The economy is easy to blame for unsuccessful interviews. “Nobody’s hiring!” Don’t believe it for a moment. Companies are looking for strong performers; the question is, are you delivering the interview that demonstrates you’re who they need?
How are you doing with your interviews? Are reasons for rejection concrete, “not enough technical savvy;” or are they vague, “we just don’t feel you’re a good fit”? Vague responses may be pointing to poor interview skills rather than ability.
If your resume does its job, the interviewer already has a picture of you formed in her mind. She’s looking for confirmation AND disclaimers and she’s going to start well before you shake her hand.
Behavior speaks louder than words and the hiring manager has more than her own perceptions to fall back on. How you treat the receptionist says a lot about you. Dismissive, rude, and even distracted candidates will get marked down. Receptionists are commonly asked their opinion of the candidate and it’s valued for their observation of your unguarded moments.
You may be required to wait; this is an interviewer’s tactic to see how you respond. Do you pester the receptionist? Sigh, look at your watch, fidget? Conversely, you may be handed an application and purposefully interrupted before you can complete it. How do you handle it? Do you offer a solution? Rush to finish? Hold the interviewer off?
What does your attitude say about you? If your resume says you’re a problem-solving, take-charge professional but you’re complaining about how hard it is to find a job and focusing on the negative, you’re in trouble. Be positive! Accept the challenge and thrive on adversity!
Negativity can further be communicated with rambling, unfocused answers to the interview questions. Babbling is left to the desperate. Be self-confident (why apply if you don’t think you can deliver?), concise, and complete. After all, interviewers are asking about your past to predict your future; if you can’t relate your past quickly, efficiently, and emphasizing the value, how can you successfully represent the company? You can’t use lack of employment as an excuse. As related in a post below, you can leverage school projects and volunteer work for compelling indicators of value.
Perhaps the most glaring problem is fumbling the positive. You want to prove your expertise and ability to make an impact–a great tactic–but don’t deride the company in the process. Seek to understand an issue, if appropriate, offer a solution that has worked in the past and ask for feedback. To assume you can nail the issue is arrogant. Offer humility with your education. “Case studies have shown success with x; do you think that could apply here?” Owners, executives, managers, and employees have done their best to make the company great; even if you have the answers to improvements, they don’t want to hear what a bad job they’ve done without you. Listening is as important as speaking in an interview.
I know you’re aware of the importance of proper, professional attire; be sure to check your professional attitude as well. Employers know you can change your clothes. They also know you can’t change your attitude as easily, so make sure they see the right one at the interview.