Getting a New Job Is in the Details

Here’s an important tip for job hunters: Sweat the small stuff. Minor missteps can derail your search. With U.S. joblessness still rampant, numerous hiring managers are knocking applicants out of the running over the slightest mistake.

That’s what sporting-goods sales executive Daniel Obergfell did while seeking a marketing manager last winter. He rejected one contender for mispronouncing his surname four times – even after he corrected her for three of them. She was among 40 people he interviewed for the $80,000 post, which attracted more than 400 prospects from one online listing.

With competition for jobs so fierce, many candidates are suffering from extreme nervousness. This can “cause you to do things you wouldn’t normally do,” Mr. Obergfell says. Indeed, evidence shows that small interview errors are becoming more common. “Compared with two years ago, about 20% more candidates interviewed by our clients are not getting offers because of gaffes made due to their high anxiety,” says Dave Campeas, president and chief executive officer of PrincetonOne.

The best solution? Prepare better for interviews. Added legwork should include extensive practice, thorough homework about an employer’s culture and an empathetic sense of how your skills match its needs. “Turn your dial up on sensitivity,” suggests Gerard Roche, senior chairman Heidrick & Struggles International. “The little stuff counts.”

Here are five danger zones where small slip-ups could damage your chances:

  1. Your deportment

The man nevertheless landed the job – thanks to strong references. But he quit in November, frustrated by his scant commissions.” He could not handle sales in an industry he knew nothing about,” Mr. Mezzapelle says. In hindsight, Mr. Mezzapelle realizes the anxious hand waving “displayed a lack of confidence in his abilities.” He regrets hiring the unemployed man.

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