There are 13 common reasons why people fail interviews… from not showing the personality traits that employers want to see, to not asking the right types of questions at the end of the interview.
A lot of job seekers come to me saying, “I keep failing interviews,” but they aren’t sure what to do differently (or whether there’s anything they CAN do differently).
Trust me – there is. And I’m going to share everything in this article.
Let’s get started…
I hear a lot of job seekers saying, “I’m not getting hired in my interviews, it must just be that I don’t have the experience they want on my resume.”
This is not it.
If the employer invited you to interview, they liked your resume.
Once you’re in the interview, it’s up to you to impress them with HOW you describe your experience, what type of attitude you show them, what questions you ask them at the end, etc.
Your resume has one job: To get you invited to interview. If it did that, then your resume is working.
Now let’s move on to some possible reasons that might be costing you job offers in your interviews.
These are the top reasons that people fail job interviews…
Don’t underestimate this step.
Employers want to hire someone who’s thorough and hard-working; no matter what job you’re interviewing for.
And the first way to show them you work hard and don’t cut corners is by walking into the interview knowing about their job and company.
Try to know more than anyone else they’ve interviewed.
Study the job description and make note of the key responsibilities.
Research the company, too.
Know how they make money, who their clients/customers are, who their top competitors are, how big they are (100 employees, thousands of employees, etc.), and more.
Try to imagine what some other job seeker out there is doing, and then do twice as much. This is how you stand out.
This is pure effort. You don’t need talent to do this. You just need to put in the work.
And employers do notice when you’ve done that extra research.
Your level of confidence when answering interview questions like, “Why did you apply here?” or “What do you know about us?” is just completely different when you’ve actually done thorough research. Your interviewer will pick up on this and love it.
Employers want to hire someone who is looking for specific things in their job search and knows what they want.
Otherwise, they’re going to be afraid you’ll get bored, not like the job, leave as soon as you find something better, etc.
And how can you know their job is a good fit if you don’t ask any questions?
So not asking enough questions is a huge red flag to employers and will make them worry that you don’t really care what type of job you end up with, you’re desperate and just want any job, or you’re trying to do the bare minimum to get hired.
And all of these are reasons why you’re failing interviews potentially.
You should ask at least one or two questions to each person you meet with. If you want to know what questions to ask, we have a detailed guide on the best questions to ask the interviewer here.
This is another way to show you’re a hard-worker who takes the extra steps to go above and beyond what’s required, rather than someone who cuts corners or waits to be asked to do something.
And which type of person do you think employers are hiring?
I’d recommend sending a thank you email to each person you met with face-to-face in an interview. Send it the following day at lunchtime, or the evening after the interview when you arrive home.
You can use this step-by-step guide with samples if you aren’t sure what to send.
It’s important to be authentic and admit when you don’t know something, and then show you’re willing to learn it.
Credit for this idea goes to a reader on LinkedIn who gave this response when I asked for under-rated interview tips.
Saying “no” is better than giving some long-winded answer.
It’s okay once or twice in an interview to say, “I’m not sure” or “no, I’ve never done that before, but I’d love to learn it”.
This is so much better than trying to lie or give a long-winded, confusing answer. Hiring managers are smart. They know when you’re doing this.
And if they don’t feel they can trust you, they won’t hire you.
So next time you’re tempted to lie in an interview, remember that being upfront and honest can win you a LOT of likability points with the hiring manager, and can sometimes get you hired!
Feeling pressure to say “yes” to every question or act like you know everything is a common reason why people fail to get hired in their job interviews.
Hiring managers do NOT expect you to be able to say you’ve done every single thing they ask about.
In fact, a good interviewer will ask some things you don’t know. How else can they find your limits?
Keep this in mind in your next interview.
This is something a lot of job seekers don’t realize, or just really underestimate.
Employers always want someone who is targeting specific things in their job hunt.
If you don’t sound like you’ve thought about what you want to do next in your career, employers will be worried you’ll change your mind and leave, not enjoy the job and get bored, etc.
So if you want more job offers, show employers you know what you want to do!
And if you’re unemployed, be ready to explain why you left your previous role. Here are 20 good sample answers.
Also, make sure you’ve prepared a good answer for “tell me about yourself”. This is often the first thing they ask and is a way for you to tell your story while also bringing them up to speed on what you’re looking for right now. (That’s how I recommend ending your answer to “tell me about yourself.”)
After showing them that you know what you’re looking for in your job hunt, be ready to explain how their specific job fits into that!
This is where doing your research helps. Review the job description thoroughly so you can name responsibilities that you’re looking forward to doing and building skills with.
Employers love to ask questions like, “why did you apply for this position?” to check whether you have specific reasons for applying.
And you aren’t going to get very many job offers by saying you just need a job, or you have bills, or you’re unemployed and need to find work.
I’ve talked to so many job seekers who don’t get this, or who are frustrated by this when I explain it.
They say, “I just need a job. Why do I need to act like their job is special?”
The truth is: If you don’t care about their job, they’ll probably find someone who does. This is a likely reason why people fail interviews and don’t get hired.
I’d recommend thinking more about what you DO want to be doing, and then only applying just for that type of job.
Narrow your job search. Apply for fewer types of jobs, but better-fitting ones.
And I don’t just mean jobs you’re qualified for, but jobs you actually want! That’s what I mean when I say “better-fitting.”
You’ll get more job offers when you can explain exactly why you applied.
Hiring managers want someone who’s going to come in and be positive, energetic, and excited about the work.
It’s okay if you’re not the loudest, most energetic person. I’m not either.
But you need to “turn it up” a little bit and show SOME enthusiasm.
If they tell you about a part of the job that sounds interesting, say so! Try to say, “That’s great. That sounds really interesting” at least once or twice in an interview where you’re learning about the job duties.
You’re joining their team, and they want someone who’s going to be energetic, excited, and care about the work.
Don’t forget that your job in an interview is to sell yourself.
While it’s good to be humble and honest, you always don’t want to be too shy about telling them what you’re great at and what you’ll do for them.
Talk about past accomplishments. Talk about what you’re best at. What are you an expert in?
What have coworkers come to YOU for help with in the past?
Have you trained anyone else? Has your boss asked for your help on a subject in the past?
What have you spent the most time doing in your career?
If you just graduated, what did you focus on in your studies?
You’re an expert in these things, so act like. Employers want to hire someone who has expert skills and can come in and help them right away. Don’t be shy to show this.
To start, prepare a good answer for “what’s your greatest accomplishment?”
Pick something recent if possible, that demonstrates a skill set that will also be useful in this job.
Think about how you’d answer questions like these, too:
Along with showing them your expertise, make sure you clearly show how those skills will help them in this job.
This is something most job seekers don’t do, and is a big reason why many people fail interviews.
Most job seekers think the interview is all about themselves. The key to getting more job offers is to make your answers about the employer, too.
Talk about how your skills fit into their job.
How will your past accomplishments set you up for success in the tasks you’ll be doing for them?
If you don’t study the job description carefully, you can’t do any of this.
So if you’re not doing this while preparing, it’s probably why you keep failing interviews.
If you want examples of what good interview answers sound like, read this article.
Hiring managers don’t want to hire someone who seems stubborn or unwilling to learn to do things their way… no matter how talented you are.
Each company does things a bit differently, and they expect you to learn how they operate (even if you did this exact job in the past).
So always show that you’re open-minded and willing to adapt to new ideas.
Every manager has had that employee who’s talented but just refuses to follow the company’s way of doing things, and it’s not fun for them. They don’t want to hire another person like that.
People judge each other visually before anything else. Within a fraction of a second, the hiring manager is gathering their first impression by looking at your facial expression and body language.
So it’s worth dressing well for your interviews and making sure you have confident body language throughout the interview.
Practice having good posture – both sitting down and walking/standing.
Maintain eye contact when talking and listening. (Most people find it harder to do while talking).
Don’t cross your arms or take a defensive posture when you sit down. Try to sit open and relaxed.
Also, avoid tapping your hands or feet or doing anything else that will distract the interviewer.
For more help with this, we have a full article here on how to show confidence in job interviews. (Including an image of what a defensive posture looks like, and how to avoid it when sitting down in the interview).
These may seem like small details but the impression you give off visually is often just as important as the words you’re saying.
If you’re saying the “right” things but not going into your interviews with an appearance that backs it up, it could be a reason why you’re failing interviews.
As you go through the job interview, don’t forget you’re talking to a real person.
This hiring manager is deciding who to bring onto their team and work with every day for the near future.
So building a personal connection matters.
If they ask you something about yourself, try to ask them a question in return. (For example if they ask whether you played any sports in college, you can answer and say, “what about you?”)
Also try to look around their office when you sit down and see if there’s anything you can use in a conversation later. For example, do they have photos of their children playing sports, etc.?
I had a discussion about this on LinkedIn recently when I asked people for their favorite job interview tip to stand out:
Hiring managers will remember you for this.
Don’t take the conversation totally off-track if they’re trying to discuss the job with you, but do learn one or two things about them and show you’re interested in getting to know them as a person before the end of the interview.
Now we’ve gone through 12 likely reasons why people fail job interviews. And finally – yes, it’s also possible that they invited you to interview and then realized your background just isn’t quite what they need.
It does happen.
But quite often, it’s something else. It’s one of those other 12 factors we looked at above.
So if you keep failing in your interviews, look at the pieces you CAN control. Don’t just blame it on bad luck, or on your resume (which you now know is probably not the problem if you read the start of this article).
There’s a lot you can control and change to start getting job offers instead of failing in your interviews.
I had a job seeker who recently ordered my Job Interview Cheat Sheet and then wrote to me saying:
“Before buying this guide, I had no idea how to really do an interview. My friends were just saying, ‘Do your best as it’s out of your control’.
I think a lot of people believe this – that’s it’s out of your control. And they’re wrong.
He went on to say:
“Within ten to fifteen minutes, I have realized that I have been doing interviews all wrong the whole time. I was too fixated on simply answering the questions from the interviewers about myself. Now I know to relate my strengths to the job duties and show them how I would help them perform the duties. The ‘no, but…’ method also helped me answer some skill-related questions. Your bonus sections assisted me build a positive mindset for any upcoming interviews so I can prepare and do the best for them.”
This article isn’t a plug for my Job Interview Cheat Sheet. That’s not why I wrote it. However, I think this illustrates the point I’m trying to make here – that you CAN change things and stop failing your interviews.
It IS in your control.
I hope this article is able to convince you of that.
The people who tell you it’s all luck or there’s nothing you can change don’t know what they’re talking about.
So keep trying, keep going. You’re just one good interview away.
But do change something if you keep getting rejected and failing in your interviews. The steps above are where to begin.
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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