Great on paper

Great on paper – but are you great in person?

Working in recruitment we’re no strangers to candidates that look ‘great on paper’.  We’re always pleased when we find one of them as it is likely that our clients will want to interview them!  But unfortunately being great on paper is no guarantee of getting the job, and it can leave some candidates feeling rather surprised and miffed at the end of the process.

“Why didn’t I get the job?”

Sometimes the truth hurts!  The client might not give a very clear reason why they went for another candidate but the truth is probably no more complicated than the fact that someone else gave a better interview than you.  Someone else wanted it more.  They tried harder to impress.  Rather than feeling miffed about it, why not take a moment to consider what you could do differently next time?  And below are some suggestions, based on our experience of candidates that looked great on paper, but when it came to the interview, just didn’t cut the mustard (even if they thought they did).

  • Prepare better.  Have you thoroughly researched the client you are visiting?  And I mean thoroughly, not just taking a cursory glance at their website and memorising the first sentence on the home page.  We’ve had ‘great on paper’ candidates that fell at the first hurdle because the client’s opening question was ‘what do you know about the company?’
  • Look the part.  Don’t ever assume that you are such a shoo-in for the role that you can roll up to the interview looking like you’ve slept in the clothes you are wearing.  Once you’ve made a bad impression, it is nigh on impossible to recover from it in the short time allocated for the meeting.
  • Elementary mistakes.  It is never ok to be late to the interview.  It is never ok to be rude to the receptionist.  It is never ok to forget the name of the person you are meeting, or repeatedly call them by the wrong name throughout the meeting.  For every mistake you make, there will be a ‘less great on paper but AMAZING in person’ candidate that didn’t slip up even once.
  • Don’t assume you’ve got it in the bag.  The client likes your CV – big deal!  If you fail to back it up in person, there will always be someone else that did.  They might not be as great on paper as you, but the client won’t be fixated on that – they’ll be looking at the bigger picture and how that person can benefit the company in the long term.  So what if they need a bit of training?

All of these are things that genuinely happen.  Don’t expect your CV to carry you through – it will open doors for you but once you’re in the interview room, you’re on your own, and if you don’t deliver in person, there will always be someone else that does precisely that.  And if it was up to you, which one would you go for – the person that was great on paper but disappointing in person, or the reasonable-on-paper person that smashed the interview out of the park?