How to Make It Past the First Round of Job Interviews

Job interview

Searching for a job is an exercise in humility. Even for the most qualified candidates, the process can take time. Your initial efforts—resume writing, building a LinkedIn profile, looking for job openings—all focus on one goal: getting an interview. Once you reach this stage, it’s easy to develop a false sense of security. Visibility is half the battle after all.

But what if you’ve reached a point where you consistently interview for roles—and then after the first round, it’s radio silence? There’s an unknown obstacle between you and the job offer.

It’s hard not to take that kind of response personally.

If you’ve gone through a series of job interviews without progressing beyond the first or second round, it’s time to re-evaluate your approach.

How to Progress Beyond the Initial Round of Job Interviews

1. Target the right types of roles.

One of the most common reasons candidates are eliminated from consideration is because they don’t seem like a good fit for the role. If you consistently hear phrases like “You seem overqualified,” this probably indicates you should look at positions that are more senior—or find a way to address those concerns directly during the interview.

If you want to evaluate how you stack up against other candidates, use LinkedIn to research professionals with qualities that are similar to yours. Search for other candidates with the same title, region, skill sets, industry, and seniority level. Is there anything about your profile that sets you apart from the rest of your peers?

If you find that your skills or experience level don’t align with the majority of candidates, you might need to target different positions based on those distinctions. Use different search filters on LinkedIn until you find a group of professionals with qualifications that mirror yours. Then, search for job listings that are similar to those roles. By shifting your focus even slightly, you’ll identify more relevant opportunities.

2. Identify your key selling points.

Review all the requirements that are included on a job listing. Assign a score of 1–3 for every point in order of its importance. On this scale, all the qualities with a #1 score are essential. You need to have at least most of the qualities with a #2 score, but you might be able to compensate for some inconsistencies if you have other value-adds. Anything with a #3 score is a “pie in the sky” request. Almost every job posting has at least a few items that are #3 qualities—you don’t need to worry about meeting every expectation perfectly.

Using these categories, determine which points you need to emphasize during the interview to convince the hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the role. Throughout the conversation, highlight the skills you have that fall into the #1 and #2 categories.

Learn how to master the art of “humble bragging” during a job interview.

3. Prove to the interviewer that you’re a great cultural fit.

Job interviewWhen people concentrate all their efforts on beating the applicant tracking system (ATS), they tend to create resumes that are generic and flat. If you strip away everything about your background that makes you unique, you won’t seem like a compelling candidate. Present yourself in a way that makes people want to work with you.

Let your personality shine through during the interview and in your resume and LinkedIn profile. Ask the interviewer questions about their experiences, and try to get them to share information about the position and organization overall. If you can establish a natural rapport, you’ll be more likely to advance to the next stage.

4. Solve a problem.

Organize your approach around 5–6 pain points you can solve for an organization. Ideally, these solutions will be uniquely suited to your expertise and background.

For example, what projects have you tackled in the past that inform the way you’d approach a problem the employer faces today? Make these connections clear during the interview so the hiring manager understands how you specifically can help.

Be bold about expressing these ideas right from the start—employers like to see candidates who are enthusiastic and already thinking about what they can do to improve an organization. If possible, research the business before the interview and prepare a few suggestions that you can bring up during the discussion.

5. Make a memorable impression.

An overly subservient “yes man” approach can undermine your perceived value. You need to cultivate an executive presence that holds authority, especially if you’re operating at the Director/VP level and above.

Remove the word “jobseeker” from your mind. You’re a one-person entrepreneur, and your time is valuable.

Treat the job interview like a business consultation. Be gracious without being overly accommodating. Don’t take the conservative approach to every question. Help the interviewer see your vision for the company, and convince them to believe in your leadership abilities.

Avoid trying to fill every moment with chatter—lean into pauses in the conversation and give your ideas breathing room. Be direct.

If an employer doesn’t want to work with someone who will shake things up, they’re not worth your time anyway—onto the next one!

Will your next job interview take place over the phone? Here’s what you need to do to prepare.


About the Author

Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the "normal rules" of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.