why you didn’t get hired

You were perfect for the job and your interviewer seemed to love you – or so you thought. But you just found out that you didn’t get the job, and now you’re wondering why. Here are eight of the most common reasons you didn’t get hired.

1. You were qualified, but someone else was more qualified. In this job market, employers generally get flooded with well-qualified candidates, which means that an awful lot of qualified people are getting rejected. You might have been great, someone they’d have been thrilled to hire if Candidate B didn’t happen to be better for the role. It’s important to remember that getting a job isn’t just about being a great candidate — it’s about being the best candidate, and it’s impossible to know from the outside whether that will be you or not.

2. You weren’t as qualified as you thought you were. Job seekers often mis-assess their own match with a job, either because they don’t understand what the employer is really looking for or because they overestimate their own skills and experience.

3. You turned off the hiring manager in the interview. You might be qualified on paper, but that won’t matter if you blow the interview. And that could take one of dozens of forms: Maybe you seemed rude or arrogant, or you didn’t answer questions clearly, or you rarely made eye contact, or you seemed unprepared for the conversation.

4. You weren’t a culture fit. You might have all the qualifications an employer is looking for, but still not get hired because your working style would clash with the people with whom you’d be working. Remember, it’s not just a question of whether you have the skills to do the job; it’s also a question of fit for this particular position, with this particular boss, in this particular culture, and in this particular company.

5. You weren’t able to articulate why you’d excel at the job. If you aren’t able to make a strong, compelling case for why you’d be great at the job, the interviewer isn’t likely to put one together on her own. Interviewing successfully usually means laying out past experiences and skills that equip you to tackle the job, as well as a track record of doing well at work that uses those skills.

6. You were annoying. Constantly checking in for updates, pushing for an offer before the employer is ready, or calling with detailed questions about benefits before you even have an offer are all good ways to make a hiring manager think that you’ll be a pain to work with.

7. You didn’t seem enthusiastic about the job. Employers want to see that you’re excited about the job and engaged in discussing it. No one wants to hire someone who doesn’t seem especially interested in the opportunity.

8. You only seemed interested in what the job could do for you, not what you could offer the company. If all your questions focused on pay and benefits rather than the details or the work, and you seemed more interested in how quickly you’d be able to move up than in what you’d be doing every day in the role you were interviewing for, chances are good that the company chose to move forward with a candidate whose primary focus was doing the work well.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 30 comments… read them below }

  1. Your Mileage May Vary

    How excited should one be? I always worry about this because I fall a bit more on the reserved side of the excitement scale. I think you don’t mean that a job seeker should be bubbling over with excitement but where is a good line?

      1. fposte

        Agreed (as long as it’s not at the expense of brain). Several of my jobs are, if you’re into that, really, really cool, and candidates generally are pretty excited about them. That doesn’t mean they have to squeal throughout the interview (please, no), but both introverts and extroverts have demonstrated in their own way (sometimes just by saying it) that this is something that they’re really excited about.

      2. AnotherAlison

        Hopefully, this talk of excitement falls under the provisions of fit — if you want bubbling, & I’m not bubbling, it’s good that we don’t further our hiring discussions.

        Where YMMV says “a bit more on the reserved side,” I am setting the outer boundaries of the reserved side.

        At the same time, my facial expressions usually give away what I’m thinking, so while I’m not bubbling over with excitement, you would know that I’m not thinking the job is lame.

    1. Runon

      I will say I have been both mocked for (would have turned that job down had I been offered it) and hired for (and a job I was underqualified for-but really enthusiastic about) my excitement.

      1. Jamie

        Perfect description.

        I know this sounds really weird, but when I get really excited about something I can feel it in my eyebrows. Once when one of the biggest projects of my career was first discussed – offered up in a meeting to gauge interest about who wanted it I totally felt it in my face and I wanted to sooo badly – but I didn’t say anything because I was listening for further details and I didn’t want to look grabby.

        My boss took one look at me and laughed – and said “Jamie’s got it” and that was it. Fortunately everyone else was pretending to tie their shoes so they wouldn’t get picked – it’s okay to be grabby when no one else wants it. Seriously, I felt like a dog looking at a bone and apparently it shows.

        But when someone wants something a lot of times you can feel it – it radiates off them in this energy. If you typically get misread as being less enthused than you are I’d try to amp it up, though.

      2. Your Mileage May Vary

        This I can do, I think. When people say that they are working on cool new thing and I’d be a part of that, outwardly I say, “Oh, I see” while inwardly I’m really excited. I thought I was being more professional by tamping down the inner squeeee but I can let some of it out.

  2. Benjamin Grimm

    Thank you for this article. I just found out today that I did not get a job I felt very strongly I could get. I think it may have been a combination of #4 (not a culture fit), as I am considerably older than the majority of the employees, and #5 (because I KNOW I could do the work, but I was probably not as convincing as I needed to be).

    I’m incredibly disappointed, but your article helped me approach the realistic side of the situation. As always, Ask a Manager is my favorite source of inspiration and advice in my continuing two-year job search.

  3. Anonymous

    When a hiring manager said that I’d be bored in the position as I’d travelled and worked abroad as much as she had, I didn’t know whether to turn up or turn down the volume of my enthusiasm for the job. Rather, I fumbled around in vain to find the right mean. Likewise, when another hiring manager said that once I discovered how administrative the position was, the arch of my enthusiasm would wane, I didn’t know how to express a credible level of enthusiasm for the post.

    There’s obviously no real science to it, but it’s frustrating for sure.

    1. Different Anon

      Maybe you could ask her why she felt that her experiences had her feeling bored in the position? Because it’s supposed to be a 2-way convo where you’re also trying to find out if you would like the job. If I don’t know how excited to be I try my best to lean toward curiosity and probe into what the person’s saying more so that I can get a better insight. Or if it’s administrative you could ask what that means exactly, like asking to be walked through what a typical day would be like and see if you feel like that’s something you could handle.

      For instance, I know I need to stay away from jobs that are heavy with phone-answering no matter how desperate I am for a job. That job and I would be a bad match. But I could file paperwork and interact with colleagues easily.

    2. Angela S.

      I’m curious. What kind of jobs you are applying for?

      Recently, there was a job opening in our office. We were hiring for a junior administrative staff. We wanted someone who could be happy to do filing and stuffing envelopes for hours. We’ve got a lot of college grads applying for this opening, partly because we advertised it as an “entry level position”. We turned away a lot of them because we believed that they would get bored easily doing these kinds of task. We ended up hiring someone who is a bit older.

      It’s unfair, really. When you look at a job positing, you wouldn’t know what kind of person the hiring manager is looking for. For example, at the job opening at my office, we could hardly say that college grads need not apply. There must be places where young people with travel experience are ones who are in demand.

      1. Min

        I’ve got to say, I really take issue with the assumption that a college graduate isn’t suitable for entry level work. If they weren’t prepared to start at the bottom, they wouldn’t be applying.

    1. Benjamin Grimm

      Thank you VERY much HR gorilla! I very much appreciate the goo karma you’ve sent. Back to the drawing board!

      And thank you EVERYONE. This is the finest and most supportive group of commenters and everybody is incredibly helpful and encouraging. Thanks!

  4. Anonymous

    Though I kvetch about the reasons I’ve not been landed jobs I really wanted, I just sent invitations to 4 candidates to return for 2nd interviews with the manager who said, “Any of the four will do.” Three, therefore, will be disappointed wondering why they didn’t get the nod. And guess what? There’s absolutely no reason at all but for the fact there’s only 1 position. C’est la vie!

  5. Steve G

    Another reason is “Inability to Sell,” regardless of whether you’re in a sales role or not. My company likes when workers in all roles exhibit characteristics and occassionally do tasks typically reserved for sales. Not that us non-sales cold call, but I have upsold quite a few customers – even though my job is analytical. I’ve seen opportunites in the data I work and reached out to a few customers and got them to do extra business with us. We can’t have employees who aren’t willing or able to connect the dots, seek out opportunities, reach out to customers, or connect people.

    1. Jamie

      I’d be out quick at a job like that – whether I quit or they fired me, either way I doubt I’d last two weeks.

      I don’t know what it is with some people and thinking that everyone has or should have sales skills. No one just assumes everyone can do higher level math or deal with the processing bottleneck in a production server – so why do they think everyone can sell?

      It is just as specific a skill set as anything else and people who are good at it should get their due – because it’s not easy.

      I would starve to death if I relied on my non-existent sales skills to support myself. Assuming this is something everyone can do or learn diminishes the respect for those who really are talented in this area.

    2. KellyK

      I would hope, then, that you’re listing sales skills as a necessary qualification for every job you advertise for.

      1. KellyK

        My comment above sounded snarkier than I intended–sorry! But if your company views sales skills as required for a job in data entry or HR or some other generally unrelated field, it would be unrealistic to expect applicants with those skills and not advertise specifically for them, not to mention being a waste of time for people who don’t have those skills or don’t want to do sales.

        1. Benjamin Grimm

          Having sales skills in applying for a sales job is not a instant get-in in these days. I’d been a successful sales rep for 24 years with zero job offers after being let go.

  6. Got A. Interview

    About #6 and the asking about benefits: does that apply if they called you about applying? I was turned down for a position a year ago and got a cold email out of the blue and a follow up call the next day just a few weeks back where the company was again hiring for the position. The benefits really would be the difference between interest in the position and just saying not interested.

      1. Or Maybe

        Thanks for the input. I was not so sure I did not shoot myself in the foot for asking. They sent me an email that they would be calling me to set up an interview. Half the week goes by, email my contact and she says that hopefully they will be calling at end of week or first of the next week. Wait till friday of the next week, she says the girl doing the calling was out of town at a meeting but that the interviews were on March 8. I would definitely be getting a call this week but if I had not gotten it by Tuesday (today) that I should call her back. Still no call today, waited until almost close of business day. So will call her tomorrow. Just seeing all kinds of Red Flags and it is a shame because this is a place that I really see me finishing my career at.

  7. Elizabeth West

    I got a job once where I ended up doing sales stuff when I sat right there in the interview and said I wasn’t sales-oriented. They didn’t tell me about it until I was told to do it. Nuts! That place sucked anyway. It had the only coworker I ever actually hated. Hated with the searing intensity of a thousand neutron stars. And I had to do someone else’s job so often that I barely got my own work done. I ended up quitting. It was kind of mutual, but I said it first. When I asked about the sales stuff, the manager said “We thought you could learn it.” *facepalm*

    Getting the job isn’t always a good thing either. :P

    1. Steve G

      That’s horrible, I saw my company try to do the laying on of sales stuff to people who aren’t a good fit for it. One actually had the gall to do the cold calls, but she sucked. Fortunately, my job was turning into a 12-hour/day + saturday thing so I asked if she could work with me, and she never cold called again. The second girl actually tried to do the company a favor – we are in NYC but most of the office is from the ‘burbs. None know the city good. So she put together a really cool list of all of the never-heard-of places that would be awesome customers, and sent it to sales. I thought that was awesome of her. Then, it was asked of her that she just call them to set up appointments! Um, let’s not pretend that that isn’t a cold call and isnt the most difficult part of the sales process! She had the strength to refuse, thank god.

  8. Blinx

    Another reason you didn’t get the job? Nobody did.

    I had a great interview the other week — my background was spot on, portfolio pieces strong and relevant, good rapport with the hiring manger, and we knew some of the same people.

    Staffing agency got back to me: The position is on hold until a different position is filled. Rats. Anything could happen at this point.

    1. Anonymous

      Okay. . .okay. . .loved the article. So try this one on for size:

      You go through the interview process, get hired, graduate at the top of your training class. . .supervisors and employees tell you seems like you’ve been on the job forever, even have customers tell you they should hire more people like you. . .come in the first week of the job after three weeks of training and are now actually on the job. You come in they tell you you are not a good fit; after you fought tooth and nail to get there after being unemployed for. . .

      Still trying to figure this out!!!

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