Even in a healthy job market, some people find themselves on the outside looking in. They may look good on paper, have good backgrounds, and seem very employable, but they fail over and over at getting interviews or landing a job.

Having been the person doing the hiring in a number of different industries -- retail, media, manufacturing, and even high-end summer camps -- I've noticed that many people who keep not getting hired make the same mistakes over and over. Some make errors that keep them from getting an interview, while others get that far, but botch the interview.

A hand points at a computer input field that says "find job"

Getting a job is not always easy even when the market is good. Image source: Getty Images.

Why are you not getting interviews?

While it's not true in every industry, most job openings receive a lot of applicants. That means that even qualified people may not get a chance. Here's what you might be doing wrong that puts you in that negative group.

  1. You don't act quickly: Some hiring managers may wait a few days or weeks and then evaluate all resumes, but that's generally not the case. Often the company hiring needs to get the job filled, and the first few resumes and cover letters that look good land interviews, with everyone else going into a just-in-case pile.
  2. Your materials are a mess: It's amazing how many poorly edited cover letters and resumes I have seen over the years. Not getting yours checked by a pro is lazy and may land you in the reject pile.
  3. Your cover letter is generic: Not every hiring person looks at cover letters, and not every job application even asks for one. But when one does, make sure you customize yours based on the contents of the job ad.
  4. You leave out requested salary information: I understand why you don't want to share what you make at your current (or most recent) job, but without knowing your expectations, some human-resources people will consider interviewing you a potential waste of time.

These aren't the only reasons I've ever cast a resume aside (I once passed on someone because they had attached a provocative photo of themselves), but they are the most common.

Why are you not nailing your interviews?

Some people just don't interview well; those folks need to practice or even take a course in order to improve. Other job seekers handle interviews better -- but still make key mistakes that cost them the job.

  1. You make a bad first impression: Showing up late or not being dressed appropriately can be interview sins you can't come back from.
  2. You talk about the job you really want: As an interviewer, I was amazed by how often the person I interviewed had no interest in the actual job I was interviewing them for. They were willing to take it, but they made it clear their interests lay elsewhere. It's OK to have a long-range plan, but you have to articulate why the job you're currently interviewing for helps you get there.
  3. You badmouth your old or current company: It's OK to answer honestly when asked why you are looking for a job, but don't make your interview about what was wrong with your past employer. That's like spending a first date talking mostly about your ex.
  4. You know nothing about the company: You don't have to be an expert, but do some homework before your interview.
  5. You have no questions: Don't ask about salary, but have some questions prepared that show some depth of knowledge about the company and its culture.

Get yourself hired

It's your job, as someone seeking a job, to put yourself in the best position possible. Sometimes you will not get interviews when you did everything right, and the same is true for getting hired after an interview.

While you can't guarantee you get every job you apply for, you can increase your chances of getting hired. It's not easy to stand out from the field, but it's very easy to end up in the reject pile. Minimize reasons for an employer to say no, and eventually, you will get a yes.

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