How to Lose a Job Offer at the Final Stages

Your resume was outstanding, you breezed through the interview, and the employer decided that you’re the best fit for the job.  So now your work is done, and you can breathe a sigh of relief, right?  Not quite.  There are still plenty of potential pitfalls in the final stages of the screening process that can cause that job to slip through your fingers.  Here are some examples of where you can go wrong:

It is difficult to get in touch with you.  Do you return all of your calls within a few hours, or do you wait a day or two?  Is your voicemail set up?  Is your outgoing message professional?  Do you clear out your old messages so that your mailbox doesn’t get full?  Have you given the employer an alternative phone number in case they aren’t able to reach you on your main line?  There is nothing more frustrating to an employer than not being able to get in contact with the candidate that they want to hire.  Keep in mind that the employer could be on a tight deadline, and may be forced to move on to the next candidate if they can’t reach you.  Also, if it is difficult to get in touch with you, the employer may start to have doubts about your reliability.

There is a problem with your references.  How many references have you provided to the employer?  It is best if you can give them at least four.  Most employers will be required to actually speak to at least two references, so if one of your references is unavailable, it helps if you have an alternative.  How confident are you with your references?  Are you sure that they are supportive of you, and that they will only say positive things to an employer?  If you have any doubts, try to find another reference.  Few employers will risk hiring you if your reference gives anything but a glowing review of your work.

You didn’t send a thank you note.  Imagine that you are a manager and you’ve just finished interviewing candidates for an administrative assistant position.  You have narrowed it down to two candidates, but you’re having a difficult time choosing because they are evenly matched.  One of the candidates sends you a well written thank you letter expressing their interest in the position, and the other does not.  Who would you choose to hire?  Sometimes a thank you letter gives you the extra nudge that you need to put you ahead of the pack.

Being too pushy.  After you send your thank you note, you need to let it go and wait for the manager’s decision.  It does not help to pester the manager, and it may make the manager change their mind and decide that they want nothing to do with you.  It is a good idea for you to follow up, but also be respectful of the manager’s time.

Making demands too soon.  Some job seekers will start trying to book their vacation and look for other perks before they even sign on the dotted line.  It is not an appropriate time for these requests because the manager is still trying to evaluate your commitment to the organization.  If they perceive that you are only interested in the benefits that they are offering, they may lose interest in you.

Being rude to anybody at the organization.  Since everybody is on their best behaviour at the interview, the employer may be even more interested in how you conduct yourself when you think that nobody is paying attention.  Some job seekers will be rude to the receptionist, and then be the essence of professionalism when they are in the office with the manager.  Most managers listen to the opinions of their employees, and no manager wants to introduce potential problems.  If you are rude to anyone in the organization, it is a red flag that you may be someone who will create conflict with the other employees.

No matter how well you do at the interview, no job is a sure thing.  The employer is evaluating your behaviour from when you submit your application, until you pass probation (and even after that).  Make sure that you don’t do anything that will cause the employer to doubt your professionalism or your commitment.  You worked hard and performed well at the interview; don’t undermine that effort by making a silly mistake now that you’re in the home stretch.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)


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