After a long job search, you feel like you can finally relax. Your latest job interview went extremely well, and you can barely contain your excitement. The hiring manager said you have all the skills they’ve been looking for but they have to interview one more person as a formality. You just know you got the job; you can feel it. Then, two days later, you get that dreaded rejection call— or worse — an email.
If you’ve been in the workforce long enough, then you’ve likely been in a situation where you were almost certain you had the job, but then you got word that you didn’t get picked. You may have wondered what happened. What made the hiring manager choose the other guy over you? Sometimes it comes down to more than your skills. There are some non-skills-based reasons an employer may favor one job candidate over another.
“One of the best problems for a hiring manager to have is two excellent candidates to choose from … The unfortunate reality is that sometimes great candidates don’t get the job, through no fault of their own,” Carol Cochran, director of people and culture at Flexjobs, told The Cheat Sheet. “Sometimes the other person just has that extra something that an employer can’t disregard. Be prepared. My advice to candidates is to show the best, most honest version of yourself, and respect the process and the people behind it.”
We reached out to a few human resource experts to find out exactly what makes a manager tip the scales in one person’s favor. Let’s take a quick look at four things that can make or break your chances of getting the job when it comes down to you and another candidate.
1. Culture fit
Sometimes it comes down to whether you would be a good fit with the company’s culture. This is important because if the culture fit is bad, you likely won’t feel comfortable at that job for very long. David Waring, co-founder of Fit Small Business, told The Cheat Sheet poor culture fit is enough of a reason not to extend a job offer. “If both candidates are equally qualified, then the make-or-break will be whether or not they are a cultural fit,” Waring said.
He went on to explain:
Is this candidate someone that both myself and my employees will get along with? What is their work ethic like? One thing a candidate can do to improve his or her chances is ask about the company’s culture. They should then give examples of how they fit in with the culture based on the company’s response. Candidates should show they have grit and talk about challenges they have faced. Candidates should mention challenges that they didn’t know the answer to and explain how they handled the situation. This will set them apart from other candidates.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to job interviews, anything goes. Justine Miller, human resources consultant with The Stir Group, said your appearance could be the tiebreaker if it comes down to you and another candidate. “A nice suit really can be the difference between landing your dream job and missing out even though you made it to the short list,” she said.
“If a hiring manager has two great candidates but only one role, the process of elimination becomes more creative. The hiring manager will be considering how you represent the company. If you take pride in your appearance and dress to the standards of the company, it tells the hiring manager you take pride in your work. If both candidates are equal in all other measures, it really can come down to style,” Miller explained.
If you really want to wow the hiring team, make sure you stay positive and upbeat. A sour attitude could cost you the job, said Brad Stultz, human resources coordinator at Totally Promotional.
When making the final selection between two candidates, the personality and general demeanor of a candidate can be the two factors that push one ahead of the other. These two factors can be a true testament to whether or not an employee will integrate well into the culture of an organization. A candidate that does their homework, shows a good interest in the company and has an understanding of the company culture is more likely to set him or herself apart.
You can be a great culture fit, look nice, and have a great personality, but if your communication skills are lacking, this could hold you back. Staffing and On-Boarding Coach Jen Teague said communication is key. “How was the interview? Was the candidate stumbling to get through questions? Was he or she closed-off when you asked certain questions? What was their body language like? If a candidate wants to stand out, be ready for the interview,” Teague advised.
“They don’t need expensive clothes or completely polished answers, but they should have clean outfits that are un-wrinkled. They should come in with knowledge about the position and the company and know how to answer the popular questions like ‘Tell me about yourself,’ and, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ A thank-you note is definitely a way to stand out as well. Not a lot of applicants are doing that.”