Always a finalist, but never an offer

Q: I am in a contract job but really need to land a full-time job in 2011. It seems like I am always a finalist but never get the offer after several rounds of interviews. What gives?

A: I appreciate your candor. In 2010, job seekers faced incredible competition for every available position. I have seen it from the other side of the table. My firm has recruited for several positions this past fall only to be inundated with queries from hundreds of job seekers. Job seekers have been advised to be persistent and they are indeed being persistent!

Let’s discuss what is working for you. Your resume must be strong since companies are interested enough to contact you. It sounds like you are being invited back for follow-up interviews. This is encouraging! If you are a poor interviewee, you would not have been invited back for “several rounds of interviews.” Interviewing is a skill that many improve with experience. Make sure that you when you leave an interview, you honestly assess your performance and think about what you could improve when interviewed again.

It sounds like you are well-qualified and have a strong background. But the reality is that others are getting offers. Even well-qualified candidates are being turned down by companies in this market. How can you differentiate yourself?

1. Always follow-up. Ask about follow-up before you leave an interview. Don’t leave it to guesswork. Ask about next steps. Email or mail a thank you note. Be gracious, sincere and professional.

2. Lead with your strengths. We are all humans with strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that you fully articulate your strengths. Acknowledge but don’t dwell on your weaknesses. Explain how you have been able to compensate for your weaknesses.


3. Use inside connections. Use your network. Does someone in your network work at this employer? Does one of your contacts have another contact working at this employer? Inside contacts can make a difference.

4. Make sure that your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are a positive representation of who you are. Use the available privacy controls on Facebook. Employers are visiting these profiles so use them to your advantage.

5. Develop a working draft of a 30-60-90 day plan to present in the final stages of the selection cycle. The development of this type of plan requires a time commitment from you. You will need to have knowledge of the job, the culture of the organization and most importantly, a firm grasp of the hiring manager’s expectations.

If appropriate, you can email this to the hiring manager when you have been identified as a finalist. I would not recommend investing the time on such a plan unless you are certain you are a finalist. In this plan, you will want to lay out what you hope to achieve in the first 90 days. I would not expect this plan to be perfect but instead you would be asking for the hiring manager’s input.

Developing such a plan demonstrates a level of interest, commitment and would likely separate you from others. It would make you memorable – in a good way! Such a plan can also showcase your organizational and written communication skills.

6. Many contract roles can evolve into full-time positions. Is that a possibility in your current role?


7. Finally, stay in touch with the hiring managers that you have met during your search. Many of my clients are adding staff in 2011. If you made a positive impression, you could receive a call from one of these companies!

Keep swinging. Maintain a positive attitude and continue your search. You are doing a lot of job search activities well.

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