Skip to content Skip to navigation

The Little Things That Matter

August 15, 2016
by Tim Tolan
| Reprints
Click To View Gallery

Clearly the time and energy it takes to land a new job can be a huge undertaking – especially if you are a highly compensation individual. That being said, I believe the work it takes boils down to the little things that most of us forget about. Often, clients will call me after a candidate interview and tell me the candidate’s skill level and experience was outstanding and technically they are very impressive. But …(a word I hate to hear from a client when debriefing on a candidate interview). That’s where the little things that we often take for granted pop up. And I do mean the little things.


Here are a few reminders of the top 5 reasons a candidate gets the thumbs down and the areas we all need to think about during the interview process.


1.     Attire – One might think this is a layup for most of us. Well…not really. A colleague of mine had a final interview for a ROCK STAR candidate in Chicago. Great energy, skillset, great listener, solid domain knowledge – in a word – PERFECT. However in the heat of the day this candidate was wearing their sunglasses and when he got out of his car and walking into the building he flipped his sunglasses on top of his head. And that’s where they stayed during the entire interview. Not the worst story I’ve ever heard but the results were the same.  The client decided to PASS. Then there was the candidate recently who did a video interview in a T-Shirt. I’m guessing you already know how that worked out for him.

2.     Energy/Focus – In an interview the client wants to see a preview of upcoming attractions when conducting an interview. They want to see the candidate – look that candidate in the eye and engage in a conversation. If you turn your cell phone on vibrate only and it’s constantly buzzing in your pocket you just conveyed that knowing you are missing calls or text messages is far more important than the conversation you are having with your future boss. No good. Looking out the window or around the room once again demonstrates a lack of focus.

3.     Disparaging Comments – Again, you are there to explain the WHY regarding your objectives to land this new job. Trash talking your current of former boss or company is…well plain dumb. It also let’s your audience get a glimpse on how you will behave if/when you ever leave their employment. But worry not. In 100% of the cases the client just says PASS. Game over.

4.     Total Lack of Preparation – This one is 100% inexcusable for so many reasons. First of all the organization should be researched up front by spending time on their website where there is a wealth of information. It’s not hard to accomplish. Also the person or persons interviewing you in all likelihood have a LinkedIn profile. Again, a few minutes on LI and you should k now all you need to know about this person before meeting them for the first time. I once had a President candidate that met with the CEO he’d be reporting to and his first question was “So tell me what is it you guys do here”? Seriously. Yes, sadly this happened and it cost him a huge opportunity that he actually lost exactly 2 minutes into the interview. DONE. OVER.

5.     Professional Courtesy/Etiquette: One of the little things but it happens more often than not. Writing a quick email or hand written note to the interview team never goes out of style. It just doesn’t. I had recently a senior executive that was in a conference room waiting for the CEO to arrive to interview him. When the CEO walked in he was texting someone and apparently needed a few seconds to finish his text when he finally looked up and uttered the following words he soon lived to regret, “What’s up Bud”? Yep that is verbatim was he said.


It’s already a tall order to land a new gig and by being dismissive of the little things that matter you put yourself at a competitive disadvantage. If you have great chops, know your space/market and have a track record of success – please don’t throw all that away by skipping and forgetting about the little things that really do matter.