Why I didn’t hire you

After 30+ years in the communications industry, I was thinking back on some of the incredibly talented people I’ve been able to hire at multiple businesses over the years. What an incredible blessing it has been to work with these communications rock stars!

But then I also thought back about some of the people I didn’t hire at various companies. What did I see in one job candidate that I didn’t see in another? There are really six core reasons I generally choose not to hire someone.

1. Attention to detail

A resume provides a snapshot of a person’s attention to detail. If your resume includes typos, poor grammar or multiple punctuation errors, it makes me wonder how much time I would have to spend double-checking your work. It doesn’t take much time to carefully proof your resume… try reading it sentence by sentence from the bottom up, for example. Then have someone else double check it for anything you missed. If you are sloppy on something as important as your resume, there’s a good chance your work will be sloppy, too.

2. Doing your homework

“So why do you want to work at this particular company?” If you didn’t even take time to read about the company on the internet before your interview, how can you have even a basic conversation about the company’s products or services? This tells me I wouldn’t be able to count on you to take the initiative to do research required for communications projects. Would you seek out information on a potential client before preparing a proposal? I must have someone who already understands how to gather the details that can make or break a project.

3. Appropriate attire

I’m not expecting a suit and tie, but shorts and sandals aren’t appropriate for a job interview. (Yes, it really happened.) This is an indicator of both judgment and professionalism. As a communicator, you are often called to be the face of the business. Are you going to stand in front of the news cameras during a media crisis wearing outrageous earrings or a Hawaiian shirt? You don’t need to make a fashion statement or buy expensive clothes. Just be clean, neat and professional.

4. Understanding your strengths

I want to know about your strengths and how they fit with the position. The old ad showing a job candidate saying “But I have a brilliant personality” is disturbingly common. Give me details on how you can help the team. Are you a gifted writer? An organized and creative event planner? A thoughtful and deliberate strategic thinker? Are you proficient in using Excel or PowerPoint? Don’t be cocky or arrogant, but please help me understand your talents and how they will help grow the business.

5. Good judgment

If I Google your name, what will I find? Lots of partying and drinking photos? Strident political statements that demean others? Profanity? While I certainly don’t want to control what you do away from work, social media gives me a chance to see the personality that might be representing my company. Professionalism means having good judgment in the image you project to the world 24 hours a day.

And please don’t bad mouth your current or previous employer. Find a way to explain why you’re leaving that doesn’t sound hostile. “I enjoy my work, but I’m ready for new challenges,” sounds so much more professional than “They are holding me back and my boss is a jerk who won’t implement any of my ideas.” This will impact whether I see you as someone who likes continuous learning and wants to grow, or someone who doesn’t understand how to present ideas appropriately.

6. Follow-through

It is vital for communicators to follow through on project details and treat clients and coworkers with respect. An email thank you for the interview shows me you would likely treat clients with the same courtesy. A handwritten note is even better. Appropriate follow-up is one of my key considerations when comparing multiple candidates.

I may have missed out on some good candidates through the years. Maybe I didn’t choose talented people who just had a couple of shortcomings in these areas.


But these expectations have helped me find strong candidates who ended up being talented, capable communicators and lifelong friends.

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