Monday, March 15, 2010

Why Didn’t I Get the Job Offer?

We all have been there at one time of another. We believed that we ‘aced’ the interview> We answered every question in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, and yet, we didn’t get an offer. We replay the entire interview in our heads and wonder to ourselves, “What did or didn't I say or do that lost it for me?” We thought about chatting to the hiring manager to ask why, but experience has taught us that because companies are too afraid of lawsuits to give us any meaningful feedback, we are left frustrated, disappointed and disenchanted.

While there can be hundreds of reasons you didn't get the job, most situations fall under the following categories:
  1. Stronger competitor
  2. Non-verbal communication
  3. Changed job description
  4. "Nice-to-haves"
  5. Poor interview
  6. The interview process was a company ‘requirement’
  7. The company decided to ‘fishing’ to see what’s out there
  8. You are overqualified

Stronger competitor: Know that you have no control over this situation. You can control how you present yourself, but you will never have any control who else interviews. With the number of résumés companies get for each position, you can expect that you will see strong competition, and that you will lose some opportunities to a stronger competitor.


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. Hiring managers will make judgments based upon any number or combination of factors even before the candidate has a chance to start answering questions. Some of the most ‘influential’ factors include the following:
  • Walk - Does the candidate walk with self-confidence?
  • Posture - Does the candidate look comfortable in the interview chair? Is the candidate sitting upright? Hiring managers will interpret a candidate’s slouchy posture as an indication that the candidate’s work will be sloppy and that the candidate has low self-esteem. If the candidate is leaning back in his seat with his legs crossed at the knee, hiring managers with interpret this body language to mean that the candidate is too relaxed for an interview setting and the candidate is unlikely to get hr job.
  • Handshake - Does the candidate have a firm handshake or one that feels like a limp fish? The candidate’s handshake should assure the hiring manager of the candidate’s desire for a positive first interaction and impression. A limp handshake signals low confidence and low self-esteem while an excessively strong handshake may inadvertently tell the hiring manager that the candidate is overly aggressive or trying to steamroll their way into a position with the company.
  • Interview etiquette - Does the candidate wait to be asked to have a seat before they sit down? Candidates should never take a seat until they are asked. How much space was taken up with the candidate’s note-taking folder? Candidates should pay attention to the amount of ‘personal space’ they are taking up. Candidates should resist the urge to spread out their belongings all over the desk. Hiring managers may also make decisions on candidates based upon which position the candidate tool at the interview table.
  • Clothing and accessory choice - Regardless of the work environment, a professional job candidate needs to wear an outfit that looks like the job they want to have rather than the job they have had in the past.. The selected outfit is often seen as a signal to the hiring manager of how well the candidate will interact with and be perceived by co-workers and/or customers. Candidates should also know that the accessories chosen by job seeker will either telegraph professionalism – or they won’t. Candidates should carry a brief case, use a leather portfolio, and use a nice pen. Shoes that are clean and shined also add to a solid, professional appearance. These little details tell hiring managers that the candidate cared enough to want to make a good first impression.
  • Grooming and Fragrance choice - Makeup, perfume, and jewellery, worn tastefully, can add to the hiring manager’s perception of the candidate’s professionalism. Dirty fingernails or scuffed shoes tell hiring managers that the job seeker is careless, too hurried, or unaware of the impression they have on others.
  • Personal Space - Hiring managers also watch for the listening and interactive behaviour of candidates. Candidates should appear engaged by leaning slightly forward in their chair to close some of the distance between themselves and the interviewer.
  • Facial Expressions - Hiring managers hire employees whose facial expressions are consistent with and punctuate her words. Candidates that fail to match their facial expressions with the words spoken can be seen as an indication that the candidate is uncomfortable or perhaps lying – neither are desirable behaviours in a candidate.
  • Eye Contact - Hiring managers want an employee who can maintain comfortable eye contact without staring or forced attentiveness. If the candidate spends the interview with his eyes moving all over the room and rarely making eye contact, the hiring manager will interpret this behaviour as a lack of confidence, or worse, that the candidate just doesn’t care. A candidate that never makes eye contact and/or talks to a spot over the shoulder of the hiring manager is seen as uncomfortable and demonstrating a lack of confidence, while long, forced eye contact on the part on the candidate can indicate an overly aggressive person who does not care about your comfort.
  • Attentiveness - Hiring managers expect that the candidate will listen to the questions asked. Did the candidate hear the question? Did the candidate succinctly and share stories, or ramble incessantly off topic? The former tells the hiring manager that the candidate is prepared for the interview and has success stories to share. The latter signals unprepared, ill at ease, or that the candidate didn’t care enough to pay attention.

Changed job description: Somewhere between when a job description was written and when the winning candidate is chosen, something about the job description changes. This is also frustrating to a candidate who planned a résumé and an interview presentation around a specific set of facts only to have the facts changed. Although candidates should expect business needs to evolve and change as competitive environments change, that personnel changes happen, and that with time, more information is gained to define the situation, it is impossible for a candidate to prepare for these types of changes within the organization in advance of the interview.


"Nice-to-haves": Another factor is the "nice-to-haves" skills. These particular skills were not even considered by the hiring manager, until they saw these skills on a résumé. As the hiring managers are privy to the future plans and directions of the organization, they may rethink their original ‘wish list’ and begin to consider a skill set put forward by candidate to address upcoming projects These "Nice-to-have" skills are the something extra, that can make the difference between the top candidate and the rest of the pack. During the interview process, candidates will be given the opportunity to ask about projects are coming up in the next 6 months to a year. By asking about future projects, the candidate will be given the opportunity to show off their own "nice-to-have" skills that may not have been articulated in the original job advertisement.

Poor interview: Most candidates are unaware of how they appear to an interviewer. If possible, a candidate’s best preparation includes practice interviews that are videotaped, if possible, and critiqued by trusted friends. Candidates can never prepare or practice too much for an interview.

The interview process was a company requirement: Another situation wherein the candidate has no control occurs when the company adversities for a position that is already destined to be filled by another, usually internal, candidate. The company wants to give the appearance that the completion for the position is unbiased and fair, but the reality is that it just isn’t. Candidates who find themselves in this position should take advantage of this opportunity and see the interview process as ‘practice’ for the real thing.

The company is ‘fishing’: Just as employed individuals will occasionally apply for jobs when they are not really looking, companies will also post a job opportunity just to see what is out there in terms of candidates. Companies may simply want to increase their pool of suitable candidates for upcoming projects. If during this ‘fishing’ expedition, the company finds a ‘fish worth keeping’ they may fast track their upcoming plans and hire the candidate for short term projects, both allow the employee to prove themselves as well as help ensure that the new employee is a good fit for the company.

You are overqualified: Yes, it does happen. Hiring managers will be reluctant to hire candidates who are over qualified for two reasons:
  1. The hiring managers are fearful that you are more qualified to do their job than they are and they fear that if they hire you, you will take over their position and they don’t want/need the competition.
  2. The hiring managers believe that the job is too far below your skill set and that you will ‘jump’ at the first opportunity that is more suited to your skill set and they will find themselves in the position of having to find yet another suitable candidate within a few months.

There are a number of reasons why you aren’t getting the job offers you believe you deserve. Know that there is no way that you can control many of them. Just know that your situation is temporary and that every, ”Thanks for coming in but we have decided to grant the opportunity to another candidate who is more suited to the company’s needs” brings you one step closer to, “Yes, when can you start?’