Stumped About Why You Didn’t Get Hired? | Here’s the Back Story

To many job candidates, the all important hiring decision is a mystery. More often than not hiring managers don’t say much about the factors they considered. In January 2010, I wrote this post to lift the veil a bit, clear the air, and add some motivation.

Myth: The job candidate who flat out “nails” the interview gets the job.

Truth: The decision about who gets the job is, well, complicated. 

For all the years that I was a senior manager at a Fortune 500, every time I didn’t select internal candidates who thought they had the “right stuff,” I was questioned. Actually grilled!

Filling job vacancies from an internal or external candidate pool isn’t as simple as having an opening, interviewing candidates, and picking one. It would be nice if all business decision-making were linear, but it’s not.

It’s not always about you!

A lot goes on behind the scenes in the hiring process and it’s different in every organization.  (I’m not here to judge either the ethics or the efficacy of those processes.)

It’s just important that, as candidates, we understand that these are business decisions, not personal ones.

Typical reasons why candidates aren’t selected

The hiring manager knew the person s/he wanted from the outset. 

Many companies have a mandated hiring process whenever there’s a vacancy. The preferred candidate participates in the process along with others, although his/her selection may be a foregone conclusion.

That may sound unfair, but if you are a competing candidate, it still gives you a platform for showing your stuff. How you perform in the interview will be remembered and can one day work in your favor.

The company wants to develop a high potential employee or add diversity. 

All companies need to build a bench so they can fill sensitive positions down the road. They look for candidates who have the potential to take on increasing responsibilities or need to broaden their company knowledge.

For those companies that have been slow to incorporate diversity into their workforce and their management ranks, vacancies are an opportunity to remedy that. In both cases, these are business best practices that can add needed capabilities.

Once again, simply by being a participant in the candidate pool, you gain important visibility.

You don’t complement the “chemistry” of the hiring manager’s work group.

The ability of people to work effectively together is important to every hiring manager. Any time a new person is added to the mix, the “chemistry” of the group changes. You may have great capabilities, but if your work style and personality don’t “fit” well within the team, then you will likely not get selected.

The hiring manager doesn’t feel comfortable about supervising you. 

This is a very personal thing. Hiring managers don’t get many perks. The one they do get is to hire people who will make their work life more pleasant and easier. So if there are two equally qualified candidates, they will likely say to themselves, “When I come to work on a bad day, which one of these two people do I want to deal with?” That will be the tie-breaker.

Why this is so hard to swallow. 

If these realities are frustrating to you, I understand. Remember, for you the hiring process is solely about you getting the job. For the business the decision is multifaceted. The best hiring decisions weigh the potential for the candidate to take on increasingly more complex work and then to be ready for advancement in a reasonable period of time.

The only piece of the hiring process that you control is yourself. 

Because there are so many variables contributing to the hiring decision, your best course of action is to simply do your best. Pay attention to the way the process is conducted, the questions you are asked, the responses and feedback you receive. Build on those insights.

Remember: Hiring decisions are business decisions. So don’t take them personally.Your best approach while job hunting is to:

  • Be prepared
  • Present yourself well
  • Have confidence
  • Keep at it

In time the right position under the right company circumstances will present itself, and you will be well-positioned to accept it. In the meantime, throw off your frustration and concentrate on becoming a candidate to be reckoned with!

Photo from Giulia Torra via Flickr

8 thoughts on “Stumped About Why You Didn’t Get Hired? | Here’s the Back Story

  1. I agree completely regarding “fit” and “do I want to supervise you”. At an interview, if you say anything that might lead the interviewer to believe that you’d be a high-maintenance employee, They won’t select you. How do you avoid appearing to be high-maintenance? Don’t ask about things like the size of your desk or office, how many breaks you’ll get, how much sick time you’ll be given, etc. Once you’re at the interview, you can assume you’re qualified. After that, it’s all about fit.

    • What a wonderful comment, Jeffrey. I love your caution about not saying things in the interview that indicate that you could be a “high-maintenance employee.” So true. It makes an interviewer cringe when during the interview the candidate asks about “the size of your desk or office, how many breaks you’ll get, how much sick time you’ll be given.” That’s a sure sign that the candidate’s focus is on what the company can do for him/her instead of what s/he can contribute to the company. So, many thanks for reinforcing the importance of “fit” and adding all those terrific examples. ~Dawn

    • Hi! Kathy–I love your comment that “we are not the center of the universe” or even the hiring process, even though we’d like to think we are. It’s still about walking in the other person’s shoes more often than not. Such a simple concept and often so hard to act on. Great to hear from you! ~Dawn

  2. Definitely food for thought. It will really help job applicants realize that the interview and hiring process is more complicated than it appears and also help them see that if they didn’t get the job, that doesn’t mean that they made a mistake during the interview.

    • Your recap of the highlights of this post are quite correct, Susan. There is very little in the business world that is a simple as it seems or that we’d like it to be and that includes the hiring process. I appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks. ~Dawn

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