Why You Didn’t Get The Job

Why You Didn’t Get The Job

Over the course of his career, Dave Fecak has scheduled thousands of interviews at a wide array of companies and organisations. In that time, he has learned that while no two managers look for the exact same set of skills or behaviours, recognisable patterns emerge when a candidate isn’t offered the job.

The examples of feedback below are things I have heard repeatedly over the years, and tend to be the leading causes of failed interviews across industries.

Candidate has wide breadth but little depth — The “jack of all trades” response is not uncommon, particularly for folks that have perhaps bounced from job to job a little too much. Having experience working in diverse environments is almost always a positive, but only if you are there long enough to take some deeper skills and experience away with you. Companies will seek depth in at least some subset of your overall skill set.

Candidate displayed a superiority complex or sense of entitlement — This seems most common when a candidate will subtly (or perhaps not so subtly) express that they may be unwilling to do certain tasks, or when a candidate confesses an interest in exclusively working within a set of boundaries. Candidates that are perceived as team players may mention preferences, but will also be careful to acknowledge their willingness to perform any relevant tasks that need to be done.

Candidate showed a lack of passion — The lack of passion comment has various applications. Sometimes the candidate is perceived as apathetic about an opportunity or uninterested in the hiring company, or often it is described as what seems to be an overall apathy for the profession. Regardless of the source of apathy, this perception is hard to overcome. If a candidate has no passion for the business, the technology, or the people, chances are the interview is a waste of time.

Candidate talked more about the accomplishments of co-workers — This piece of feedback seems to be going viral lately. Candidates apparently ramble on about other groups’ success, yet they fail to dig deep into what their own contribution was. This signifies to interviewers that perhaps this candidate is either the least productive member of the team or is simply unable to describe their own duties. Give credit where it is due to your peers, but be sure to focus on your own accomplishments first.

Candidate seems completely unaware of anything that happens beyond his/her desk — Repeatedly using answers such as “I don’t know who did that” or “I’m not sure how that worked” can be an indicator that the candidate is insulated in his/her role, or doesn’t have the curiosity to learn what others are doing in their company. As most employers tend towards heavy collaboration these days, this lack of information will be a red flag.

Candidate’s claimed experience not reflecting candidate’s actual experience — Embellishing the résumé is nothing new. A blatant lie on a résumé is obviously a serious no-no, but even some minor exaggerations or vague inaccuracies can come back and bite you. The most common example is when a candidate includes technologies or buzzwords on a resume that they know nothing about. Including items in a skills matrix that are not representative of your current skill set is seen as dishonest by hiring managers.

Candidate’s experience is not “transferable” — If you have worked in the same company for many years without any fundamental changes in the environment, this could be you. The interviewer in this case feels that you may be productive in your current environment, but when given a different set of tools, methodologies, and team members, the candidate may encounter too steep a learning curve.

Do you have anything to add to the list? Tell us in the comments.

Why You Didn’t Get the Job [Job Tips For Geeks]

Dave Fecak is an independent recruiter and consultant that specialises in working with software firms primarily in the Philadelphia area. Dave is also the founder/JUGmaster of the Philadelphia Area Java Users’ Group. His blog is JobTipsForGeeks and he tweets at @fecak.


    • Completely true. This article was intended just to give candidates an idea of what some pitfalls are in the process. You certainly can not control if you are outmatched by a more qualified candidate, but perhaps some of these tips will make a difference. I have had clients admittedly hire not just based on pure talent, but likeability or passion.

  • Candidate tricked us with a western sounding name.
    Yeah, at my work at the moment they are looking for a new staff member. If your not white, don’t bother. Apparently it “cheapens the company”.

    Disgusting. Has me looking for a new job to be honest. Which makes this article really helpful!

  • As much as companies/organisations try to deny it, I have had more than a few turn me down for my ethnic background. I once received a “no-thanks” letter that said they were not looking for any more international applicants which kinda threw me because not only am I a citizen, I’ve done pretty much all my education here since I was 4… but *shrugs*
    Often racial/ethical discrimination isn’t obvious until you’re on the other side of the fence either working for the company or being part of their recruitment process. It’s very easy to say other candidates had a better skill set/knowledge base, but everyone at that panel knew the reason we weren’t hiring “Joe Bloggs” was that he had a thick accent and came from country XYZ.
    Similarly, I’ve turned down plenty of candidates who did not know their limits. It’s one thing to know what you know and be able to exemplify it, but it’s a whole other thing to know what you don’t know and hence know when to ask for help. The sheer number of people who are too sure of themselves or lack the insight into what they should/shouldn’t be doing is astounding.
    Just my 2p

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