Ask Bullmore: Why do I keep getting rejected from job interviews?
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

Ask Bullmore: Why do I keep getting rejected from job interviews?

Jeremy Bullmore, Campaign's agony uncle, answers your career dilemmas.

Dear Jeremy, I have had a series of (what I thought were) great job interviews but keep getting rejected. Each time, the company has told me I was one of two or three final candidates. What am I doing wrong and how can I become a number-one choice?

You may not be doing anything wrong. First, some maths. Let’s say that for every desirable job, there are ten qualified applicants. So you need to be turned down by at least nine before you begin to feel aggrieved.

Second, truth – companies don’t tell it. For compassionate reasons, companies routinely lie when giving feedback to failed candidates. Rather than reveal that one of the interviewers thought your enthusiasm for the job was verging on the pervy, they’ll tell you that you were very close.

When you’ve failed on seven consecutive occasions, you’re bound to think it’s for the same reason. But the chances are you’ve just been up against seven different people who caught the company’s eye for seven different reasons.

If you think you’re doing something wrong and, without knowing what it is, set out to correct it, then you’ll certainly end up doing something wrong. The worst preparation for an interview is to imagine that you’re going for the last one. 

Dear Jeremy, A vocal minority of well-connected employees at my company are actively campaigning against my brand advertising in tabloid newspapers. I don’t agree with their logic but their campaign has become a distraction and has negatively impacted my reputation within the organisation. Do you think I should just bow to the pressure?

I keep thinking that this question must have been lying at the bottom of my in-tray since 1937. And then I remember that I didn’t have an in-tray in 1937. But I still can’t reconcile the picture that your question conjures up with anything that’s happened since 1937.

These well-connected employees of yours – to whom, exactly, are they connected? To hereditary peers, perhaps, or lesser members of the royal family? And presumably they fear that tabloid newspapers – or "the gutter press", as they doubtless call them – have a morally corrosive effect on the lower classes, which is why they’ve banned them from their servants’ quarters?

I agree it doesn’t seem in the least bit likely but it’s the best I can do. Otherwise, I don’t understand what these well-connected employees are banging on about and why you don’t just tell them to shut up. If they were all non-executive directors, appointed for purely decorative reasons and writing in from Rutland, I could just about sympathise, but they’re not.

It’s now fashionable to reassert the importance of traditional advertising and slag off new platforms such as Facebook. Are people who do so committing the same crime as those who extol the virtues of the new?

No. The word fashionable implies transience. If something appears to be lastingly fashionable, it stops being fashionable and becomes a classic. The mindless embracing of new platforms was indeed a fashion and, like many fashions, is beginning to look quaint.

By contrast, to reassert the value of traditional advertising media, which long ago earned classic status, is nothing other than a timely return to common sense.

Do you think the answer to solving the talent drain in the industry is simply to pay more money or do you think it’s still sufficiently fun and rewarding enough to stop our brightest and best running off to Facebook and Google?

I’m not clear what people working for Facebook and Google actually do. But if they’re presented with an infinite series of different challenges, which only the human mind can solve; if they’re expected to understand insurance on Monday, Saga on Tuesday, lager on Wednesday and burgers on Thursday; if everything about human nature, gossip columns and the economy is of professional interest to them; if winning and losing are searing alternatives in any normal week: if that’s what working for Facebook and Google is like, then I wouldn’t dream of trying to dissuade anyone from working there.

But I bet it’s not as interesting as that. 

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@ or by tweeting @Campaignmag with the hashtag #AskBullmore.