10 Reasons Why You Didn’t Get The Job (That Has Nothing to Do With You)

Artwork by Useless Treasures

As a recruiter who has seen thousands of job offers and rejections — including my own — I know that getting rejected from a job sucks. As a candidate, you just want to know why, but the reality is you’ll never entirely get the closure you want. Getting rejected either is about you or not. If it’s about you, a company might offer feedback, but it won’t take away the sting of rejection. Sometimes, if it’s really not about you then a company probably won’t disclose anything since that could put someone else, or the whole organization, in jeopardy.

While getting rejected sucks, there are a lot of instances where it’s simply not about you. In this article, I’m sharing a few of the major reasons I’ve seen a candidate get rejected from a job application that has absolutely nothing to do with them.

1 — Role restructuring

If you’ve been rejected but seemed to fit every single thing on the job description, it’s possible the role was simply restructured.

The hiring process can take upwards of a month (in some cases over 40 days). While that doesn’t seem like a long time, the reality is that business priorities can switch overnight, especially if your hiring process takes place over a quarter or year-end.

2 — The company realized they didn’t need the role

Depending on how a role came to be, it’s possible the business realized they didn’t need the role anymore.

Here are some instances when I’ve seen a role become obsolete in an organization:

  • An anticipated market shift that never happened.
  • The personal desire of a leader who left the organization.
  • General company restructuring.
  • The hiring manager didn’t think through the role before interviewing candidates.

3 — An internal promotion or internal hire

Most companies have a policy of giving first dibs to existing employees when it comes to new roles. It’s a great form of employee engagement, but as an external candidate, it can suck.

When this happens, I’ve seen most companies be upfront that they filled the role internally. You might not get this closure, though, so just know it’s a very real possibility — and one you’ll appreciate later on when you get a job and get the first crack at new opportunities.

4 — The role’s core tasks were broken down and distributed

Sometimes a company will look for a new hire on a role that’s maybe 80% complete, in anticipation of more work coming to that new hire quickly. But if that new work doesn’t materialize, most companies will break down the core tasks of the role and distribute them to other team members. This is done as a cost-saving measure or opportunity for internal promotion, giving someone a raise but still spending less money than hiring a net new person.

5 — Significant client or revenue loss

Unfortunately, headcount is one of the biggest, if not the biggest expense a company has. So when the company faces significant revenue or client losses, they are likely to stop all hiring first. This will directly impact the team associated more (for example, if you were applying to be a customer success manager), but can reach teams further down, including any admin roles.

6 — Favors and backchannels between CEOs

In many small startup ecosystems, CEOs might have a pact to not hire or poach from each other’s companies. These CEOs were usually all friends at a previous company or knew each other from college, and each promises to ignore candidates that come from the other’s company.

If you’re thinking “isn’t that illegal?” the short answer is yes. However, some CEOs get around this by leaning on ‘culture fit’ arguments to deny a candidate once they see their friend’s company on a resume. This is something that a strong Recruiter or Hiring Manager who has gone through our Building For Inclusion training will know how to call out. But, if folks in the interview process have not been trained on bias they will likely let this (not okay) thing slide.

7 — Your name got lost

This subheading might cause you to eye roll or shake your head, but it’s true. Not all companies use high-quality applicant tracking system (ATS) software, and your name could genuinely have just gotten lost. This is especially possible for scaling startups or large organizations that are getting hundreds of applications for one or two spots.

Here’s how your name could be lost:

  • Legacy technology that doesn’t integrate with other systems.
  • Your name was mis-categorized by a junior recruiter.
  • The platform had a bug in it and did the wrong thing with your name.

8 — The company got hit with something unexpected

Any major news — good or bad — can put a temporary freeze on hiring. On the good side, something like closing a major client, releasing a new product evolution, or even closing a fundraising round could mean leadership needs to reevaluate all hiring and potentially stop it for a short period of time. On the bad side, something like a lawsuit, a leader doing something illegal, or a major layoff could put a damper on hiring.

9 — The hiring manager isn’t that great at hiring

This might sound weird, but it’s true. Sometimes, the person in charge of filling the role just isn’t that good at the job. You know what they say right? The number one job Hiring Managers aren’t trained on, is hiring! That’s not to say they are stupid, but a lot of people get thrust into hiring manager-style roles without proper training or experience. When that happens, it’s easy to overlook a candidate who probably would crush it in the role (and you may end up being that person).

10 — The company went with a referral

LinkedIn estimates upwards of 85% of jobs are filled via referral. So you might be the perfect candidate, interview well, and be liked by everyone, but a referral could easily get put in at the last minute. It’s a case of “positive bias” — assuming that someone must be a better candidate because they were referred in versus a candidate they don’t know (you). It’s not always fair, but it can happen, especially if the person who referred the candidate is well-regarded at the company. Now, we know that referrals can contribute to homogenous workplaces. At Bloom, we love a great referral but we know that they don’t help to build truly inclusive companies that reflect the communities we are all looking to serve (and sell to). So, let’s try to cut down on the referrals, shall we? I know your pals from Queens are really awesome but we can’t hire all of them.

Our advice? Dust off and move on!

Getting rejected can feel like a punch in the gut, and sometimes you won’t get any feedback. However, the job search — like any endeavour — is bound to come with some rejection along the way. I know that hearing a list of reasons may not be comforting when you need a job or really wanted an opportunity, but there’s a lot going on in the job world and a lot of people hiring, so don’t give up.

Thank you,

Avery

PS: At Bloom, we support companies who aren’t ready for a full-time Head of Talent but need the leadership on an interim basis. We do the nitty-gritty foundational work like implementing the best tech, tools and processes that are infused with your org’s values. Just looking to hire for some key roles? We can assess, attract and hire top talent for your key roles giving you a competitive edge in this tight talent market — If you’re looking to up your talent game but aren’t ready for a full-time hire, connect with our Founder, Avery!

We help startups and the people who work at them grow.