Not it: Small fac­tors can pre­vent job-land­ing suc­cess

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Job Market - — Marco Buscaglia, Ca­reers

Your ed­u­ca­tion is top­notch, your ex­pe­ri­ence im­pres­sive and that suit you wore to the in­ter­view? Im­pec­ca­ble. And yet, you con­tinue to hear “we went with some­one else,” even though you left the fi­nal in­ter­view com­pletely con­fi­dent the job was yours. So what hap­pened? Is it pos­si­ble that some­one you met with didn’t like you? I mean, c’mon. Who wouldn’t like you? Happy you. Smil­ing you. So­cial you. Fun you. Good­look­ing you. How is that even pos­si­ble? Even if your pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions weren’t up to par — and they were, of course. Well be­yond par, in fact — who wouldn’t want to hire you?

Well, that last com­pany, for starters. While there are al­ways in­tan­gi­ble qual­i­ties in peo­ple that are liked or dis­liked by oth­ers, it’s hard to ad­mit when the qual­i­ties in the “dis­like” col­umn pre­vent you from get­ting that new op­por­tu­nity. But it hap­pens. And in some cases, it’s not al­ways pre­ventable.

“Cer­tain peo­ple just rub us the wrong way,” says Brian Met­calf, a Boston-based re­cruiter for sev­eral fi­nan­cial tech­nol­ogy firms. “It could be your hand­shake, which some­one might find too ag­gres­sive. It might be the vol­ume of your voice. It might be your hair­cut. There may be some­thing about you that raises a red flag for some­one and that’s it — you don’t get the job.”

Met­calf says he isn’t talk­ing about legally ac­tion­able de­ci­sions, like gender or race. He’s fo­cused on the

things peo­ple do and say that might take them out of the run­ning.

Dis­like­able traits

So are you do­ing any­thing that might be unattrac­tive to po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers? It’s hard to tell. “Rough to do a self-assess­ment in the ‘what do I do wrong’ depart­ment, that’s for sure,” says Met­calf. “Most of us think we’re lik­able peo­ple, and prob­a­bly right­fully so, so it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to iden­tify the things that oth­ers might con­sider a turn-off.”

Lisa Zim­mer, a so­cial worker from Tulsa, Ok­la­homa, says for the pur­poses of get­ting hired, peo­ple don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to fig­ure out what’s wrong with them, they just need to fig­ure out what they’re do­ing wrong — if any­thing — over the course of a 60-minute in­ter­view. “Did you scowl when asked a cer­tain ques­tion? Did you cut peo­ple off when they were talk­ing? Did you reek of per­fume? These are the things that can cost you the job,” Zim­mer says. “Job in­ter­view­ers are hu­man. If they think you’re bored dur­ing an in­ter­view, you won’t be hired.”

Zim­mer sug­gests do­ing a mock in­ter­view with a friend us­ing, if pos­si­ble, ques­tions you’ve been asked dur­ing in­ter­views that led to nowhere. “Some­times a tricky ques­tion catches us off guard,” she says. “Peo­ple don’t know how to re­act when asked about an old boss or some­thing they found on so­cial me­dia. And they have trou­ble deal­ing with ques­tions that seem to have noth­ing to do with the job it­self — those es­o­teric ques­tions like ‘if you were an an­i­mal, what kind of an­i­mal would you be?’”

In other instances, it’s body lan­guage. “If you’re slumped over in your chair, if you play with your hair, if you crack your knuck­les, you’re putting a bad face on your brand,” Met­calf says. “Even small things, like con­stantly scratch­ing the back of your hand, might an­noy your in­ter­viewer.”

Guilt by as­so­ci­a­tion

Gabriel Sarges, an HR spe­cial­ist and ca­reer coach in Toronto, says he finds that some po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees have names, faces, physical at­tributes or per­son­al­ity traits that take them out of the run­ning for cer­tain po­si­tions be­cause an in­ter­viewer re­lates those qual­i­ties to some­one else. “And it’s not a pos­i­tive com­par­i­son, as you can imag­ine,” Sarges says. “Peo­ple as­so­ci­ate cer­tain names with peo­ple from their past. Let’s say you re­cently fired a bad em­ployee named Do­minick. Chances are rare that the next per­son in­ter­view­ing for the job will share the same name but if they do, good luck.”

Sarges says de­ci­sions based on fac­tors like names and faces are of­ten per­sonal pref­er­ences, not de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sions. “I’m aware of the stud­ies that in­di­cate neg­a­tive hir­ing trends in cer­tain in­dus­tries for peo­ple with eth­nic names but this isn’t that,” he says. “You may cer­tainly have a le­gal case if you learn a com­pany didn’t hire you be­cause the HR di­rec­tor didn’t call you back for a sec­ond in­ter­view be­cause you re­minded her of a neigh­bor she can’t stand or her ex-hus­band, but what HR di­rec­tor is go­ing to ad­mit that out loud?”

Met­calf says in those cases, there’s re­ally noth­ing you can do. In fact, he says, flipping a per­son’s de­ci­sion is prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble if that de­ci­sion is based on a job can­di­date’s per­sonal at­tributes. “It’s not fair but it’s a re­al­ity,” Met­calf says. “And it’s rare when it hap­pens. But if it does, you have to move on. You won’t know, any­way, so that may help, but this is real life. We all don’t have to like each other or even want to like each other. If you try to ad­dress ev­ery lit­tle thing about you that might be a red flag to oth­ers, you’ll be a bas­ket case.”

What are you not do­ing right that the “we went another di­rec­tion” re­sponse is what you (al­ways) get?

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