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Job candidate's lament: Why won't anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong?

Job candidates must understand that when they don't

Job candidates must understand that when they don't get a job it might be less about their interviewing skills and more about their not being a good fit for a position, the director of HR consulting at a human-resource and labor-relations firm in Syosset says. Credit: iStock

DEAR CARRIE: I have been out of work for several months. Despite getting many interviews and being invited back for follow-ups at some companies, I am still without a job. I would like to find out what went wrong so I can use the information to improve future interviews. I have tried, but the interviewers have never responded to my follow-up emails or telephone calls. I truly do not understand why I don't get a note back, even as a simple courtesy. I would even accept, "We have decided to go with another candidate," but I receive no information at all. The interviewing process has gotten so perplexing and extremely frustrating. Help! My unemployment is about to run out. -- Mum's the Word?

DEAR MUM'S: I spoke with an executive who offered some insights from her twin perches of human resources and career counseling.

From an HR point of view, when a candidate doesn't get a job, the less said the better, said Mary Simmons, director of HR consulting at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates Inc., a human-resource and labor-relations firm in Syosset.

"As an HR consultant I would advise clients not to give too much information for fear it may lead to a claim or litigation," Simmons said. "Quite frankly, it is not our job to tell the candidate why we didn't hire her or what she can do differently. A recruiter's job is to fill positions as quickly as possible, and taking time to instruct candidates we did not choose would take too much time and leave us liable in many cases."

Putting on her career counselor cap, Simmons said, "I am asked this question often. My advice is to continue asking for the feedback, although it will be rare to get it. Instead, be proactive and take a class or tutorial on correct interviewing techniques, or work with a career counselor to do mock interviews."

She said she often tapes mock interviews with clients.

"When we play it back for them . . . they are often shocked at some of the mistakes they make," she said.

Some of the common mistakes interviewees make are:

Talking over the interviewer. "Let them lead the interview," Simmons said. "But you as the candidate should have notes on what you want to convey in the interview, which should be your skills and competencies as they relate specifically to that particular job and company."

Not doing any research on the company or the position.

Dressing inappropriately. "Even though suits are not often worn in the workplace today, professional dress is still a must for most professional positions," she said. "Even when the position would not require a candidate to wear a suit or dress very professionally -- say a computer programmer or a cashier -- the candidate must be dressed in clothing that is not offensive, is clean and properly pressed, and not too revealing."

Not succinctly describing their accomplishments in previous jobs. "Companies do not want to hear what your responsibilities were at your last position, but what you did above and beyond" those duties, she said.

In the end, candidates must understand that when they don't get a job it might be less about their interviewing skills and more about their not being a good fit for a position, Simmons said.

"They should think back and take notes on the questions asked and recall whether or not they answered them to the best of their ability," Simmons said. "If they did, the job is simply not for them and they may need to review the positions they are applying for and make an adjustment there."

Go to for more on interviewing skills.


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