I get plenty of job interviews but no offers

A reader writes:

I have been job hunting (while employed full-time, which is very tricky!) for a good year.
I have been to seven interviews, and I have made it to the final round of candidates every single time. However, I have yet to receive any offers!

When I ask for feedback, I am told I am “fantastic, smart, professional,” etc., etc. – but apparently somebody else is more fantastic, smarter, and more professional because I am always the bridesmaid and never the bride!

For the last two interviews, I was told – after three rounds of interviews – that they “loved me” but that I was “overqualified.” Why, then, was I brought in for THREE rounds of interviews?

For another interview, for which the process went on a month and several interviews and a test, I was told they were really trying to find a spot for me in their company, but ultimately, they needed somebody with a very specific experience. Why, then, was I ever even called in the first place? I never pretended to have that specific experience.

I am frustrated and disheartened – and don’t even know what I can do to improve my odds because the feedback I receive is always good.

Getting interviews but no offers is really frustrating … but I suspect there are pieces here that you’re making more frustrating for yourself than they should be.

Specifically: You’re getting annoyed that employers are bringing you in to interview for jobs that they ultimately decide you’re not quite the right match for. But the whole point of interviewing you is to help you and the employer figure that out. You’re thinking that they should have known you were overqualified from the beginning, since they saw your qualifications on your résumé. But on the employer’s side of things, it often doesn’t make sense to conclude that until they’ve had a chance to talk with you, and sometimes it can take a few interviews to be sure. If they could know how strong a candidate you were solely from your résumé, they wouldn’t need to interview people at all. Much more nuanced information comes out in an interview, which you can’t always get just from reading a résumé.

Plus, you have to remember that they’re not just looking at how well-matched you are with the job; they’re also looking at how well-matched you are with the job relative to other candidates. And if they’re thoughtful in how they approach hiring, that often won’t be an instant decision.

With that employer that talked with you for a month and then ended up telling you that they needed someone with a type of experience they don’t have, leaving you wondering why they would have called you in the first place: Sometimes candidates are strong enough in other ways to overcome a lack of skill X, so it can be worth talking to people who aren’t perfect matches with the job description. Sometimes that works out because the person ends up being right for the role despite not having the “perfect” set of experience, and other times it doesn’t. Sometimes employers genuinely don’t realize how important skill X will be until they talk to a candidate who doesn’t have it. Other times the job shifts in some way that makes skill X more important now than it was at the start of the search (for example, if they’ve launched a new initiative where X will be central, or if their X specialist leaves and they need to someone else to bring that skill).

And sure, sometimes employers are just disorganized and should have thought things through better from the beginning. But it’s really, really common to end up hiring people who aren’t a perfect, line-for-line match with the job description, and so it can make sense to talk with candidates who seem generally strong — even if ultimately the fit turns out not to be as strong as the job needs.

Overall, it’s in your best interests as a candidate that employers are willing to consider people who aren’t perfect matches. That flexibility can end up turning into an offer, even though it hasn’t so far. If you instead see it as a way you’re being mistreated or inconvenienced, your search is going to feel a lot more frustrating. Instead, if you can, try to reframe it in your mind as a good thing that people see your strengths and want to explore possibilities with you.

Now, as for what might going on with your job search. Frankly, it’s possible that nothing’s really going wrong. You’re getting interviews, so your application materials like your résumé and cover letters are probably doing their job. And you’re getting asked back for second and third interviews, so your interview skills probably aren’t a problem.

One thing you could try is to take a look at who was ultimately hired for the jobs you interviewed for. Look on the company’s website or on LinkedIn and check out those people’s backgrounds. You might realize that the candidates who are beating you out have more experience, less experience, or a different type of experience altogether — and that might point you to adjust the type of jobs you’re pursuing. For example, if you see that everyone getting hired is slightly junior to you, it could be a sign to start applying to jobs that are one step up from the ones you’ve been targeting.

Also, do you know whether you’ve reached the reference-checking stage with any of the jobs that you interviewed for? References typically aren’t checked until the very end of the process, so if yours are getting checked before you’re rejected, it’s possible that there’s a problem there. It could be worth touching base with your references to make sure that they feel comfortable giving you glowing recommendations — and to probe for any areas where they might be less comfortable endorsing you.

I’d also take another shot at asking for feedback from past interviewers. I know that you’ve tried that and you haven’t heard anything especially helpful, but you might get better results with a more targeted approach. When candidates ask me for feedback, it’s usually a generic-sounding request like, “I would appreciate any feedback you can give me about how I can be a stronger candidate in the future.” That kind of request feels perfunctory, and it makes it easy for busy hiring managers to give a vague response (“You were great but someone else was better qualified”). But a more personal request makes it more likely you’ll get a useful answer. For example, if you had particularly good rapport with a recent interviewer, you could say something like this: “I really appreciated the time you spent talking to me and the insights you gave me about your work. I wonder if I could ask you a favor. I’ve been having trouble getting beyond the interview stage for jobs similar to this one, and I would be so grateful for any advice you could give me on how I’m presenting myself. Are there weaknesses I could work on, or any way I might be tripping myself up without realizing it? I respect your work enormously, and I’d be grateful for any insights you can share with me that you think might help.” That may or may not produce a more helpful answer (some hiring managers won’t give real feedback no matter what), but it will definitely up your chances of one.

Beyond that, though, it really might just be a waiting game. You could very well be an excellent candidate and have just had the bad luck of someone else being a better match for the particular jobs you applied for. That happens even to the strongest candidates. It’s frustrating when it happens multiple times in a row — but I think you can take comfort in knowing that you’re getting interviews and you’re getting invited back, so you’re doing plenty right.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 96 comments… read them below }

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I see you! I felt this post so hard, personally. I’ve been searching for more years than I like to say, and have gone through some really depressing stretches where I don’t hear anything. Then yesterday I got contacted to interview out of the blue, so who knows! All I know is that no one will email if I stop applying, no matter how exhausting the whole process is. Good luck to us all!

      1. Cheese Sticks and Pretzels*

        It is like your resume disappears into the black hole of nothingness….

    2. LQ*

      Eventually you make get taken into custody by a secret government agency and turned into a spy.

    3. Liane*

      Here’s some Job Karma, EW.
      I am getting interviews but that’s all. I was high up in one of them. A similar position has opened so I applied as I was encouraged to do by the hiring manager, so here we go again.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Aw, EW, I am sending you support (I would send hugs but don’t want to cross boundaries). I see you! But I also understand how frustrating and demoralizing this whole process feels :(

    5. Laura*

      Tell me about it. I haven’t had an interview since February. Too bad no one has any real advice for us long-term unemployed.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Can I make the gentle suggestion to take a hard look at your resume, and maybe do some networking? I know it sucks – my husband was unemployed for two years (!) back during the recession, and I’ve been out of work since early March. But really revising my resume helped me get a lot more “hits” even if they didn’t all lead very far.

        My apologies if you’ve already done this.

        1. Laura*

          It’s kind of hard to revise my resume since it won’t mask my glaringly obvious gaps. Also, I don’t believe in networking. The concept isn’t appealing me to since I’m not a trusting person to begin with. My (former) friends stopped talking me 5 years ago and no one in my family is currently employed. So who am I supposed to “network” with?

          1. ...*

            Former colleagues, bosses, contacts made through previous jobs, classmates from college (if applicable and relevant) – basically anyone you know in your field who might be able to link you to someone else you would benefit from knowing. But if you refuse to network because you are “not a trusting person”, there’s a problem right there. Maybe seek therapy to deal with the issues that are preventing you from jobhunting effectively?

            As for revising your resume, it’s not about masking the gaps, it’s about selling your experience and skills as effectively as possible despite the gaps. A good resume is a key tool, so if you haven’t had a really good overhaul of yours recently I strongly recommend reading the posts in the resume tag here, then giving yours a thorough checkup. It really does make a huge difference!

          2. MillersSpring*

            Professional associations (seminars, luncheons, happy hours) are great ways to meet new people and dazzle them with your personality and job knowledge. I’m sorry that you’re estranged from family and friends, but do try to meet new people and let it be known that you’re looking for a job doing X at Y level.

            1. Laura*

              I’m not estranged from family; they’re really not employed right now. My friends just dropped out of my life for no reason at all (no fights or anything). I really don’t know how I’m supposed to have “professional” associations when I’m a worker-bee, not someone who’s ever been high up in any job I’ve ever had.

              1. Annonymouse*

                But you’ve had coworkers, managers and supervisors, right?

                You can reach out to them and ask about job opportunities they might know of that would suit you.

                Also MS is suggesting going to a professional associations event. Like marketers or hairdressers or whatever industry you’re in.

                Also a good idea to review and revise your resume.

                I have at least 2 versions selling different aspects of my skills depending on which industry I’m applying for.

                It’s less about the gaps and more about the achievements and skills you bring to the table.

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    “I was told they were really trying to find a spot for me in their company, but ultimately, they needed somebody with very specific experience. Why, then, was I ever even called in the first place? I never pretended to have that specific experience.”

    Either because, as Alison said, the company thought OP was such a strong candidate in other ways that they were willing to give her a chance, or because they weren’t getting any candidates with that specific experience, and then one showed up late in the process, so the hiring manager went with that person.

    1. RVA Cat*

      I know sports metaphors are overdone, but maybe not think of it as losing the offer, but as getting to the semi-finals. You made it to 3 interviews – if this was March Madness, 3 wins puts you in the Elite Eight.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve recently applied for five different jobs in other departments at my university. I’ve been a finalist (not hired) in three of the five, so far. I’m still a finalist in one of the other two, and I’ve had a phone screen (no interview yet) for the last one.

        The first job hired back their old admin who left the university for eight months and wanted to return to her previous position. She must have been in very good standing with them, since they so readily took her back. I can hardly count that as a loss, given the circumstances.

        The other two jobs were only recently filled, and each department head wrote me back a nice personalized email saying that it was a difficult choice between qualified candidates. I’m waiting for the successful candidates’ info to be entered in the employee position system, and then I’ll do a little light LinkedIn research to see if there’s anything noticeable about their candidacy versus mine.

        I’m still being actively considered for two of the positions, so now I’m trying to think about how I might tweak how I present myself in any further interviews I may have.

        I think part of my trouble may be that I am applying for positions that are a lateral move for me, and lateral moves can be a harder sell than an upward move. I think I may need to work on my response to, “Why do you want to come to our department?” and/or “Why are you looking to leave your department?”

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Ha. Just after I submitted this comment, I got a phone call for the last position asking for an in-person interview tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to spend my evening thinking about how to answer the question of why I would like to make a lateral move from my department to theirs. This position is in development, versus working for an academic department head, so that is easier to explain than jumping ship from one academic department to another.

    2. Doe-Eyed*

      Also I find that sometimes different people have different expectations for a role. The HR/manager may write the position as X, but when the coordinator or whatnot gets involved they realize this position may need a lot more Y or Z to offset for lack of W, etc, etc.

    3. LQ*

      Or someone with that specific experience left during the process. (That happened here recently. Part of the job went from, it would be nice to have someone to back up Person when they are on vacation, to Oh that is incredibly important and we can’t hire someone without that skill.)

  2. TeacherNerd*

    A few summers ago, I had 13 job interviews. A now-former colleague (admittedly one who is prone to hyperbole) told me she had 51 interviews recently over the course of a relatively short amount of time. I was offered the job related to the last interview I had; my colleague was in a similar position. Frustrating as hell, especially when most would-be employers don’t have the courtesy to send you a form letter/e-mail that tells you to go take a flying leap at yourself, but that’s how it goes sometimes. It’s especially frustrating when you realize that you’re in competition with unknown other people; this particular round, you didn’t make it, but in another round of interviews, you would be the first choice. Some folks get lucky and seemingly get job offers left, right, and center, but for many of us, it’s a years-long struggle to find a job. (It took me eight – EIGHT!! – years after college to find a full-time job, which I started just last year.)

    1. Cercis*

      Yeah, I have made friends with some previous hiring managers and to a one they tell me that the way to get a really great hiring pool is to have me apply. Because if I apply, suddenly amazing candidates come out of the woodwork. When I don’t apply (which is now – because it started affecting our friendships) they get mediocre candidates.

      Needless to say, I’m still unemployed (well, “self employed” which means a contract here and there, but nothing that could actually support me).

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That sucks. If only you knew when these positions were about to close so that you could swoop in as the last-minute perfect applicant.

        1. Cercis*

          Well, this last time they did contact me but for various reasons I didn’t want that job (it was as a supervisor and there are a couple of bad employees whom HR won’t let them manage out – which is why there weren’t any internal applicants).

          The way they contacted me: “PLEASE apply for this job so that we can get a better applicant pool – it never fails that we have amazing last minute applicants when you apply.” Because that’s the role I want to play in life …

          1. JoJo*

            Egads, that’s insulting! Unless they’re paying you a finder’s fee, I wouldn’t bother to apply.

            1. Cercis*

              I think they think it’s an inside joke we share. They followed up with “and if not, you’d be great for the job” but it wasn’t the most convincing tone. I need to have a “crucial conversation” with them about the kinds of jobs I’m looking for – they keep suggesting jobs that 1) aren’t relevant to my experience and 2) aren’t relevant to my interests (I want to work in nonprofit/gov’t and they think that means I want to do fundraising, which I absolutely do NOT).

              I mean, it’s probably mostly my fault because I do have an attitude about “laugh at the bad things so they lose power” and I started it because I responded to their gripe about lacking good applicants by stating “well, that never seems to be a problem when I apply” and then immediately realized how negative that sounded and turned it into a joke.

  3. Jaybeetee*

    While this may not be OP’s specific issue, I had a similar problem some years ago, and my experience might be helpful.

    Years ago, I was in a similar position of getting interviews all over the place, but never getting an offer. This wasn’t only frustrating because of the reasons OP already mentioned, but I was actually unemployed/temping a lot of that year, and never landing an offer was stressful. Unlike OP (it appears), I was younger and had little job experience. Moreover, it was 2010 – not a great year to be unemployed even if you had experience.

    At any rate, I found myself going to all these interviews and never being able to close the deal. Clearly, my resume/cover letter/applications were good, because I was getting called in. The problems seemed to be the following:
    – Many of my interviews were being set up via temp and placement agencies, who were also sending other candidates. Those companies would additionally be consulting with multiple agencies. I think one place interviewed at least 30 people for some kind of short-term clerical contract. Chances are almost nil for an offer in that case. It can get very hard to distinguish yourself from the army of other 23 year olds with nearly-empty resumes trying to sell themselves.
    – My interview skills (unsurprisingly) were lacking. In a misguided attempt to be “concise” and not ramble on, I was basically giving one-sentence answers to everything, leaving the interviewers nothing to work with in assessing me. I was also unaware that I could ask for feedback, so I struggled for ages not knowing what I was doing wrong. (I was reading up on “interview skills,” but nothing I read seemed to cover how long answers should be – maybe that should be obvious to most people?)
    – My documents were almost *too* good. In retrospect, I was getting in the door to interview at places where I wasn’t really qualified to do the work, and that likely became apparent during some of those interviews.
    – It was 2010, for cryin out loud. I got desperate enough one time to apply to a smoothie bar at the local airport. I got an interview, but the harried manager said that he’d received something like 500 applications for like 25 positions. He said I had an “edge” because I had a car at the time and our airport is relatively in the middle of nowhere with surprisingly poor transit options, but again, odds were slim.

    So of those, the most actionable for OP would be to assess if most of her interviews are being set up via third-party agencies, in which case she might be competing with a *lot* of people for few positions, or if her interview skills seem problematic in some way – talking too much or not enough, or some other issue.

    In my case, I eventually got some useful feedback that’s helped me quite a bit. Now I usually don’t have to interview at more than a few places to land a new job, and the few occasions I’ve been passed over in recent memory, I’ve received feedback that I was still a final candidate, just that (as OP encountered in at least one case) there was someone else whose skills and experience aligned better.

    1. Frustrated Optimist*

      My documents were almost *too* good.

      I think this has happened to me. As I’ve noted in this forum previously, there have been several instances where I believe I was a “filler” candidate.

      So let’s assume they already knew who they wanted to hire, but needed to make it look like they were conducting a legitimate search. Out of all the applicants, why did they choose me to meet the HR quota? Well, without sounding too arrogant, can I just say that my resume is crisp, expertly worded, and visually appealing. My cover letters are exemplary, with all the advice we’ve been given on AAM.

      I am able to present a compelling case for why they should at least interview me. But that’s as far as I will go if they already have somebody else in mind.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I think in my case, I’m overqualified for a lot of jobs here, and underqualified for the really good ones. The math thing really puts me at a disadvantage.

  4. Luke*

    Internal applicants & complications thereof could play a part. I’ve seen cases where an internal vacancy comes up, the request is made for internal interest in the spot ,no one immediately takes it so the post is listed openly.

    A week later “waitaminute…..Joe Smith in Dept X suddenly wants the spot!” Then the unfortunate candidate who applied and interviewed in good faith is told their resume was overqualified…..

    One extreme instance I noted at a former employer: a post opened up which the manager wanted filled by a qualified internal candidate. Catch was she was out on maternity leave : HR rules said a vacancy had to be opened up for outside candidates if it wasn’t filled within a nominal period ,and FMLA regs forbade calling the internal candidate to square it away before her leave.

    So consider the possibility that everything on your end as an applicant is proper,and that the company may not be prepared to offer the position for internal reasons the candidate has no insight or control over.

    1. Zinnia*

      I was out on FMLA (though not maternity) leave when my boss resigned a couple years ago. He called me at home to let me know he was leaving. I happened to be well enough to request the posting and put together an application package while still out, but they would have held the application period open until my return if I had asked.

      I know there are rules about contacting folks on FMLA, but I can’t see how notifying someone that a promotion was available and asking if they would they like to apply would violate the spirit of those rules. In fact, I would think the opposite would be problematic – returning from leave to find you had missed the opportunity to apply for an appropriate promotion could be a compelling argument that you were disadvantaged due to your leave.

  5. Jessesgirl72*

    Related to Alison’s suggestion that maybe the OP is applying for jobs that are too junior, is the OP perhaps naming a salary range that’s not in line with the jobs she’s applying for, or perhaps even the market in her area?

    “Trying to find a spot in the company” sounds to me like code for “We really think you’re an excellent candidate, but none of the departments who could use you can afford you!” That’s also what “overqualified” means a lot of times.

    If that’s the case, avoid disclosing your current salary, and make sure any stated salary desired ranges are what is standard for the jobs you’re applying for.

    1. Director of Things*

      I’m in the middle of this right now from the hiring manager side. There is a consultant I worked with a number of years ago who is now looking for full time work (because Benefits). She was great and I’d love to find a spot for her somewhere. I’ve brought her in for an interview for the position I have open, as well as introduced her to 2 other department heads. I feel badly that it’s been a couple months process and in the end we may not have anything for her. She’s not a perfect match for any of our full time openings, and the temporary project I could have used her on fell through. In my case, she’s not necessarily over or under qualified, and we could afford her if we found the right role, but she isn’t the best fit for the roles we need right now.

  6. Weasel007*

    Totally not related to the question. but the “PC” from the image with the article must be from the 70’s????

    1. Kyrielle*

      IBM PC, probably a 5150, so 1981 or later. 5.25″ floppy drives were first available in 1980, but IBM didn’t have a personal computer offering until a year later.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Whoever picks the images for those NYMag articles enjoys the delightfully retro look.

      1. fposte*

        There was one with a model who I think I recognized from TV in the Quinn Martin Productions era. Rocket to retro fame!

      2. Audiophile*

        That is definitely an old photo, I googled the photographer and he’s been deceased quite a while.

  7. animaniactoo*

    Another tack on the “overqualified” – if you don’t want a job a step above the ones that you’re applying for – which some people don’t for very good life/balance or personal job suitability/ability to handle reasons, you would do well to find a way to bring that up and address it in interviews where you know you’re probably overqualified for the job.

    Because the primary reason that companies don’t hire overqualified people are they are concerned that the person will be bored or is using it as stopgap income and will be out the door as soon as a better position opens up for them. So you need to be clear with them about why that wouldn’t be a concern with you.

    1. Annonymouse*


      You need to actively address why as a manager (for example) you want to go back to being a worker and not staying the same or moving up.

      Maybe your skills are strongest in doing the work/that’s what you enjoy most about your job and being a manager means you do almost none of that.

      Perhaps a work life balance (now you have young children or have just come off a crazy 60+ hour a week job again for example) is more important to you than salary.

      Maybe you want to work at this specific company because of their amazing culture and fit and are looking to stay there long term even in a “lower” position.

      Otherwise people in hiring assume that:
      1) you’re going to want to leave as soon as something better comes up

      2) you’re going to stay – but be bored and pushing for promotion which they can’t offer (particularly in smaller companies)

      3) you might be great and want to work there – but can they meet your salary demands? Or would you really be happy earning much less than before?

      So you must address WHY possibly as early as the cover letter.

  8. WaitingforMacaroni*

    Been there, suffered that. It took me two years to land a permanent job after being at home with the kids for eight years and I sent out my resume seemingly everywhere. And I interviewed and phone screened and did all sorts of tests and interviewed and interviewed and interviewed…

    One memorable period I had six interviews over six days with six different employers. End result was nil.

    Don’t stop; don’t give up. Tweak, examine, practice, and don’t be afraid to tear apart that cover letter and resume and start it fresh…at least once a year.

    The job I finally landed, I walked in, answered competently (as I had interviewed so often by then) and walked out thinking what a waste of time. I received an offer the same day. Later on, I asked my boss, why did you pick me? “You didn’t try to sell yourself…” Still not quite sure what he meant but I stayed until I was laid off four years later.

  9. Anon Accountant*

    I’ve become a professional job seeker at this point. No offers and no interviews anywhere I want to work. A place I don’t want? They’re excited and “can’t wait to talk”.

    But no offers yet. So frustrated.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      If you’re working, you can afford to be choosy.
      If you’re not, you can’t.

      Remember a) people who are working will almost always have preference over those who aren’t
      b) you might want to talk to those places you don’t want, if experience would be in your genre.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Oh I’m working. Just about 1.5 years into my search and it’s my 2nd job, non paying though.

        I always think it sucks when places prefer to talk to employee people over the unemployed. It was so hard when I was unemployed 6+ years ago. Ugh!

    2. voluptuousfire*

      Second the “A place I don’t want? They’re excited and ‘can’t wait to talk.’ ” bit.

      I also seemed to have it where my experience/resume and the JD were a line for line match and would get a rejection email that afternoon. Also, the ones I applied to that were a decent stretch (say 55-60% match) were the ones who called me quickly to set up a phone screen. It was so odd. I guess my transferrable skills were a better asset to me than my exact experience, eh?

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Yes! It’s hard to get an auto rejection just hours after applying when you are nearly a “line for line” match.

        Your transferable skills must have been a great asset the companies were interested in. :)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh, same!
      I’m always careful about applying to something I can’t do, but I have to also be careful not to pick something I don’t want to do because those are always the employers who call me.

      Dating parallel: It’s always the wrong dude who texts you!

  10. LuvzALaugh*

    I just finished a second interview last week, my thank you email received the response that I was a top candidate on Thursday and I would be set up for a third interview this week. It is Tuesday afternoon and…………..Crickets! am wondering if I should follow up or if that would be too pushy.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      If I were in your shoes, I would not follow up until next week at the earliest. I believe the rule of thumb is that hiring almost always takes longer than planned.

      1. LuvzALaugh*

        I sent a quick email this morning. Simply because during the interview and in the response to my thank you email, I was told I would be brought back in this week. It is weds and I haven’t heard anything.

  11. Workfromhome*

    It might help you feel some closure (although not necessarily better about it) if you can find out (maybe thru LinkedIn or other sources) who they did hire. As was mentioned did they have maybe different experience or skills but I think there is more. It wouldn’t be surprising to find they hired someone internally. Its a major piss off but it seems to happen a lot. The internal candidate appears at the last minute or maybe they were even in the mix from the start but need to show that they “did their due diligence” when in fact they had their mind made up from the start. Maybe you see that the people getting the job are junior to you and will cost less? My point is before you start second guessing yourself and if you need to change find out if you really had a shot in the first place or if you are just being used a slot filler.

      1. plain_jane*

        So true. I found out who they hired, it was a person I had worked with previously, and I thought I would still be a better person for the role. But the things the hiring team was prioritizing weren’t the things that I prioritize, but I guess are the things the other person does prioritize.

        So I’m comparing us based on variable A, and I’m stronger there. But they are measuring us on Variable B, which the other person is stronger on. And I think A is more important, which is why I focus on it, but such is the world.

  12. Dr. Vanessa Poseidon*

    How competitive is your field? I just went through this experience myself (looked for a position for 18 months, had frequent interviews, regularly got to the final interview stage/reference check, and then ended up as runner-up). In my case, I was looking in two fields that were related to my education and training, but that are totally oversaturated with applicants and have few openings. The types of roles I was applying for regularly get 200+ applications, of which at least 20-25 are people who are highly, highly qualified, usually with all of the required and preferred qualifications and more years of experience than what the employer asks for. When the applicant pool is that deep, decisions are going to come down to tiny, tiny factors outside your control, and lots of excellent applicants are not going to get offers.

    If that’s the case, I think you either accept that getting a new position will likely take a long time, or you consider shifting the focus of your search slightly and considering industries or roles that might have fewer qualified applicants (in my case, I did the latter — I’m starting a new job on Monday in a new field, but using the skills I honed in the old one).

  13. asfjkl*

    Job Posting: “0-1 years of experience”
    *Makes it to final round; rejected for lack of experience*

    1. PhillyKate*

      Woof anyone who graduated in the recession feels that one. Or the entry level ones that expect you to have 5 years experience and a master’s.

  14. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    Scenario A: I was called after 3 rounds of phone interviews. On my birthday. To only be told this was a rejection call, and the guy went on a 15 min pity schpiel–on my birthday, when I was with family at a movie theater.

    Scenario B: I finished interviewing at a government job. I received a phone call from the chief lead that they loved me so much–but no job offer. A rejection phone call. (Plus to top it off, a high school classmate bragged she got that job, on social media, then bragged how her millionaire husband bought them an upgraded mansion, for them, their 2 gorgeous dogs, and that she was newly pregnant).

    I’m convinced that the job gods will invoke kind karma to everyone involved. At least, I keep telling myself that…

    1. Cercis*

      Oh, I hate that – they call to reject you and then the conversation drags on and on and it becomes clear they really want to hear you say “hey, I understand, you made the right choice.” I’m sorry, own your choice and don’t look to me for validation because I can guarantee you that I’m not going to give it to you (especially in one case where they went with an internal candidate well known in the field for being a slacker).

      Now, if they had tips for being a stronger candidate in the future or ideas for certifications/qualifications you should obtain. Or leads on other jobs. Etc Then it makes sense for the phone call to go on and on. But seriously, a “sorry, we had lots of qualified candidates and ultimately selected the person who was more closely aligned with our needs and unfortunately that wasn’t you” is as much as needs to be said.

    2. Also Petite*

      I got a rejection phone call like that. She (the hiring manager) went on and on about how great I was, how I had all these skills, etc…..To the point where I was almost expecting her to say, “…And because of that, I’d like to recommend you for this other opening we have.”

      Ha. Nothing of the sort. Then I saw who they hired: Someone with 6-months’ experience, but who’d worked with the hiring manager at another company. I never had a chance. =(

  15. PhillyKate*

    I feel this letter so hard. I have been applying for a year and constantly getting interviews and making final rounds but never quite making the cut. I am currently interviewing with one company that has put me through SIX interviews, with number 7 on Friday. I almost wonder if they like to see what they can pull off since the market is so saturated with people who are unemployed and underemployed.

  16. John*

    OP, same boat here. I’ve been at it for a year or so, although not putting 100% effort in. So far, many many phone interviews, three onsite interviews (all in pretty far away cities that they had to pay for flights and hotels) and no offer. One place I was told straight out that I got rejected because I am excellent at skill X but not as excellent in skill Y. One I was told I was the front runner, but the company eventually decided to scrap the position because a major project fell through. One I was also told I was the front runner but the company very weirdly stated they couldn’t make a decision and then they rewrote the role and readvertised the same role with slightly different description. So go figure.

    I think we’re just gonna tohave to be like Dory “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”

  17. Kinsley M.*

    My husband is going through the exact same thing. His resume to interview ratio is off the charts. He’s getting to the finals each time then… no offer. All the feedback is the same. “You are so great! We know we’re going to be hearing about you accepting an Assistant Teapot Manager job soon!” The first time they said the candidate they hired just had more experience in the Community Teapotting aspect of the job (and yea, try more experience than my husband’s been on this Earth. How exactly does a 28 year old compete with 30 years of experience?). Second, third, and fourth time were the same. “We love you! We just picked Person B instead.” More times than not, it’s experience. Teapot Managers are semi-retiring to Assistant Teapot Managers so my husband, who’s trying to move to the next step in his career, can’t seem to figure out how to get there. His current company loves him, but they’re too small to have an Assistant Teapot Manager so he’s stuck.

    He’s a finalist again though. Interview next week. Fingers crossed.

  18. Audiophile*

    This was me for about four years straight. I had numerous interviews, for positions I was mostly qualified for but likely wouldn’t have loved the jobs even if I was offered one of them. I really just wanted and needed the extra salary boost. I was told countless times my resume and cover letter were compelling, which must have been true since I was getting interviews pretty consistently. I couldn’t get an offer to save my life. I kept plugging away and eventually got a job offer. Eventually, OP will get a job offer and hopefully the job will be all they want and more.

  19. SleeplessInLA*

    (Long time reader but first time commenter- hi everyone!) I went through the exact same ordeal for about a year while trying to leave a job I hated so would like to share my personal experience which might be helpful. I totally agree with all of Allison’s advice but some other factors to consider–

    -It’s a bummer, but nepotism can indeed play a role re: the final hiring decision so try not to beat yourself up for losing out on a job that seemed like a sure thing. Personal anecdote: I got to the references check stage in an interview in which my current employer was called(!) and then never heard back. A few weeks later, a friend at the company let me know a Sr. employee’s (much less qualified) nephew ended up getting the job.

    -Sometimes you can have all the right experience but may not be a good fit in ways that aren’t immediately recognizable on your resume. For ex: if you mention that you really love the hours at your current job b/c they promote a healthy work/live balance but the company you’re applying for has a need for someone who can make themselves available around the clock, you might talk yourself out of that job. (AND THAT’S FINE! It goes to some of my favorite advice on this site which is during the early stages, you are also interviewing the company and they may not be a match for you.)

    -Companies might truly think you have a great resume and want to meet you even though you were never a likely candidate. This one is the worst because it does sting as being a waste of your time, but on more than one occasion I’ve been told I had an interesting resume so a hiring manager wanted to chat with me although I wasn’t a match for job X. This one is highly avoidable though as it hits the point of being diligent about only applying for jobs you truly qualify for in regard to skill set and experience. I know it’s tough because after months of being unemployed, I started throwing spaghetti at the wall just hoping something would stick when in the end, I was wasting my own time as well.

    To sum it up, you might not be doing anything “wrong” at all so be kind to yourself. It took longer than I wanted but eventually I got a job that’s a perfect fit for me and 1.5 yr later, I couldn’t be happier. Hang in there!

  20. a Gen X manager*

    WOW. Alison’s response is ridiculously brilliant and included so many points I hadn’t considered. I’ve selected and interviewed hundreds of candidates over the years and I love including candidates who aren’t a classic fit with the candidate profile. The inclusion of less traditional candidates (experience-wise) enriches the hiring process and helps to flesh out what is the best possible fit and challenges status quo hiring, because it is so easy to fall into the trap of hiring the same kinds of people for the same roles and suddenly you have a whole team of wacky extroverts or people who share commonalities with the manager or HR interviewer, etc.

    OP: Alison wrote, ” If you instead see it as a way you’re being mistreated or inconvenienced, your search is going to feel a lot more frustrating.” I think a key note about this point is that it isn’t just that OP will be more frustrated, but that the interviewers will almost certainly be able to pick up on this vibe during interviews, which just perpetuates the cycle.

  21. Part-time Poet*

    I am experiencing exactly the same thing. As a baby-boomer, I have years of experience in government programs, both municipal and state that were funded with federal funds as well as working with and for nonprofit organizations. I have had lots of success as a manager of complex programs and also as an executive director of a large state-wide program. The recession hit and all of the jobs I applied for wanted a four-year degree which I did not have. No one hired me but I was able to do some consulting gigs on the side. Lots and lots of college credits in a specific degree track which fits my work, but for a number of reasons, not completed. I decided to finish my undergrad degree and also go for a graduate degree in my field at one of the top universities for that degree, thinking it would be a breeze to waltz into a great job, with great pay with my greaduate degree in hand and 20 years of experience. And yes great references too! Most of the jobs I apply for state “advanced degree preferred”.

    I applied for jobs throughout graduate school, but was glad nothing came of it except for being a graduate assistant which helped a great deal with tuition costs and more recent references. I graduated TWO years ago, and NOTHING. I have been through a number of interview processes and been one of the top candidates, but have not secured a job. I have done a couple of minor consulting gigs, and I do a lot of volunteer work as well. I am on three boards now. I have also met with lots of networking contacts. Nothing, so far.

    While I realize that during one process I may have made a minor mistake in my final interview (third interview after an essay writing request), I do feel like I learned a whole lot through that experience. And looking back, the federal program is on the list for being completely eliminated for the entire country. But then, who knows when or if that would happen? It is a wonderful program, so I hope it stays intact.

    I have tried looking up the people hired on linkedIn or googling them to see what their past work history consisted of, but most of them are not even on linkedIn. And months and months later, many of the organizations don’t update their website with their new hire. As a long time reader of this blog, I have Alison’s books, and re-read the one about interviewing skills.  I also have a close friend who has worked in the same field I have and on the same types of programs and she has been a huge help by playing the interviewer (over the phone) and making lots of suggestions about what they might ask.  I have also followed up with the head interview person to request feedback and have never received a response to my inquiry.

    This has been the most soul-sucking and crushing period of time I have been through. However, I do manage to keep my spirits up and since I am a basically optimistic person I try to keep it all in perspective. Oh, and I am very willing to move just about anywhere in the country for a job, because I don’t have a lot of ties to the city I moved to for my master’s degree. On the other hand there have been a couple of jobs I didn’t get and I am grateful because the organizations were inherently dysfunctional and I would have been miserable. I know what it is like to be happy at work, and I do want that again, if at all possible.

    I have an interview tomorrow for a management positon in city government. This time, for the very first time, I asked a contact I know at the city to put in a word for me, and he did and was very enthusiastic about my fit for the job, even though he is in a different division. He sent the hiring manager my resume. I have been told over and over to do this because so many people know each other, because it is like living in a small town, even though it is a large city. I am clearly the outsider because even though I grew up here, I moved away a long time ago and I only moved back several years ago for school and family and feel incredibly out of the loop. All I can do is to keep on trying, and applying and networking.

    Best of luck to you. I hope something comes through for you.

  22. Nonprofit Lady*

    Ugh, I relate so much to this! Thankfully, I’m employed in a decent job (albeit, not quite the kind of work I want to be doing), so I can be kind of picky in my search. But I’ve been searching almost constantly for the past 2 years, and I’ve gotten at least 1 interview for almost every job I’ve applied for, and been a finalist (had references checked) for 5 jobs. I always get such positive feedback, but no job yet. I also have a few trusted coworkers who assure me that I’m very skilled, and that places would be lucky to have me. But I keep getting passed over.
    In my case, I honestly sometimes wonder if I am getting passed over for more attractive people. I am pretty overweight. I don’t mean that in a self-hate kind of way- I’m a very confident person and happy with myself, and I know I have a lot to offer. I just wonder if it’s a factor for me, which is frustrating. Of course, I can’t know that, so I try not to let it get under my skin, and stay positive and keep putting myself out there.
    It is a lot of emotional energy to keep applying and interviewing and getting my hopes up. But hopefully one of these times, something will stick! Hang in there OP, I know I will!

    1. M&M*

      Unless you come across as extremely uncomfortable in your own skin during interviews, or exhibiting health issues such as trouble breathing. I doubt it’s a factor. There are different ideas of what “professionalism” looks like. I have lots of friends who are frequently told how wonderful, beautiful, energetic, magnetic, they are, and they do well career-wise. Most of them are overweight.

    2. Kristine*

      Hate to say it, but in all honesty the extra weight could really be playing a role. I personally struggle with my weight and I have been everything from a 4-16 in size. Any promotion that I have received workwise has been on the heels of some weight loss on my part. 25lbs or more… Also I will say that on a personal level I am not as happy at a 16/14, am ok at a 12 and am much happier/more confident/energetic at a size 6. Unfortunately, some people do really hold negative views about people who are plus sized. Women are hit harder with this. I have also seen study’s that coralate weight to income and there appears to be a pretty significant upside in wages (for women) corresponding to weight loss/being thin. (From what I remember 25lb. weight loss= 13k increase.) If you are 100% happy with your appearance then consider it their loss and keep moving forward. Someone will recognize the talent you bring to the table. If you are “fine” with your appearance, but don’t love how you look then work to makes changes. I also read lately in the book “Workplace Poker” by Dan Rust about a guy in sales who struggled with his weight. When he entered data from both his weight loss app and sales app he noticed that when his weight was up his sales were down and vice versa. Also he noted that the thin version of him was much more likely to be included socially after the sale.

  23. AJSV*

    I am so sorry this is happening to you. I was laid off from my job last August and the same thing happened to me throughout the Fall. It was so frustrating! I don’t think I was doing anything wrong, if there was something wrong with my resume or cover letter I would not have been invited to so many interviews. If there was something wrong with my interview skills I would not have been a finalist for so many positions. There was one that I actually had 9 interviews for and did not get (They were with each board member for a non-profit, where I was up for ED.) I finally got an offer in late December. Phew.

    In retrospect, I think that while I was applying for jobs I was qualified for, they were for competitive positions and others just were more qualified. For example the JD wanted someone with 10 years of experience (I have 11) but they hired someone with 30. However, this is extremely frustrating to deal with.

    Hang in there–you’re doing everything right and one of them will land eventually.

  24. Chaordic One*

    In the past I’ve vented here on AAM about frequently being told by hiring managers that I was their “second favorite candidate” and that they really liked me, but were going to hire someone else. I really do wonder if that is just something they say to people to sort of let them down easy.

    It happened to me just a couple of weeks ago. After getting a polite rejection email from a place where the first interview went really well, I got a phone call from them asking me to come in for a second interview. Their first choice, who had accepted their offer, ended up backing out before having ever actually started.

    Long story short, I received and accepted a job offer today. (It bugs a little bit knowing that I wasn’t their first choice, but I’m excited about the opportunity and happy that I’ll be working again very soon.) I’ll write more about it on the Friday open thread.

    Sometimes the second choice candidate actually ends up getting the job! Who would of guessed?

  25. p*

    Hi, everyone!

    I am the OP. Thank you for taking the time to chime in on my dilemma and to share your experiences.
    I also appreciate Alison’s response; she did raise some really good points for consideration.
    One thing I did want to mention is that for every single one of these interviews, the salary was discussed during a telephone screen and both sides confirmed the desire to move forward. Based on that, unless somebody came in with more experience offering to take way less, I can’t imagine money was the issue. But then again, I’ve learned through this process that anything is possible.

    I will try to change my perspective and look at these as opportunities to sharpen my interview skills.

    Thanks again, all!

  26. sebastiansmom*

    As I read these posts, I am really stuck by the mental health issues I see within them. I have often been told not to let an employer have power over my feelings; that I should just control them and not read to deeply into every positive sign. But that is easier said than done. In order to prepare for an interview, you need to invest yourself at least to the degree where you can behave collegially with the people interviewing you. It needs to be a genuine exchange and you do need to see yourself in the role. Since this process can be drawn out for a while, it can be difficult to simply shut off that investment of emotion and effort. Finding a job is work, and people generally want to be rewarded for their work. People don’t want to do jobs without reward or recognition or feedback. And it really is the same in finding a job. I wish that interviewers and HR would understand that people cannot help but become somewhat invested in their search and that it would be a great kindness to treat people in more honest ways: informing candidates that a timeline has significantly changed or a position has been filled or has fallen through. Clearly marking positions as “candidate pool” or “potential position” might not generate as many resumes, but candidates should be able to make an informed decision about whether they want to go through the effort of applying.

    I think candidates should be given an honest reason why the person selected was selected. At the same time, I’m not sure that’s possible because I think all decisions, which includes hiring decisions, have much less to do with our conscious thinking than we realize. Nobody knows why they abandoned their posted job description to hire someone different–with more experience or less experience or different experience or no experience. They just liked that person and they probably can’t explain why.

  27. OldEnough*

    What you have to remember is that the 2 things that the majority of hiring managers look at when choosing a candidate are: 1) Will I be able to work with this person? 2) How well do they fit in with my team? You can have the perfect resume, which gets you in the door and you can have great interview skills but if the hiring manager does not feel you qualify for 1 or 2 or both then you will not get the job. That is my experience.

    1. Brian*

      The hiring managers process is highly flawed. They hire based on metrics that have nothing to do with the position applied. Then scratching their heads when they have to put in another requisition through HR. I’ve seen it my very eyes. Apply, interview, rejection email. Then 3 months later job reposted. But yet plenty of qualified candidates ready and willing to work .

  28. Brian*

    I’m having the same problem. Get plenty of interviews but no offers. I started evaluatinng my interview skills. But last year I passed a police oral board interview on my first attempt with no LE experience. I eventually got dq’d during backgrounds due to employment and financial history. I was unemployed in January 2014 got hired in June, for three years had 30 interviews over 3 years because the job I had wasn’t what I wanted. Now that job let me go. I’ve had additional 11 interviews in one month. No offers. I’m out of options at this point. Have to think of going a different direction in my life, such as relocating or trying something else. I’ve changed my resume, changed up my suit. To no avail. I’m simply not able to wow them enough to offer me the position. It’s depressing, frustrating, and maddening.

  29. Brian*

    I’m begining to think we are getting duped by the government. I have applied 60 IT jobs since July, getting 14 interviews with no offers. However 60 jobs were being filled by someone but yet I haven’t seen 60 jobs that were vacated, not even close. Either the jobs don’t exist or the companies aren’t retiring for the open positions. Something doesn’t add up. I’ve applied over 150 jobs and 38 interviews in 3 years with no offers. If I’m 1/10 candidates being interviewed 38 times statistical odds and probability says I would get at least 1 offer even if it was less than my current position. Doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t add up.

    1. Housewife*

      My husband will be unemployed by this coming xmas. His current contract will be terminated before xmas. This is the first time he works on contract. He used to always on an on going senior position. He has been applying for job in Melbourne since early this year. Sent off 20+ CVs, got 9 interviews so far. 1 of them they even paid him to fly to Melbourne for interview. About 3 of them were nearly, was asking to check references (but didn’t really call the references), the interviews went very well. He was told he is a very strong candidate, all good comments from the interviewers. He is over qualified and very experienced in those jobs he applied for. He has just got his PHd last year. This is the first time he had so many interviews without job offers. He used to have max 4 interviews and then got the offers in the past 13 year. The first job was last for 4 years, second last for 7 years. The third job where he works now is a 2 years contract which is ending this xmas. It’s going to be a very difficult time for us this coming xmas as I don’t have a stable Job and Don’t know how long is going to take till he finds It. So frustrated…. AAAAArrrrrgggggghhhhhh….. Sometime I wonder will he find it? 9 interviews with no offers. This is ridiculous!!

  30. Dang*

    Sometime I hear finding job is related to your luck, not just only the skills, experiences, and qualifications are very important. But luck is also important? Do you believe?

  31. Unemployed since July*

    Must be a bad year. I have a post-grad and unable to find the right thing for the last 6 month’s too. I have never struggled like this before, but are contemplating taking some of my education and experience off my CV just to get my foot in the door for some positions. I have been for 14 interviews: 9 of which I was over-qualified for and 2 where I was under-qualified. Unfortunately the others were not even polite enough to respond to my request for an update. I must say that I find it so disrespectful that some recruiters/employers would not even write a 2-line note to advise you that your application has been unsuccessful.

  32. Playing The Long Game...*

    I’d like to weigh in here. To date, in just over a year of being unemployed (having been unfairly run out of my last job due to a manager, supervisor and co worker circling the wagons, and causing major health issues from the stress of their machinations as a result,), I’ve been on 24 interviews and haven’t had even a snifter of an offer. There was one place offering a temporary job, back in March, where the interviewer was enthusiasm personified, saying I had the most experience, ‘sold’ me the company, asked for references and so on, only to call me the next day to say it wasn’t available till July, and tried to fob me off to another branch of the business, who I suspect she was really interviewing me for, which I refused because I couldn’t get there as I didn’t drive, but strongly hinted I would be hired for the branch I interviewed for in July. Come a couple of weeks before July, I called her back, only for her to say the person I was supposed to be replacing had changed their mind! Then she launched into how, at the time she’d passed my C.V on to this other branch, which wasn’t true, as I’d explicitly told her that it was too difficult to get to. I’d actually phoned the shop the day before too, only, she wasn’t in, and a staff member told me there’d been a job but the vacancy was filled. I reminded her that she had my details and could have contacted me about this, but all I got was a flippant, ‘sorry about that!’ Just shows you, all the signs could point to a job offer, but, nothing is guaranteed. It’s been almost a week since my last interview, with another branch of the same company, no less, and I haven’t heard a cheep ,ergo, in my eyes, they are earning a reputation for not being considerate of their candidates. Oh well, roll on interview no25…

  33. Brian*

    It’s my contention along with mountains of evidence that employers are discriminating against the unemployed. I’m currently enrolled in some classes to get more certifications. While the tuition is paid for through the WIOA program. These certifications will mean very little as employers continue to shun the unemployed. It is simply inexcusable and unacceptable that I’m still unemployed since July. I’m 39, college degree, verifiable work experience in multiple levels of IT from technical support, desktop support, and field service.

    You know what the most puzzling aspect is? You apply for a job, get interviewed, and don’t get an offer, then the candidate they hired gets washed out and you see the job posted again. And the candidate they hired was currently employed when they got the offer. I have at least 5 incidents of evidence of this. And another 15 where I didn’t get interviews but their job posted after 3 months I applied.

    The hiring managers are so picky on who they hire, but more often not it’s not the right choice, and they are left putting in another requisition through HR. Hiring managers hire candidates based on incomprehensible metrics that have proven their ways are incredibly wring. Question is when will these hiring managers be held accountable for their piss poor hiring decisions?

  34. Brian*

    I will also add we seem to be in a vicious cycle where hiring managers complain they can’t find qualified candidates, but the qualified candidates say they are puzzled on they aren’t getting any offers. The process of looking for work has become nothing more than a dog and pony show and a joke.

    1. Mills*

      Wow, you pulled the thought right out of my mind. I’m currently job hunting, and find myself getting into the final round interview but don’t receive offers. After my last interview, I found out the manager said they had their choice of “7 excellent candidates” but chose an internal. What was the point of bringing in all of those people? In an interview I had a couple years ago, the recruiter admitted to me the hiring manager was looking for someone special and rare. What qualities does that “special and rare” person have?

      Job seekers are told to tailor their answers– but don’t sound too rehearsed. Show flexibility– but be focused! Be friendly, extroverted, and a go-getter– but get your work done! The process has certainly become a joke.

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