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Bad Habits That Are Probably Causing Your Rejection

Are you regularly submitting applications or interviewing, but not really getting a positive response back?

Perhaps you leave an interview expecting to hear good news, only to get an email thanking you for your time (or no email at all).

Rejection itself is frustrating; and this frustration compounds over time as you wonder whether there is anything wrong with you or how you are presenting yourself. In my experience, if you are technically doing everything right and there’s no obvious reason why an employer should be hesitant, but you are not getting the response you want, you are probably sending nuanced signals based on how you are framing or presenting responses.

The good news is that these are often rooted in habits, and correctible so long as you recalibrate your approach. Here, I run through some of the most common habits, going from broad to narrow:

Your brand is simply ineffective.

Not that you need to have your own commercial…but you need to understand a reader’s impression from glancing over your resume and cover letter. If you are submitting but not receiving responses, then it is likely that your brand is “bland.” Review keywords that are relevant to the position being applied for and personalize your cover letter so that it is specific to the position you are applying for. Make sure your social media profiles are also professional and appropriate.

You are not focused.

Being a generalist might fit for some roles, but might not for others. Your resume and cover letter should convey a focused message. If your practice focuses on a particular area, industry, or segment of work, then you need to make sure that your application materials show results generated in that area, industry, or segment.

If you don’t have a specific area, industry, or segment developed yet, then take the simple step of selecting three, specific roles. At minimum, this gives you clarity and focus, making it much easier for you to move through a job search process and be more compelling during an interview.

You lack distinction.

What is the first impression you create?

How would your colleagues or acquaintances answer that question? The process of getting hired by a firm consists of many intangible aspects. Plenty of qualified candidates for a position look the same on paper (good branding, focus, and all). They all may have similar levels of education, degrees, and previous experience. You need to invest the time to evaluate yourself so that you  set yourself apart with positive distinction. Subconscious factors affect how an interviewer feels around you, or whether the rapport was positive and memorable.

Ask a trusted mentor or peer to discuss your first impression. Discuss what you want your first impression to be, and listen to what they tell you gave them that positive impression of you. Keep this in mind as you move through the process.

Unconscious, self-sabotaging body language.

The legal profession is not well known for its humility or warmth. Often, candidates are so focused on presenting themselves as competent or sociable at the cost of actually appearing combative or disingenuous.

Simple, non-verbal gestures and actions send signals and can turn people off, alienating people around you. The common culprits include:

Pointing your finger. A common habit of litigators who are used to pointing at exhibits or displays, or to emphasize a statement. It’s not hard to imagine why this can come off as aggressive and rude, and make your interviewer feel like they are being lectured in law school. If you know you have a habit of doing this or gesturing with your hands, try to present things with your entire hand. This will generally expose your palms, making you appear warmer.

Crossing your arms. Often, we do this to feel comforted and protected because we are feeling vulnerable and nervous before a meeting or interview; but the perception is that you are cold and defensive. Instead, take deep breaths, and rest your arms, palms up.

Holding your chin (too) high. Many nervous interviewers notice when then are looking down or tilting their heads low, and overcompensate by holding their chins too high. It’s good to give an impression of confidence, but you do not want to overdo it and come off as talking down to someone. Instead, match it to the level of your interviewer.

Checking your phone. This is not just a millennial problem, believe it or not. Many of us have developed habitual compulsions to grab our phones, or simply to “touch” them in our pockets. The signal this sends is that you have no interest in what is going on in the room you are in. If you appear as not interested in the interaction, the likelihood of moving forward decreases.

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