Why you’re not getting internship interviews or job offers

Not landing any internship interviews or job offers? Use this guide to troubleshoot where you are going wrong and start landing offers

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Unfortunately we will not be moving on with your candidacy. 

Familiar? How about:

We’d like to thank you for taking the time to interview with us. While our firm enjoyed chatting with you, unfortunately you have not progressed through to the final round.

I have my fair share of recruiting rejections in my inbox. Each one of them stung, especially for the companies I desperately wanted to work for.

Recruiting is tough. You spend countless hours each week applying to jobs and internships, only to be rejected by all of them. Then, through some miracle, you actually land a few interviews. So you prep really well, make it past a round or two… then strike out. The worst is when you make it all the way to the final round, crush it, and still don’t get the offer…

And if you’re lucky, you get to go through this process multiple times. Every few weeks you get a couple more interviews. Too bad the same thing happens.

Why is it so hard to land an offer? It’s almost like you’ve discovered 100 ways to NOT get an offer…

Believe it or not, there is light at the end of the tunnel. These rejections are a gift. They give you the opportunity to figure out exactly what you are doing wrong.

Once you pinpoint where you are messing up, you can turn your situation around by changing your behavior.

I know, nobody likes to change. I’ve seen students figure out exactly what they were doing wrong but were so resistant to change they’d rather continue to get burned and complain.

Insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting different results.Once you figure out where you’re going wrong, be open to change. Don’t be insane.

FIGURING OUT WHERE YOU ARE GOING WRONG

Consider 2 people:

  • Person A: Didn’t get an interview
  • Person B: Made it to final round then struck out

What do both have in common? Neither of them got offers.

What are their differences? A lot, actually. Person A and Person B face entirely different problems.

I often see students strike out after interviewing then throw up their hands in frustration at the recruiting process. That’s not going to get you anywhere — you need to logically understand each failure and learn from every offer you do not get.

Here’s a chart to help pinpoint 80% of the problems most people face when recruiting.

It doesn’t matter if you are the most amazing interviewer in the world if you never get past phase 1 (land an interview). Similarly, you can land every interview under the sun and still end up empty handed if you don’t learn how to interview well.

If recruiting is not going well for you, figure out which of the 3 steps is tripping you up.

Suppose you’re not landing any interviews…

The first question is to figure out why you are not landing any interviews.

As shown in the chart, there are 3 major components to landing an interview: Have a strong application, make sure the application is read by a recruiter or hiring manager, and luck. Here’s an article I wrote to elaborate on these 3 components. (If you are not landing interviews, I highly recommend reading it — chances are you’re relying on luck way too much.)

Anyways, so you’re not landing any interviews. Why?

According to the chart, it’s probably because…

  1. You don’t have a strong application
    1. Are not a good fit for the job
    2. Resume is not competitive enough
  2. Nobody is actually reading your application
  3. You’re unlucky

The following 5 questions are helpful in pinpointing your exact problem:

  • Am I qualified?

Think about your application and the job posting and ask yourself if you really are qualified for the role.

  • Who got the interview?

Talk to your friends who got interviews for the same role — why did they get interviews? Did they have referrals? How can you change your approach to emulate their success?

  • What do my contacts at the company say?

Ask someone at the company why you didn’t get an interview (most effective with someone you already know — networking is important)

  • Did I have a referral?

Most of the time you can turn your situation around by getting referrals. Referrals help overcome a weaker application (by signaling fit) and they ensure that somebody is actually reading your application to evaluate your ability to do the job. If you’re getting referrals and still not getting the job, your contacts in the company should be able to tell you why.

  • Did I just get unlucky?

Lastly if none of these tricks work (especially the last one) and you still can’t figure out why you didn’t get an interview, just write it off as luck. This process is not perfect, so don’t expect a logical justification for every rejection. Luck should average out if you’re casting a wide net with your job opportunities. That being said, only do this once you’ve tried to understand why you didn’t get the interview. Many students are quick to attribute their failure to luck and miss out on learning about an actual weakness.

Suppose you can’t make it past the first round of interviews…

Again, according to the framework it’s probably because…

  1. You are not technically competent yet
  2. Your behavioral answers aren’t strong
  3. You’re unlucky

Similar story here. After you strike out on an interview, focus on figuring out why that happened.

There are 2 main ways to figure out why you’re not moving on in interviews:

  • Ask your friends/mentors/alumni in mock interviews

If you are consistently striking out in interviews for internships or jobs, you probably have some recurring problem in your interview abilities. Practice full-fledged mock interviews with friends and mentors to learn exactly what you are doing wrong.

The more experienced with recruiting your friends and mentors are, the better — you want strong constructive feedback.

  • Straight-up ask your interviewer who rejected you

I relied on this tactic so much in college, yet it amazes me how few people do this. At the end of each interview, ask the interviewer for a business card or their email. Upon rejection (or even upon moving on), email the interviewer and politely ask for areas of improvement to increase your chances in future interviews. Your interviewers are human (I know, crazy right?) — most of the time they will tell you exactly why you didn’t get the offer! You should be doing this after every rejection you get — it’s an easy way to learn from your mistakes.

Note: Do not ask the recruiter for feedback on your interview unless they were the ones that interviewed you. Often times companies have a policy of not giving feedback to candidates, but you can sidestep this by reaching out to your interviewer directly and avoiding HR.

Short story time

During my sophomore year, I got rejected from a fairly competitive internship. While I didn’t really want this particular internship, I wanted to know why I didn’t get the offer. Unfortunately, my interviewers were not replying to my emails asking for feedback.

So what did I do? I pulled out his business card from my wallet and gave him a call. Most people would say that calling the managing director of a bank is not a wise strategy, but in my mind I just wanted to get feedback to improve for future interviews. I didn’t care about coming across a bit too strong — I had already been rejected.

Sure enough, after getting over the surprise that a student he rejected called him, he gave me some solid feedback that helped with future interviews.

Moral of the story: be hungry to learn about your weaknesses.

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