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7 Surprising Reasons You Didn’t Get An Interview For The Job

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It’s natural to wonder the reasons you didn’t get an interview – or perhaps make it to the second round – for a job you thought was a perfect fit. While I always feel it’s best to ask the hiring manager what went wrong, do a little self-analysis first. Didn’t get a call back for the job?

1. You Didn’t Follow-Up, And Someone Else Did

At every part of the job search process, it’s important to follow up with the hiring manager. My general rule of thumb is to state you will follow up in one week on your cover letter. Thereafter, it’s appropriate to follow up once a week for a few weeks. You can e-mail the manager, give them a call, or even write them a small thank you note and drop it in the mail. A follow-up can make the difference between landing a job and being another submission in the pile.

2. You Didn’t Sell Yourself

When you walked into the interview, were you just desperate for a job, any job? Hiring managers can tell if you aren’t necessarily interested in their open position, and they will ask you questions accordingly. You need to be prepared to answer what your short-term and long-term goals are, how you can help the company and why your past experience makes you ready for this position. You also need to identify any weaknesses or areas of inexperience you have. Tell the hiring manager why they don’t need to worry about these.

3. The Position Was Filled By An Employee Referral

More often than not, referrals end up getting the job over online applicants.

4. You Didn’t Seem Passionate Or Interested Enough

Did you ask questions about the organization? Did you research it well, and identify how you can be of service to the company? Although job searching can be a frustrating and long process, you still need to convey your interest for the organization and position in order to seem like an ideal candidate.

5. You Didn’t Listen

A big red flag to a hiring manager is a candidate who doesn’t really answer the questions they’re asking. You need to be completely focused on all aspects of your search, whether it’s an e-mail correspondence or an interview.

6. You Didn’t Have Any Stories To Share

When managers ask about specific situations you’ve been in or mistakes you’ve made, you need to have a few interesting stories ready to tell them. Compile these stories from past experience and education.

7. You Didn’t Seem Natural

Smile. Relax. Take a breath. These sound simple—but many people can’t seem to do them in an interview! A hiring manager wants to get to know you, the real you. Although you still need to be professional, don’t be afraid to act naturally and be relatable.

What else would you add to this list? Have you done one of these and it cost you the job?


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Heather Huhman

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy.

20 comments

  1. I have applied just in the last month to every single place in this damn city. One call for an interview. One and it’s been 9 days. The manager said he’d call either way (yeah, right!). I just don’t get what I’m doing wrong. I hope I don’t come off as desperate even though I am.

  2. I’ve noticed that a lot of job postings seem to be geared toward internal personnel. You need to know the company, its business and details that ONLY someone who works there would know. If that’s the case, WHY do they post their INTERNAL job postings on-line?

  3. Another one is: the position was filled by a current employee. If a company is surplussed in one department, they’d generally rather fill an opening by transferring people around than bringing in a new hire, which is more costly.

  4. As we know, job hunting is a job within its self. It can be mentally and psychologically damaging to ones self esteem, time and resources. I know that hiring managers have a very difficult task of collecting resumes, reviewing resumes and applications, selecting potential applicants and preparing for the interview process. But, throughout this process, I believe those that have jobs and make the decisions forget the human element.

    Yes, we all want to hire the best and most talented for a position, but people are humans and we have short comings in all things that we do. It use to be a common courtesy to give a call back or send a letter of rejection, but we have evolved into not caring that the applicant first is need of a job. Second, the applicant too has spent precious time and resources by searching and wait for the right position to apply for. Third, the applicant may have gone through as many as 4 draining interviews with many different people within the same company to only be rejected. Then add injury to insult, the applicant will not been informed of the rejection nor knows why they were rejected at all. The truth will hurt for a minute but being told the truth as to why you were not chosen will help an individual in the long run. Honesty has always been the best policy, but that has been so lost never to be found in the world today! What a shame!

    People have grown careless, irresponsible, selfish and despicable in our ways with each other and all most can say is “oh well”, and move on to the next one to devour and destroy.

  5. I do hiring and I’m a career coach and can talk from my point of view. I agree it’s rude of a company not to respond or reply to someone who came in for an interview. I would never do that. Once someone shows that initiative, they should be told quickly if they were not hired. Sometimes, the company decides you are not right for the position but they still haven’t filled it yet. So they feel funny about saying that. It’s easier to say the “position has been filled”. Most candidates think their experience fits the job even if it doesn’t, but if you don’t get called back then you don’t have SOMETHING the employer is looking for – could be a personality fit with the other workers there. They are already employed there and the new person has to fit with them, not the other way around. Or they think you have too much experience and will want too much money or won’t take direction. Some managers are afraid of people who are too ambitious or they think you won’t stay long and they’ll have to rehire in a year. You don’t really know and cannot take it too personally. It’s a numbers game and you must move on. Read everything about interviewing that you can. Practice with a coach.
    It’s not possible to answer every email from applicants (those that didn’t get a call or interview.) It’s a sad fact but the hirer is paying the bills and spending hours calling applicants to be nice is not what they are paying for.

    • Yes, it is rude for a company not to respond. In a small way, perhaps, this example can show that hiring managers are not all a heartless breed. In Vancouver BC, I resigned from my position to accept a position in Montreal. The manager in Vancouver asked me to help him to hire my replacement. He gave me 30 resumes and asked me to pick five. He would then select three and we could interview the three candidates. I was very impressed with the quality of each candidate and with the effort that went into each of the 30 resumes and cover letters. I felt that with the right coaching, each candidate could do the work. When we completed the process and hired the candidate, my manager gave me time to respond to each of the 30 submissions. I searched the Internet for the best letters that declined the services of a candidate. I created a boilerplate that made up half of our letter of declination. The second half was personal, based on the positives that we observed in that person’s resume. We led with a paragraph with some details about the qualifications of the candidate we chose. We had to be careful here and not leave ourselves open to challenge. Only one person, the one we hired, had aviation experience and this was a key point of differentiation that no one could argue. We mentioned that we carefully reviewed each of the 30 submissions and spent at least a full 15 minutes on each resume. We tried to give back value to the candidate. My manager was exceptional to allow me the time to do this. I hope that in your employment search, you might have one or two very positive experiences with a company even if you are not hired. It does come down to numbers: statistically, the job is there for you. In Vancouver, statistically, you might get 15 nos before you get a yes. In Montreal, you night get 10 nos before you get a yes. Every no counts as a step toward the yes. Persist! I encourage you!

    • Greetings Lynn! So glad you are here. I got a rejection from a company and with the email stated below. I felt my experience matched the qualifications as I have 4 years of experience after college and have worked in jobs providing customer service, corrdinated projects, sold Cutco knifes and serve as Crisis Services Volunteer. I wonder why I was rejected and wondering how to best ask them. Thanks! Below is a sample email from the HR Director. Thanks!

      Good Afternoon,

      Thank you for your interest in Rubicon Global. We have processed your resume and unfortunately, we feel that that Rubicon and the position we desire to fill are not a great fit with your background and skill set. We’re confident that you will secure a position that’s just right for you. We’ll keep your information in our files in the event we feel that one of our future postings matches your background.

      Best,

    • As someone who has been on the sidelines for a while, and has become frustrated with the job search process, I appreciate the thoughtful explanation given from the hiring manager’s point of view. I disagree with the final statement, regarding the lack of response from the hiring manager, which just appears to be a weak excuse, and questionable fact. The reply is not about being “nice”, it is about being professional. Even a simple “Thank you for your interest…” form letter should suffice. Otherwise, this is a well-written explanation that I keep in mind as my job search continues. Thank you.

  6. I think body language is so key in job interviews. Although I was never in the position of hiring someone (and I am a job hunter at this time), a recent incident jarred the importance of this factor in my head. I was awaiting a ride at a local hub when a young 20something lady in a suit approached me and tried to sell me on providing donations to her “charitable organization”. She showed me fliers and a binder chock full of information. For one, I’d never ever donate any funds to a complete stranger on the street; I marked this woman as a scam artist and have seen her ilk before in other public venues, walking out and about with their clip binders. I noticed that she seemed bright and cheery, but one “tick” of hers that irked me as a potential “victim” was that she constantly kept clearing her throat as she provided her presentation. Now, I’m a guy but hearing this constantly in her schpiel unnerved me. At the end, I politely declined her offer and she walked on. I felt at that moment, that no matter how smart, youthful and attractive she appeared, I would, if I had the power, never hire her for my company. A little body language thing like that would prove much too annoying for me to put up with 8 hours a day in my office, and here I had a snapshot of this.

  7. I appreciate the attention paid to the reasons one did not get a job. This is a good reminder of dealing with the things I can do something about and letting go of what I can’t control (internal applicants, etc.)

    I would say, however, that it is really frustrating for job searchers to get no response at all after taking time to prepare and participate in interviews. It really affects the BRAND that the business is trying to promote: responsiveness, integrity, communicative, involved in the community, etc.

    Here is a good example: I received a referral from a friend for a part-time job. I revised my resume, submitted it online, contacted the hiring manager (letting him know that I was interested, that I’d been referred and that I had completed the requirements for their Taleo system.) He said that he’d be in touch in a week..and he wasn’t. So I phoned again and left a message. And four days later, another message. I gave up.
    I received an automated e-mail reply in LATE FEBRUARY from the Taleo system saying that they filled the post.

    Does this affect the way I think of that business? Absolutely! And recruiters/ hiring managers need to realize that job seekers will eventually find jobs, perhaps becoming decision-makers who would opt NOT to use that non-responsive company because they are ineffective at managing primary responsibilities/ functions of a business: communication and managing human resources.

    Just my $0.02

    • Deenie- I love your comment!!! So true.

      Majority of employers leave applicants dangling with no intention of ever letting them know how the story ended. I have received very few letters and not a single phone call to let me know that they have chosen another applicant. I do appreciate the letters so that I can mark them off of my list of potential jobs.

      Job searching can be such an emotional roller coaster and I think some employers have forgotten that one day they were the job seeker.

      Di

      • Good one Di and Deenie. I can so feel such especially when I have a longtime family friend and internal contact at the local Mental Health Center who has helped me get two different job interviews at the Center, but the most frustrating thing is not being followed up or being told I didn’t get the job and why despite giving a thank you letter right away after my interview and following up time to time. I was thinking why the h must this ever dare happen when networking is being utilized and my internal contact is helping me and she being so recognized and golden in the community???? I always hear how majority of jobs found these days are through networking and I roll my eyes and wonder what’s the deal in these cases? It would be good if I can secure an opening here and especially after the CEO of the center who spoke at a workshop told me not to get discouraged and encouraged me to keep applying and same with what a Clinical Director said. Wish it would be great when despite networking and interest in the field with my Sociology-Psychology Bachelor’s and interest in Mental Health to actually get a job even with an internal contact there and me making the effort.

        Big Question:
        What does one do or how can applicants secure a job if many applicants competing for the same job all have a close tie with the same internal contact at the organization?

  8. What I want to know is WHY I DON’T GET CALLED BACK ON MY SUBMISSIONS?

    I have recently submitted a cover letter and resume for 5 positions for which I was 100% qualified and have yet to year back on any of them. Okay, so 3 were 2 months ago and 2 were this week.

    I am not sitting on the phone or at the computer waiting to be called for interviews but it would be nice to be invited for an interview to PROVE MYSELF.

  9. I work in HR and the things I look for most would be #s 2,4, and 7. I want someone to sell me on their past experience(s) and/or ideas, then portray why they would be a fit for the position I am looking for, and finally be themselves. I do not want to hear the right answers, I want to to know how you think about, react to, and deal with issues.

  10. I did all the above, even had a second interview which lasted almost 2 hours. The interviewer told me he liked my energy and really hoped to work with me!! I never heard back from them again!!! I felt completely used, I felt they got a lot of information out of me and decided they could use the information without hiring me!!

  11. Lake has it right. 99% is number 3. All the rest would make up less than 1% of why you didn’t get the job call.

    In fact, the entire reason LinkedIn exist is number 3, isn’t it?

  12. Most likely # 3 . The last few companies I worked for would advertise, interview, and go through the motion. All along Joe who worked in accounting had a cousin whose wife was already 99% hired. Great resume, experience, follow up thank you will never top an “in” .

  13. Informative article.

    Also, be prepared for interviews that either the interviewers aren’t prepared and/or possibly inexperienced. This happened to me recently in an interview, making it very awkward; therefore, I didn’t interview very well. Be prepared to tell them a brief career history!

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