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Brutally honest list of reasons you didn’t get the job interview or job offer

(BUSINESS NEWS) Job hunting is stressful and getting a good job offer can be life-altering. But when it’s taking forever and you feel frustrated, remember that you can only control what you can control.

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The reasons are infinite

Job hunting is one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life, right up there with a death in the family, divorce, and illness. There’s so much at stake, and it can be frustrating. In Austin, where we’re headquartered, we operate a popular tech job group where the most universal question is “why didn’t I get the job??”

In almost all cases, you’ll never really know why.

Sorry. That’s disheartening, but it’s true. The positive side is that it isn’t always your fault. So, we’ve crafted a massive list of reasons you didn’t get the job interview or job offer that you can learn from if you read from top to bottom (we promise this isn’t the same old garbage you already know).

Don’t let this list get you nervous, the idea is that there are infinitely complex numbers of reasons humans reject each other, many of which can’t be helped. Remember, the hiring person has a lot at stake, so does the employer (it costs a lot to hire, onboard, and retain employees), not just you.

The hiring process can be inhuman and indignant and your resume goes into a black hole or you never get feedback after a phone or in-person interview, but arm yourself with as much knowledge about the process and avoid as many objections as possible. We’re pulling for you!

Job hunting or career refining?

It’s the robot’s fault

1. Did you know that if you apply online that your resume goes through an applicant tracking system (ATS)? And if your resume didn’t match the job description (meaning none of the keywords they were looking for were used), the robots didn’t even give your resume to their HR human? Pay attention to job descriptions and tailor your resume to each application accordingly.

2. Sometimes the applicant tracking system (ATS) where you sent your application online kicked out a rejection letter without the hiring manager knowing. It happens.

3. You put your resume on one generic job search site that promises to send it to hundreds of employers (but is really just there to sell your information to third parties). At no point did you apply directly, through a third party recruiter, across various platforms, and so forth. Applying on some of the junk job search sites is not always applying (we don’t mean Indeed or Dice or reputable brands, but the “apply once to a trillion random jobs” platforms – be cynical).

It’s the hiring manager’s fault

4. Sometimes it really isn’t your fault, the recruiter or hiring manager is imperfect. That’s harsh, but you can’t guarantee that person will be perceptive or even professional. The overwhelming majority are really insanely good at their job, but they’re humans too, thus they’re fallible.

5. The hiring manager is petty and/or shallow and didn’t like the school you went to or the purse you were carrying or the car you pulled up in. You’ll never know you received a secret demerit.

It’s the company’s fault

6. Sometimes the company changes the job specifications in the middle of the process.

7. The company might have changed in the middle of the process.

Maybe the CEO is on the way out. Or there’s a temporary hiring freeze, but they can’t say that in public. Or their funding status is changing. Or the business just took a big hit and everyone’s scrambling.

8. They were never hiring to begin with and were using candidates for marketing ideas or free labor. It’s a sick practice that some companies commit.

9. Someone that no longer works there told you to start as a contractor and they’d consider you FT after 90 days, but it was never in writing and no one knows what you’re talking about and your contract is up and it’s not going to be renewed. You didn’t really get the job, amigo.

10. Your interview with the Chief Hug Officer about how many stars you give yourself as a leader wasn’t the appropriate number of stars and they didn’t want to hug you after all. Or your phone interview with the 18 year old social media intern where you couldn’t name any Marvel characters rubbed them the wrong way. Companies have unique interviewing methods that involve humans, and some are just plain silly.

11. The company’s not willing to accept your type of Visa or citizenship status.

It’s timing’s fault

12. There was a candidate interviewed before you applied that they really like and are waiting for an offer acceptance from. And now they have said yes and you’re out and sad, and I’m sorry.

13. Someone else took precedent (an internal hire, an ex-colleague, or someone the CEO said they know and is the new hire no matter what).

It’s someone else’s fault

14. Someone unexpectedly gave you a bad reference and you may never know about it.

It’s your fault

15. Let’s start with the obvious repetitive junk you already know – you have a bad resume or cover letter. There are red flags, incomplete information, grammar errors, it is too long or to short, super generic, and/or never expressed how you impacted any company’s bottom line.

16. You couldn’t answer basic questions (“why did you leave your last job?” or “why were you only at X place for 3 months?”). Or you answered any number of interview questions poorly. Or you were asked to critique something about the company and you wailed on their shortcomings rather than offer a positive, followed by a meaningful critique with actionables, closed with a positive.

17. You made a mistake on your application (you worked at Google from 1904-2006?) or you straight up lied. Some companies do basic employment checks prior to requesting an interview, so you better get your story straight from minute one.

18. You applied for the wrong jobs – you read too quickly and you’re a Java developer who just applied to a JavaScript role. Oops. Or the ad says you must have three years of Salesforce experience and you missed that part and while you fit everything else, you have zero years with that platform. You wasted everyone’s time.

19. You’re not a culture fit. But wait, it’s not what you think – you’re not unlikable, they’re just looking for a puzzle piece. Their division might be in chaos or the there’s already an A-type on the small team. Hiring managers deal with truly complex situations and it isn’t personal if you’re not the right puzzle piece, despite your incredible pedigree.

20. You raised major legal red flags. Nothing says you plan to sue like vaguely saying “I have schizophrenia, is that going to be a problem?” or “I’m not sure working for a male boss is a good fit, do you have someone I can answer to that is female?” or “what is your policy on sex in the workplace?”

21. Speaking of legal red flags, you put your picture on your resume which tells sensitive employers “I’m doing this so later I can say I didn’t get the job because of my [gender, race, etc.]” Discrimination is no joke. It happens, and you don’t want to put an employer in an uncomfortable situation – your picture’s already on LinkedIn. That suffices.

22. To “where do you see yourself in five years?” You said “in your job” to be clever or “President of the company” without explanation. Come on, people. How you answer that demonstrates your intent on longevity in the company, your willingness to move up, your desire to be a leader, not supplant your interviewer.

23. You applied to basically every role in the company and now they take you seriously for none.

24. You applied for a Senior-level role when you’re barely entry-level.

25. You asked nothing about the company or role during the interview. This is sadly common and so easy to fix.

26. You knew nothing about the company during the interview. Do your research, people.

27. You failed a required technical test or psych profile and there really is no coming back from that. Objective requirements are just that – objective.

28. Your work history is unstable, too short to be applicable, and/or filled with holes you can’t (or didn’t) properly explain.

29. You’re missing a certification or education level the employer wants (either publicly or secretly).

30. You’re too educated – your PhD is scaring them into thinking your salary demands might rapidly increase even if you’re currently amenable to minimum wage. This is based on endless studies and experiences of people settling – they don’t stick around for long.

31. You forgot to include your continuing education (coding courses, professional leadership retreats) because you thought they were irrelevant. They’re not – they show that you take initiative and eager to always learn more.

32. You ghosted at some point or were slow to respond.

33. You arrived (or called) way too early or way too late.

34. You were rude to the receptionist.

35. You were overly familiar during the interview because you’ve done so much research and feel like you know the company so well. This trait says you’ll be an unruly team member and will likely disqualify you. Be a pro, even if you know the hiring manager personally – anything else is disrespectful.

36. Someone random in the company met you at a networking event 10 years ago and when politics came up you called them a moron. They didn’t forget, and you’ll never know it was even a factor. But it might have been.

37. You briefly dated the hiring manager’s dramatic best friend and over drinks, you come up and she tells horror stories about you – you’ll never learn this was the reason, but seriously, it’s possible.

38. You were sweaty (if that’s a problem, wear a sweat-wicking shirt under your top).

39. You had a smell – either body odor or too much perfume/cologne/axe deodorant.

40. You had a limp or overly aggressive handshake – some people are really sensitive to that and you may culturally offend someone.

41. You looked at (or stared at) your phone during an interview when it wasn’t ringing. Or your smartwatch.

42. You weren’t memorable – some people are just boring or try to be overly calm. Remember you’re connecting with another non-robot human, so try to be at least human.

43. Your desperation permeated the entire process. They could smell it on you and it wasn’t appealing. Why? Because they know you’re going to take the job so you can pay rent, but you’ll still be job hunting and they’ll lose you quickly, so why bother?

44. You live in the wrong place – they may be unwilling to pay for relocation and may screen accordingly.

45. Salary negotiations went awry. They demanded your previous salary and you refused or they didn’t like the number or you’d done too little or too much salary research, or maybe the job listing said a range and you demanded triple (or they offered less than the range).

46. You asked questions at the wrong time – don’t lead with “so what are the benefits and how much time do I get off?” Wait until you know that they like you already. Asking pay as the first question, although the most important, can disqualify you. This is a delicate dance.

47. You failed some simple (probably stupid) test like a sales role being offered half salary and being tricked into negotiating their way up, or somewhere on the job listing it asked you to “Like” their page on Facebook and you didn’t, who knows?

48. You dressed poorly at the interview or were way overdressed.

49. When asked if you’re a night person or morning person, you didn’t say you’re flexible, you said you’re terrible at mornings, and now this company that is really serious about productivity starting at 8:00am, is no longer interested in you.

50. You fidgeted or shook during the interview.

51. You were awkward during the interview, maybe you held your bag in your lap or kept your winter coat on.

52. Your nerves got the best of you – you spoke too quickly or quietly or couldn’t stop saying “like” or “umm.”

SIDENOTE: Being introverted or socially anxious is a challenge, so during an interview, gently express that so it’s not misinterpreted. “I do tend to be introverted, but I want you to know that I am enthusiastic about this opportunity even if I sound a little shaky and nervous.”

53. You didn’t thank the interviewer (or act interested) at any point.

54. You sent an extravagant thank you gift to the hiring manager that disqualified you as it appeared to be a bribe, not the kind gesture you meant for it to be.

55. You followed up too soon and too frequently.

56. You were too cocky or too insecure.

57. You were too eager and it came across as insincere.

58. Your body language was off (you used practiced/disingenuous hand steepling, or you slouched, or maybe you couldn’t make eye contact).

59. You were too scripted – you obviously regurgitated scripts you studied online (a good HR pro can see right through that – they’ve read them, too).

60. You sneezed into your hand and wiped it on your pants, then offered it to shake at adios time. Gross, bye.

61. You trash talked a former employer or coworker (or the interviewer’s favorite sports team, or their religion, or them).

62. You didn’t laugh at the CEO’s joke during a final interview.

63. You shared way too much personal info – not stories about vacay to humanize yourself, but like made sure they knew you have irritable bowel syndrome.

64. You were overly apologetic about your past rather than calmly explaining that you took five years off to be a stay at home parent, but you’ve kept your skills sharp by studying [X].

65. You kept talking about why their competitor is awesome.

66. You accidentally called them by their hated competitor’s name during an interview.

67. You kept calling the interviewer “Jacob,” but his name was always “Jason” and now he thinks you can’t tend to standard details (or is just butthurt).

68. You’re trying to pivot from one industry to another and you do a poor job of explaining that in any way, you just hoped you’d get an interview (but it doesn’t work that way).

69. You’re painfully ugly or overly hot. Sorry, it’s possible.

70. You’re overqualified and that means you might leave when a sexier offer comes along.

71. You’re underqualified which means they’ll have to pay for your learning curve (which they won’t).

72. Your credit is awful and you’re applying to a highly regulated industry like finance or law enforcement, which may hold you back.

73. You didn’t know that your criminal or credit history might not be a disqualifier so you didn’t even try. Sometimes companies are open to certain types of offenses, or you can explain the illness in the family that destroyed your credit.

74. You failed a drug test – this is one of the few instances where you’ll know what happened.

75. You pressured them on social media (you started “IBMShouldHireMichael.com” or started #IBMHireMike and had friends use it on Twitter endlessly, which is clever and has a slight chance of working if applying to a digital media role, but almost always just comes off as annoying and overly aggressive – not worth the risk). Plus, if you depended on that being your hook and they didn’t even notice, it was a hugely wasted effort.

76. You’re so addicted to internet jargon and slang that you used it on your resume or during an interview (“btw, your shoes are on fleek”). Save it for your tumblr, folks.

77. Being cute with videos, online resumes in infographic format, and so forth, forces an employer to investigate you outside of their normal parameters and could land you in the trash bin. Do those things in addition to the traditional resume requested.

78. Your social media accounts are offensive, filled with garbage, or overly sexualized – lock it down while on the job market.

79. You bitched about the company on social media “phone interviewer at X company was straight up retarded” — uh what!? This actually happened recently.

80. You didn’t express interest after the interview. In fact, you may have closed with “well I have several more interviews to complete, so I’ll have to get back to you,” hoping to prove value but really pissing off the employer.

The takeaway

If you’ve read this far, you know that sometimes it’s you, sometimes the stars just didn’t align properly. Sometimes you’ll get feedback, but most of the time, your secret demerits will remain locked in someone’s brain.

But now you know some of the pitfalls that you can fix, so you will. You can only control what you can control, the rest you simply have to let go of.

Let this information empower you, not discourage you.

Good luck during your job search, and don’t let the robots hold you back!

This story first published in April of 2017.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Trevor Winters

    May 26, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    Great piece. It’s clear that a lot of thought and collaboration went into this post. Thanks.

  2. brad gianulis

    June 7, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Excellent! Thanks for writing this.

  3. Pingback: Huntr is the tool that all job seekers have been waiting for - The American Genius

  4. Pingback: Startup, Leap, is using AI to ensure tech job seekers get that interview - The American Genius

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Does writing with pen and paper make you smarter than your digital peers?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Can handwriting make you smarter? Once considered and art form, handwriting is becoming a thing of the past, but should it be?

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When I was in college, in 2002, laptops weren’t really commonplace yet. Most students took notes by hand with pen and paper. Today, most students take notes with laptops, tablets, cell phones, or other electronic devices. The days of pen and paper seem to be fading. Some students even wait until the end of class and use their cell phones to take a picture of the whiteboard, so in effect, they are not absorbing any of the information because they “can just take a picture of it and look at it later.”

Is it easier to take notes on an electronic device? I think that largely depends on preference. I type faster than I write, but I still prefer to take notes on paper.

According to researchers at Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, students who take handwritten notes generally outperform students who typed them.

Writing notes help students learn better, retain information longer, and more readily grasp new ideas, according to experiments by other researchers who also compared note-taking techniques.

While most students can type faster than they write, this advantage is short-term. As the WSJ points out, “after just 24 hours, the computer note takers typically forgot material they’ve transcribed, several studies said. Nor were their copious notes much help in refreshing their memory because they were so superficial.” So while it may take a bit longer to capture the notes by hand, more likely than not, you will retain the information longer if you put pen to paper.

As I teach English Composition at the University of Oklahoma, I would also like to say that while I find this to be true for myself, every student has a different learning style. Typed notes are much better than no notes at all. Some students detest writing by hand and I understand that. Everything in our world has gone digital from phones to cable television so it makes sense, even if I don’t like it, that students gravitate more towards electronic note taking than pen and paper.

While I would like to see more students take notes by hand, I certainly won’t require it. Some students are navigating learning disabilities, anxieties, and other impediments that make taking notes digitally more advantageous.

I imagine the same is true for other areas as well: instead of typing meeting notes, what would happen if you wrote them by hand? Would you retain the information longer? Perhaps, and perhaps not; again, I think this depends on your individual learning style.

I would like to suggest that if you are one of the more “electronically-minded” writers, use a flashcard app, or other studying tool to help you review your classroom notes or meeting notes to make them “stick” a bit better. While I find this type of research intriguing, if you enjoy taking your notes electronically, I wouldn’t change my method based on this.

If it’s working for you, keep doing it. Don’t mind me, I’ll be over here, writing everything down with pen and paper.

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The one customer service mistake all businesses should avoid

(BUSINESS) Customer service is paramount for every business, but this one mistake handicaps so many and can be fixed so easily.

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car dealership business customer service

As both an entrepreneur and business coach, I’m cursed with the proclivity to recognize areas for improvement in any businesses that I visit – even as just a customer. I wait in lines, stay on hold and watch mistakes happen, all the while dreaming of how I’d create a better customer service experience.

Case in point: I recently accompanied my girlfriend, Pam, on a trip to a car dealership – and what should have been a simple transaction turned into a nightmare, all because of customer experience.

Throughout the entire experience, I witnessed from the sidelines numerous small mistakes that, if resolved, could widely improve the processes of that car dealership and grow its business. But it wasn’t these small mistakes that did the most damage. Because of just one critical error, they will never know what they did wrong.

With over 180,000 miles on her current car, Pam knew that the time had come to replace her trusty and reliable vehicle of many years. She liked her current car, so she decided to simply replace it with a new version of the same model and brand. The only change would be a new color. To make the transaction even easier, she sold her old car to a friend and she didn’t need financing, opting to use her local bank for financing or pay cash.

Based on the above, I assumed that the car shopping experience would be extremely quick and painless. We contacted several dealers in the area and gave them the exact specifications of her new car and asked them to respond with their best price. Simple, right?

After receiving responses from three dealers in the area, Pam made the decision to go with the dealer closest to her house. They had the exact vehicle she wanted, although it was at another location, so it would take a few days to receive. And their price was almost identical to the lowest price received. They even said they would match a 0% interest financing offer that another dealer had offered to attract her business. Her next step was to head to the dealership and fill out the paperwork. We decided to do it on the way out of town for the weekend, because it was going to be so easy.

Upon arrival, she was told that she had to meet with the financing person and there was one customer in front of her. She was reassured, “It will be a short wait…” It turns out their definition of a “short” wait was several hours.

Multiple times, she asked what could be done to shorten the wait. Surprisingly, even if she decided to pay cash, their process required that she visit with the finance person. As she later found out, that was because the finance person’s goal was to upgrade her on insurance, financing, warranties and other add-ons – despite the fact that she clearly told her salesperson upon arrival that she did not want any of those add-ons.

Her only request was a quick experience, which they failed to deliver.

Upon finishing her paperwork with the finance person, my girlfriend was approached one last time by the salesperson as she headed out the door. He said it was “really important” that he go over one last detail of the transaction in his office. He proceeded to review the survey that she would receive from the manufacturer about her car-buying experience. He handed her a pre-filled out version of the survey with certain areas highlighted with the exact score he wanted her to provide so he could get his “full commission.”

He explained in great detail that his pay was directly related to the score on the survey. He even bribed her with some all-weather floor mats she noticed earlier in the day but decided were too expensive. He said the mats would “magically” be in her car when it was delivered – a small token of his appreciation for filling out the survey per his instructions.

All in all, the customer service experience was less than satisfactory and was riddled with mistakes. But, it was the salesperson’s mistake that most seriously hurt the business. Can you spot it?

As I watched the conversation about the floor mats unfold, that desire to help businesses improve struck me, and I realized that the incentive structure put in place by the dealership was going to prevent them from getting the real information – the true survey results – they needed to improve their business. (Which is too bad, because they really need to improve.)

A lesson that I always share with the businesses and leaders I work with day to day is: Incentives are a powerful tool to motivate team members, but if they get in the way of honest feedback or inspire teams to chase “rewards” instead of true business success, they can also have unintended consequences which put the brakes on the growth of organizations.

After a few additional hiccups in the process, my girlfriend finally received her new car… with the all-weather floor mats. She’s very happy with the car, but disappointed with the car-buying experience.

And unfortunately, because of the dealership’s decision to connect pay incentives to the survey, the dealership and manufacturer will never know the truth.

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Beware: The biohacking obsession is attracting scammers

(NEWS) Biohacking is finding ways to gain a competitive advantage, while excluding the medical world. It’s great to increase your output, but be cautious when picking your poison…

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Wanna live better or longer? [Insert biohack here] will solve all those pesky problems. In all fairness, it’s human nature to seek improvement, especially in our jobs or academics — you know, the things that demand a constant, high performance.

Of course our ears will prick up at the slightest mention of attaining that elusive edge. Remember Aderall in college?

Biohacking isn’t a new topic. The term refers to a wide range of activities to affect the body’s biological systems.

The objective is to optimize health, well-being, and focus. If we are able to effectively manage what we put into our body, our output can increase. It’s not inherently evil.

But social media influencers are key in promoting the latest products/diets/supplements/oils, often doing so for money, not to improve others’ lives. And, there’s a darker side of drug use, both prescription and illegal, leading to potentially dangerous and abusive situations.

The misleading aspect of biohacking is that every body is different.

Regardless of social media promises, people should be wary of ingesting additional products.

Despite the fancy names one can give it, biohacking has the same objective of medicine, but product development typically excludes medical practitioners.

Legitimate medical practices take huge amounts of funding and research to figure out and insure safety, and they’re heavily regulated by the federal government.

A random word of mouth promise about some obscure herbal supplement is not the same thing.

There are no shortcuts to improving one’s health.

And biohacking doesn’t necessarily mean making life more complex. It’s important to start with the basics before jumping to elaborate diet regimens, powders, pills, etc. Simple steps like routine exercise, 7-8 hours of sleep, and healthier meal choices may help get you on track.

It’s amazing to realize what you can change about yourself before joining some random Thought Cult you found on Instagram. And in the case that your health needs a modern, helping hand, do the proper research before falling into the dark internet hole.

Or better yet, consult your doctor.

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