“I’m sorry—we’ve actually made an offer to another candidate.”
It’s a phrase any job hunter hates to hear, especially when the days drag on after your initial interview, and you begin to wonder, “Where did I go wrong?”
Of course, most of us already know the tried-and-true etiquette for landing your dream job: Don’t forget the cover letter. Make sure your social media accounts are up-to-date.
But what other little hobgoblins of job hunting can really trip you up?
We spoke to hiring managers to find out the real reasons good applicants can get the ax—and seven told us how potential hires they’ve interviewed have talked themselves out of a paycheck.
1. Lack of Follow Up
“Not providing good follow up is almost always a killer,” says Meghan Keane, vice president of editorial at Alloy Digital. ”I’m always surprised when I have an interview with someone I really like, and they don’t follow up. No thank you note. No outreach. It usually means they aren’t interested in the job or aren’t as good as I thought.”
The reason this matters is that it’s a good indication of how you’ll perform on the job: “When you’re actually working with someone, you need them to be responsible,” she says. “If they can’t get back to you when they really want to be hired, would they be responsive on a daily basis?”
What you should do: Be prolific in your thanks. After every interview, send a follow-up note, says Keane. Even if you immediately hear that you aren’t getting the job, send a thank you for the consideration. Even if the person interviewing you was rude and you wouldn’t take the job had it been offered, send a thank you because it’s the right thing to do. And if you don’t want the job, do it simply because you never know where your interviewer will land next.
2. Not Knowing Your Audience
You’d think there are certain things that would be givens: Like not trotting out any big, red flags that could put the kibosh on your getting the job. “In our business, you have to be dedicated to the country and the military,” explains Scott Maddox, site manager at a national defense corporation. “Not to mention, you have to be able to pass a background check. I had one applicant who slyly mentioned that he does everything in his power to not pay his taxes. I couldn’t believe he would say something like that to a company that works with the government.”
The takeaway: Do your homework—and that means researching not only the particular company you’re interviewing with, but keeping up on industry norms and trends. Then make sure that your behavior, and the information you offer in the interview, will help your cause, not hurt it. And, as a general rule of thumb, it’s almost always better to pay your taxes. (If you have questions about how to pay your taxes, we can help.)