Why You Were Rejected After a Job Interview, with Shelley Piedmont

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 286:

Why You Were Rejected After a Job Interview, with Shelley Piedmont

Airdate: March 10, 2021

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by Top Resume. Top Resume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.

Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume.

You interview for your dream job. And you couldn’t be more excited. But then you learn someone else got the offer.

Why wasn’t it you?

Shelley Piedmont is here to talk about why you were rejected after a job interview and what you can do about it.

Shelley is a former recruiter and human resource director. She’s also the founder of ShelleyPiedmont.Com.

She helps you make the positive impression that will lead you to your next job.

She joins us from Charleston, South Carolina.

Well, let’s get started, Shelley. We’re talking about why applicants get rejected after a job interview. First I just want to acknowledge, this is hard news to hear, isn’t it?

Shelley Piedmont:

Well, yes. You put your heart and soul into your job search and you’ve done all of the activities, you think you’ve done everything right, and then you either get a rejection, or worse, probably, is you’re ghosted, and oftentimes you get no feedback. So, you are left confused, not understanding, and don’t know what to do about it.

Mac Prichard:

It’s especially hard for people who have all the required skills and experiences. Why do employers say no to people like that?

Shelley Piedmont:

Well, you know, what you have that is required, that is your opinion. Obviously, employers may feel differently about that. And so, I think, generally, there are three areas where people get rejected, and so let’s talk first about qualifications.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, let’s jump into that, and what do you mean, Shelley, when you say qualification? Is this what is on the job posting or is it something else?

Shelley Piedmont:

No, this would generally be what is on the job posting, where they’re going to talk about what they’re looking for from the candidates. So, oftentimes, that ends up being a long wish list of things. That can be certain knowledge, it can be certain experience, certain skills that you have. And every job seeker, then, is going to be looking at that list to see how many well-qualified they are. So, generally, when you get to the interview rounds, either your first or second, then you know that you’ve met the minimum requirement that they’re looking for; otherwise they wouldn’t have moved you forward. But when you are interviewing, you have no idea, usually, what your competition has in respect to you. So, let’s say there’s a job description, and you say, “Well, I have 75% of what they’re looking for.” So, that can be a combination of your knowledge, your skills and your experience but you don’t know that maybe the other candidates that are interviewing at the same time that you are, maybe they have 80, 85, 90% of what the hiring manager’s looking for. So,while you think you’re very well-qualified, there may be others that are even better qualified.

Mac Prichard:

Is that a deal-breaker, Shelley, if three people walk into a room and one has 90% of the qualifications, the other 80, and the third 75? Is it always going to go to the person with 90%?

Shelley Piedmont:

No, it won’t. That is something that they’re going to look for, that hiring manager, but there are other things that the hiring manager is also going to be looking for. So, that’s why it’s helpful for any candidate to really understand that company, that job, that hiring manager to understand what will be the most important things that that hiring manager is going to use to determine whether they’re going to make the offer. So yes, I have personally seen the person that I would think, on paper, is most qualified but doesn’t get the job.

Mac Prichard:

Qualifications will, perhaps, get you into the room but they won’t get you that offer.

Shelley Piedmont:

That’s correct. Not necessarily. You have to also be able to articulate, you know, having that conversation, being able to sell that knowledge, those skills, and experience. That sometimes can be an issue for a job seeker, even if they have everything, or a vast majority of it, sometimes they can’t communicate that. And so somebody who may have, let’s say, lesser skills, not bad skills, but just not as much, if they can communicate a better story, sometimes they will be selected over the individual that is more qualified.

Mac Prichard:

In your experience, Shelley, I know you work with candidates all the time, do most applicants understand this, that having the qualifications alone won’t get them the position? They’ve also got to be able to tell that story and pay attention to these other factors that you’ve mentioned.

Shelley Piedmont:

I don’t think job seekers are as aware as they should be about that. Some people come in and say, “Well, I’m the best-qualified person. Why didn’t I get the job?”

And unfortunately, oftentimes, they don’t get feedback ,so they don’t really understand that while they may have had really good experience, they just weren’t being able to tell that interviewer how they could bring value to the table.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about value. How important is it when you’re sitting in that hot seat in the interview room to show the value that you offer?

Shelley Piedmont:

It’s very, very important because, at the end of the day, the hiring manager wants someone who will do the job and will do it well. That’s their bottom line for it, why they have the position open. You, as the job seeker, need to answer that question for the hiring manager.

So, lots of people come into the interview thinking, “Well, I’m just going to talk about myself.” And it seems almost counterintuitive that you really don’t want to talk about yourself so much as you want to talk about what you can offer to the hiring manager that they will value. So, sometimes people come into an interview and they talk about extraneous things. Things that is important to them but may not be important to the hiring manager, so, they don’t connect the dots for the hiring manager of why they would bring them the value that will get them an offer.

Mac Prichard:

What are some of those common extraneous topics that you see job seekers, I’m guessing, inadvertently, talk about that perhaps candidates want to avoid in their next conversation?

Shelley Piedmont:

Well, this, again, goes to research, researching what is important to that company, what’s important to that job. I give an example where I would see people come in and maybe they had a sales background but they were interviewing for a non-sales role, and what they would talk about was all of their sales awards. How they got this award or that award, and while those are great accomplishments, it may not be relevant to the job that they are seeking. So, those are the kinds of things where you need to know what your audience is looking for and then being able to tell that story. Those are the things that I think sometimes job seekers do not understand.

Mac Prichard:

How do you see candidates do that well, Shelley? Again, you work with a lot of job seekers; when you think back on former clients, how do they demonstrate the value that they offer? What do they do before they walk into that interview room to prepare that story?

Shelley Piedmont:

I always advise people to go through that job description and pick out from that job description, what are the skills that you see there, that it’s obvious that they’re looking for? What are the experiences, what particular knowledge, and then come up with where you match that. As an example, problem-solving. You see that that’s something that’s kind of talked about a lot in that particular job description. Then what you need to do is go through your history and you need to come up with examples where you have problem-solved.

Now, it’s also important to try to make those examples as relevant to that particular employer, that particular job, as you can. So, that obviously depends on your background, but the closer that you can get to something that you would be doing in the job, you can paint that picture you can tell that story, then, yes, you can then connect the dots for that particular hiring manager.

Mac Prichard:

How do you see people do that, Shelley? They’ve done that homework, they’ve got examples of problem-solving in their past, but they want to make them as relevant as they can; what do they do to find out what the challenges are of the employer that they’re going to meet with so that they can make those connections?

Shelley Piedmont:

This is one of the harder things to do, is what makes that employer tick? What makes that hiring manager tick? And this is where you kind of have to dig in for your research. It is a lot easier in our time now, than say 5 years ago, to get this information but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy. So, if you can, talk to people that work at that company or have previously worked at that company.

Ask them, “What is the culture like? What are important things that employees need to know? What are the business problems?” And then also, try to find out, if you can, about that particular hiring manager. As we know, people are all different, hiring managers have particular pet peeves or a way that they manage, and it’s helpful if you know those things ahead of time. Because then you can match your stories to what you know about the company or the hiring manager.

That’s helpful and I’ve seen people do that very, very successfully, and it’s really amazing when you’re in the interviews because they really have addressed that value, all the hot buttons for that manager, and so they come out of those interviews looking very good.

Mac Prichard:

What if you’re an applicant, Shelley, you’re getting ready for an interview at the company, you want to ask those questions but you don’t know anybody inside the organization? What’s your number one tip for networking with people that you don’t know so that you can get the insights that you need to give the answers to the hiring manager that you’re going to meet with?

Shelley Piedmont:

Certainly you can use any of the online review sites. So, that would be like Glass Door; that can help at least give you a sense of that particular company. You can also cast a wide net in your network to see if you know anybody or if anybody knows anybody because sometimes it might be your second-level connection who may know somebody who would be willing to talk. So reach out as best as you can. Some people will be very happy to do so, obviously some people will be reticent to do so, try your best. If you can’t get the intelligence, you’ve tried your best. There are some cases where you just can’t, but if you can, that will give you a leg up on your competition.

Mac Prichard:

We’re going to take a break. When we come back, Shelley, I want to talk about two topics related to this subject that I know you feel strongly about: communication style and company culture, and what listeners can understand about those things to help them get ready for that next interview.

Stay with us. When we return, Shelley Piedmont will continue to share her advice on why you were rejected after a job interview.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Shelley Piedmont. She’s a former recruiter and human resource director. She’s also the founder of ShelleyPiedmont.Com.

And she joins us from Charleston, South Carolina.

Well, Shelley, before the break we were talking about why applicants were rejected after a job interview and I want to talk about communication style and organizational culture.

What difference can a communication style make in an interview and whether or not you get an offer?

Shelley Piedmont:

It can make a big difference. I have interviewed thousands of people, and one of the things that really disappoints me when I was interviewing would be people that could not communicate their points. In business, it’s really important that you can verbally communicate what you need and sometimes, perhaps because of nerves or not being prepared, people would not be able to get their points across. So, 2 areas where I used to see that were the people that ended up talking too much, they wanted to give every detail of a particular situation or story and because of that, they tend to lose the interviewer’s interest, so being more succinct.

The other issue that I would see are people that talk in generalities. They don’t give specifics about their particular experiences, knowledge, skills; they talk in generalities. And that’s not terribly helpful for the hiring manager because they want to be able to see a picture of what that person would do in their worksite. And so, when you talk in generalities, it’s really hard to get that sense on the person.

Mac Prichard:

How do you help people, the candidates that you work with, recognize that one or both of these issues may be a problem for them?

Shelley Piedmont:

When I work with candidates, I prep them by going through questions and listening for their answers, and you know, I’m looking at the time, making sure that those answers are complete, but within a short time frame. Because always remember that the shorter your answers are- now obviously they have to be complete- but if you can keep them shorter, that allows the hiring manager to ask more questions of you. And that’s helpful because then they get to know you a little bit better. They can ask a variety of questions which helps you be able to show the breadth of your experience and your knowledge, your skills, so it works to everyone’s benefit. I check for time but I’m also checking for content.

If you are asked a question, are you answering that question? Are providing some information about things that you have done, your accomplishments, challenges that you’ve faced? And also, not only that you’ve addressed something, but what was the result of it? Was it a positive result? Was it a negative result? People want to hear the beginning, the middle, and the end of your story. That’s what I advise my clients to do when they’re prepping for an interview.

Mac Prichard:

Do you have a suggested length for answers or a range of time?

Shelley Piedmont:

Generally, you would like to keep it about 2 minutes, depending on the question. If it’s a little bit more complicated question, you might need to have a little bit more time. Always remember, if you have engaged that interviewer, they can ask lots of follow up questions as well. So, you might end up talking, if they do ask follow up questions, for several minutes about that particular situation. But it’s important to get to the root of the issue, what you did and what was the result.

Mac Prichard:

For someone who’s not working with a career coach but wants to apply these ideas, what recommendations would you have for how they can do it on their own or perhaps with a colleague?

Shelley Piedmont:

As a career coach, I listen to those answers but generally, if you have a trusted colleague, a friend, a family member who maybe has a little bit of experience with interviewing, perhaps they’re a hiring manager themselves, it’s helpful to practice. You can also, obviously, on virtual platforms, you can record yourself with the questions and then the answers that you give, and then you can also look back and listen to yourself. Does that make sense? Can you shorten that? Can you make it more relevant? Are you connecting the dots for that particular hiring manager? So either with somebody helping you or on your own, you should take advantage of practicing.

Mac Prichard:

Related to communication style, how important is it to show enthusiasm in an interview? Can that make a difference in getting a job offer or not?

Shelley Piedmont:

It can make a big difference. I have seen candidates who could not communicate that they really wanted the job. Maybe they did but they didn’t really show it as compared to other candidates. And every hiring manager wants people who can do the job but also want to be there to do it. So, they want to see that this job is of interest, that it fits a need for them, that they will be very happy to accept an offer. So, showing that enthusiasm is important, and it’s not that you have to go overboard on that but, you know, expressing that you’re interested is helpful. Certainly in a closing of the interview saying a few words about that, your personal engagement in the conversation. So, are you making eye contact? Are you listening well?

Those are all going to help prove to that hiring manager that you, in fact, really want that job.

Mac Prichard:

Do you think that it’s a good idea to directly ask for the job, say at the close of the interview?

Shelley Piedmont:

I don’t know that you need to do that. I would certainly, if it is a job that you really want, I would make sure that you are saying that to some degree, so that the hiring manager really understands that. That could be something like, “I’ve interviewed with several places but I wanted to let you know that this would be my number one place to work.” Something like that would be nice to show your interest and enthusiasm.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s talk about organizational culture and fit. This is something that I know frustrates many applicants. They might hear, if they do get feedback, that, “Well, the chemistry wasn’t there,” or you know, “We were just looking for a right fit.”

What’s going on here, Shelley? Tell us about this.

Shelley Piedmont:

Culture fit, that is important for the success of the person in that organization. The cultures of different organizations, you know, they’re different. Even within the same industry, you’ll find that different companies have different cultures. The most successful people in that organization really embrace those cultures and they feel like, “That’s my people. Those are the people that understand me.” And they can often do their best work in those environments.

So, that’s why a hiring manager, HR departments, really want to get people that fit that. So, there’s the company culture but there also is the interplay between the employee and the hiring manager. Hiring managers have different management styles and some work for some people and some don’t, and so you want to also make sure that you’re matching those people up. Because if a manager and the employee have styles that clash, that will cause a lot of issues in the long term.

Mac Prichard:

How do you recommend a listener prepare for that when going into an interview? How can they both understand organizational culture and show that they’re a good fit?

Shelley Piedmont:

This is another place where research is really helpful and talking to people that know that organization who have worked there or are working there, to understand all of that. I like to give an example where I worked for an organization that was very process-oriented, that was the hallmark of the company and it worked for the company. But being process-oriented, having steps and various plans that involve a lot of things written down, processes, doesn’t work for everybody. It’s helpful if, before the interview, you understand that and then, obviously, if that feels right for you then that’s things that you can talk about also in your interview, again, to connect the dots for that interviewer to understand that you would fit.

Mac Prichard:

What should someone do if they identify a company, they want to work there, they do the research, and they find out about the organizational culture, say it’s very process-oriented, as you mentioned or described a moment ago, and they’re just not that person. And they go through the interview and they recognize, “I really want to work here but this isn’t me.”

Should they try to pretend they’re something that they’re not, Shelley? And how should they feel if they go through the interview and they don’t get an offer, and they recognize that maybe it wasn’t a good fit?

Shelley Piedmont:

That should happen. If you’ve done your research and you go into the interview, part of that is interviewing the person who’s interviewing you. You want to make sure that it is a good fit for you. We spend a lot of time on the job and so you want to make those hours that you’re doing that work as positive as possible, and if it’s not a good fit, the chances of that being a positive experience are not going to be high. You do that investigation, you understand yourself, that’s important, to know what’s right for you, and if that fit is not there, it is okay to let the organization know that you’re dropping out of that process because you realized that the fit wasn’t the right thing.

Mac Prichard:

Finally, Shelley, when you get the news that you didn’t get the offer, what’s your best advice on how to ask for feedback?

Shelley Piedmont:

It’s very hard to get feedback from organizations. They’re very reticent to give feedback but you won’t get feedback usually unless you ask. So, if you can ask, I would encourage that and see what you can get back. Any information that you’re given is better than no information. So yes, I would try to ask after every interview. Now, one of the things that you can do in the interview as you’re ending that interview is ask if there’s anything that had been discussed in that interview that would prevent you from moving forward in the process.

It’s a tough question, you have to be open to the answers that might be given, but sometimes in the interview, that is the most honest time that you will get any feedback.

Mac Prichard:

I love that question and this has been a very helpful conversation, Shelley.

Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Shelley Piedmont:

Well, I coach a lot of people, and I coach both people that are out of work currently or are thinking about a job change. And so, part of that is, I do believe that you can love a job and I help people, give them the tools to find one. I do career coaching, I help people with their LinkedIn, I help with resumes, I review resumes, and as I mentioned, I do interview practice to get people ready for their job search.

Mac Prichard:

I know that people can learn more about you and your services by visiting your website, shelleypiedmont.com.

Now, Shelley, given all of the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you were rejected after a job interview?

Shelley Piedmont:

Sometimes it’s in your control, maybe you haven’t communicated well, but sometimes it’s not in your control. If you don’t have the experience that the hiring manager is looking for or you’re not a right culture fit, those are things that you can’t really control, and sometimes not being selected is actually a good thing. They may know that you would struggle in the job, maybe with the duties of the job, or maybe just the culture of the job.

Sometimes being told no is actually the best thing.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Jason Alba.

He’s the founder and creator of JibberJobber, the six-week job search program. Jason is also a soft skills and career expert for Pluralsight.

There are no shortcuts to finding your next job. But Jason believes there is one strategy that can make all the difference.

He and I will talk about why informational interviews are the silver bullet every job search needs.

I hope you’ll join us. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

If you’ve ever been ghosted after what you thought was a great interview, you may feel confused about what went wrong. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’ve put your all into the interview only to be rejected. But Find Your Dream Job guest Shelley Piedmont says there are ways to be better prepared next time. First, focus more on the value you bring than strictly on your qualifications. Second, be a clear communicator. And finally, remember that sometimes, not being selected gives you a better chance at job fulfillment and happiness. 

About Our Guest:

Shelley Piedmont is a former recruiter and human resource director. She’s also the founder of ShelleyPiedmont.com.

Resources in This Episode: