Published May 30, 2001

Reason for Job Rejection: Why Did I Not Get the Job?

Candidates who appear to be highly qualified for a particular opening, but who fail to land the job, often wonder why they were rejected.

There is no single reason, of course. Sometimes another candidate's experience and background is even more on target than yours. Sometimes the person making the hiring decision simply likes another candidate more than you (and will concoct a more rational reason if necessary). Sometimes it's just sheer luck.

But there often are real, rational reasons why candidates aren't chosen. With the economy tightening and companies being more careful about who they hire, understanding the reasons you may be turned down can help increase the odds you'll actually land the job you want. Here are some reasons employers say no:

Appearance. This may sound superficial or discriminatory, but if your appearance doesn't meet the unspoken assumptions of the hiring official, you won't get the job. Most employers aren't seeking models; they want employees who are neat, clean, attentive to detail (no shirt tails hanging out) and look like people with whom customers and co-workers would want to be associated. So look at yourself critically. Shine your shoes. Wear conservative clothing that's pressed and fits well. Make sure your nails and hands are clean. And comb your hair.

No work references. This is an obvious red flag, says Allen Salikof, president of Management Recruiters International, a search and recruitment company. If a prospective employer can't ask anyone about your work experience, how can the company make an informed decision about hiring you? Even if you didn't get along well with your boss at your most recent job, get a colleague or someone in position of responsibility at a former workplace to vouch for your ability to do the job.

Attitude. If you seem angry or hostile you won't get the job. You may not be aware of your behavior, but if you seem to describe everyone you mention as a jerk, or if you denigrate a former employer, you come across as a malcontent.

Accomplishments. What specifically did you do on your last job? If you're purposely or unintentionally vague, a prospective employer can't figure out what you're capable of doing. Not clearly discussing your work makes your accomplishments - and you - suspect.

Interview behavior. Were you late to your interview? Were you less than courteous to anyone at the prospective employer's place of work? Were your phone manners less than perfect? If you don't conduct yourself professionally during the interview process, you will be disqualified.

Unusual commute. This may seem odd to note, but employers will look askance at anyone who lives too far from the job. Even if you're willing to drive 90 minutes each way to get to work or take three trains and a bus, an employer will wonder why you can't find a job that doesn't require such gyrations. They'll also be concerned - rightly - that your commute will affect attendance, punctuality and performance.

Playing hard to get. Taking too long to consider a job offer is a sign the employer isn't your first choice. That's not the way to start a new work relationship.

(C) Copyright 2001 Evan Cooper. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.