Friday, February 26, 2010

Why Didn't I Get The Job Offer? - Job search question of the week

On Fridays, I'm posting a job search question from one of our readers. This was a question posted in response to my posting on Linkedin Answers “Candidates - What's your most difficult job search question?”

J.S. shared a question he had about his own job search, and asked:

"What did or didn't I say or do that lost it for me? Why didn't I get the offer for the job?"

This situation has happened to all of us - it's happened to me in my career, and it's happened to every one of you. We felt like we crushed the interview, yet we didn't get the job. Because hiring managers are too busy (and too afraid of lawsuits) to give meaningful feedback, we're left frustrated, unfulfilled, and scratching our heads.

Read more ...

We've gone through the details of the interview, over and over, in our head, to our loved ones. And after all the analysis, when we thought we nailed it, only to find out that ... we didn't get it.

While there can be hundreds of reasons you didn't get the job, most situations fall under 5 categories:

  1. Stronger competitor
  2. Non-verbal communication
  3. Changed job description
  4. "Nice-to-haves"
  5. Poor interview
Stronger competitor: This is one you can't control. You can control how you present yourself, but you have no control who else interviews. With the number of resumes companies get for each position, expect that you'll see strong competition, and you'll lose some opportunities to a stronger competitor. While you can't control a stronger competitor, control what you can control.

Non-verbal communication: According to a number of studies conducted by Harvard University and University of Toledo, most hiring managers make their hire/non-hire decision in the first 2 to 30 seconds of the interview (see Mike Murray, a non-verbal communication coach I interviewed, described this as follows: “Most hiring managers don’t understand how they hire, because we have no concept of our own bias. Humans have a fundamental attribution error … we often don’t understand what motivates us to an action.”

What most of us call "gut feel" and hiring managers describe it as "fit", is impossible to define yet immediately recognizable. The concept of an undefinable "gut feel" can maddening to job seekers, because it's entirely subjective and not based on ability to do the job. Typically, most candidates who get an interview have the ability to do the job, and often 1/2 have the ability to do the job well. "Fit" is an emotional concept - how the candidate makes the hiring manager feel.

Almost certainly, the hiring manager's 3 finalists all have the skills to do the basic job well. Therefore, the candidate who has the best "fit" usually wins. While there's no 100% sure fire solution to this issue for the candidate, I outline some ideas to increase your odds of achieving "fit" (see:

Changed job description: Somewhere between when a job description and when the winning candidate is chosen, something about the job description often changes. This is also frustrating to a candidate who planned a resume and an interview presentation around a specific set of facts - and the facts changed. It just seems unfair. Business needs evolve and change as competitive environments change, personnel change, more information is gained to define the situation - change is the one thing that's constant in life.

At the start of the interview, ask the hiring manager if any of the requirements of the position have changed, or changed in importance. Then ask why.

"Nice-to-haves": Another factor is the "nice-to-haves", or skills that weren't even recognized by the hiring manager, until they saw these skills on a resume. A light bulb went off in their head and they thought "That would be nice to have in six months for that project we have coming up". "Nice-to-haves" are something extra, that can make the difference between the top candidate and the rest of the pack. Ask the hiring manager about what projects are coming up in the next 6 months to a year, then show off your own "nice-to-haves." Also, you'll have better odds at hitting some "nice-to-haves" with a skills inventory section on your resume (see:

Poor interview: Most candidates are unaware of how they appear to an interviewer. Your best preparation is to have practice interviews videotaped, and watch them with someone who hires team members. Prepare and practice questions you anticipate, including the silly "what do you want to do in 5 years" questions.

Readers, do you have any suggestions to add on how to counter one of these 5 reasons you didn't get the job? What have you found that works?

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Jess Faith said...

very interesting ...

my problem I think is I manipulate group interviews.. as nobody usually sees the facts / problems in a business case, I conduct the group as I realise faster what matters and whats going on ..

none employers like to see how PROACTIVE or smart is a candidate (their position might shake .. ?)

love this blog

Peter said...

Another great post ...

One other reason may be lack of authenticity.

Sometimes the job may not even exist or the company simply wants to test out the market, maybe get some product ideas from a candidate and the interviewee is just fodder.

Researching the company, how long it's been in the country, how long it's been doing what it's doing or more important, how long they're been doing what you're applying to do better for them, may shed some light on the authenticity of the job.

Michael said...

First, nice post. I think this will be helpful to many people. As Peter said, I think one thing that can be added is that lack of authenticity. Some folks practice interviewing so much that their answers sound memorized. Sometimes in experienced interviewers assume that this is someone that has simply come up with pat answers for interview questions and that their answer is not authentic. Also, I've found that being arrogant in an interview is a big turn off. Sure, you might be the smartest person in the room, but let's face it, the folks you are interviewing with typicially have years of experience and even though you might not think so, they might very well be smarter than you. Nobody wants to work with a condescending know-it-all.

I guess both of these fall under the Poor Interview category, but it's worth pointing them out. While videotaping will normally catch the over practiced interviewer, many times the arrogant interviewer will not recognize the issue even when it is on videotape. Having someone else there to review the interview and then being able to accept the feedback is important.

Adams said...

Think about what makes you unique and what makes you stand out from the herd. With more people applying for the same positions, the paper work and the interviewing process for one job takes much longer than it used to. Less support staff also means a longer processing time. Be patient and understand the market and the economy. Times have changed.


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