When you’re looking for a job, you’re under a lot of pressure. Both from yourself and your unpaid bills. So when you don’t get called for an interview … or when you’re interviewed but not hired, it can be stressful. You can go crazy wondering why you didn’t get the job.
It’s okay to be disappointed. But don’t stay in that dark space for too long. Dust yourself off and figure out why you didn’t land the position. Knowing the reason can help you avoid the same mistakes in the future. And this improves your performance at the next interview.
Why You Didn’t Get the Job
1: You Were Underqualified
What made you apply for this job? Were you just spamming every available opening? Many job-hunters do, and it makes sense. After all, the more applications you send out, the more likely you’ll get a positive response. It’s a numbers game. So if you pad your numbers with jobs you don’t qualify for, it’s likely you’ll get a negative response … if you get any response at all.
2: You Made Silly Mistakes
Do you still have a copy of your application? Look at it carefully. Does it have any typos, bad grammar, or syntax errors? Did you put in the right email address or phone number? Did you use a permanent address, and is the mailbox you listed regularly checked? Did you include all the information you were asked for? This could explain why you didn’t get the job.
3: Your Referees Sold You Out
A lot of us use relatives, mentors, friends, and former bosses as references. But did you talk to your referee before you put their name down? Did they know a potential employer would get in touch with them? Were they busy or in a bad mood when they received the call? If you hadn’t forewarned them, they may have accidentally (or deliberately) given you a bad review.
4: Your Resume Was Generic
It takes – on average – 15 rejected applications before you get an acceptance. And each of those hiring processes takes 25 to 40 days, depending on where you live. So as an applicant, you probably get tired and start to copy-paste your resume. But if your application isn’t customized for the job, it lowers your chances. You might even forget to change the company name!
5: You Didn’t Write A (Good) Cover Letter
These days, a lot of job applications are done online. You fill out a contact form and wait for a response. So you might not recognize the need for cover letters. But these hiring managers have thousands of resumes to look through, so you need to stand out. Meanwhile, some job-hunters send a standard cover letter. They only change addressee. That’s unlikely to get you hired.
6: Your Resume Was Too Long
As an employee or job-seeker, you probably think longer resumes are better. So you try to pack everything you can, from past jobs to voluntary leadership positions. But on average, a hiring manager spends 6 seconds scanning a resume. At most, they’ll spend 2 minutes. So if your resume was longer than a page, they probably set it aside, no matter how riveting it was.
7: Your Cover Letter Was Too Short
By the time an employer gets past your resume and looks at your cover letter, you’ve caught their interest. But you can still lose their attention if you put a foot wrong. So another reason why you didn’t get the job is curt cover letters. You want it to be three to five paragraphs without waffling. And every paragraph should be eight lines or less. Take the time to express yourself.
8: You Were Rude To the Wrong Person
Politeness isn’t in-built. You have to actively apply it. And you were probably on edge when you walked into the interview. Because of your nerves, you might have been accidentally (or deliberately) unkind to one of the ‘little people’. The receptionist, the security guard, the cleaning staff. Your interviewer may have overheard you and it turned them off your application.
9: Your Attitude Was Wrong
Long-time interviewers get good at snap decisions. So if you did something to put them off, they’ll dismiss you in minutes, even if the interview continued. Did you seem entitled or bored? If you formed a good rapport, follow up. Don’t ask why they didn’t hire you. Thank them for the chance and ask for interview tips. They might just tell you what you did wrong.
10: You Focused On Yourself, Not On Them
In some ways, interviews are like first dates. You want them to get to know you, and you want them to like you. But if all you do is talk about yourself, your date will feel unseen and unwanted. To ensure a second date (or interview), emphasize their needs. Don’t just rattle off your superior qualifications. Tell the interviewer how your skills can benefit their company.
11: You Didn’t Do Your Homework
As a job candidate, you’re probably terrified of two phrases: ‘Tell us about yourself’ and ‘Do you have any questions?’ But there’s one more query you may not expect: ‘What do you know about our company?’ Recruiters want to know you’re interested in them specifically. So if you can’t even tell them the name of the CEO and the company’s top product or service, you’re sunk.
12: You Didn’t Follow Up
Often, a company receives a handful of remarkable candidates. This Top Five may be quite closely matched. Meaning the interviewer has to find creative ways to differentiate them and whittle down to one. So … did you take that extra step to put you over the top? Did you send a thank-you note or call them by name when you met them at the grocery store? It helps …
13: You Followed The Wrong Clock
Being late is a bad idea, and it could be the clearest reason why you didn’t get the job. But showing up too early can be just as bad. It may paint you as a suck-up, especially if your interviewer is a little loose with time. Aim to be in the office reception area half an hour before your interview time. Any earlier and you seem uptight, so take a stroll if you get there too soon.
14: You’re Too Good For Them
You might be overqualified for the position. That’s not always a bad thing, but it can put a potential employer on edge. They may worry you’re after their job rather than yours. Or they may be concerned about underpaying you, knowing you’ll soon feel undervalued and leave for a better salary. They may even feel patronized if they think you’re using them as a stepping stone.
15: You Didn’t Network Yourself
You’d be surprised at how many people you know. Especially when you’re job-hunting. So don’t slack off. Use those six degrees of separation. You probably know someone who knows someone that works at your target firm. Take the time to identify these links, and ask them to put in a good word. When it comes down to the shortlist, someone vouching for you could get you hired!
16: You Wore the Wrong Thing
I once missed out on an advertising job because I showed up in a business suit. The interviewer later told me I was ‘dressed like client service, not creative’ so they instantly dismissed me. Don’t just assume formal wear is best. Visit the job site a few weeks before and do some recon. Check out how people in your target department are dressed, and match their fashion choices.
17: You Didn’t Follow Directions
Some jobs are extremely competitive. They receive hundreds of applicants for the same position. So the interviewer needs seemingly trivial reasons to disqualify candidates. So … how carefully did you read the interviewer’s instructions? Maybe they asked for three work samples and you brought five. Or they asked for at least four referees and everyone else gave six or seven …
18: Your Body Language Sold You Out
At interviews, you need to be extremely aware of the non-verbal signals you’re sending. If your handshake is too quick, it may mean you’re nervous and afraid to sweat all over them. But they might think you dislike personal contact. If you keep fidgeting and looking away, it could be simple nerves, but depending on what they just asked you, they may think you’re lying.
19: You Made a Freudian Slip
Maybe you didn’t get the job because you showed unconscious bias. You may have flirted with certain members of the panel while talking down to others. Or you may have mentioned tax avoidance … something entrepreneurs admire but conservatives deplore. You may have dismissed military action to an interviewer who’s a veteran or exposed the wrong politics.
20: You Bashed Your Previous Work-place
It probably doesn’t seem important. You left your old job because you were unhappy, so what’s wrong with admitting it? Especially if you’re telling the truth? Well, employers are often secretly worried about what their employees think of them. If you bad-mouth your old boss, they assume you’ll disparage them too. So protect the ranks, even if they don’t deserve it.
21: You Seemed Too Money-Hungry
Sometimes, the answer to why you didn’t get the job is the same reason you applied for the job. It’s hypocritical in a sense, because we all work for money, and we all want more. But if you admit it to your potential boss, they’ll label you greedy and disloyal. They’ll assume you’ll jump ship if someone offers to pay you more. So keep your financial ambitions to yourself.
22: You Got Too Personal
Yes, interviewers love stories. And they love candidates that seem sincere and human. But if you talk too much about family and get too emotional, they might label you as unprofessional. The person interviewing you could one day be your boss – that’s the whole point. So while you want to be warm, open, and friendly, don’t talk to them the way you’d talk to your friends.
23: You Didn’t Explain Your Job Gaps
Maybe you took a few years off work to raise a family, or to look after your dying mother. But you know that’s a ‘wrong answer’ so you don’t say anything at all. The interviewer may end up thinking you were in jail or backpacking with ayahuasca. Instead of leaving those years blank, talk about the senior care course you took, or what you learned by chaperoning field trips.
24: You Got Fired And Didn’t Justify It
Maybe you didn’t get this job because of how you left your previous one. You can’t lie about being fired – the interviewer will check. So instead of blaming and bad-mouthing, focus on the positive. Talk about the good results you achieved – that’s something your old bass can back up, no matter how much they hate you. Identify what you did wrong, and how you plan to correct it.
25: You Didn’t Walk Through Your Resume
When the interviewer asked you to describe your career progression, you may have rushed through it. After all, they’ve read your resume, so you’re not giving them new information. But they want to hear your thought patterns. They’re curious about why and how you left each job, and what you were looking for in the next one. Otherwise, they’ll assume you’re a flake.
26: You Were Too Bland
You may have been concerned about seeming smug or eccentric. So you went in the opposite direction and snuffed out your personality. You didn’t show them what makes you unique and special, or why they should pick you over the thousands of other candidates. Once you left the interview room, they could barely remember you, and that’s why you didn’t get the job.
27: It’s Them, Not You
Sometimes, job rejection has nothing to do with you. Maybe they were pressured to hire the bosses’ niece. Or their budget couldn’t fit what you’re worth. Or the interviewer didn’t like your school. Or they misplaced your application. Or you reminded them of their ex. In these cases, you’ll never know the real reason, because they’ll never admit it, so just move on to the next.
So … why didn’t they hire you?
There are probably a million reasons why you didn’t get the job. Here are some top suggestions:
- Your qualifications didn’t match.
- Your resume and cover letter were the wrong lengths.
- Your approach to the job was too generic.
- Your presentation and attitude were off.
- You dismissed ‘lower-level’ staff and they snitched.
- You showed up too early or too late.
- Your application had omissions or mistakes.
- You didn’t reach out to relevant contacts.
- You didn’t send a follow-up message.
Do any of these reasons sound familiar? Is that what happened to you? Tell us in the comments!