Top Three Reasons Why I Didn't Hire You

September 01, 2014

I’ve conducted many dozens of job interviews in the past several years. I’ve hired some great folks as a result of these interviews, but my experience rejecting candidates is also pretty extensive. I’ve gained some decent insight into why candidates fail, and it often comes down to some interviewing skills for which all good interviewers expect, regardless if they know it or not.

You may be a promising candidate, but you may be getting rejected because of bombing out on some of these skills. So, if you’re getting a lot of rejection calls from interviewers and you’re not sure why, these tips may be helpful. Here are my top three reasons for rejecting candidates.

1. Failure to Display Any Passion. To be successful in almost any professional role, you need to have a high degree of passion. That’s not to say you need to be bouncing off the walls with energy, but if you look like you’re about to fall asleep in the interview, you’re not giving the interviewer the impression that you’re going to dive into the job with any degree of interest or professional curiosity.

Passion can be demonstrated in your body language, inflection of voice, the light in your eyes, and the way in which you show excitement when you tell that story about when you saved the day in your last job.

2. Failure to Connect With the Job Description. All too often, candidates come into an interview thinking they know what the job requirements are just by reading the job title. Most job descriptions do a halfway decent job of explaining some of the main skills and/or experience needed to be successful in the role. It’s unfortunate that candidates often ignore this information and try to spend most of the interview talking about skills and experience that have no relevance to the job.

It’s OK if you lack some (or a lot) of the direct experience listed in the job description, but if you make a conscious effort to connect your experience to the skills I’m looking for, that’s a huge plus. This shows that you took the time to read and understand the job description, understand the skills I’m looking for, and properly prepared for the interview.

3. Failure to Ask Questions. I interviewed a promising candidate a few years ago who was well on his way to getting an offer. His experience was relevant, his leadership and communication skills appeared strong, and he was knocking the interview questions out of the park. Towards the end of the interview, as I always do, I left plenty of time for questions. He had none. He didn’t show the slightest bit of curiosity regarding how our organization was structured, how the team worked, what challenges we were working through, … nothing. Unfortunately, his resume ended up in the “rejected” pile.

An internal candidate may be able to get away with this depending on the circumstances of the relationship with the interviewer, but there’s no excuse for an external candidate to not have any questions. Even if the interviewer spends a large amount of time explaining the ins and outs of the job, there are still hundreds of questions a candidate could ask. Having no questions gives the interviewer the impression that the candidate doesn’t understand the job well enough to ask intelligent questions, doesn’t have any professional curiosity, or doesn’t even care about how things are done at the organization.

A good candidate will have many questions written down in advance; ready to pull one out when the time is right. Ideally, the questions will come naturally during the course of the interview, but there’s nothing wrong with referring to your notes to jog your memory.

The majority of the interview rejections I’ve given have had one or more of these three failures. Notice that technical competency isn’t on the list. For most job positions, a baseline technical competency is a requirement, but there are so many other traits that can predict whether a candidate will be a good fit for the job. The next time you’re preparing for an interview, practice demonstrating passion, connect your experience with the job description, and prepare to ask questions. You’ll have a much greater chance of landing that offer.

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UPDATE:

Wow! Great to see so much passion around this topic! ☺ Thank you all for your comments and providing your perspective. Very interesting reading. The article is not intended to be an exhaustive essay on interviewing; just a single view on a specific topic. I thought it appropriate to for me to provide a few comments to hopefully give a little more clarity on my position regarding these three points.

1. Passion. Although my article describes some physical attributes of demonstrating passion, I believe passion is best demonstrated in the candidate’s accomplishments. However, I think it’s incumbent on the candidate to communicate that passion for the work they do, and yes, the interviewer has a responsibility to create an atmosphere in the interview that allows this to happen.

2. Connecting with the job description. A candidate’s resume can list skills, both “hard” and “soft” skills, but the resume is just the entry ticket to an interview. The interview is the gateway to the offer. If a job description says “strong analytical skills are required”, a candidate should be prepared to explain (though examples) how they have awesome analytical skills during the interview.

3. Asking questions. I absolutely concede that there are many jobs that are almost identical from company to company. In these circumstances, I could see a candidate not asking questions. However, if you’re applying for a manger position in a company, or any information technology position with words like “Senior” or “Specialist” in the title, the candidate needs to demonstrate enough critical thinking to ask intelligent questions.

An interview can be seen like a dance. The interviewer most decidedly has responsibilities to take the lead role with the appropriate empathy to the candidate, but if a candidate is unwilling (or unable) to be a partner in the dance, I think he or she is eliminating himself or herself from the competition.

Thanks again for the comments and the passion! Keep ‘em coming!