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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

5 Reasons You're Getting Knocked Out in the First Round of Interviews (and How to Stop)

You thought the interview went OK. Maybe it could’ve gone better, but certainly you didn’t totally bomb it, right? So why hasn’t anyone called to set up the next interview or extend an offer? What went wrong? Why is this not progressing? Why? What now? Uggghh.

Been there? It’s admittedly a tough spot, even more so if you’ve just learned that you won’t be moving on in the process, yet no one has bothered to spell out after the interview how or why you’ve been ruled out.

How do you improve your interview game if you don’t even understand what you’re doing wrong? Certainly, there are many variables at play, but if you’re looking for possibilities, consider these five common issues that prompt hiring managers to take you out of the race.

1. You Come Off as a Poor Cultural Fit

If you’re right at home in your smart suit and closed-toed shoes, you’ll likely emit this vibe in an interview. That’s great if you’re interviewing for a conservative, corporate role. If, on the other hand, you walk into a free-wheeling, casual company in Ms. Wall Street mode, chances are the hiring manager will quickly suspect that you won’t fit in around the joint.


If you’re fairly focused on finding a certain type of company culture, be sure and do your due diligence as you apply for various roles. If, while researching the opportunity, your gut says that you wouldn’t be a good fit at a particular firm, consider setting your sights elsewhere. There’s no shame in being a round peg; just don’t go chasing down all the square hole jobs if you are. Hiring managers pick up on this (and, frankly, so will you).

2. You’re an Interrupter

It can happen to the best of us sometimes, especially when we’re nervous. In our quest to dazzle the interviewer with our preparedness and brilliance, we can have a tendency to jump all over a question before the interviewer even gets it out of his mouth. Unfortunately, if you consistently interrupt during the conversation, it may be your last one with that organization.


Try remembering the easy acronym PIE (or passionate, interested, and engaged) as you walk into your next interview. Hiring managers appreciate candidates who are all three. Heck, humans in general appreciate people who are all three.

3. You Reek of Neediness

Look. I know that it’s very, very hard to not look overly needy when you’ve got a lot riding on landing a job. I’m not in any way suggesting it’s simple to fix. But if a hiring manager catches a whiff of desperation, she may view you as a less appealing candidate than someone who comes across like they won’t live or die by this decision. Certainly, you don’t want to be cocky or aloof, but you also can’t appear like your life depends on you landing this position.


Pull out the stops by staying calm and confident through every interview interaction. Do everything in your power to showcase your interest, energy, and the specific value you can walk through their doors and deliver. Do a few power poses before the meeting. And, by all means, carefully review how your follow-up calls and emails might be construed before sending one that could sink it for you. Show interest and appreciation, rather than dire need. No one wants to hire the person who will be sending long, winding, and adjective-filled emails on a Saturday night.

4. You Give Off a Vibe That Onboarding You Will Be Extensive

Unless you’re interviewing for an entry-level job, or the job ad specifically outlines that the company will train the right person for this role, assume that they’re hoping to find someone who can hit the ground running. Thus, if your strategy is “Go in and explain how trainable I am,” don’t be surprised if the interview process doesn’t take on momentum alone.


Remember that today’s hiring manager is frequently super busy with her day-to-day workload and hopeful that the new hire will make her life easier, better, or more profitable—quickly. If you come off as someone who will take forever to become proficient, or need a ton of hand-holding, she just may take a pass. One easy way to avoid this is to carefully look at the position’s requirements in the original listing. A killer resume can get you in the door, but it simply can’t make up for a lack of skills.

5. You Are a WIIFM Candidate

A very important news bulletin for every job seeker: Hiring managers care way more about what’s in it for them than about what you want out of the deal, at least early on. Certainly, they’ll care a bunch about what you want once you prove your worth, but in the early interview stages, you may fast wear out your welcome if you bust out an immediate laundry list of requirements or ask questions about salary, benefits, and vacation time.


Save the obvious “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) questions until you know the organization has significant interest, or you’ve been extended an offer. It’s so much easier to negotiate on the stuff you want after you’ve made it clear that this company can’t live without you, not before.

And finally, don’t forget to thank your interviewers, in a genuine and swift manner after every single meeting. (Because thank you matters, and if anyone’s going to get ruled out on this, let it be your competition.)

Photo of domino falling courtesy of Shutterstock.