they have champions for them inside the company.
- There are flaws in the interview process.
What could go wrong in the interview process that will result in a wrong hire? The reasons could be a few. The No.1 mistake I have seen is “quick judgement made within first 30 minutes or less.”
This is most common in the first round. Interviewers are human beings too. We all tend to make judgement based on first impression. Especially in the first 30 minutes. If there are no rules set “don’t make decisions in the first 30 min”, fall off happens! If the interviewers don’t like the candidate’s appearance, body language, the way s/he talks, even dress code or hand shake, the person is out of the game even before s/he has a chance to prove his worth.
I had two most unexpected falloffs in my entire recruiter life. The first one was an HR Director candidate for China’s top private equity firm. She was a perfect fit for the job, but immediately after the first round interview, the client phoned me: “Angelina, what have you sent to us? She is definitely not the right fit! She is carrying a Chanel bag, wearing Gucci shoes, sparkling watch, very bling-bling. Her hair and make ups… Oh ugly, definitely not suitable…”. I was shocked and deeply troubled “How could it be?”
I have never met this candidate before as she was based in a different city. Her phone interview with me over the phone was excellent. The off-limit reference checks I did were also positive. I was 100 percent sure right fit. The CFO’s comments surprised me.
I phoned the candidate as I was planning to meet her after the interview, and was waiting for her in the lobby of the client’s office building. She said: “I’ll meet you in XYZ shop downstairs.” My heart was pounding when I was anxiously looking for her in the shop.
I saw a woman looking like my candidate, (whose taste in fashion I truly could not comment on, although she dressed in the most luxury brands from head to toe). I thought, “Oh no! No wonder she failed!” I walked up to the woman and asked: “Are you Sally (A fake name for privacy protection)?” “Sorry, wrong person.” I was immediately relieved, “Thanks God! She was not my candidate!”
Then someone called my name. I turned around… “What an impeccably dressed professional business woman! Why on earth did my client make such a big fuss on her appearance?” Then I thought about something, my negligence- a mistake I would never make again.
I had assumed the client’s company’s dress code was the same as all the other big international investment companies, because it was one of the biggest name in China’s private equity and they hired many top talents from the big foreign players. The only difference is this is not a foreign company but a Chinese state-owned company. Well, it was a lethal mistake. For a Chinese company, (especially this one – a more state-owned Company (SOE) culture), the dress code is not quite the same as their international counterpart. Staff mostly need to be “modestly” dressed. My candidate dressed perfectly for an interview with Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs or KKR, but not their China equivalent.
Another case was with my previous company. It was Head of Property Management – China. The first round was with the Global Head of Property Management. The candidate failed in the first 10 min. The Global Head told me “It was definitely not him!” I knew it as soon as he walked in. Why? He didn’t even wear a shirt with cufflinks! Our company’s property managers have to dress sharp and impeccable. Cufflink was not the norm in the dress code in China especially in property management. This was much out of expectation as nobody would have thought about that in much detail.
I simply felt sorry for the unlucky first candidate. Of course, I told my future candidates they must wear cufflinks and dress up to their highest standard. It’s as if I’m telling them “Drive your Lincoln or Bentley to the interview. If you don’t have one, rent one, or else you have no chance to survive the interview. You have failed even before you open your mouth.”
It is understandable wearing the right dress code to an interview is important. However, if the hiring manager excludes a good candidate just based on what they wear, how they look, or any other factors even before giving them an impartial assessment on their job, culture, team, competency fit, that’s a bit judgemental. How could that not lead to a wrong hiring decision? The company could have excluded the right candidate but end up hiring those great at making first impressions but not good at their jobs. Furthermore, dressing properly can be learnt without much time or effort, while the core skills and competencies cannot be learnt quickly.
Well, there is not second chance for you as a candidate. You must figure the dress code before you go into an interview.
- Something you have done inappropriately during the interview process.
Did you smile at the receptionist? Did you give a firm hand shake to the interviewer? Did you say what you are not supposed to say professionally? Did you look at your phone during the interview? Any small details can have some negative impact on your interview.
- You failed to handle the salary negotiation appropriately.
Everybody wants a higher pay but not everyone knows how to negotiate it right. Do you actually know what’s negotiable and what’s not? Do you understand how much bargaining power you have? Did you come across too greedy because of the number you asked?
- Something has gone wrong during reference check.
Maybe you had some wild pictures publicly available on your Instagram. Maybe your employment history on your CV contradicted with the background check of the company’s findings. Maybe your degree or professional certificate info are questionable (Maybe you forgot it?). You might have even lied about the reason of leaving your last job (though you were innocent). The company found out about some negative references on you.
Let’s talk about the different types of search firms (recruitment agencies) first, which will help you better understand why not all headhunters are equal. There are predominantly two types of executive search firms: retained and Read more…