If you have been applying for job after job and going on interview after interview only to lose the position to another candidate every time, you’re probably wondering what’s up.
We have a pretty good idea of why, all things being equal when it comes to skills and qualifications, an employer might choose to hire one person over another. It’s not always fair and it’s not always your fault. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to even the playing field in most, though not all, cases.
Here are seven reasons someone else would be hired instead of you, and some things you can do to avoid this happening to you.
People want to hire people they like. Sometimes we just click with someone, and sometimes we don’t, and there isn’t always a way to control that, but you can be sure to be warm, friendly, and interested. Listen, smile, and be engaged and engaging. It can be difficult to remember all this when you’re a bit nervous, but likeability can always put one candidate over another.
The other person may have better references than you. Consider yours very carefully and, whenever possible, have a conversation with the reference about what they are going to say. Never provide a reference without asking that person first. It could go wrong.
The other person might know someone at the company who put in a good word for them. Network as much as you can in your industry, ask friends for referrals, and try to connect with the people who work at companies where you would like to work. Don’t ask strangers to refer you. That is weird. Make real friends. The more people you know, the better your chances.
Employers hate hiring people with long commutes because they’re worried about them not showing up. So, all things being equal, they will hire the candidate who lives closer. When possible, if you live far away, don’t reveal your address until you receive an offer. Don’t put it on your resume and only give it to them if they ask.
I and a colleague once conducted a survey for a previous employer asking hiring managers: “If it comes down to two job candidates with equal skills and work experience, which of the following is the factor that will move you to hire one over the other?” The top response was that they would choose the more enthusiastic candidate. Be sure to show your enthusiasm. It could make all the difference.
Hiring managers love to hire for “fit,” which means they look for someone they think will fit in. I can’t help but think it’s a little silly and can lead to homogenous work cultures devoid of diversity and new ideas, but I don’t make the rules. Do your research on what the culture is like at a workplace before interviewing.
Ageism is rampant on the job market and the reality is that people will often go for youth over experience and knowledge. If you are older, you can try to mitigate this by focusing on the value you bring and keeping your skill set current. But this one is hard and there isn’t a lot you can do about it besides getting involved in an organization that is combatting ageism in the workplace or starting your own campaign against it.
You can’t always beat the other person to the job, but if you’re prepared for these possibilities, you’ll have a better chance.