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Why You Didn’t Get the Job

didn't get job 1Eight experts offer insights on why you didn’t make the cut and get hired

One of the most frustrating situations for job seekers is when they are left wondering why they didn’t get the job. Sometimes it’s obvious – you really weren’t qualified or the interview didn’t go well. Other times it seems like everything was going your way. You got a call right away from HR and then hit it off with the hiring manager. But in the end you’re not the last candidate standing.

With this in mind, I asked eight career experts whose opinions I respect to share some reasons why you didn’t get the job. You’ll find their insights as diverse as their backgrounds.  As you’ll see sometimes it’s not you it’s them.

Robyn Greenspan, Chief Content Officer, ExecuNet

Try to get as much insight as to why you didn’t get the offer. You’ll often find that recruiters and hiring managers will be forthcoming with information, especially if you ask them for constructive feedback. If you didn’t get the offer because of an uncontrollable factor, like the job was put on hold, try to get a timeframe for when the position might reopen. Then, stay top-of-mind with occasional, helpful emails about industry trends or relevant information but don’t continually check-in to ask about the status of the job or resend your résumé. Use the time and correspondence to build a solid and thoughtful relationship. If you really were the most qualified candidate, you will be remembered when the positions are available where you are the best fit.

If you didn’t get the offer because they thought you weren’t the most qualified, realize you are likely competing among a large field of candidates, especially if you are applying for jobs posted online. Network your way to decision-makers within companies so they can get to know you better than other candidates and you’ll have a competitive advantage. If you have a large qualifications gap, reassess the types of jobs you are applying for; you might be aiming too high or need additional training.

Steve Levy, Recruiting Inferno

I’ve never met a candidate who thought they were average – despite the reality that most ARE average…

You thought your resume was perfect but it wasn’t. You thought your cover letter was perfect but it wasn’t. You thought your research was perfect but it wasn’t. You thought your interview was perfect but it wasn’t. You thought your clothes were perfect but they weren’t. You thought your body language was perfect but it wasn’t. You thought your thank you letter was perfect but it wasn’t. You thought the hiring manager asked all the right questions but they didn’t. You thought the job description actually was the real job but it wasn’t. You thought your enthusiasm was high but it wasn’t. The bottom line: Nothing is ever perfect and there isn’t a single thing you can point your finger at if you didn’t get the job other than someone else fit the mold better than you.

People don’t realize that their “perfect” resume included “Account Manger” instead of Account Manager or “Pubic Relations Associate” instead of “Public Relations Associate” (it’s true – check LinkedIn); people don’t realize that their research didn’t expand beyond the propaganda presented on the company website; people don’t realize their perfect interview was actually them prattling on ad nauseum on why they didn’t get a promotion; people don’t realize that “following up” too many times after the interview is actually construed by those in recruiting to be a form of stalking…

Not getting the job is like a massive puzzle and missing pieces, while as individuals are quite small, add up. Debrief yourself after the “no”, learn from your mistakes, and get the next job.

Dawn Rasmussen, Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, Author, Forget Job Security: Build Your Marketability

There are a million reasons why you didn’t get the job.  Some of them have to do with you. And some of them don’t.  But understanding what those are can help take the personal sting out of job rejections.

Ask yourself whether you were 100% qualified for the position. Then, make sure you jump on it right away – closing deadlines are lies, you know!  Did you network your way into the company?

Most jobs are found through someone you know, and HR managers put extra weight on the applications that come from internal referrals.  But sometimes, it simply boils down to someone else was better qualified or has a better fit with the company culture. Or, perhaps, the hiring manager had a preselected candidate.  No matter the outcome, you always need to keep your momentum going. Never let the word “no” get you down.

Mark Babbitt, CEO and Founder, You Tern

For many job seekers, the real benefit of this question lies in… the willingness to ask the question.

After failing to get an offer, we fall into victim or blaming mode. We spend too much time speculating about hiring from the inside or nepotism. No doubt, we beat ourselves up for perceived personal failures during the interview process.

Instead, focus on areas of improvement – something we can’t do without first asking the question of the recruiter (and objectively listening to the answer): “Why didn’t I get this job? What area must I improve to show I’m the best candidate?”

Mike Junge, Irvine Technology Corporation, Author, Purple Squirrel: Stand Out, Land Interviews, and Master the Modern Job Market

Why you didn’t get the job…

You didn’t do your homework. Failure to prepare is the number one reason you didn’t get hired. Fortunately, it’s also the easiest place to improve. Start by owning your own skills and experience. Dive in and get clear about what you’ve done, how you’ve done it, why you did it that way, and what you’ve learned. The sharper you are with this, the better you’re going to interview.

You failed to make a personal connection. Hiring is at least as much about likeability as skill set, so make sure focus on the people as much as the content. Even little things like your smile, handshake, eye contact, listening, and being friendly can add up and make a huge difference.

Someone else was just plain stronger. It hurts but it happens. Shrug it off, focus on the basics, and get ready to win the next one.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine, Career Expert, SixFigureStart, LLC

There are many reasons why a candidate isn’t selected for a job. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the candidate:

  • The job goes to someone internally;
  • The company restructures the job requirements and/or  responsibilities so a once-qualified candidate is no longer a perfect fit;
  • Budget or headcount for the hire goes away entirely or is assigned to another position.

But candidates can also help themselves get hired, and here are some things candidates do to take themselves out of the running:

Unclear fit with the job – if you don’t match your skills, expertise and experience directly to the requirements of the job, you may appear qualified but for something else. Do not just assume the job description is accurate. Ask in every interview about expectations and desired results and how success is measured. Tailor your highlights of yourself to drive directly towards these expectations, desired results and key metrics;

Unclear fit with the company – you need to demonstrate you can do the job at that company, not their competitor. This means you have to understand the overall culture, as well as who you would specifically report into and work with. As you talk about your qualifications for the job, you also want to couch these in a way that fits in with the style and environment of that particular company

Amanda Augustine, Job Search Expert, TheLadders

You can’t land the job if the hiring manager never sees your application.

Based on a research study conducted by TheLadders, we found that recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds looking at your resume to decide if you’re a fit. Make sure your application tells the right story by highlighting your relevant qualifications.

In this digital age, it’s also critical that your resume is crafted to make it past an electronic gatekeeper known as an applicant tracking system (ATS).Incorporate buzz words that routinely pop up in job descriptions that interest you (assuming you honestly have those skills), so the ATS software flags your application as a likely fit for the role.

If it feels like your applications are getting lost in the black hole, consider how well you meet the job’s core requirements. You may be a good fit, but other applicants may be an excellent fit. TheLadders recently introduced a tool called Scout to help its members size up their competition before applying to a job. Remember, if you don’t meet the must-have requirements for the role – and other applicants do – your chances of getting a call back are slim.

Emilie Mecklenborg, Social Media Coordinator, Kenexa, an IBM Company (Manages Ford Motor Company’s Career Facebook and @FordCareers Twitter accounts)

You may not have gotten the job because your attitude needs improvement. Attitude is everything and yours tells your story. Although you look great on paper, are you smiling and showing enthusiasm in the interview? Companies are looking for brand ambassadors who exemplify their brand and culture.

If you walk into the interview feeling arrogant or entitled to the position, hiring managers will sense it. Or if you feel like the job is beneath you but better than nothing, it will show in the interview. How you present yourself throughout the interview process, verbal and nonverbal, is just as important as what is on your resume.


About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.


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