how do I get over being rejected for a job I’m perfect for?

A reader writes:

I know there’s no point in taking it personally when you’re rejected for a job. And when I do get rejected, I can usually come up with a reason why I wasn’t a good fit, even if I’d been excited about it previously. For example, I was able to realize after the rejection that the interviewer sounded like they really wanted a particular skill that I don’t have. Another time I was pretty sure they had an internal candidate on the team who they wanted to promote. I can usually find reasons like this to explain the rejection and not feel terrible about it.

But I’m not sure how to deal with rejection when I genuinely thought the job would be an amazing fit for me and yet I didn’t get an offer. This has happened a few times lately. In one case I was a perfect match with the qualifications listed in the ad and the interviewer seemed truly enthusiastic about working together … and then I didn’t even make it to the final round of interviews.

It’s one thing when I can see the reason I might have been rejected, but if an employer decides I’m not “good enough” for a job that matches me perfectly, how will I ever get hired anywhere?

You’re falling into the very common trap of trying to read too much meaning into the results of your job applications. Hiring processes tend to be frustratingly opaque to candidates, and when you combine that with how high the stakes feel if you’re really interested in the job, it’s natural to try to read into whatever the outcome is — and to draw conclusions about yourself along the way.

It sounds like you’re thinking of getting hired as pass/fail: If you’re good enough, you’ll get the job. And if you don’t get the job, you’re not good enough … and possibly a horrible failure in general.

But that’s not how hiring works. You could be someone who the hiring manager would be delighted to hire, but another candidate just ended up being stronger. That doesn’t mean you suck — in fact, if that person hadn’t been in the applicant pool, the job might have gone to you. (That’s frustrating in a different way, of course — but it’s not a referendum on you in the way you’re currently thinking.)

Frankly, it’s impossible to know from the outside what’s going on behind the scenes in a hiring process.

For one thing, hiring isn’t always as strictly merit-based as you might think it is. There are the obvious exceptions, like jobs that go to the CEO’s cousin’s kid or to an internal candidate who has to be promoted for political reasons. But there are other ways that plays out, too — like when the candidate who’s strongest on paper gets passed over for a slightly less strong candidate who will get along better with a difficult stakeholder or demanding boss. There’s also the much maligned “culture fit,” which can indeed be problematic (like when it ends up screening out people of different ages or races), but which can sometimes be legitimate (like, “we’re really entrepreneurial here and you seem to prefer a lot of structure and hierarchy”).

But even beyond that, there are lots of other reasons why qualified candidates get rejected. Most importantly, like I mentioned at the start, no matter how qualified you are, someone else can always be more qualified. Or someone else might be equally qualified — but if there’s only one position to fill, only one of you is getting hired. I’ve had times when I happily would have hired two or three or even more of the candidates I interviewed for a role, but I could only hire one of them — which means that really good people were getting rejected.

It’s also always possible that an employer is looking for a qualification that you didn’t know about — sometimes because they didn’t realize they wanted it until they saw it in someone else (like fluency in a foreign language, for example, or an impressive slate of fundraising contacts).

Moreover, things can change during a hiring process. Maybe you perfectly matched the qualifications they advertised for, but since then they’ve learned their Excel expert is leaving and now they’re looking for someone who can fill that gap, too. Other things can change as well, like budgets (which can change the level they’re hiring for), managers (a new manager might have different ideas about the role), and projects (new or canceled projects can change what’s prioritized in a new hire).

And the interview itself can reveal ways in which you’re not quite the right match, despite your qualifications. Maybe you’re soft-spoken and they’re looking for someone more assertive. Maybe you have great experience organizing high-profile, big budget events, but they need someone who can work with smaller budgets. Sometimes this type of rejection is even in your best interest! For example, if you talked in the interview about wanting a lot of independence and autonomy and the manager for the role is a notorious micromanager, it’s smart for them screen you out — and that would be a bullet dodged for you.

Sometimes, too, it just comes down to personal style. Sometimes one personality type just fits better into a team or with a manager than another one does. That could be you in one hiring process, and someone else in a different one. And it’s very hard to know from the outside when that’s a strong factor in how an employer is evaluating candidates.

Or, of course, maybe it is about your qualifications. Maybe you’re applying for jobs that you’re not qualified enough for. But if you’re getting interviews — and it sounds like you are — it’s far more likely that your qualifications are just fine. Although it’s also worth checking in on your interview skills and making sure those aren’t doing you any disservice. For example, be sure that you’re practicing answers to the most common interview questions, and mining your experience for compelling examples of times when you’ve demonstrated the skills the job requires.

But sometimes rejections are really just about math. Since employers get more qualified candidates than they can hire, very often rejection isn’t a measure of your worth at all.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 126 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Ninja*

    Job interviewing and swimsuit shopping are the two most disheartening things a person can do. Pretty sure it’s one of the rings of hell Dante writes about.

      1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

        You could, but like your swimsuit choices shopping after three shots of gin, your results may suffer.

  2. Oh No She Di'int*

    I’ve done hiring for a quarter century and second all of Alison’s reasons and more! Bottom line: it’s almost never about you (the applicant), it’s about us (the company/manager).

    I’d say it’s also important to realize that it’s rare that ANY candidate ticks all the boxes equally. Most often you get someone who’s very strong at A and only pretty good at B against another candidate who’s so-so at A but absolutely brilliant at B.

    So you end up with roughly equal candidate and just have to make a judgment call based on SOMETHING. Sometimes it’s that someone in the group peer interview just really hit it off with one person over the other. Sometimes you know in the back of you mind, “She’s great, but Karen in finance will eat her alive.” Sometimes it’s . . . . something else. In no case should you take it personally.

    1. juliebulie*

      Something else: we interviewed someone and thought she was great, and then our grandboss said “forget it, you’re going to hire this person that I play golf with instead.”

      That doesn’t mean that the person we interviewed sucked. It means that it’s a miracle that I got hired into this place when I’ve never even played golf. Lucky?

      1. JK*

        Ah, yes. I was just talking to my former boss about this. She was involved in making recommendations for a hiring decision, where everyone involved was blown away by Candidate A, and thought Candidate B was a solid second choice. Lo and behold, a week later they got an email that mediocre Candidate C had been hired. She had some connections with higher ups that led to her hire. C flamed out spectacularly within 2 months. On the plus side (for my former boss), by then she had been doing Candidate C’s job for several months and was promoted from within, which led to her current career.

      2. BenAdminGeek*

        Yup, I once had a grandboss hire someone who drove her to the airport. Now in this guy’s defense, he was driving towncars but really did know some stuff about our industry from having worked in it before. But I assume there was a reason he had been let go- he really wasn’t able to do the job we hired him for. It was… not a great experience all around.

    2. KarenT*

      This. And, at my company we usually have 3 people as interviewers for each hire (usually the hiring manager, an hr person, and either the hiring manager’s manager or a peer). Rarely is there complete consensus. The hiring manager has final say, but often others in the process have conflicting opinions. So in a different set of circumstances, hiring decisions can easily go another way.

    3. Alanna of Trebond*

      “I’d say it’s also important to realize that it’s rare that ANY candidate ticks all the boxes equally. Most often you get someone who’s very strong at A and only pretty good at B against another candidate who’s so-so at A but absolutely brilliant at B.”

      Totally agree — as a hiring manager, I’m not sure it’s possible to be “perfect” for a job. I work with some amazing people who I know we’d bend over backwards to retain. None of them are perfect employees, because a perfect employee doesn’t exist — they all have drawbacks to some degree. Their upsides just way outweigh their drawbacks! Similarly, I’m great at my job and get great reviews, but I’m a terrible match for it on paper, and I know there are always many things (including sometimes some key parts of it!) that I could do better. A lot of hiring is going beyond the qualifications on paper to determine someone’s strengths and drawbacks, and then to decide what drawbacks you’re OK with.

      1. Door Guy*

        Exactly. My last tough hiring decision was down to 2 people, and both myself and the other person who interviewed them agreed that we’d be happy with either of them and felt positive that they would do a good job. Neither one was a perfect fit for skills, and both had something the other didn’t, but overall the feeling was that they would succeed.

        We both independently decided on the same person (who is doing well in the position) and on discussion we made the call for different reasons, ultimately down to the “drawbacks you’re OK with”. Neither had any deal breakers (or they wouldn’t have gotten that far). That doesn’t mean that the other person wasn’t a solid candidate who could have thrived with us.

    4. Kendra*

      Once I had two candidates who were both awesome, and I spent two days going back and forth with the staff who’d been in the peer interview, and NONE of us could pick between them. Both had great references, were well qualified, and had mellow but cheerful personalities that I thought would mesh well with the group.

      What finally decided between them? I forgot one of their first names. Seriously, that was it. I figured my subconscious was telling me something, or at least that idea seemed ever-so-slightly less ridiculous than a coin toss, so I went with the other candidate (who turned out to be great, so, yay?).

      When you have one position and multiple great candidates, you have to decide SOMEHOW, and you’re going to have to turn down at least one person you’d really love to hire. Sometimes, you even have to do it for kind of stupid reasons, because you have to hire SOMEONE, not just sit there making pro and con lists until the cows come home. I know it’s almost impossible not to take it personally – it’s your livelihood at stake! – but a lot of the time, it really is more about us than you.

  3. Bree*

    I had one of those situations once. I’m not the type to be overconfident, and I genuinely thought I had the job in the bag. They called references, had me meet my would-be colleagues, etc. Then, they went with someone else. I was pretty shaken by it, but tried to move on. I even had lunch with the hiring manager a few months later.

    Nearly a year after I first applied, I saw an opening posted on the same team for a parental leave. I reached out to the hiring manager to ask if she thought I would be a fit for this one. She was thrilled, and I was fast-forwarded through the process and hired.

    I’ve been here nearly a year, and am a great fit for the team, receiving rave reviews, and they extended my contract for an additional year months before it was due, so they wouldn’t risk losing me. I’m very, very happy – and I *still* don’t fully know why they didn’t hire me the first time! I’ve come to terms with the fact that it will always be a mystery.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I can think of at least three hiring processes where I’d have been equally happy with either of our top two candidates, and the one who was offered the job simply had some small qualification over the other candidate. In those instances, we asked if we could stay in touch and ended up hiring two of the three of them for subsequent positions. Any other hiring cycle, they have been the first choice. One of my recruiters bemoaned for a year that our hiring had become polarized – either we had too many top-shelf candidates or zero.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      I *still* don’t fully know why they didn’t hire me the first time!

      It could have been your interview skills, as Alison mentioned, and how you answered compared to the successful candidate for that particular role. I’ve been on a couple of interview panels in my day, and in one particular case I can clearly remember, we had a candidate who, on paper, seemed perfect for the trainee program we were hiring for. However, when he came into the interview, his answers were long and rambling and he sometimes lost the narrative when doing the STAR method. We had another candidate whose resume wasn’t as impressive, but who could clearly and concisely articulate her accomplishments and her workplace behaviors, so she ended up being one of the two trainees hired (perfect paper guy was not – there was another candidate with an excellent resume and good interview skills who took the first spot).

      The trainee program we were hiring for was to prepare people to become claims adjusters. Being able to clearly and concisely get information across to claimants and insureds is a major part of the job, so if we had candidates who couldn’t express themselves well, they were immediately rejected. I don’t know what kind of position you were interviewing for, but it could be that they liked you, but your answers gave them pause that you could excel in the role they were currently hiring for, hence why they hired you for something else later (my company ended up hiring perfect resume guy months later for something else as well).

      1. Bree*

        In this case, I was specifically told I interviewed very well, and they ended up hiring me (and loving me) in an identical role. It truly is a mystery!

    3. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      What happened to you the first time around just recently happened to me, too. I’m still gutted. I know that it probably isn’t personal, but I’m sad I didn’t get the job. It just sucks when you know good enough STILL isn’t good enough.

  4. RabbitRabbit*

    Personality/team fit is big for my group. We’re currently working on nearly doubling the size of our current team, but since we have a very solid, responsible, diverse group that works very well together and are highly engaged in the work, both the team members and our bosses are highly invested in finding good fits.

    1. Nom the Plumage*

      This was one thing my own manager mentioned; she wanted to ensure that my sense of humor wouldn’t clash with the existing team (or just to make sure I actually have a sense of humor and wouldn’t bring down the group). They deal with a lot of stress, so a light-hearted environment helps make dealing with customer issues less agonizing.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is something we run into as well. Especially with smaller teams as well, there has to be that right fit.

      This is why we have the shift lead or senior person on the team in the interviews so they can weigh in on who they would see themselves working closely with. They get to be that tie breaker when we have candidates that we know could do the job at hand but which one do you see really being that person next to you in the trenches, you know?

      It’s like assistant work as well. I’ve been a right-hand woman kind of setup my entire career. I could work just about anywhere on a skills level but I couldn’t work with just anyone and not just anyone could work with me. It stings to not be that “fit” but at the same time, I’d rather you reject me now and let me get on with my life than those awful setups where there were red flags, you didn’t see the fit but you decided to “just make it work”. Then we end up miserable and someone has to leave in the end, sometimes by involuntary termination. Yuck.

    3. MistOrMister*

      Personality is so big for groups that collaborate together a lot. I had a job where the boss brought me in on the interview for someone and my reaponse was, I think this person is too Type A for our laid back office. They got hired anyway and I left within probably 6 months because our personalities were not a fit (this person was a crier and was constantly complaining to the bosses that while I was courteous and professional to them, I wasn’t their friend) and I couldn’t handle working with them. One of the pitfalls of a small office…it’s flipping fantastical when it works, but one little personality clash can absolutely ruin things since you can’t get away from the person!

      1. Lilo*

        I had to train a very Type A person and he could just not take criticism well. It ended up not working out because he had trouble accepting mistakes and learning from them. It’s something I screen for in interviews and specifically ask about (“How are you going to do on a day where I reject all your work?”).

        1. 1234*

          If you asked me that as a candidate, I would ask, “how many of those days would occur in a year?” I would think you were the Type A person in this situation and not want to work there.

          1. Lilo*

            Just the nature of the beast at my job (we teach people to spot pronlems and it’s not easy to learn because there are lots of rules and exceptions). You have to roll with the punches.

        2. Door Guy*

          My personal favorite horror story is our new hire who just could not be trained. He refused to learn, because he was positive he already knew it all since he had worked in an industry where ONE of our materials was also used before. His trainers gave up on him. They told management they gave up on him. Management pushed him through anyways hoping he’d learn on the job.

          Unsurprisingly, this guy was horrible and knew absolutely nothing. He would call us over and over and over and if we didn’t answer right away he’d give us an ear-full of attitude. When you’d tell him what he needed to do to get past whatever hurdle he had he’d groan and sigh and act like we were making him do SO MUCH WORK. His favorite phrase was “YOU’RE NOT LISTENING TO ME!”

          In the end, no matter how much we wanted to fire him or at least not let him get past his 90 days, he decided to quit in a huff when an accusation of theft was brought against him. It wasn’t a clear cut case and he did have a plausible defense. When asked to back up his defense with a receipt or bank statement (his defense was that he had paid for what he had gotten with his own card) he quit instead. No tears were shed.

    4. Close Bracket*

      Ah, fit. That nebulous concept that excludes so many marginalized groups. Here’s a thought—instead of hiring for fit, why not hire for (and train for) how to get along with a variety of different personality types?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Here’s a thought, start your own business and build it around your concepts. Lots of people do this. This is why we broke a lot of bad traditions and habits in the professional atmosphere. Take the risks on yourself, show that it’ll be okay and is sustainable, the others will follow. Until people who want this change take initiative to fix it, it’s a slow cold grind of gears.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This comes across as snappy in a way I really didn’t mean.

          I come from a long line of jobs where I can classify us as “The Island of Misfit Toys”, we are all quirky undesirables in a lot of ways. And we still look for “Fit”, that fit is to protect us in the end. To protect others from “us” in some ways as well as protect ourselves against people making things difficult with their different expectations. We cuss, so someone who is truly buttoned up would be absolutely miserable with our mouths.

          I’ve worked with ex cons, people from vocational programs and even a pirate, a lot of mixed backgrounds of awesomeness that has taught me a lot about how to get along with everyone, many who need accommodations.

          We are able to do this because the people who started these businesses are inclusive, wonderful people who I wish I could clone and have open more flourishing businesses for more of us to work for.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Aye Matey.

              LARP is literally life to a lot of people out there. I don’t challenge a person when they tell me what they identify as.

              There’s a million subcultures out there, some you’ll never run into except in distant corners of the internet except when they randomly walk into your place of business looking for a job.

        2. Close Bracket*

          Nah, I’ll just keep advocating for being more accepting of other people’s differences at my current employer, thanks. I believe that falls under “taking the initiative to fix it.”

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Can you really train for that? Especially in someone who is 5+ years into their career? It seems doable with an entry-level person, but doesn’t seem possible with someone established. For example, I don’t think I could be trained to fit into a guess culture (and wouldn’t be happy even if I picked up the skills), so it seems better for an employer to give me a pass. It would spare us both a ton of headaches and miscommunication,

      3. Not a Real Giraffe*

        I think “fit” goes well beyond “how to get along with a variety of different personality types,” though. I interviewed for a job where it was clear that the way the current team processed their work and the way I processed my work were polar opposites. It would have taken me months, probably, to rewire my brain to work the way that the established team worked, and even then, I imagine I would have been quite unhappy.

        Did I have all the skills they were looking for? Absolutely. Was it a good fit? No way.

      4. RabbitRabbit*

        Majority female, majority non-white, differing backgrounds in many ways (including religion, nation of origin, socio-economic). No bros hiring other identical bros (or similar cliques) here. I’m not even friends with any colleagues outside of work.

        We get a ton of leeway in our work flexibility as long as we keep getting our stuff done. We are a shining star division in a larger department with a lot of negative scrutiny, so we need to keep working together well.

        We can teach the job, but not how to work in a group. If all someone wants to do is ‘push the papers’ (a large part of the job) it isn’t going to work out – if a candidate is averse to collaborative work, to ‘customer service’ even in a regulatory job, to flexibility with their tasks, they aren’t a good fit. You can be mild-mannered but have to not allow people with higher ‘ranking’ here to bulldoze you into bending the rules, and we need to see some potential for strength there. (The bosses back us 100%.)

        The last time my group let someone go, it was an employee with an amazing-looking resume/work history and the interview team brushed personality aside; they could not take any guidance from peers but schmoozed higher-ups, bristled at anyone adopting their innovations (there was no ‘theft’ of ideas, this person had created the new method and didn’t want to share), and other clashes with coworkers.

      5. Nom the Plumage*

        You can’t train someone to alter their personality or sense of humor. You can train someone to be tolerant, but even then they’re resting on the edge of the group rather than clicking. And it’s not like it’s a requirement that you must have, say, a slapstick sense of humor, it’s just that (for a specific team) this quality is considered a bonus in addition to your other, more important professional qualifications.

      6. NotAnotherManager!*

        Because “fit” is not always a nefarious code word for, “I only hire white men with an Ivy League education and belong to a country club.” Sometimes, it means that I want someone with a strong customer-service orientation and a demonstrated history of working positively and productively with other people. Or that, if someone’s ideal working situation is performing the same tasks over and over from a checklist, they will struggle in our let’s-figure-it-out approach. And “fit” should be a two-way street – I would hope candidates are also assessing what they’re hearing from us and deciding whether or not they want to work with our team.

        There are also some personality types that I don’t want to have to train my team to get along with. The personality types I screen out for “fit” are not affiliated with any particular underrepresented group, but, in particular, I do not want people who want to be the superstar at the expense of their teammates, people who think parts of the job are beneath them, or people who think others should put up with a lot of boorish behavior from them because they have a particular expertise. All of those would be terrible fits with my team, which is strong (and already diverse) and one I’d like to keep intact.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I have a friend (no, really) who is very unhappy in her job because of fit. From what she’s told me, mean girl-ness and micro-aggressions are a strong possibility (so a them problem) BUT some of the friction has come up over things like morning greetings, which past questions here have taught me that some people really, really dislike. My friend, while very skilled, is also a work-to-live person in what sounds very much like a live-to-work office (in which case no one is doing anything wrong, per se). It’s just two styles that really clash and has led to passive job searching on my friend’s part.

    5. Anonymous 52*

      My boss – who is a person who has no care about fit – hired someone who completely clashes with our culture. (A younger white man, so in this case I know it’s not about being marginalized). And I’m not talking about being rude or overbearing: he’s too concerned with propriety, overdresses for the job, worries a lot about getting work done as quickly as possible when that isn’t our overall work culture. Fit does come into play…and while he may have been the best candidate on paper, I do wish my boss had picked the second or third best who would have fit more.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Ha! He sounds like me. My last office job was entirely too relaxed for my liking, so that also led to fit problems on my end (and I found a better, work-from-home job where fit is less of an issue, thank god).

  5. nicotene*

    I’m an author and this reminds me of the behind-closed-doors conversations we have about being passed over – by agents, by editors, even by readers – where we have to constantly withdraw the boundary away from “is this good” and instead focus on “is this the right fit for them.” It doesn’t say anything about your value when you get rejected, you might be wonderful (even if there was such a thing as somebody who is objectively wonderful) – and it just wasn’t the right fit at the right time. Sometimes for reasons you can’t know. The way to get over it is to have already moved on to your next project before the reviews come in.

  6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I have had so many times when I’ve wanted to hire multiple people and it’s come down to what feels like a coin toss. That’s what really has to be remembered in the end, is that you’re up against many people and most of the time there’s stiff competition to be had. You may be a rockstar but you’re not the only rockstar, you’re not the only one who sparks with the hiring manager.

    Jobs aren’t soulmates, they’re usually carved out so that many individuals out there could do really well at them, otherwise you’re going to not have a solid thriving business in the end if it’s only that one special gem in a million that’s a great fit for it. If they weren’t so generic at times, finding one would then be even more of a nightmare than it already is =(

    1. Antilles*

      This is a fantastic description of what it’s like from the other side of the desk, especially the last paragraph.

  7. many bells down*

    Yeah I just went through this too. A job I really wanted, thought I was great for (and I’d interviewed for it once already but our schedules didn’t align), knew and had worked with the department boss…and they rejected me without even an interview.

    It was with a nonprofit so I’m dealing by taking a break from the volunteer work I do for them. And I probably won’t apply for that position again. They know where to find me if they want me.

  8. CaliCali*

    Honestly, I think “rejection isn’t a measure of your worth” is great life advice in general, not just for jobs. It’s rare for you to be the sole and complete variable in any situation. And when that rejection ends, since it almost always does — someone does choose you! — that doesn’t make you more worthwhile either, because you’re still the same person with the same skills and the same things to offer! It just means that you were determined to be the best fit for what they’re looking for.

  9. Meerkat*

    After months of searching and many many interviews one will have to conclude it is them
    While I have been repeated told my resume is awesome and I was fantastic in my interview I always get the short end up f the stick always a bridesmaid and never a bride.As an older female one has to wonder how much ageism comes into play as many times I am interviewed by people 20 years younger and I can imagine they are looking at me me and saying “I can’t see myself taking a yoga class with this person” or “ I don’t want to work with my mom”

    1. irene adler*

      Seconding this!
      I’m at the point where I see a job ad for something I’d really do well in and think, “Why bother. They won’t hire me.” So I apply, and … nothing. Just a rejection letter. Message received TYVM.

      Guess that low unemployment rate isn’t quite as low as it seems.

    2. EH*

      I feel you. My last two spates of unemployment were six months of NOTHING followed by one company actually calling me for an interview and then hiring me. I didn’t get interviews. I didn’t even get PHONE interviews. It was horrible both times, and I only got through it by playing a lot of video games and venting to my partner. I meditated a lot, and worked hard to psych myself up before each day’s hunting. People can smell desperation and despair, and do not want to hire it. On bad days, I faked it like an actor shooting for an Oscar.

      Good luck to you, Meerkat. Jobhunting is the freakin worst.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Even though the economy is better, I still think it’s taking at least 4-6 months to find a good job. Maybe less if you go temp or contract, but it’s still a long time compared to late 90’s economy.
      I used to have no problem falling back on my design work, but even those gigs are more difficult to find.

    4. Summer Rain*

      Yep, I’m feeling this too. No way to know for sure that it’s ageism, but it sure feels like it. I’ve been looking for almost a year, off and on, and it’s hard not to get discouraged. Especially when I make the mistake of reading Money Diaries on Refinery 29, where everyone is half my age and in general making almost double my salary.

  10. Asenath*

    I spent some time applying to every job in a certain field. I had all the qualifications. I was sure that was my step up – better pay, better promotion chances. I never got a look-in. I suspected that ageism was in play, took a rather nasty satisfaction in hearing gossip about poor management – but really, I could have been dismissed for any of the other reasons mentioned here. There are people graduating all the time with the necessary qualifications; therefore, lots of competition. Probably most of it from people as good as or better than I am. In the end, I counted my blessings that I had a steady job with nice people and stopped applying every time I saw one of their ads pop up. I still remember, though, the annoyance of not even getting an interview when I HAD everything in the job ad!

    1. irene adler*

      I admire your take on this. Sometimes I get so frustrated over the obvious ageism at play. But yes, at least where I’m working now isn’t a bad place to work. Count my blessings.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s when your experience can really “get you”, the graduates have the right credentials like you said and they’re cheaper since it’s their first FT job most likely!

      The other thing that stands out to me is that you were applying for every job that came up. There should be more discretion involved, focus on the posting and what it’s asking for, the company that’s offering the position.

      But I won’t lie, I did get some delightful satisfaction the few times I saw positions that had passed on me, reposted again and again. They just couldn’t find their fit, I feel sooooooooooo bad for them ;)

  11. is it friday yet?*

    One other thing: when my company hires, we have a really specific skillset in mind, but we write the ads much more generally. This is done to widen the job pool. We think that A is really important, but we realize that being strong in D, E, F might outweigh A. So the job ad will be something like: previous experience in A desired, but not necessary, general facility in the first half of the alphabet. This is also because our jobs are somewhat flexible: we’d *like* A, E, but if you can learn A,E,F and are really strong in J-M we can change the job to fit you.

    tl;dr The skills listed may not match what the company really wants. Sometimes jobs duties can be changed to fit the person, so ads can be much more general.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is especially true in the likeliness that with team dynamics, you may really have certain things locked down and that pesky “D” skill is really what needs to be mastered by the new person if all goes well. So yeah you can do A, B & C, that’s fantastic but so can everyone else on the team and they’re fully covered above and beyond.

      We ran into this with a position that has multiple prongs. A unicorn appeared, so we thought, there was someone with experience in one portion that is pretty niche and that’s exciting. But then it turned out that they were unable to seemingly grasp the flip side of the job, the technical aspect that’s much more important than the niche thing that we can indeed teach someone much easier than you can teach someone to you know, be able to use the kind of software we do, which is much more in depth and harder to learn in the end.

      I get the feeling he thought he was a total no-brainer but we had to pass because we found someone without niche experience but was able to figure out the software without any issues and so just needed those basics and “tuning up” of the technical skills. We sent them to a class for the niche-stuff and it’s been happily ever after.

  12. ArtK*

    It’s a lot easier to deal with this before the fact than afterwards. Before diving into a job search, setting expectations for yourself can save a lot of pain and anguish. Alison and others have given some great information about why what looks like a perfect match may not be so perfect for everyone involved. There’s a ton of subjectivity in the hiring process; this can be really hard to deal with if you have a more concrete approach to things.

    I know this doesn’t help with the disappointment that you feel now, but can help you with the next search. For now, perhaps the best attitude is “Oh well, their loss” and try to move on.

  13. Lilo*

    The reality is sometimes we can have 10 or so “perfect” applicants for one spot and the crucial difference can be very small things. Like one time an applicant was fluent in Mandarin and while it wasn’t required, he was able to smooth out some translation issues we’d been having, in addition to him being perfect based on the posted qualifications.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is a great point. I get tons of well-qualified applicants for some of my entry-level slots, and any of them could come in and do an excellent job. So we do end up hiring the person who speaks a second language or that worked part-time during school in an office environment or who copyedited their college newspaper. It does not mean that other candidates weren’t great, just that someone had an optional but useful skill they didn’t, all other things being equal.

  14. nonprofit writer*

    Also, this may not apply in your situation, but you also have to consider that sometimes they *have* to interview people even when they already have someone in mind for the job. This happened to me when I was an internal candidate for a job and it was pretty much in the bag, but HR wanted the hiring manager to at least meet a few other candidates. Also as a freelancer now who does project work on contract for an international organization (a process that requires an application, writing samples, interviews, etc) I can say that in those cases, sometimes the hiring process is well, kind of a sham. Like, I’m already doing the project, my contract is technically up so according to their rules, they have to advertise the position again, but in the meantime I’m still doing the work (because the contracts and the actual projects are never truly aligned in real life). I know they’re going to give me the new contract (because I’m doing the work and they want me to finish it!), but other people are applying for this and are probably just as qualified as I am to do the job, and no doubt at least some of them think they have a shot. So a lot of times it’s really, really not about you. I’ve also been on the other end where I’ve been invited to submit an application for a contracted project, and I’m pretty sure I’m just there so they can check a box and then hire the person who is already doing the work or about to start.

    1. DataGirl*

      This definitely happens especially in non-profits. Every one I’ve ever worked at where I’ve been part of the hiring process required you interview a minimum of 3 people, regardless if you already know which one is going to get the job.

  15. ECHM*

    Ha … I had one of those a couple years ago. It was so disappointing to be rejected outright within a few hours of submission, but the rejection turned out to be a blessing as now I am in a great setup of two part-time jobs that together provide what I need in a good balance. Plus, I decided “if I can’t get hired at this, what CAN I do?” and developed a little business (which might take off eventually if I have the oomph to promote it, but I don’t).

  16. Yikes*

    You don’t always want to be the person selected in a situation where it was down to you and someone else. I ended up being hired for a job like that, where the department was split between me and some other candidate. I ended up getting hired, but two of my coworkers were really peeved. Ultimately, there was a massive shake up in our leadership where everyone in my department who had wanted to hire me either was fired or quit. It was down to me and one guy who’d never wanted me from the first place, and since he was senior, he was made acting director of the department; six weeks later, I was fired. So, there’s that scenario.

  17. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I once got passed over for an internal promotion that I was perfect for; the person who got the job was “more qualified and a better fit.”

    More qualified meant “Is a man and goes to my church,” and better fit meant “my friend from church used to work with him and said he’s good.” He lasted 10 months and to date they haven’t had anyone break the one year mark in that role.

    Sometimes the hiring criteria in the ad isn’t the hiring criteria at all.

    1. Clever username goes here*

      This is almost exactly what happened to me, minus the other person being a man and the church aspect. In my case, it was because the other applicant had worked with the hiring manager years previously and they had a preexisting relationship. That was the *only* factor. So disheartening.

      Turned out for the best, I left after being headhunted for another company where I am currently killing it at a higher salary and much better title. At the time, though, it was devastating.

  18. Goldfinch*

    Very recent example of the back-of-house shenanigans that applicants never hear about:

    My company had two openings for Department A positions, one a replacement for an experienced employee and one new entry-level position. I referred a recent graduate from my alumni association for the new entry-level position.

    The replacement position was going to be a transfer taken by Bob, who was in poorly-managed Department B and was thoroughly sick of Department B’s nonsense. Bob’s boss said he couldn’t transfer until Department B’s Flotsam Project was complete. Flotsam is a giant disaster that is going nowhere fast, despite the team doing their best to steer the fiery wreckage through the management icebergs. After months of fighting over his transfer, Bob finally got fed up and left the company entirely.

    Department A was furious to have lost Bob, who had almost a decade of company knowledge. They responded by poaching two employees from Department B, both with 3-5 years of experience. Not as much experience as the replacement position warranted, but definitely more than the new entry-level position warranted.

    I can’t say all this to my alumni contact. From her point of view, it looks like my company advertised for a fresh college grad with no job experience, and instead hired someone with a solid first job under her belt and a bunch of certifications that she earned through the workplace. Cue the “entry level jobs require several years of work experience” stereotype, when in truth it was all just internal grudges and power plays.

    1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      “The replacement position was going to be a transfer taken by Bob, who was in poorly-managed Department B . . . Bob’s boss said he couldn’t transfer until Department B’s Flotsam Project was complete . . . . After months of fighting over his transfer, Bob finally got fed up and left the company entirely.

      “Department A was furious to have lost Bob, who had almost a decade of company knowledge. They responded by poaching two employees from Department B”

      Couldn’t Department A have just poached Bob on the first place?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Sounds like Department A was being professional and not poaching, trying to work with Department B through their struggle. Only it bit them in the butt, they lost Bob.

        So when they lost Bob, they said “You know what? Ef playing nice. Gimme those two right there, done.”

        Nobody expected Bob to bounce, so they were all blindsided and more disaster followed from it.

  19. Justme, The OG*

    Just because you’re perfect for the position doesn’t mean that someone else was “more perfect” for the position. And as some have posted above, there are always other non-job reasons.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I just assume I wasn’t perfect enough at this point. There’s always someone better than you and that’s just how it is these days. Especially in my industry.

  20. Bilateralrope*

    Once I applied for a position with an employer, working on a site they had just picked up the contract for. Everything was going smoothly until they suddenly went silent. It took a while to find out what happened: they suddenly lost a lot of other contracts and now too many workers for the contracts they still had.

    Another time I was applying for a different position. One of my references used to work there and was well respected by everyone in managment. The interview went well. Then an internal candidate transfering for another city who put his hand up very late in the process. I dont know if he applied for this position specifically or just asked for any open position in my city. Their policy was that internal candidates always get priority.

  21. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    Did…I go back in time and write this?? This is exactly what I’m going through right now!

  22. DataGirl*

    I was just told yesterday that a job I had been interviewing for liked me but ‘found someone with the same skill set who is cheaper’. They may have just been trying to be nice in a weird way, but it’s plausible. The older I am my husband get, the more we find that no new jobs are willing to hire us at our pay scale when they can get new grads to do the same work for peanuts.

  23. LucyHoneychurch*

    A couple of years ago I had to find a new job, after 20 years at the same employer. I went to a bunch of job-hunting workshops (resume-writing, interviewing, etc), and one of the most valuable was one where we were divided into groups and told we were the hiring team for a vacant position. We were given a piece of paper with resume summaries of ~15 applicants; each group was to choose 5 for a phone interview; then we got back together and shared who we had chosen and why. Then we got another piece of paper summarizing the results of the phone interview, and based on that, each group picked 3 applicants for in-person interviews, and so on. It was FASCINATING to see who the groups picked, and why. One of the groups “hired” a person that I had eliminated in the first round. A guy in my group wanted to eliminate an applicant because, according to our summaries, “a rather sullen teenager had answered the phone when we called to set up the interview.” He thought this indicated a lack of character on the applicant’s part, I guess?
    This exercise really helped me understand the many, many factors that go into these selections, many of which have nothing to do with my qualifications or myself as a person. Which was discouraging, in a way, because it means you can be perfect for the job but not get it because of some weird personal quirk of the interviewer, but it’s easier to let go of it and move on.

    1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      This is interesting!

      I think something I’ve realized over the years is that trying out for even business-y, white collar jobs is in the end no different from auditioning for acting jobs, which tends to be more subjective. Lots of beautiful, talented people probably audition for any given role, but get rejected for random things, like not being blonde because the person who would be playing their brother is blonde, and he’s already been casted. One of my favorite actresses is Anne Hathaway, but I think it’s funny that the main reason she got her role in The Princess Diaries is because she fell out of her chair!

      I guess for the business-y jobs, you have to meet some minimum credentials, but it’s still a crapshoot in the end.

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      Hallelujah! I wish there was some way to pin this post and broadcast it to all job seekers everywhere.

      I have always said all it takes is being on the hiring side one time and you will never approach applying for a job the same way again. Ditto for any sort of selection process, such as being on an awards committee. So often people get rejected for these sorts of things, and automatically their thoughts go to “what’s wrong with me?” The answer is almost always nothing. Nothing is wrong with you. It’s literally just the way the cookie crumbled this time.

  24. Fikly*

    This reminds me of an attitude/thought I see all the time on reality competition shows that are skill based. Chopped, Project Runway, that sort of thing. Competitors will often say, I should win because I worked really hard at this, or because I’m super talented. They seem blind to the idea that the three other competitors might have worked equally hard, or be equally talented.

    I’m not sure I blame them though. My generation certainly grew up being told that if we worked hard enough we’d get whatever we wanted. Spoiler alert: the world doesn’t work that way.

    (Although what really irritates me is the whole “I should win because I want this” attitude. That is not a skill. The judges will ask contestants why they should win and they will answer with because it would make me really happy or some such emotional reason, and it’s like, dude, talk about why your dish tastes awesome.)

    1. The New Wanderer*

      When it gets down to the final round, usually these kinds of competitors have been the best in the room in most rooms. Kind of like going to college for a lot of HS valedictorians – most of them are not going to ace every class, and it can be a hard adjustment.

      But I absolutely agree on not answering a Why you? question with Because I want it. The problem is, these people end up being (badly) coached by others who motivate them with “You have to WANT it to succeed!” So maybe that’s what they think is being asked. Better to ask a question like “What about your dish/outfit/skill set makes you best qualified for this?”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      A lot of this has to do with the age old “big fish in a small pond” scenarios as well.

      It’s the “I was the best high school football player in my graduating year, I’m going straight to the pros!” mentality. The coaches hype them up. The parents hype them up. They are treated like little Gods walking around their dusty town. Then the scouts don’t want anything to do with them because there’s a thousand others just like you, Jimbo. In another podunk town, in another small league, etc.

      Same with these chefs. Oh you have awards for your food in your town? What town is that? Oh it’s a suburb where the other options are the 50’s throwback diner and McDonald’s? Yeah…

      My parents hyped me up to, they tell me I’m perfect and the best ever in anything I ever decide to do. I love them and their support but I’ve never been blinded by it. I knew that once I was out of that small pond, I’d have even stiffer competition. It’s really all about trying to stay humble in the end and accepting that others are great and probably even greater than you ever will be in the end and that’s okay!

  25. BurnOutCandidate*

    I’ve been low-key job hunting for about five years now. Nothing intense, just one or two or month; figure about 100-120 over that time span.

    It’s disheartening; I’ve received zero calls back for an interview in that time span. Half the time, I get nothing. The other half (usually academic) I get nice form letters. A handful, I’ve gotten notes saying they think I would be a poor culture fit and wishing me well. In one of that cases, since it was right before Christmas, I wrote her a letter, thanked her for the opportunity to apply (as one might send a thank you note after an interview, said that while I was personally disappointed that I wasn’t interviewed, since I’ve been on the hiring side of the table I know that hiring is difficult and they made the best choice, and wished her a good holiday. I admit it, I was frustrated but it was polite and friendly. No, I never heard back after that.

    When I applied for a job that I really thought I was the perfect fit for — editor of my college’s alumni magazine — I managed my expectations better (I didn’t think I’d get an interview, but I’d have hated myself had I not applied), so when the form rejection without interview came and said that my resume was “impressive,” I took that as a kind of moral victory.

    The search goes on.

  26. TootsNYC*

    Jobs are a zero sum game–there is only one job.

    And you have NO idea who your competition is.

    It’s also a bit like dating; maybe there’s no “chemistry.”

    But yes, I’d put it right up there with swimsuit buying.

    1. AnonForReasons*

      I think some rare humans are an exception to the “no chemistry”. I’ve heard people say someone isn’t “their type” when they’re not interested, but from what I’ve seen, a few rare people manage to be almost everyone’s type. I know a dynamic woman who was hired (she’s recently retired) for every job she ever applied for throughout her life, even “dream” jobs against stiff competition from hundreds of applicants with more experience. It’s how she managed to get hired with a leading TV network despite having no previous television experience, and I hired her for another dream career that she had no previous experience with. In another life area, relationships, I remember seeing Emily Maynard seemed to be the “type” of virtually every single man in the various Bachelor and Bachelorette shows who was looking for a relationship.

      1. AnonForReasons*

        She wrote incredible cover letters, tailored everything to the specific job she was applying for, and sometimes when in person to drop off applications (in the days before online applications).

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        These are the “classically beautiful” people of the world who also have that rare charisma attached.

        I’ve known a few throughout life that are like that. Waltz in, wow the crowd and then waltz out with a job doing whatever, doesn’t matter, they got the job.

        Especially when they are chameleons like your story. She can blend in, that’s some doctored up double down charm in charge.

  27. TootsNYC*

    When I have a pool of really strong candidates, and I can only hire one, I have often give the also-rans a pep talk about their skills and their interview.

    And I say, “I could only hire one person. But you should think of yourself as a strong candidate.”

    I don’t always have time or energy to do this, so I hope some of them are able to do it for themselves. The hard part is being accurate with yourself about your strengths.

  28. Blue Horizon*

    If you got along well with the interviewer, it never hurts to ask for feedback after a rejection, on a couple of conditions:

    1. You need to be able to frame it calmly as a good faith request for information, rather than a coded “how dare you, I was perfect for this!”
    2. You need to accept that there’s a good chance you will get a polite non-answer, and be OK with that if it happens.

    If you do ask and get a reply, they can often be quite helpful. Be honest with yourself on the preconditions though. If you are completely CALM and not angry at ALL even though you cannot BEGIN to fathom why they decided not to… Stop, take a deep breath, give it a couple of days, see how you feel then, and be ready to just let go if that’s what it takes.

  29. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    I know, in my industry (client-facing roles), people hire a lot against who their clients would like. Unfortunately, this does a lot of the time mean….discrimination. Especially if the company works with international clients who are prejudiced against Ethnicities A, B, and C. My graduate school just recently caught onto the fact that a lot of their internship partners were interviewing all types of students but only hiring the White ones, or the Japanese ones, and got suspicious. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is a real solution to this.

    1. Blue Horizon*

      I’ve run into that one. I had to pull a woman off a project team after she got involved in some difficult conversations in a meeting with one of the key client stakeholders. The things she said needed to be said, but he did not take it well, and essentially refused to work or even be in the same room with her after that point.

      Her natural communication style was on the blunt side, so she gave me an out and suggested I replace her with somebody ‘more diplomatic,’ but we both knew what she was saying. I went ahead and did it – we were on the hook to deliver, and “we failed but it was the other guy’s fault” wasn’t going to cut it, however justified it might have been. I think it was the only decision I could have made under the circumstances, but it still bothers me today.

      1. 1234*

        I’m also very blunt as a person and had to learn to “soften” my tone when it comes to speaking with others even though my natural inclination is to be straightforward. Because of my personality, I realized that I am not a good fit for super-heavy client facing roles. Of course, there are some clients who communicate the exact same way the woman you described does and those were the ones I appreciated most.

  30. I want that pslf*

    Really interesting article! I like how the author takes into consideration all of the unaccounted factors in those numbers.

    One thing that popped out at me (and something a resume writer I was working with commented on) – how many bullet points is too much. I usually go for positions in higher ed (still searching) and those job postings average around 20. Is … Is that not… Normal?

  31. Lucy Montrose*

    As someone who’s had their share of rejection for “not being the right fit”, it’s made me wonder how I’m going to prove to an employer that I get along with others and can work as part of a team.

    I already have some strikes against me: I didn’t play team sports when I was younger, I have no spouse or kids, and I don’t have a Facebook page. All of those are proxies for likability and opportunities to polish and demonstrate soft skills.

    Yes: the fit question makes me feel deficient in character. It leads me to overanalyze my life, wondering what life experiences I didn’t pick up at the right time that led to me missing traits today. And it makes me feel like the only thing that would fix my problem is going back in time and reliving my life.

    As a high-schooler, I wasn’t interested in sports. Should I have ignored my preferences and played them anyway for my character development? Should I have decided to raise a family even though I don’t want to, so I get some leadership practice/experience that I may not get in the workplace?

    1. 1234*

      What do you see as the correlation between having children/playing team sports to getting a job? If that were the case, every childless un-athletic person wouldn’t have a job and that’s certainly not the case. Of course, if you were interviewing at Sports Company and didn’t play sports, they may not see “fit” but that isn’t a dealbreaker in most other places.

      What experiences do you have on your resume that led them to interview you?

      1. Lucy Montrose*

        What do you see as the correlation between having children/playing team sports to getting a job?

        Soft skills, and experiences that employers are likely to see as fostering them. That je ne sais quoi they’re looking for in a job candidate.

        It’s what I believe is employers’ opinion, more than my own.

    2. Me*

      An employer isn’t remotely interested in whether you played sports, have a family or are active on social media. None of those things have ever come up in an interview I have participated in as a interviewer nor a candidate.

      If you feel deficient in some area in your work skills then perhaps volunteering would be beneficial. Many organizations that rely on volunteers offer development and roles in leadership simply because they rely on who they get.

      1. Lucy Montrose*

        Those things wouldn’t come up in an interview. Employers are too savvy to do that.
        But they can Google, they can act on their gut feelings, and they can ask “get to know you” questions that figure out who you are. Not to mention check your references. All of those build a pretty extensive profile of who you are.

        Making decisions on fit and interpersonal skills is pretty gut-driven, so where I’m driving at is I fear not having played on a team has left me with a “team-player” shaped hole in my personality, and employers’ instincts can sniff that out from a mile away.

        1. 1234*

          You can demonstrate “team player” in ways that have nothing to do with sports. For example, I’ve worked on projects where I’ve collaborated across different departments internally and with our vendors.

          If they Google you and say “Well, Lucy has never played sports so we shouldn’t hire her!” that would be short-sighted and you wouldn’t want to work for a boss who makes choices like that. In a way, you should be glad you didn’t get an offer with a boss who values things that have nothing to do with work.

          The only “get to know you” question that I’ve been asked are things like “What are your hobbies outside of work?” and I mentioned taking fitness classes (not team sports).

          1. Blue Horizon*

            Yeah, unless you’re entry level I’m mostly looking for work experience based answers on this one: can you work collaboratively and constructively on a team; are you going to get along with people or are they going to drive you up the wall – or vice versa; will you keep the big picture in mind and (for example) raise a flag if you’re asked to do something that you later realize is counterproductive or won’t achieve the intended goal; will you help others out if they need it, or ask for help promptly if you’re stuck; and so on.

            By my definition it’s perfectly possible to be a great team player even if you are the world’s biggest introvert and have nothing but solitary hobbies. Conversely, you could have a large family and a shelf full of team sport trophies and still be the wrong fit.

    3. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      I don’t think the things you listed are what you should worry about when it comes to demonstrating fit. Something that I would work on are gathering references who can speak on your behalf, and preparing some answers to “Tell me about a time when…” questions that demonstrate how well you work with others. Also, if you’re me, you will feign interest in breweries and baseball if it really comes down to that.

    4. Oh No She Di'int*

      I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding what “fit” means. It’s not a synonym for “team player”. Fit means that you have qualities that the hiring manager deems would thrive in the environment that the job offers and/or would help the environment thrive.

      Sometimes that means you work well independently without ever speaking to anyone. Sometimes it means that you’re loud and opinionated enough to stand up to all the other loudmouths on the team. Sometimes it means you’re quiet enough not to spook all the other librarian types in the company. Hell, it might mean you’re the type who can thrive in an office that communicates completely in Monty Python quotes without tearing your hair out. (Not me by the way.) And sometimes it does mean being a “team player”.

      There’s no reliable way to know this ahead of time, which is what makes the process so frustrating. You either are or are not the person they are looking for. And if you’re not, it absolutely does not mean there is anything wrong with you. You just weren’t the right fit, which means you fit perfectly somewhere else.

      1. Blue Horizon*

        Yes, that’s a good summary. I would add that it’s perfectly OK (even expected) to use the interview process to find this out, and whether they are a good fit for you is just as important as the other way around. If you are a mutual bad fit then you probably don’t want the job, since you’d likely be miserable and very possibly ineffective as well.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      I never played sports. I have no family or kids, I only partnered up when I was well into my life and career.

      None of my bosses have ever and would never Google someone before they hired them. That’s not something most places do, it’s unadvised to do that until you’re over the initial screening process. Since you don’t want to look at a profile and have even an inkling of the fact you may not even interview someone because of what they look like, since a facebook account will typically have a profile picture that’s often a personal picture.

      I think you may be jaded and projecting. Which happens when you’re facing a lot of rejection and I’m sorry that you’re going through that. But this has nothing to do with with what you did or didn’t do in high school.

      I didn’t play sports. I didn’t even have a single date until I was 30 years old. I’m a total awkward beast and here I sit, gainfully employed and constantly offered jobs when I seek them out, high school life be damned.

  32. Bryce with a Y*

    There is only one thing worse than being turned down for a “perfect” job opportunity: being hired for that opportunity, have it be a poor match, clash with your boss and coworkers, being miserable and doing poorly, getting fired, and having to explain what happened.

    1. Lucy Montrose*

      The part that rankles me is you’re “one and done” as a worker anymore. A generation ago, you had more hope of being hired back by a company that fired you. Now, you never get a second chance. Even if you let go for subtle differences in fit, that door is permanently closed to you.
      And it’s considered disrespectful to try to negotiate your case, get answers as to the circumstances of your firing so as to not make the same mistake in your next job or interview… indeed, the only respectful action is, apparently, to take your L and leave that company behind forever.

      Some people call that a learning experience. I say, there’s not much learning going on if you’re kicked out of the game and never allowed to return.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This really isn’t true though. Lots of people go back to companies they’ve parted ways with, sometimes it’s due to involuntary termination. I’ve rehired people personally who have been fired before, we knew that they were just not a fit at that time due to various reasons but understand fully that if they’re coming back, they may just have changed.

    2. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      I mean…that’s a risk with any job opportunity, not just the ones that seem perfect. But it’s worth remembering that even jobs that seem perfect may not be.

  33. boop the first*

    I was so devastated last month about losing what I thought would be a life-changing job for me. I was finally going to work in a positive environment! With people who shared my interests! For a company with ethics! Where I actually had an IDENTITY and passion and enthusiasm and it was going to be incredible! And it had a better schedule balance! I was going to evolve and finally have the life I wanted!

    But then a previous staff returned and the opening was no longer. I was (am) so devastated that the stress made me sick for going on three weeks now. The rejection took so long that I lost another offer. Since then, there haven’t been any jobs I wanted to apply to, and ones that I have won’t even consider me.

    Me, I am taking this time thinking about the things that appealed to me so much about that job and trying to accomplish them MYSELF. A paycheck would have launched it into my Dream Fucking LIFE, but I’ll have to go it unpaid instead. Thanks, cosmos. There was a much simpler way to do this! Nevertheless I am feeling pumped up and unusually optimistic that it might one day lead to a trickle of income incidentally.

    In the meantime, I have to fend off calls from my previous begging boss while battling these feelings of obligation to just… return to a dysfunctional workplace for the sake of easy money. I don’t have to. I don’t want to. But holy crap do I feel internal obligation to answer these calls!

    1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      Special ringtone (silent). That way you never have to feel like you need to pick it up, because it’ll never ring. You can let it go directly to voicemail. :)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Or just block their number =X That’s what I did a few years ago when I really had to stop the constant pleas for assistance after I had been longer than long gone.

  34. Lisa*

    I just got rejected for a job that I could do with my eyes closed. The feedback? I had a long tenure in my last job (7 years) and that worked against me. Yup. Another job I recently got rejected for was because someone else had better “buzzwords”. I kid you not. I’ve now been looking for a job for a year and these have to be the most ridiculous excuses yet. Oh well, at least I have a 2 week temp job starting tomorrow.

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