Why You Didn’t Get the Job


I’ve been applying for positions non-stop for 2 months and have had 3 face to face interviews. When I’ve been given a phone interview, I pass with flying colors and onto the next stage. When having the face to face interviews I leave each one feeling confident that I would have an offer. I’ve now received letters stating they found a better fit for the position. I’ve worked in Call Centers for the past 8 years in a customer service role, so experience was not an issue. Could it be my age? I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong, if anything. Is it in bad taste to ask why I was passed over? I’m of the opinion if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, I can’t fix it.

Dear, Whys and Wherefores,

Readers often write to ask “Why wasn’t I hired? I though the interview went well.” I’m not related to Big Brother, so I don’t have access to the surveillance footage of your meeting. But I can make offer some theories.

Mentally review your past interviews to see if you made any of these missteps.

  • Divergent appearance. A wardrobe mismatch can be more than just wearing brown socks with black trousers. You may actually be overdressed in a Wall Street suit and tie for an interview with a hip startup, where everyone is dressed more casually. But if you’re a tattooed, pierced individual, you may want to take out your septum ring to avoid distracting a buttoned-up interviewer in a more corporate environment. This Super Bowl “Talking Stain” commercial from a few years ago reminds us all to avoid messy lunch foods right before an interview.

  • Body language. Eye contact without staring, a firm but not bone-crushing handshake, smiling and nodding (but not too enthusiastically!) are all non-verbal communication skills you should brush up on.
  • Poor performance. You stutter, you interject “um” or “like” too often, you can’t even think of the answer to a simple question! Calm your nerves, take a breath before answering your interviewer’s questions, and don’t speak too rapidly (chances are, the hiring manager is taking notes). Public speaking may not be your forte but with proper preparation and practice, you can improve.
  • Lack of follow-up. Without being “dimpatient,” be sure to maintain communication after the interview, starting with a “thank you” note. HINT: If you are kicking yourself after forgetting to mention a pertinent point in your interview, mention it in your thank you message.
    (For more tips on acing interviews, download my free e-book, Anita Clew’s Jitter-Free Guide to Job Interviews.)

You could request honest feedback from your interviewer via email – but never put them on the spot in person or by phone. “While I’m disappointed I was not chosen for the position, it would really help me in my next interview to know if you saw any areas in which I can improve.” Be forewarned, warns EvilHRLady, some recruiters and hiring managers may be hesitant to offer constructive criticism. If you do receive remarks, respond graciously even if you think their observations are way off base.

Readers: Have you ever asked for – and received – a critique from an interviewer?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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How to Get Past the Phone Interview
Top 10 Interview Fails
Dress for Success
Hiding the “Gray” on Your Résumé (and Beyond)
Being Body Language Conscious
Reasons for No Résumé Responses

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michele
    Feb 09, 2016 @ 16:43:09

    Age discrimination is a big thing, I am having a hard time finding a job due to having more experience than needed but also they are hiring younger people who work for a year and move on.

    Yes, age discrimination because I am sure you know by now how to interview. Over 50 forget it you will just buck it up and stay a contractor for the rest of your career, they don’t want someone who can do the job right they just want very cheap labor, also taking the job to another country India has put me and a lot of Americans out of work. I have a MBA and 15 years experience in accounting and going back to cutting hair, why you ask? I am sick of being unemployed and underemployed and if I have to take a severe pay cut I rather be happy, then sitting for 8 hours at another dead end desk job being miserable due to the fact that everyone wants to continue placing me in a job I hate. I didn’t choose my career it chose me and I really hate it!! I have tried to look for anything else outside of Accounting in which I don’t have a degree in and never wanted to do accounting but got stuck in it. My personality profile does not fit accounting, so I am told I would be a good fit for the position I applied to but they have an entry level accounting position open and would I like to apply to that ummm…NO!!! Sorry , I am going to wait tables first, I probably work less hours and get paid more, less stress. I specifically state I no longer want to do accounting in the interview and need a change in careers, nope they don’t listen. I am not going back to school ,over that since my education has done very little to get me to my next career. Looking for a job for over 8 years, been doing contract work. This is why people give up and just die… no job, no career, no quality of life. I would move and be happy to work in another country where my education and hard work are appreciated. This is why you are not getting a job, because if you are American, hard worker, good employee, good education and experience it is not valued in the states. Only India is more valued than we are. It is insulting of these stupid tips as we are not following the rules of getting hired, I have read the books, jump through all the hoops to get a job. Plain and simple ,face it we will never be hired, no tats, dress professionally, doesn’t matter.


  2. Joseph Sandoval
    Feb 09, 2016 @ 16:25:04

    I have applied for jobs I know I qualify for and I fEel because my age I do not get job. Why do they need to ask for birthdate if age is not disqualifying factor


    • anitaclew
      Feb 10, 2016 @ 08:29:17

      Joseph, Many employers request the date of birth to facilitate background checks. In theory, this information should be kept separate from data that interviewers can access for screening candidates. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects those 40+ years of age; complaints may be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).


      • Stan Sperling
        Feb 10, 2016 @ 12:52:57

        Anita, I like your weekly column, but your answer to Joseph was off base. I have applied for jobs where a background check was necessary but they did not ask for my birth date. In addition, avoid any employment agencies that ask for this information. I have known people that went to these agencies and after giving them their birth date, they were told there was nothing for them, although their ads stated many positions were available. Blatant discrimination!


        • anitaclew
          Feb 10, 2016 @ 15:22:41

          Stan, It is a best practice for businesses to only ask for your birthdate on a separate release form for a background check once you’ve gotten through the interview phase. In real life, however, some companies still ask for your birthdate on the application form.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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