You can certainly try to ask for feedback after receiving a rejection, but most employers probably won’t say much. If they do, it’ll be something fairly generic, along the lines of “other qualified candidates.” That, of course, isn’t always the real reason—it’s just that the real reason might be a little too awkward to actually say to someone’s face.
So, what are some of these uncomfortable reasons for not selecting a particular job candidate? Read on for a list of commonly cited deal breakers that are pretty difficult for hiring mangers to admit to.
1. You Spoke Funny
Do you have a habit of making your statements sound like questions? Tend to speak in an overly casual or formal tone?
The way you speak can, surprisingly, be a huge indicator to your interviewer about whether you’re the right fit for the position. Maybe you sound too meek to manage a team of 10 or too aggressive to handle customer complaints. This might not be a fair assessment, but it happens all the time—so it’s definitely worth thinking about and practicing for as you’re doing mock interviews to prepare.
2. You, Um, Smelled Funny
And I don’t just mean that you didn’t shower. That could be it—or it could be that you overdid it on the cologne. Either way, you don’t want to be that interview candidate who overpowered the conversation with your aroma rather than your charisma.
To combat this, lay off the perfume and make sure your personal hygiene is top notch. Seriously, please don’t let this be the reason you didn’t get the job.
3. You Were Too Eager
Did you show up 45 minutes early to the interview? Did you offer to do the internship unpaid without being prompted? It’s good to be enthusiastic during your interview, but be careful not to be over the top. It can come off as a little much and, like the first example, even inconvenient for the hiring manager. Instead, show your excitement by being exceptionally well versed about the company and position. Top it off with a thank you note, and you’re all set.
4. You Were Too Arrogant
Don’t get me wrong: Confidence in an interview is essential, and apparently it’s even good to be a little narcissistic. But don’t step over the line toward being arrogant. This can really rub people the wrong way and make you seem a little hard to manage.
To make sure you’re not overdoing it, back up your claims and your skills with concrete stories, and show an openness to learn by asking thoughtful questions. And even if you think you have it in the bag, think twice before letting that show.
5. You Didn’t Pass the Airport Test
This reason might be the most awkward of them all: It’s possible that your interviewer just didn’t click with you. You’re not going to get along swimmingly with everyone, and most people are too polite to tell you if you didn’t with him or her.
That’s okay. The most you can do is try to be yourself. Do some mindfulness exercises before you head over to the interview, take a deep breath before you walk into the building, and relax. Don’t let people judge you based just on your nerves. Try to let your interviewer actually get to know you a bit.
6. You Weren’t the Internal Candidate They Wanted All Along
It’s a sad truth of job hunting: At many companies, hiring managers are required to do a few interviews before making a decision, even if they have a strong internal candidate that they probably knew from day one that they were going to hire. There’s pretty much no way to know when you’re interviewing for a position like this and, unfortunately, there’s almost nothing you can do. So, if you didn’t get the job, it could also very well be because it was impossible to get in the first place. Don’t get too hung up on it.
At the end of the day, there are some things you can control about the interview process (like showering and doing your company research), and then there are some things you can’t do anything about (like knowing your interviewer’s pet peeves ahead of time). So, do what you can and understand that interviewing is an incredibly subjective way to evaluate whether someone is a good fit for a position.
Photo of woman on phone courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author