Job searching is a grind. And the longer you’re at it, the worse it seems to get. It can be so discouraging to put yourself out there and get rejected over and over again or be met with radio silence.
An inevitable aspect of the job search is not getting the job you hoped for. It’s not always clear why you weren’t able to secure a position you felt fit your experience and skills perfectly. Knowing the reasons why you weren’t hired will help you better prepare for the remainder of your job search and obtain an exceptional position. In this article, we explain why knowing the reasons you didn’t get the job is important for your future job search success, the most common reasons why and what to do to fix them.
Why knowing the reasons you weren’t hired is important
Knowing what possible reasons may be preventing you from moving forward in the hiring process will help motivate you during your job search. When you have an understanding of the areas you can improve upon, you can take action to become a better candidate impress hiring managers. Additionally, knowing which areas you can refine will help guide you in the right direction during your job search and reduce confusion, making the journey more enjoyable.
You’re passively participating
Having a proactive personality is directly correlated with career success. If you are applying to jobs without following up or simply applying to too few jobs, you are missing a key piece of the job search.
Work on strengthening your proactive approach to job searching by applying to more jobs a week, actively pursuing any possible leads by reaching out after interviews and strategizing your search. Strategies include knowing what type of job you’re looking for and what areas you are willing to adjust, such as salary, benefits, location and duties. It also entails knowing your strengths and weaknesses, setting time aside daily to search and apply and refining your resume.
Your Resume and/or Cover Letter Isn’t Tailored to the Job
If you’ve submitted a whole slew of applications and haven’t heard back from more than a handful, a likely culprit could be that you’re sending out the same generic resume and cover letter each time without changing how you present your experience to match the job.
Employers are looking for someone who matches their job description—and since they’re probably getting hundreds of applicants for each open job, they’re not going to do the extra work to figure out how you measure up. You have to be sure to tell anyone reading your application how you’re suited for the role by tailoring your resume and cover letter. That means figuring out what skills and experience they want and then highlighting them in the form of accomplishments in your materials. You don’t necessarily have to do this for every single role. But at the very least you should tailor your application for every type of role—for example, you might have a software engineering resume and cover letter and a different product management resume and cover letter—as well as individual roles you’re especially interested in.
You’re showing a lack of passion
Employers can sense if excitement for a position isn’t quite there. Skills can be taught, but employers desire to see passion and enthusiasm when considering applicants.
Convey how excited you are for a position in your cover letter and during your initial interview. When you apply for a job, read through the description and research the company thoroughly. Make a list of all the details that make you eager to work for that company and be sure to explain why you love your work and how you can be beneficial to the company’s mission and objectives.
You’re undervaluing your talents
Job searching is one of the most important times to show confidence and pride in your skills, knowledge and education. If you don’t demonstrate your greatest strengths and accomplishments, you may be overlooked for a role you are otherwise well-suited for.
Improve your ability to sell yourself by first understanding what your greatest strengths and accomplishments are and how they relate to the job you’re applying to. Then, carefully choose the traits and achievements that show the value you bring to a company and detail them in your resume and cover letter. Echo these in your interview with a balance of pride and humility.
You’re Applying to the Wrong Jobs
Look at the job description and honestly ask yourself if you have the skills you’ll need to do the job—or get up to speed quickly—to ensure you’re not underqualified for the roles you’re targeting.
That being said, job seekers usually do a fairly good job of making sure they’re qualified before applying to a role. One thing they are less great at is being honest about whether they are in fact overqualified. Hiring managers obviously won’t hire someone who doesn’t have the skills or experience to do the job, but they’re also hesitant to hire someone who has gobs of experience for an entry-level role. How will they keep you interested and challenged? Won’t you just leave once something more suitable comes along? The last thing a company wants is to have to fill the role again after you’ve gotten bored and quit. Make sure you’re targeting the right jobs for your background.
Your application needs work
Your resume and cover letter are likely one of the most common reasons you’re not getting interviews. Your application is the first impression a hiring manager has of you and is the first step to getting an interview. If your resume doesn’t highlight your abilities well, is missing a sense of uniqueness or lacking keywords, you may not be chosen to move on in the hiring process.
Enhance your resume with an interesting introduction to get the hiring manager’s attention. Be sure to focus on your previous successes and accomplishments, and tailor your resume to each job. Even if two jobs are very similar, you still want to read the job posts and pick out the desired keywords and skills. Compare these to the skills you already possess and include the ones you have in your resume to help you stand out from other applicants.
You’re Not Applying to Enough Jobs
As a career coach, I’ll occasionally work with a client who only applies to dream jobs or dream companies, and then gets frustrated when their search drags. It’s fine to be extra picky about what roles you’re considering, but if you’re only applying to a job here and there, then understand that your job hunt will absolutely take longer.
If your situation doesn’t allow for that, then you may need to be more open to “stepping stone” roles—jobs that are not exactly what you’re looking for, but could get you there someday. For example, you might apply for jobs that will help you gain the skills you’ll need to be a more attractive applicant for your dream role.
Your expectations are high
It’s important to be flexible with salary and benefits expectations if you can afford to be. Some jobs may ask for an expected salary range, while others will have a set hourly wage. Going into an interview with a list of non-negotiable requirements may be a red flag for employers.
To improve upon your expectations, work on being as flexible as you can. Make a list of the benefits you need like health insurance and paid-time-off. Then, make an additional list of benefits that would be ideal, but negotiable such as hourly rate, salary or a retirement plan. Going into the interview explaining your needs and showing flexibility gives employers the positive impression that you are adaptable. Many employers may negotiate benefits with you if they have the authority to do so.
You’re underqualified for the job
Many applicants shy away from applying for jobs that seem above their experience and skillsets, since employers often pass on applicants who lack the necessary skills for the job. This said, if you know how to approach the hiring manager with what you do bring to the job, it is still possible to be considered.
To improve your chances of getting hired for an advanced job, take the time to show the hiring manager you are a match for the position. A few ways to do this include listing as many key skills and experiences you can that are mentioned in the job post and mentioning education, volunteering, internships and any other learning experiences related to the role.
You’re Not Telling People about Your Job Search
You probably already know you’re supposed to be networking when you’re job searching. Some of what networking entails might be obvious. For example, if you know someone at a company that you’d like to work for, try to apply with a referral or at least use any additional insight you may have gleaned from your conversations in your application.
What’s less obvious is that you should really be broadcasting your search as widely as possible, even to people who have no obvious way of helping you. Talk about your job hunt at non-work events or make a post about it on a private non-LinkedIn social media account. You probably don’t know everyone another person knows. First-degree networking—a.k.a., getting help from those you know directly—is great, but second-degree networking can be really powerful too! A fellow career coach once witnessed a student who groused loudly about her job search in class and found out that the classmate next to her had a close relative who could help.