Five reasons candidates don’t get a callback

May 26, 2010 at 2:15 am Leave a comment

One of the frustrations of job hunting is you often don’t know what you may be doing wrong. In many other parts of life, we’re clearly told — a coach analyzes a baseball player’s swing, an editor critiques a writer’s story (sometimes in great detail!) and one’s teenage offspring remind you just how lacking you are in many areas. (guess who has teenagers?) Sometimes, we could do without so much feedback in our lives, right?

But not in job hunting. Instead, it’s often tough to know if we’re getting the brushoff because of something we’ve done, or not. Sometimes you just don’t hear back — and it really has nothing to do with you. The organization may have decided on an inside candidate or not to fill the position at this time, even though you might have dazzled them. (See March 26 post, “What to do when you’ve been rejected.”)

Yet if you are finding on a regular basis that you get only so far in a job hunt — and especially if you seem to be dropped like a hot potato at the same point with different organizations — it’s time to take stock and determine if it IS indeed something you’re doing, or failing to do. There are real reasons that organizations cool to a job candidate, and the following five are common ones:

*Lack of seriousness. Hiring managers want job candidates to take the position and the company seriously. If a job seeker seems too laid-back or unprepared, the recruiter will have real questions about whether they want this job, and if so, why they don’t seem to act like it. Preparation shows you’re serious. So does dressing in a professional, businesslike way, and speaking in businesslike tones and seriously discussing your attributes for this job.

*Sloppiness. This extends not only to how you look and dress in an interview, but your grammar, spelling and use of language in all documents — cover letter, resume and writing samples — that you supply in your job search. When asked to fill out an application or take a test, no matter how trivial it may seem, do so in a polished way. When asked to finish a task — like a test — by a specific time, do so. Hiring managers are considering not only the outcome of these tasks but the manner in which you complete them. Any sloppiness will reflect poorly on you as a candidate.

*Negativity. Organizations don’t want to hire people who are mad at their former boss or organization, as they worry that a few months or years down the road, they’ll be saying the same things about this hiring manager and this company. Also, who wants to hire someone who could turn out to have a toxic effect on others? Check at the door ANY tendency toward negativity or bitterness. Even if you feel like the hiring manager “understands” you and the reasons you might be angry at a former employer, don’t go there. Nothing good comes out of negativity during the hiring process. Save your anger or frustration for the tennis court or your morning run — work it off elsewhere.

*Talking too much. Even if you’re nervous, try to keep your answers during an interview — and especially in a phone interview, when you can’t see the other person’s reactions — concise and to-the-point. Rambling in an interview can be a real turnoff to a hiring manager, who may wonder if as an employee you would waste their time with long chats and rambling discourse. They may also worry that a job candidate who goes on and on may not do well on a team, as they could squeeze all the oxygen out of the room. Practice for interviews — and with another person who will be honest with you about whether you’re rambling on.

*Being overly impressed with one’s experience and skills. There’s a fine line between confidence and boastful arrogance in the job search process and you need to stay firmly on the side of confidence. You want to persuade the interviewer that you have solid skills and experience that make you a good fit for this position — not that you are God’s gift to journalism or that you are a broadcast star in the making. Don’t brag, shamelessly name-drop or overinflate your attributes. Instead, focus on what makes you competent for this job — make a case with details. And if you can, display a sense of humor about yourself. Modesty can be appealing. Arrogance never is.

*Congratulations are in order to Kathleen Silvassy, who after a dozen years at CQ, is leaving on May 28 and heading to POLITICO in Arlington as an editor. Kathleen has had many roles at CQ, most recently as a politics editor. This is more evidence that politics remains our local industry and mastering it — as a journalist or a participant — can open many doors in this town. Best of luck to Kathleen in her new job!

*The following are some fresh leads to pursue or pass along:

*The Pew Environment Group, part of the Pew Charitable Trusts — where a fair number of journalists have happily transitioned lately — has an opening in D.C. for director of the global tuna conservation campaign:

Director, Global Tuna Conservation Campaign
The Pew Charitable Trusts – Washington, DC
Work to ensure that communication and outreach is an… oral, presentation, facilitation and written communication skills such that complex ideas, thoughts and…
From The Pew Charitable Trusts

*Here’s a couple more internship opportunities; the first for a (paid!) reporting intern with the Sunlight Foundation’s reporting group in D.C. — this could last for six months or longer:

The Sunlight Foundation – a D.C. nonprofit that focuses on government transparency issues — is currently in need of a reporting intern for the Sunlight Foundation reporting group. This is a full-time, paid, extended internship that could last anywhere from six months or longer. If you know of a smart young reporter that would be interested, please have them contact me.

Lisa Chiu
The Sunlight Foundation

*With a hat tip to (for these next several listings), the Washingtonian magazine in D.C. is seeking interns; hourly pay and coaching comes with the internship:

Washingtonian Magazine
Industry Magazine Publishing
Salary Hourly
Job Duration Internship
Job Location Washington, DC USA
Job Requirements Washingtonian Magazine is looking for bright college students and recent graduates with good research, reporting and writing skills who don’t require a lot of hand-holding. College newspaper or other journalism experience is required; an undergraduate or graduate degree in journalism is a big plus. Duties include fact checking, research and writing.

Editors, writers and department heads meet with the interns once or twice a week to discuss their roles at the magazine and careers in journalism. Graduates of our program have gone on to publications such as People, Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, Politico, National Geographic, Allure, Martha Stewart Everyday Food, and USA Today (as well as landed full-time jobs at Washingtonian).

The positions are 40 hours per week for four months in the fall, five months in the spring and three months in the summer. The pay is $8.25 per hour.

About Our Company The Washingtonian, the magazine Washington lives by, is the region’s top source of information for dining, shopping, entertainment and personalities. The magazine is read each month by more than 400,000 people. The Washingtonian is a five-time National Magazine Award winner for its reporting and writing.

*CRT/tanka in Alexandria has an opening for a social media account executive:

Industry Public Relations, Social Media
Salary Under $45,000
Benefits 401K/403B, Dental, Flexible Hours, Health
Job Duration Full Time
Job Location Alexandria, VA USA
Job Requirements If you are looking for challenge, endless opportunity to grow as a communicator who shares an immense passion for technology specifically social networking, CRT/tanaka is for you. We are looking for an Account Executive, Social Media based out of the Washington DC office who has over two years specifically in executing social media campaigns for clients representing a variety of verticals (consumer, B2B, healthcare, non-profit etc.).

This position demands a skilled and creative strategist, able to communicate social networking trends and topics in a clear and concise manner. You should have prior experience in managing clients and executing new media programs that require a thorough understanding of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and blogs. The successful candidate will also demonstrate existing relations with bloggers and social media experts in the field. Expertise in SEO, SEM, and web/interactive design is a plus.

In addition to your strength in social media, you should be experienced managing people. Skill in project management, documentation, development of metrics, and business development is strongly desired.

College degree
Two or more years of social media experience
Good verbal and written communications skills
Excellent traditional and social media skills
Computer proficiency and advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office
Good presence on social networks
Two references each from former employers and clients

About Our Company You will be joining a group of people who are driven by the life-affirming, aspirational vision of whatcanbe in seeking endless opportunities for ourselves, our colleagues, our clients and the community-at-large. CRT/tanaka was founded on a set of nine Shared Values, including delivering more than promised; respecting and valuing individuals and their differences; and keeping a healthy balance between family and work.

Our goal is to deliver breakthrough PR and marketing programs that are meaningful to clients while providing them with world-class service and flawless execution.

CRT/tanaka offers an excellent benefits package, including medical and dental coverage, 401k plan, flexible working hours and time-off, telecommuting, transit checks, tuition reimbursement and on-going training in all areas of public relations.

*And to wrap up today’s leads, TBC, an advertising and PR agency in Baltimore, has an opening for a senior media planner/buyer:

Title: Senior Media Planner/Buyer
Location: Baltimore, Maryland  21231
How to Apply: Please click here to create a free account and post your resume. Only logged in job seekers can apply for a job.

Display all jobs by TBC

TBC is an independent full service advertising agency and public relations firm. Our offices are located in Fells Point in Baltimore, Maryland. We are looking for a media planner with 4-6 years of experience to join our media team. Job requirements are as follows:

• In depth knowledge of media planning, negotiation, implementation and performance analysis
• Experience planning multi-media, multi-market campaigns, including a minimum of 2 years of online planning and buying
• Knowledge of advanced interactive targeting technologies
• Understanding of buy stewardship, campaign analysis and optimization
• Prior experience with third party ad-serving and campaign trafficking
• Advanced Excel skills and campaign reporting
• Outstanding interpersonal, written communication, presentation and negotiation skills
• Ability to manage multiple tasks with attention to details, deadlines, budgets and timelines
• Familiarity with syndicated media research tools including MRI, Scarborough, NetRatings, @Plan, etc.
• Experience writing POVs, as well as recommendations and competitive analysis decks
• High volume media account experience a big plus
• Ability to work well independently and collaborate effectively with client services teams
• Experience managing and guiding the development of junior team members
• High energy, assertive, take charge personality (no wall flowers, please!)
• Desire and ability to go above and beyond (which entails thinking and working beyond 9 to 5)

Interested applicants may send their resumes to Erin Borkowski at

Good luck on the hunt!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Secrets to finding real job openings What to determine before you take a job

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