Dear J.T. & Dale: What can I do to stand out? I’m going on interviews, and more than one company has seemed interested, but when I called to follow up, now they are looking at more candidates. Did I not interview well? What’s a way to find out? — Jay
Dale: The great frustration of job hunting is that there is no feedback loop — you don’t learn why your resume wasn’t picked, and if it was, you don’t learn why you didn’t get called back.
J.T.: It would be great if you could contact interviewers and get them to suggest one or two things you could focus on in order to be a better fit next time a job comes available. While most interviewers won’t respond, you could get lucky with a compassionate person. Still, there’s a better way: Next time you go to an interview, ask near the end what they think of your prospects and if there is anything they wish was different or that would make you a better match for the job. You might find some way to overcome their objection, right there on the spot, or learn how to reposition yourself in the future.
Dale: It’s conceivable that you’d learn that experience/credentials are missing. But the fact remains that you usually don’t get to the interview stage unless your credentials and experience are just fine. Remember, the interview is not about your resume —they’ve seen it and approved it, or you wouldn’t be sitting there — it’s about whether they want you on their team. What they are NOT going to say, ever, are the hard-to-hear soft truths — that you seem humorless or have bad grammar or are pushy. For those, you have to find yourself a feedback loop.
J.T.: There’s no replacement for a friend who does interviewing to practice with you, or a career coach.
Dale: Having done many interviews, actual and mock, I can tell you that the most common mistake interviewees make is to merely sit there and earnestly answer questions. People want to hire people, not just credentials. As a job candidate, you want to ask questions, show curiosity, lean in and be INTERESTED. That’s not a natural reaction in a pressure situation — you have to get mock interview practice and coaching.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success” (John Wiley & Sons).
Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
© 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.