Why Your Job Interview Didn’t Bring You a New Job

A job search has many components. Perhaps none is more critical than the job interview. In a tough economy, just getting an interview invitation can be a significant milestone along the journey to full employment. One of the most common questions job seekers bring to a career counselor goes like this:

“I’ve achieved some success in getting interviews. Sometimes I even get a second interview. Then…nothing happens. What’s wrong?”

Typically, job seekers look for answers in the interview process. They wonder if they need to practice their interview skills. Sometimes, they can benefit from coaching on basic interview techniques. For example, when you are asked, “Do you have questions?” your interviewer doesn’t expect questions about hours, workload and benefits. She wants you to demonstrate your interest in the company. It’s an opportunity to show you have done your research. Once you have an offer, you can dig deeper into working conditions and compensation structure.

However, many seasoned executives and managers have superb interview skills. They know how to field even difficult questions and they know how to conduct themselves professionally.

Therefore, sometimes interview challenges begin at the beginning of a job search. Your resume might be getting you interviews, but your resume is not targeted properly. As a result, you wind up talking to hiring managers who are very impressed but recognize, “There’s just not a fit here.”

Finally, you may be dealing with pseudo-interviews. These employers have no intention of hiring you. However, they are going through the motions because (a) their HR person said they need to look at more candidates or (b) they are just curious to see “what’s out there.”

When I was an academic, I went on lots of pseudo-interviews. University officials were extremely concerned about meeting EEO regulations. They also had to follow arcane policies and procedures that called for committee meetings.

Once I went on a pseudo-interview in Boston. I told the dean I’d be staying an extra night in the very nice interview hotel at my own expense. No problem, he said. They paid for the whole thing…probably out of guilt.

Companies sometimes feel they are doing you a favor if they talk to you, even if they won’t hire you. Occasionally you will impress an employer during a pseudo-interview and you’ll get a job you didn’t expect. More often it’s a hassle and expense: after all, they won’t pay for dry cleaning your suit or boarding your dog.