“Why didn’t I get the job?”
That’s the mystery when the interview seemed to go well, but then the hiring manager tells you that despite your obvious skills, they “decided to go in a different direction.”
We recommend that you follow up a rejection with a respectful question, asking for useful feedback that will assist you in your ongoing job search. The hiring company or recruiter may or may not give you a complete answer, though, because sometimes the reason doesn’t have anything to do with you.
If the reason for not getting hired is something you can control, turn the disappointment into a learning experience. If not, disengage emotionally from it and move on.
Reasons for not getting hired that you can control
You revealed lack of knowledge about the company
It’s good to ask questions during an interview, but make sure they are informed questions. If you’ve done your homework, you will already know its size, its history, what it does, and who leads it. Ask about something beyond what can easily be found on their website.
You didn’t sell yourself
Your resume is a marketing document, and your interview is a demo of your communication style and soft skills. You have unique value. Don’t be shy about saying what that is. Remember, effective sales messaging focuses on benefits, not features. Communicate how you will benefit this employer.
You oversold yourself
On the flip side, no one likes a pressure job. Job candidates who are overconfident and pushy don’t win job offers either. It could backfire, too, by coming across as desperate and less than authentic.
You exhibited a negative attitude
When the candidate badmouths a previous employer or former coworkers, hiring managers will assume that toxic attitude will pollute their team, and they will avoid it like poison. Even if your experience was negative, a job interview is not the place to share it.
Bad attitude also manifests in discourtesy. It’s common for hiring managers to check with front desk associates to see how job candidates treated them. Disrespecting the receptionist is a surefire way to not get hired.
When asking, “Why didn’t I get the job?” — sometimes the reasons are not about you
Liz Ryan, former HR senior VP, advises in her Forbes article, “The Real Reason You Didn’t Get the Job,” that losing out on getting hired does not necessarily mean you didn’t interview well, there was something wrong with you, or even that someone else was better qualified. The reason could be internal to the company, such as:
Lack of clarity on who they need
Companies that start the hiring process with less than clarity might rewrite their job descriptions after they start interviewing. Now they are looking for someone else, and you are no longer the right fit.
Sometimes a leader in a company will have a preferred candidate already in mind. Yet they go through a hiring process to give an appearance of objectivity.
It’s possible, says Ryan, that a highly qualified, highly professional job candidate will make an insecure hiring manager wonder, “Will this person make me look bad if I hire him or her into the department?” This is a subtle variation of the “over-qualified” reason.
Occasionally a management or ownership shakeup might start after the hiring process has begun. The company does not want the public to know about it yet, but it temporarily stalls bringing on a new team member until new leadership is in place.
When the answer to “Why didn’t I get the job?” has to do with something you can control, think of it as an opportunity to improve for your next interview. You may never know if not getting the job has to do with internal workings of the potential employer, but allow that possibility to set you free from over-stressing about it.
Keep filling your application pipeline, keep stepping forward, and keep your confidence
At Bradsby Group, we match highly qualified candidates to companies with highly professional hiring processes. Send us your resume and we will look forward to the day we can celebrate with you as you hear, “You’re hired.” Contact us today to see what career opportunities we have.
For more insights, read our Candidate Tools resource.