Why qualified candidates don't get hired

Ten reasons why no one will hire you

Peter Harris|

In an ideal world, the job would go to the most qualified candidate. However, there are many reasons why you might not get hired for a job – even if you have all of the skills and experience to successfully do the work. Sometimes an internal candidate has the edge, or another applicant has a friend on the hiring committee. Other times, candidates simply kill their own chances of getting hired.

I once spoke with a candidate who had a brilliant resume and who seemed like she would be awesome at the job she had applied to. However, in our conversation it quickly came out that she didn’t have much of an understanding of what our company actually did, and she had obviously never read any of the existing editorial on the website. She didn’t even seem particularly interested in it. I ended up hiring a much less experienced candidate who had done her research and clearly demonstrated a passion to contribute to the work we were doing.

I told this story to a group that included many recruiters and hiring managers. They had their own opinions and stories of about why otherwise qualified candidates get rejected. Because of the nature of their jobs and the anecdotes they shared, the panel has asked not to be identified in this article.

Here are ten reasons other than your qualifications why employers won’t hire you:

    You aren’t very savvy on social media

    When you’re looking for a job, social media is more media than it is social. Remember that anything you publish has the potential to be broadcast to unforeseen audiences. Even if you have strict privacy settings, it is possible for someone inside your network to copy and share photos or posts.

    Employers will Google you and look you up on social media sites. In a recent Jobvite survey, more than 40% of companies said they have turned down candidates based on what they see on their social profiles. Here at Workopolis, we recently looked up a candidate whose Facebook profile picture revealed him wearing only a sock. (Not on his foot.) Your profile picture isn’t private. Choose it much more wisely than that guy.

    A sales manager shared the story of a candidate with a brilliant resume who interviewed well, but who didn’t get the job because he was smoking or holding a bong in what seemed like every photo ever taken him.

    You’ve got a bad attitude

    We’ve all met candidates who come into an interview and start complaining about their former boss or coworkers, they grumble about their past work as if this will show why they’re motivated to make a change. It doesn’t show that at all. It just makes them look like complainers. Employers want to hire upbeat, positive team members.

    And then there are the strange attitudes. On recruiter told me the story of Franklin Worthington the Third, who referred to himself as such on his resume, and who spoke of himself in the third person. “When Franklin takes on a project, Franklin succeeds.” Franklin didn’t get the job. And given that there is so little chance of the employer mistaking you for your ancestors, you can leave “The Third” off your resume.

    You don’t do any research

    As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, not doing your research can cost you the job. Employers want to hire candidates who know about their industry and its challenges, and who have thought about ways that they can contributed to the company’s success. If your first question to the interviewer is, “So, what does this company do?” you won’t be getting the call. (And hiring managers do get asked that very question.)

    You smell bad

    Smokers often use a cigarette to calm their nerves. And job interviews can be nerve wracking. However, if you walk into the interview right after having that cigarette, the chances are that you are going to reek of smoke. That can be a turn off for many people.

    The last thing you want to do in a job interview is give the employer a reason not to like you. The same goes for heavy cologne or perfume use. You never know who has allergies, sensitivities or simple distaste for the scent. Play it safe, go in clean and fresh.

    You’re sloppy

    Proofread your resume and cover letter. So many recruiters told me that this was the deal-breaker that they most often see in candidates. Misused words, spelling mistakes and typos all make it look like you can’t write properly, you don’t pay attention to detail, or you just don’t care that much. Any of those can keep you from being hired.

    Your resume makes you seem like a weirdo or a pain

    A Toronto recruiter is still puzzling over the man she didn’t hire who had an otherwise strong resume until he listed his interests as “a passion for weapons and all things squirrel-related.” Keep all of the information on your resume relevant to the job you’re applying for. There’s no need to list hobbies or interests.

    Another recruiter told me about receiving a resume that stated in the objective statement: “Must be for a company that highly values diversity and sustainability.” It’s not that the employer didn’t value those things, it’s that by making it the opening line of the resume, the candidate made himself look like he’d be a pain in the butt to work with. You need to show an employer why they would want to hire you in the first place before you start making demands about their values.

    Another candidate closed his resume with the line, “Given my obvious qualifications, if I am not selected for this position, I expect to be informed of why.” I imagine they’re still waiting for that phone call.

    You’re desperate

    While it’s good to be enthusiastic about the role, employers are turned off by candidates who seem simply desperate for a job. It’s a fine line: you have to play it cool, but not too cool. Display confidence without being cocky.

    You have no references

    If you can’t find people who will speak well of your work and professionalism, you’re in trouble. I’ve told the story before of the candidate who handed over a typed list of three references, and then she pointed to the first one and said, “But don’t call this one.” After a few seconds thought, she added of another, “Better not call this one either.”

    One candidate gave a recruiter three reference letters. Because the font type and style of all three were very similar, the recruiter decided to call the recruiters to verify. It turns out that the letters were indeed fake. However the worst thing about the story is that all three people called said that until they heard of the bogus reference letters, they actually would have been happy to recommend the candidate.

    Trust your references. Tell them about the job you’re applying for and ask if they would be willing to recommend you for it. If you can’t use your former boss, find someone else at the company that you worked with. (If there’s really no one out there who will speak well of your work, then references likely aren’t your biggest problem.)

    You don’t look the part

    A job interview isn’t a fashion show, and you don’t have to be a super model. For the most part it’s enough to look well groomed, professional and respectful. This means dressing up a little more than you normally would to show that you care and that you take the interview seriously. Here at Workopolis we did pass on a candidate who turned up for the interview in shorts and hiking boots. Read that story.

    You have unrealistic salary expectations

    Of course you know how much money you’d like to earn – and what perks you’d like to have from your employer. But if your expectations are unrealistic, or you’re too demanding or inflexible, it will turn employers off. Do your research, find out the salary range that jobs like yours pay in your area, and be willing to negotiate for the best deal you can get.

Finding a job is hard, and the competition can be fierce. But if you keep getting turned down for jobs that you know you’re qualified for, maybe it’s time to make sure that you’re not inadvertently acting in one of the ways that repels most employers.

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Peter Harris
- Peter Harris on Twitter


Category: Job interviews, Job Search Strategies, Resumes,