One of the questions we get very regularly is: “I keep coming in second after interviews. Hiring managers always say that they like me, but they end up choosing a different candidate -- what am I doing wrong?”
The answer: Nothing. Take that in. You’re probably not doing anything wrong. Think about it -- you keep getting interviews, so your resume and cover letter must be in good shape, and/or you’re reaching out to strong contacts. The interviewers are offering you feedback instead of just ghosting you -- a real rarity in this day and age -- so you must have made a good impression. But alas, you’re still not getting the job. The question isn’t "What are you doing wrong," it’s "Why aren't you getting the job?"
There are loads of reasons you can come very close to a great job but still miss the mark. First of all, maybe the company decided to hire internally -- a common occurrence. You don't have much of a shot against someone who already understands the way the company functions. Other times, someone else has a stronger contact at the company. Maybe you were referred by the assistant’s friend, but the boss’s friend also recommended a great candidate. That happens more often than you might think. Sometimes, the hiring manager can tell you’re great at what you do, but there’s someone else who fits in better with the team personality-wise -- this is especially true at small companies where they’re looking 40% for skill and 60% for a new best friend. What do all of these reasons have in common? They’re beyond your control, and you shouldn’t worry about them.
If you keep doing what you’re doing, you will land a job that’s the right fit. You’ll find a company where the stars align -- you have the right qualifications, a strong referral, and you get along great with the team. The worst thing you could now, actually, is change anything up or lose confidence. Don't forget that you're a highly desirable candidate -- it might take longer than you'd like, but you're doing everything right, so you will wind up with the job that's perfect for you.
A mistake we see frequently on resumes, especially among assistant candidates, is a tendency to lead multiple bullet points with words like “assisted” and “supported.” In some cases, these verbs can be very helpful, but overuse can make you sound like you’re not able to work independently or take charge of a situation. You'll sound like a much more experienced candidate if you can find a way to minimize these verbs and own your responsibilities.
It doesn’t matter if you were the sole person responsible for a task or if you worked with a group -- if you’re comfortable doing the task on your own, it’s okay to say “planned and executed events” instead of “assisted with the planning and execution of events.” You’re not lying by leaving out the fact that others were working alongside you. And if you’re not sure that a responsibility is something you can do on your own, take the opportunity to showcase your teamwork skills by using verbs like “collaborated.” Think hard about what you’re actually capable of, and use that as the basis for your resume bullet points.
Keep in mind that if you’re looking for a position where you’ll be supporting an individual or team, you should include "supported" and "assisted" somewhere on your resume, but they definitely should not appear more than once in each section. Even one bullet point that shows administrative support or a similar skill is enough to prove you can do a job that requires administrative assistance, and the rest of your bullet points can be used to highlight other important skills. And if you’re applying for anything higher than an assistant position, you can lose any assistant-related verbs entirely.
Remember, your resume is the first tool that will make an impression on a hiring manager, so you want to find every possible way to maximize its impact and stand out from the crowd. To do this, it’s important to take ownership of your responsibilities -- don’t undersell yourself because you’re feeling timid.
If you’re currently employed and looking to make a career move, you might be finding it tough to fit applying for jobs into your schedule. It’s hard to give your all at your current job while staying on top of all the new job postings that come out each day. And there’s no way around the fact that an aggressive job search strategy is going to consume a significant amount of time and energy. But, there are a few practices that you can put into place that will help you make the job hunt just a little more manageable. Here are three tips for you to consider:
1. Target your search. Your goal should not be to send out 50 job applications a day. Doing so will decrease the quality of your applications. Go for quality over quantity instead. If you can make a list of 10-15 companies (or fewer!) that you’re really interested in and focus the majority of your energy mining the career pages, reaching out to recruiters or hiring managers, or making contacts at those companies, you’ll be making the best possible use of your time. Obviously, the goal is to find a job that you’re passionate about, and a very targeted job search is the way to do it.
2. Create a schedule. Set aside time for job applications and create a routine that you can stick to. Divide up the 10-15 companies on your list and tackle a few each day. For example, perhaps you visit the career portals for companies 1-5 on Monday, 6-10 on Tuesday, and 11-15 on Wednesday, then spend time on Thursday looking up various job lists and checking LinkedIn. If you don't see any openings you’re interested in on a particular day, spend time searching LinkedIn for employees who might be able to sit down with you for an informational interview.
3. Let the internet do some of the work for you. Getting automated job alerts delivered directly to your inbox is a great way to save time. Many companies’ career pages have an option to sign up for job alerts, so check if any of the companies in your top 15 have this feature and implement it immediately. If that's not an option, you can set up a Google alert to conduct these automated searches for you. Finally, LinkedIn is very useful for identifying potential opportunities, often at companies you hadn’t considered before. You can create saved searches through LinkedIn with specific search terms, and the site will email you daily with openings that match your keywords. Set up a few different alerts with relevant phrases and see what comes up. Even better, when you start clicking on the positions that interest you, LinkedIn’s algorithm will further refine your search results, so be sure to check the “Jobs You May Be Interested In” page regularly (in addition to your email alerts) to maximize your chances of finding a cool gig.
Keep in mind that a strong network is going to be a big part of making the job search less time consuming—a direct email from an employee notifying you of a job opening is going to save you the time of digging around on the internet, and it’s the most efficient and direct way to get your resume into the right hands. So even if you aren’t seeing great opportunities every day, you can still spend your time networking with the right people, and when that perfect position opens up, you’ll be first in line.
We’re all on our phones 24/7, so it would stand to reason that texting a professional contact is an acceptable way of reaching out -- especially if you’re trying to confirm a meeting. Email can be so slow and impersonal, right?
Unless your contact gives you express permission to contact her on her cell phone, or if you’ve moved past the “contact” phase and into the friend zone, email is the more professional choice. (You’ll know you’re in the friend zone when you can imagine the person sharing Sunday brunch with you or introducing you as “My friend Jane” at a mixer, not “Jane Doe, who works at CAA.”) It may seem silly to put so much thought into the way you reach out, but trust us: A little professional decorum can go a long way.
When you text someone, you’re interrupting them. Imagine your contact is in a meeting with her cell on vibrate and she feels it buzz. She pulls out her phone to discreetly check -- is the message from her boss or a family member reaching out for something important? Maybe she excitedly hopes it’s her Tinder date from the night before actually not ghosting her. When she sees your name -- or more likely, a number she doesn’t have saved in her phone -- she’ll probably roll her eyes and feel bothered, even intruded upon. And it's worse if your text comes in after work hours or in the middle of the night. You should never interrupt a contact's personal life with work-related text messages, especially those asking for advice or favors. If you're a pest via text, your contact isn't going to want to help you in the future. Plus, text messages are hard to track in the first place -- if your contact isn't near her work computer when one comes in, she's probably going to forget to put your request on her to do list, and you're back to square one.
An email, on the other hand, doesn’t disrupt anyone’s flow, nor does it warrant an immediate response. Your contact will get your email confirming your meeting or asking for a favor when she chooses to check her emails and will respond when she has time. Instead of feeling harassed or bothered, she’ll feel nothing at all, because the exchange will be normal and professional. If you haven't met, she’ll approach your meeting with an open mind, and if you have, she'll be a lot more likely to help you with your job search. Plus, you'll have an easy thread to use for follow-ups and thank yous -- what can be better?