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Didn't Get the Job? 8 Possible Reasons You Weren't Hired

Nicole Fallon

One of the most disappointing moments for a job seeker is finding out that a position he or she really wanted — and perhaps even interviewed for — has been filled by another candidate. Sometimes you can trace it back to a mistake you made during the hiring process, or sometimes it's simply a matter of bad timing. Either way, it means you're back to square one with your job search.

Upon receiving the news, you may wonder where you went wrong. It could have been an off-handed comment you made during the interview, or perhaps you were a little too bold in the questions you asked. To help you pinpoint your mistake, career experts shared some common errors candidates make that often influence a hiring manager's final position.

Why it might be your fault

Focusing too much on yourself. You may have explained to family and friends why this particular job would have been the perfect one for you, but a hiring manager doesn't care about what the role will do for you. If you talk too much about that, and not what you can do for the company, you won't leave a very good impression.

"The hiring company is focused on what business needs this position will help address, not on whether this job will fit all of your personal criteria," said Shawnice Meador, director of career and leadership services at MBA@UNC, an online program offered by the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School. "Put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes, and try to answer and ask questions that are relevant to them, not you."

Behind the scenes you should assess whether this position will fulfill your personal and professional goals as well, but don't make that the focus of your interview, Meador added.

Not being engaging enough. One of the biggest reasons an https://www.businessnewsdaily.com is a failure to truly engage the hiring manager. If you're using a lot of filler words like "um" or rattling off what sounds like a rehearsed script about your experiences, your interviewer is likely not going to be interested in what you have to say.

"If [a hiring manager] gives you an opportunity to sell and market yourself and it's not an engaging conversation, it's probably not a good sign," said Cristin Sturchio, global head of talent at business research company Cognolink. "There's a difference between answering a question and telling an inspiring story about yourself."

Asking presumptuous questions. Hiring managers always appreciate when a candidate asks thoughtful questions about the job and the company during an interview. However, it's not a good idea to ask questions about vacation time, remote work options or other workplace perks up front.

"It is in your best interest to not ask any questions like this in your interview process," Meador told Business News Daily. "The nature of the questions infers that you think you will receive the offer, and that decision has not yet been made. These questions are certainly important, but are not relevant until you have the offer in hand."

Giving long-winded answers. When you're answering an interview question, you may think it's wise to give as thorough and detailed a response as possible. You don't need to be too concise, but there's a point at which your answer may become too long-winded, and it's up to you to know when to stop yourself.

"Be self-aware enough to know when you've answered the question," said Bryan Lewis, Cognolink's chief operating officer. "Look for verbal cues to see if the interviewer is engaged."

"It's always nice after [you] answer to say, 'Did that make sense?'" Sturchio added.

Why it might not be your fault

In some cases, losing out on a position was entirely beyond your control. You may have been the perfect candidate in your mind, but even if the interview went well, the company ultimately decided that someone else was a better fit. Here are a few possible reasons the hiring manager went in a different direction that have nothing to do with your performance.

Hiring freeze. In some cases, the company may ultimately decide that the advertised position is unnecessary, or extenuating circumstances dictate that the employer or team can no longer hire a new staff member. You may not even know this has happened before you are told that the job is not available.

"For various reasons, companies may place a hiring freeze in a particular department or across the entire company," Meador said. "Sometimes these are for short-term cost-saving measures, in anticipation of an upcoming reorganization, in preparation for an unannounced acquisition or other business-related drivers. Hiring freezes may or may not be announced, and often companies keep the postings live on their websites during these times."

Overqualification. If you're a career changer looking to start over in a new industry, an employer may think you are too experienced, or require more money than the company can offer for an entry-level position, said Kerry Hannon, job expert for AARP and author of "Love Your Job: The New Rules of Career Happiness" (Wiley, forthcoming 2015).

"Both of these things are likely to be true," Hannon said. "[Employers worry] you will be resentful if you're underemployed or not making enough. If they say you're overqualified, [try] applying to a nonprofit, which a lot of people do in their second career."

Preference for a "known" or internal candidate. You may have been perfectly qualified for the job you interviewed for, but the old adage, "It's all about who you know" often applies in the hiring process. Meador noted that some companies have a strategy to fill a certain percentage of positions with internal candidates, and that external candidates are interviewed for due diligence purposes to ensure that the current employee is the right choice. Other times, candidates with a connection are more likely to get the job.

"Networking needs to be a huge component of your job search strategy," Meador said. "When people have done this well, they will have an advantage during an interview process. There is less risk hiring a known entity, and sometimes hiring managers lean toward the 'sure thing' versus the unknown."

Changing organizational needs. When the hiring process gets stalled at an organization, you might come into the picture too late for the company to still need a candidate.

"In certain circumstances, the company wants to hire and it takes forever," Sturchio said. "[The hiring manager] doesn't find the right person, and by the time they do, the business needs have changed."

In other cases, the company may be looking to fill a highly specific skill gap that may not necessarily be a part of the standard industrywide job description.

"Smart managers look to bring together a diverse set of skills, perspectives and experiences through their staff members," Meador said. "You may be a great candidate in general for a job, however you may not have deep enough experience in a particular area like project management, which may be a gap area the hiring manager is trying to fill via this hire."

What to do next

Although you may not have landed this job, going through the application and interview process wasn't a complete waste of your time. Lewis reminded candidates that every interview is a learning experience, and advised making a note of the questions you were asked and how you answered them to use as preparation for future interviews. Similarly, Meador said that some hiring managers are willing to offer genuine insight into why they chose a different person if you request it, so if your contact gives feedback, be sure to listen and take it into account next time.

Meador also noted that, if you really wanted to work for the company that turned you down, staying in touch could give you an in for future opportunities.

"If you made a positive impression during the interview process, you have a high probability of being remembered in that organization," Meador said. "That particular job may not have worked out this time, but you never know what sort of organizational changes may occur in the future."

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Nicole Fallon
business.com Member
Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.