if you’re getting interviews but no job offers, here’s what to do

featured-on-usnIf you’re getting plenty of job interviews without any job offers, it’s time to think about what could be going wrong. Since you’re making it past the initial screening, the problem is unlikely to be your resume or cover letter. That means that it could be your interview skills, or something about your experience that isn’t obvious from your resume, or even your references.

At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about six ways to dig into why you’re not getting job offers. You can read it here.

{ 75 comments… read them below }

  1. HM in Atlanta

    I can second #1 – I had an issue with a former boss who kept my resignation private, trying to make it look I gave no notice. When companies did the barest of reference checks, they would hear (from the Administrative Clerk) that I left with no notice. She thought that was the truth. Fortunately, I called the owner who fixed the reference error. Voila – I was hired after the next interview.

  2. Just a Reader

    I would add to think about what you’re wearing. Oddly the people I know who are job hunting often have questions about what to wear, and in my own experience interviewing candidates, I’ve been shocked at what some people have turned up wearing.

    Flip flops, beach bags and even jeans have appeared in interviews for professional jobs. Mind boggling.

    1. Kevin

      I second this. I know for my current position I beat out the other finalist who possibly had the edge skill wise but I wore a suit to the interview and they wore jeans and ratty sneakers.

    2. CC

      I may have had the opposite problem once… the interviewer kept making comments about how the work was sometimes dirty and not sitting in a nice clean office at a computer all the time. After the fact, I realized that I wore a suit to the interview because it was an interview, and they may have thought that was what I was used to wearing while working. Wish I’d known to ask them what reservations they had — if my choice of clothing was one of them, I could have answered that. I’m perfectly comfortable in dirty jeans and steel toed boots (and hard hat and reflective vest and…) that’s just not what one wears to an interview.

    3. Anonymous

      While not the norm for the country, around here jeans are pretty normal for tech jobs. Heck, I remember some of the interviewers in the company wondering if a candidate was over dressed. He was wearing nice jeans, suit jacket, and dress shirt. Seen the gambit from jeans and hoodie to slacks and polos. Don’t think I saw anyone in suits, even those interviewing for a VP and President position.

  3. Lynn Whitehat

    I do a lot of technical interviews. You would be surprised how much people do not prepare for them. The job posting often has the desired programming language(s), database background, and other technical skills right there. Look it up! Review those things! It’s not cheating, I swear! Guess what, if the posting said “10+ years of Java experience”, and the phone interview grilled you on Java concepts, the in-person interview will have more Java stuff!

    1. Dan

      What are you actually looking for with “10+ years Java experience”? In my line of work, experience at that level is more about client interaction and project management than it is sitting in front of your computer and writing code for that period of time.

      But generalized things like “must know Java” drive me nuts. What does “know Java” even mean? For all of the stuff I do with Java, there’s plenty that I don’t — ie graphics, threading, sockets.

      Same with “rate your skills in x…” Well, what does 10/10 mean to you? Those self-evals with no context are pointless.

      1. Lynn Whitehat

        Yeah, I don’t love the “X+ years of experience” phrasing either. (I don’t write the postings.) What we’re really looking for at that level is someone who has broad experience in that language, so that they know the common best practices, the right way to do things, and if they need to work with certain aspects like QueryDSL or JUnit tests or something, they either already know how to do it or can figure it out quickly.

    2. KC

      This. I’m not an engineer, but I think the same logic applies. I’m 99% sure that the reason I got the job offer for my new gig was that I researched their interview process almost obsessively beforehand and mentally prepped and studied for it.

    3. Windchime

      We were interviewing a person for a QA/Tester job and the job posting clearly stated that. About halfway through the interview, the candidate remarked, “You’re sure asking a lot of questions about Testing!”. Um…..yeah. Because, y’know…….it’s a Testing position.

      1. Dan

        My favorite interview story centers around a company who was hiring me for a math-y type position. The whole interview centered around behavioral questions (“Tell me about a time..” types of things.) I actually wanted them to get around to the math parts, because that’s um, what I went to school for you know. They never did. WTF.

        1. Midge

          I once had an interview for an internship where the interviewer talk about himself for nearly the whole time. At the end he asked me a couple questions about my experience. I was shocked when I got the internship, because I thought it had gone so badly.

  4. NEP

    Thanks for this great article. I’d be interested in hearing about people’s experience practicing responses aloud and/or doing mock interviews. How significant has this been in pulling off successful interviews? Seems obvious, I know. But any stories about this would be helpful. Thanks

    1. Kevin

      I practiced a lot saying my responses out loud.I don’t mean practice them in my head, I mean speak them. It led me to be able to speak without “ums” or “likes.” I did not have anybody mock interview me but I could see it as helpful (I can see this being especially helpful for people who do not have a lot of interview experience).

      I also tried to not make it sound rehearsed. A great conductor once said about performing, “It should sound completely spontaneous but as the result of meticulous practice.”

      1. KC

        That’s a GREAT quote and I think it’s the key to nailing interviews. Being able to be spontaneous and genuine, while also presenting as professional–sounds like it should be easy, but not necessarily so.

      2. Anonymous

        I sort of have that problem too – I know I’m supposed to prepare, but then I over prepare and it sounds rehearsed. And then when you’ve had like 50 interviews, you have actually answered many of the same questions 50 times, so it’s hard to not sound rehearsed when you’ve repeated the same sort of thing so much.

    2. Stephanie

      Even just saying responses out loud to my dog helped. Something about saying the words out loud helped me realize when an answer was unfocused or worded poorly.

    3. Anonymous

      At school we had mock interviews that were taped. that way I realized I talk very fast when I’m nervous and move my hands a lot. now i keep repeating myself to relax and slow down :)

      1. Tina

        Having it taped can be very useful for exactly that reason. You notice so many things on your own, and don’t even necessarily need anyone else to give you feedback. Some colleges provide access to an online resource called Interview Stream, which allows you to practice with your computer/web cam and you can watch it, and/or send the link to any adviser you may be working with.

    4. Elle D

      For me, a mock interview vs. just practicing out loud was helpful in identifying body language issues. My mock interviewer told me that while my answers were strong and my tone was clear and confident, I wasn’t making eye contact and kept looking down when I delivered my answers. This made my answers come off as rehearsed instead of conversational (as though I was trying to recall my prepared speech). I wouldn’t have realized this without doing a mock interview, since no one would have been able to point it out to me and my interviews have definitely improved since I discovered this.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      The best practice I’ve done for interviews wasn’t done explicitly for interviews: community organizing.

      The foundation of community organizing is building relationships with people – and in particular, figuring out whether their self-interest and your self-interest are aligned, such that you can work together on something. That’s pretty much what you’re doing in an interview.

      The first step in building a relationship with someone is having a conversation with them, sharing your story and hearing theirs. I’ve had hundreds of these intentional first conversations, and the tools and skills I use in those are the same I’d use for an interview. It’s nothing magical: just hours and hours of experience in listening carefully and asking questions that drive a conversation forward, knowing which tidbits of my story arc are relevant to a given moment in the conversation, anticipating what my conversation partner is curious or skeptical about, and so on.

    6. Joey

      I did this with my wife and she was recently offered a higher job title than the one she applied for. I could definitely see the wheels turning when she tried to articulate answers to the questions we anticipated the hiring manager would ask. Even some of the common answers to questions she knew were coming were tougher to articulate than she expected the first few times we practiced. She mentally knew how to answer, but doing it verbally put a little more pressure on her to convey her thoughts succinctly and accurately. We did it similar to the way my 6 yr old practices for his spelling test. I asked a question (from a list we devised) and she answered. The only real part I couldn’t simulate without some help from her was in the follow up questions I asked. Sure enough the hiring manager asked many of the same things we discussed so it was much easier for her.

      1. NEP

        Such excellent insights and tips. Just one more reason to appreciate AAM. Thanks, AAM and all.

  5. Legal jobs

    I believe for people of color (or older job hunters or anyone different from the image expected in an industry), it is important to add: (7). Realize that being different may be a factor in the hiring decisions despite your experience. Be prepared for a longer job hunt on average even if you are landing interviews.

    I was talking to a friend. He is a software developer over 45. He’s getting interviews but having a hard time getting hired. His interview skills have not hurt him in the past.

    1. Anon

      This is why I’m planning to go to Sephora and get a makeup lesson. I turned 50 last summer, and, while I almost never wore makeup before, I feel it would help, and I don’t know how to do it. At the very least, it will help me feel more confident, whether anyone else notices or cares.

      1. AnonEMoose

        If you’re planning to do eye makeup at all, get yourself some Urban Decay eyeshadow primer (they carry Urban Decay at Sephora – the Urban Decay pencil eyeliners are also very nice).

        Seriously, though, the primer is amazing for keeping your eye makeup from smudging, creasing, and so on. I can put my eye makeup on at 7:00 am, and still have to actually remove it before I go to bed.

        I say this because when you’re interviewing, the last thing you need to worry about is whether your makeup is behaving or has decided to go everywhere but where you actually wanted it.

        1. Tina

          I like Sephora products, but I would just give a word of caution about relying too heavily on their make-up advice, especially for those of us that don’t usually wear much make-up. Every time I’ve gone in to my local Sephora, the staff wear enough make-up to be circus clowns. And I’m not just saying that as someone who wears very little, they were genuinely wearing that much.

          1. Sadsack

            True – and their lighting seems to make you look 10 times worse than you actually do in the daylight, causing you to look great once they cover your face in makeup but not so great when you get outside. They will sell you all kinds of stuff that you really do not need, even for a special occasion like an interview. I think you should go into an interview feeling that you look professional and well-groomed, not done up like it is your wedding day.

          2. Stephanie

            I’ve gotten good makeup advice from them, but I did have to really remind them that I wanted something low-maintenance that could be done in under 10 minutes and gave me a polished look.

          3. Ask a Manager Post author

            Try telling them you want a very natural look, and it you want it to be low-maintenance. That’s worked for me. Also, remember that you don’t need to use every product on yourself that they use. They might use 10 because they’re giving you the full enchilada, but you can decide you just want to do, say, the eyeliner and the lip tint (or whatever).

        2. Elle D

          I also love the Urban Decay makeup setting spray – I use “All Nighter” which is for normal skin, but they have variations for oily or dry skin. Not to sound like a commercial, but it keeps my makeup in place and looking fresh all day!

          1. AnonEMoose

            I love the setting spray, too. I probably sound like an Urban Decay commercial, but I really do love their makeup – it works well for me and doesn’t freak out my skin.

      2. Stephanie

        If you want to avoid the Sephora ladies’ hardsell, there are a ton of makeup tutorials on YouTube.

      3. Anonsie

        Not to trash the many talented folks at some Sephoras, but in general their sales people are not extremely talented with makeovers or even just color matching.

        It sounds silly, but look at ads from some different department store brands and see which ones seem like they’re your style. Book an appointment with someone at a department store counter for that brand. It won’t be free, but you’ll get a much better service overall, and at most department stores the cost can go to purchasing some of the products so it’s not fee + cost of everything you liked.

        Think about how much time and effort you really want to put into it– really. It’s easy to say “I look great when I wear 9 products!” but when I have to get ready in the morning that list needs to be significantly shorter. Be really honest about that with the artist, and also be honest if you don’t like something.

        1. Stephanie

          Not to trash the many talented folks at some Sephoras, but in general their sales people are not extremely talented with makeovers or even just color matching

          Oh, you’re right. I usually make it a point to track down a black makeup artist (or at least a POC makeup artist) as the non-POC ones usually aren’t the best at color matching for dark skin. They tend to go too light (making me look ashy), too dark (making me look like I just came back from Tahiti), or too red (making me look like I just ran a 5k).

          Anon 3:16, if you’re on the edge of the complexion spectrum (i.e., really pale or dark), I would look into higher-end brands. Unfortunately, they cost more, but they usually have more shade options.

          1. Anonsie

            If you’re outside the core slightly tan Caucasian color spectrum at all, you’re gonna come out a funny color IME.

            Like you say, I’m off the end of the chart, so many brands don’t have a shade that matches. Everything on the ends is either very yellow or very pink, and without fail the sales folks in Sephora (and often at other counters, but always at Sephora) are always trying to convince me that it will totally work. It does not work, it never has and it never will, but they are sooo sure that maybe I can blend my neutral powder into a extremely yellow foundation and have it come out well. Nope.

            On that note, actually, what a lot of people find helpful is finding their color at a MAC counter (since they have a great variety of colors but not a great variety of foundation options) and then look up what products other people of that coloring use.

            1. voluptuousfire

              I’d totally recommend with going with the Bare Minerals/Bare Escentials line. The colors are great and they’re really good for those who are low maintenance/wear very little makeup.

              But overall this was definitely me before I got my current job! Plenty of interviews (averaging 3 a month from April-November) but no offers! The feedback I did receive was that someone always had some x factor I didn’t.

    2. Joey

      That’s true. And its so easy to speculate that that may have been the reason when you interview with people who look different.

      1. Legal jobs

        Its not speculation.

        I was interviewed by a company of 150 people .

        Not one person of color in a major city on the east coast. No Asians, Blacks or Latino.

        A general counsel at a major company said to me “you know this is not a minority internship” although I was intwrviewing for an entry level in- house position, not an internship.

        He followed up by asking whether I had taken contracts law, a course required by law schools so he knew I had taken it.

        Not everything is about race but I do myself no favors pretending race is never involved

  6. MM

    For #1 – wouldn’t you have to lie to your references and say you have an interview so you can tell them that the employer (your professional-sounding friend) would be calling them? Otherwise, you’d risk your references being caught off guard and perhaps sour that you didn’t notify them that someone would be contacting them for a reference. Maybe I’m thinking into it too much.

    1. Stephanie

      Yeah, I was wondering this as well. Plus, do you have the professional-sounding friend come up with a fake company/job?

      1. Julie

        Plus, sometimes hiring managers will call people who are not on your list of references, so those people wouldn’t have been notified that they might get calls. And I would imagine (and hope!) that the people who have told you they would be glad to be a reference for you are not the ones giving you negative references (but I guess you never know).

    2. Midge

      Also, what is your professional sounding friend supposed to say when the reference wants to know what company they work for?

          1. Jean

            This is a nice solution. (If you have no cat, use any other name you like.) But what if the reference asks for the phone # of the professional sounding friend to call him/her back later? The Prof. Sounding Friend should either reclaim the callback rights (e.g., “I’m about to go into a four-hour meeting…please let me call you back”) or plan ahead by changing his/her voicemail’s outgoing message to say “Silverwhiskers LLC” instead of “Hey, dude, leave a message!’

            1. Anonymous

              > plan ahead by changing his/her voicemail’s outgoing message to say “Silverwhiskers LLC” instead of “Hey, dude, leave a message!’

              It is all about commitment to the cause!

  7. Anonymous

    Does anyone have a rule of thumb for quantifying “plenty of job interviews without any offers”? Essentially my question is, what do you think is normal (x interviews with 0 offers) and what signals that you might be doing something wrong (y interviews with 0 offers)?

    I’m entry-level, if that matters.

    1. Dan

      Honestly, it depends on your field. I’m a STEM dude, and out of grad school, I had 8 interviews and 2 offers, and after 5 years, with my latest go, I had 3 interviews and 2 offers.

      1. meesh

        in the past 6 months, ive had 4 interviews, 0 offers in my field…is that “plenty”?? i dont know lol

    2. Gilby

      Good question.

      I think you need to look at the jobs, interviews themsleves as well as yourself.

      If you go on lets say 10 interviews, realistically you are not going to want all 10 and nor will you get offers from all 10.

      I just went on one that I hope they DON’T call me. She explained all the problems in the company a lot of turnaround, toxic, no polices….etc. I don’t really want to walk into a job, new, with combat attitude. I overshot my salary requirement at the end of the interview with hopes it is too high.
      I don’t think I blew the interview at all. I think I did well. If I do get a second interview I will be asking questions better suited now that I have more info. ( I am not in a position to just say no completely and the job itself sounds good).

      There are other interviews where I didn’t connect well with the interviewer and didn’t do as well. Or I was nervous and rambled.
      I usually look at what I said and pretty much know I did OK or not.

      I think as a newer person to the working world it would benefit you to ask someone to mock interview you so you have some idea of how to assess how you did as well as start off with the right interviewing techniques.

      So if you have 10 interviews how many are you really going to get? How many do you really want? How many were you second choice, but you just don’t know that and it was not because you blew it.

      100 interiews and no offers? Yeah maybe there is a problem.

      I have had about 8 interviews in the last 6 months. I got one that was a temp, offered the day of the interview and another manager wants me but some internal glitches are in the way.

      Probably 3 I was better off not getting. 2 of those I have seen in the papaer several times before and after I interviewed so I question the turnover rate.

      It is really a matter of knowing yourself and being able to look at the interview, walking out the door and really assesing it. Yes I answered that question well. The interviewer smiled. Oops the interviewer kept asking me to clarifiy need to take a look at how I answered this.

      1. voluptuousfire

        +1. Like I said above, I was averaging 3 interviews (of some stage or another) a month. I passed the majority of the phone screens I did and the phone screens I didn’t make it through were mainly due to salary differences.

        One job I interviewed for would have probably hired me on the spot if it had been up to them but their director passed and they hired a cute, little slip of a chickie who had 1/4 of my experience. Probably got something like 1/4 of my salary requirements as well. :)

        For the majority of the positions, I made it to at least the middle step, if not the final interview. More than once I think if it had been up to that interviewer, I would have been hired right then and there but for whatever reason, the powers that be went with another candidate. I know I’ve made a positive impression and that’s what mattered.

    3. KH

      I’m mid career (manager level) and am now 3 onsite interviews and 0 offers, some of which are jobs I could do in my sleep. I’m considering hiring an interview coach. I have a low level of energy by default – I’m pretty sure it makes me look flat, but I don’t know how to add more energy without seeming like I’m faking it.

  8. Anonymous

    For me, I have tried all these things, and I think my problem is mostly #6, but I’m not sure how to stop myself from doing that, and also because I mostly get interviews for a very competitive industry, where often they’ll interview like 6 people and think all 6 of them would be amazing for the job. The mock interviews with a professional has helped me identify my issues the most, and I have been working on them, but have also been told they’re not tooo bad, which makes me feel better. Generally the people that get hired instead of me have significantly more experience than I do (and years more than the job description requires).
    I definitely needed to see this right now, thank you! I’ve had (roughly) an interview a week for roughly a year and a half, I consider that a lot. I often make it to the second interview, so I don’t think I can be that bad. From the advice I’ve gotten from past interviewers and from people I’ve done mock interviews with , although of course I’m not perfect, I’m not doing anything horribly wrong. I think I’d feel better about it if I was doing something horribly wrong – especially because people I don’t know assume I must be doing something horribly wrong and although I have no evidence for that, I’m starting to believe them.

  9. Keith Matthews

    A suggestion for #2–If there is a local vo-tech school, check with the business department. My wife taught business for 20+ years, and one of the subjects was Job Readiness, for which she conducted mock interviews for students as part of the class. She often used guest interviewees to demonstrate how to/not to interview. A simple phone call to your local vo-tech will probably get you the help you need.

  10. Insgrl3019

    Not only did I land a phone interview and a face to face interview, but no I’ve landed a second face to face interview! I know this slightly off topic but is there any advice on what to expect in a second interview, and should I ask for feedback now?

  11. Wonderlander

    Spot-on advice as usual! DH has been unemployed for going on 5 months and I think he needs to read this. He’s had 3 interviews and no offers. Ugh.

  12. Anonymous too....

    I have been on countless interviews and have beat myself to death trying to figure out what “I” am doing wrong that I am not getting offers. I have dressed the part, done the research, taken a deep breath before answering questions so that answers were thoughtful and mindful, anticipated the questions and have written down suitable answers to review prior to an interview, you name it, I’ve done it. All the while I am professional, courteous, excited but not too excited, expressed interest in a position, tried to show confidence without looking or feeling arrogant and try to exhibit my experience without being told I am “over qualified”.

    I have also asked for feedback from interviewers with little to no response or get the typical “canned answer”. I have lowered my salary expectations and even “dummied down” my resume on occasion. I have created well-written, thought-out resumes and cover letters for each position that I apply for and guess what, I still don’t have a job. I have done a lot of soul searching about this and I have come to the conclusion that I am not the problem.

    I have registered with several agencies who don’t even take the time to get all of the details before sending me out to an interview and then have the nerve to tell me how to dress. Some people may need to be given those details prior to an interview, however, I am not one of those people and I am insulted by it. I have also been interviewed by people who clearly should not be doing it and it is blatantly obvious that they should not be doing it. Do you know how difficult it is to sit down with an interviewer who is wearing capri pants, sandals and a tank top when I am expected to be perfect? I know what business casual is but really??

    Employers want someone with a wealth of experience which I have and I am very proud of. I have worked for many years and have attained a great deal of skill and experience that I am not willing to just let go for an inappropriate or insulting salary. I avoid talking about money at all costs unless I am backed into a corner which is almost always the case. I do not lie about what my last full time salary was and this would be confirmed with a call to that employer. However, it will ultimately end without an offer. I also know that there are things that are going on behind the scenes that I have absolutely no control over, i.e. age, length of time I have been unemployed, positions posted because they have to when they already have someone else in mind for the position or it is being filled internally. It is difficult to put that thought away during an interview when it is a very real possibility. Shouldn’t employers be respectful of applicants and their time? It’s not exactly cheap to drive to interviews (especially if you get lucky enough to get a second or third interview) and spend time on something that they know will not have a positive result for an applicant.

    I would be very interested in hearing anyone’s thoughts. My energy, patience and enthusiasm has simply disappeared.

    1. FrustratedPHD

      Wow, are you taking a page out of my book? I also feel the same way you do. I have have done all the things you have described and still no job. I have gone through depression, blamed myself, lost sleep and had continuous dreams that my teeth are falling out and I am holding them in my hand ( dream interpretation) says its stress. Hang in there! They have the upper hand right now with so many people seeking employment. I keep telling myself that the most high is preparing something special for me. Don’t give up!

      1. ______

        Frustrated, that’s because they are hiring someone they know. Even though you may do all those things already, it still doesn’t make a difference. It seems the only way to get a job these days is through connections. Otherwise, you have a higher chance with playing the lottery.

  13. voluptuousfire

    ^ We’ve all been there, when your job search mojo is just gone. Looking for jobs is one of the most stressful things one can ever do. The uncertainty, the hits to your self esteem, some of the interviewers who are complete idiots/jerks, etc.

    You just need to take a step back and take a deep breath and refocus.

  14. Still#Looking

    I’ve been interviewed 4 times from the same company before they brought me on-site for a group interview. The hiring manager and I went to lunch after the interviews were completed. After about a week later, I followed up with him and he stated he will be making a decision early in a week and a half. After waiting for a week and half, I found out from him via email that their company had a soft quarter and they’ve been placed on a 90 hiring freeze, but if I was still looking after the 90 days he would love to have me on his team. After 90 days of waiting, I sent the hiring manager a follow up email and a week later left a voicemail … and nothing still. Should I just take it as a “no?” (This whole process has been 5 months long, two months of interviews and waiting 3 months.)

    1. KH

      The general rule I’ve been told is check in up to 3 times. If you don’t hear anything back after then, move on.
      Another rule I’d mention is, don’t pin all your hopes on one opportunity. Always have other stuff in the pipeline. Even without the 90 day hiring freeze, who says you would have been the successful candidate? It’s sad to say but anything could happen.

      It’s hard but try not to take it personally. Take some time to mourn, then scrape yourself off the floor and go after the next challenge. Speaking from experience.

    2. ______

      Sounds like they are very unstable. Not saying it’s a definite “no”, but I wouldn’t think about them as a prospect either. You should definitely move on to other roles. These days, you can’t count on anything.

  15. ______

    There’s one big reason that’s not covered: You’re not connected to the hiring manager.

    They’ll interview a bunch of people, but in the end they’ll hire someone they know!

  16. ______

    To all those people thinking about hiring an interview coach, I don’t think it would help that much. What you should do right now is identify all your connections and use them. Using connections to get a job seems like the most effective way and surest way these days.

    1. ______

      To add to the previous comments, I’ve seen dumbasses get jobs immediately/a lot faster than other people based on connections. It’s not fair but it seems like the only way these days. This makes me so sad.

Comments are closed.