Career services advisors encounter one scenario with some regularity: a student or postdoc is in the midst of a job search, and is frustrated because they are not getting the offers they hoped to receive. They want us to figure out what is going “wrong” and how to fix it. While there is rarely a quick explanation, or even a sure “fix,” there are some ways to pinpoint behaviors that students and postdocs could change to improve their outcomes. If you find yourself in this situation:
First, acknowledge that getting to the interview stage means you have desirable qualifications. Sometimes job seekers lose sight of this fact when feeling frustrated with their search. Sometimes that frustration can carry over into your interactions with future employers, and this is to be avoided if possible. Remember instead: past interest from employers generally suggests that your application materials are well targeted to the jobs you seek.
Evaluate all you are doing to prepare for your interviews. Are you researching the employers, deciding on what examples of accomplishments you want to share in the interview, clearly articulating your career goals and your potential, doing a mock interview to get some practice under your belt? Can anything be strengthened at the preparation phase, before the interview actually takes place?
Consider if you are respecting the etiquette conventions of the interview process. Are you getting to your interviews early, dressing professionally, and greeting everyone pleasantly? Are you acting in a way that fits with the culture of each employer? Do you ask interested questions, and express enthusiasm for the position and organization? Do you send a thank you note (or email) after each interview?
Do you take time at the end of each interview to consider how the process went? Reflect on what questions you answered well and what was unexpected or not handled smoothly. In particular, questions about salary can be mishandled if the discussion leads the employer to believe you want much more than what they might have budgeted for the position. What information did you get during the interview about the responsibilities of the position, or that might even indicate the interviewer’s experience of you? A few moments of analysis after the interview can help you in any future interview situation, and sometimes even help you shape any follow up during the rest of the selection process.
Do you know if or when your references are being contacted? Do you believe that you are getting strong support from your referees? (Someone who doesn’t speak highly of you can end up hurting your chances of getting an offer, “damning with faint praise.“)
Finally, remember that there are aspects to hiring that go beyond your interview performance. Sometimes there are inside candidates, changes to funding situations or priorities that shift during the hiring process. Occasionally, the “fit” with the culture or future direction of the organization just isn’t there, even when you have the right skills for the job at hand.
Whether or not you have yet to receive an offer, reflecting on some of the points above will undoubtedly improve your future interview experiences. Ultimately, the best you can do as a job seeker is to be prepared, present yourself thoughtfully, and acknowledge that some rejection is part of most job searches, as is a lot of ambiguity. At any time, if you want support in your job search, including talking about interview strategies, please make an appointment with Career Services advisors. We are here to help!