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Kim Shepherd to Fast Company: Why You Keep Getting Close But Still Aren’t Landing Job Offers

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Decision Toolbox CEO Kim Shepherd shared insights with Fast Company on why you might be getting interviews but why you aren’t getting the job offer.  She believes that it could be a combination of subtle factors.

Excerpts from the article:

According to Kim Shepherd, CEO of the recruitment firm Decision Toolbox, the likeliest culprit (if not the only one) is soft skills, the behavioral qualities we bring to our interactions with other people—like how well we listen and ask questions, for instance. “They’re really what usually attracts a hiring manager once they know that you can do the job,” she tells Fast Company. “If they’re interviewing with three people, chances are all of them can do the job.”

At later stages of the hiring process (similar to what tends to happen at the later stages of our careers), those interpersonal qualities often hold more sway than technical expertise. “It’s kind of like dating,” Shepherd adds. Hiring managers are thinking, “Do I like talking to you? Are you approachable?”

One subtle risk here is in getting too approachable and slipping up as a result. In other words, those same exemplary soft skills that help you strike up a great personal connection can also lead you to say the wrong thing.

“When you’re in an interview and you’re being disarmed by a charming hiring manager, you’ve got the dialogue going, you’ve let your professional guard down—and someone will go to a negative: ‘Yeah, that company wasn’t the best employer.’” It can be a fine line to walk. On the one hand, you’ve got to strike up that rapport since it’s what will set you apart, but on the other, Shepherd adds, “Anything negative belongs out of the process”—and could swiftly disqualify you from it.”

To minimize the risk of getting all the way through a hiring process before finding that out, Shepherd says it’s important to understand the company’s culture as best you can and as early as possible. “It’s not just a hiring manager reacting to the soft skills of the candidate, it’s the candidate reacting to the soft skills of the company.”

So rather than just asking a hiring manager, “What’s the culture like here?” Shepherd suggests asking more targeted questions, like employees’ average tenure or the average generation of the company’s workforce. “That person’s being pulled in for a face-to-face interview, so they have open license to ask the recruiter or the HR person about culture”—not just in general, but whether it’s right for you.

Shepherd recounts one fifth-round interview she recently gave where a candidate asked, “What is the one thing with me in this job that will scare me the most?”

“I love that question, because she was asking me to dig deep and already putting herself in the position,” Shepherd says, “but was also vetting me. It was very sophisticated on a lot of different fronts, even though it sounded easy.” And that perceptiveness—bridging the interpersonal and the cultural—has the added advantage of showing off your soft skills. As a recruiter, she adds, “I like that skill set very much.”

For more of Kim’s advice, including what follow up questions to ask if you’ve been rejected that might help you in your next interview, check out the full article here.

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