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A job search is a competition, and only the absolute best candidates get a chance to compete for the top spot. Oftentimes the difference between the candidate that’s hired and the runner up is quite small. The same goes for who gets selected to come in and interview for the position. The reasons why you weren't selected vary depending on which part of the process you make it to. Learn why you didn't get the job at each stage of the process and what you can do differently on your next interview.
If you’ve made it to the final round of interviews and don’t get the job, it's almost always this:
You were great, but someone else was better.
At the final round of interviews, competition is at its toughest and it’s a close call between the top candidates. Regardless of how large or small the difference between candidates number one and two is, it comes down to one factor – you were great, but someone else was better. Unless you did something egregious and otherwise unforgivable in your final interview, you most likely did everything that you could to make it that far. Congratulate yourself and set your sights on the next job.
If you made it to the initial interview round but weren’t called back for a second interview, this is the most common reason:
You didn’t position yourself properly.
Think of a job interview as a sales pitch. You have to convince a company why they should invest in you. Too often candidates don’t do a good enough job of proving to the hiring manager why they are the best person for the job. The most important part of the interview process is self-promotion – you have to convince the hiring manager why you’re the right candidate. An interview is not the time to be humble and downplay your accomplishments. Be proud of what you’ve done and that will come through when you’re talking about it.
If you weren’t selected to come in for an interview at all, it’s usually for one of two reasons:
You weren’t qualified.
This isn’t an easy truth to hear, but it’s the case a lot of the time. This in no way means that you’re 100% unqualified, just that you don’t have the right skill set or experience that the position requires. You have to find the balance between applying for a job that’s a step up from your current position and applying for something entirely far-fetched. A good example of an ideal next step is a mid-level employee applying for their first management role. Too farfetched would be that same mid-level employee applying for an executive position. Be smart in the jobs you’re applying to.
Your resume isn’t working in your favor.
Your resume has to speak to your strengths and highlight why you should be the candidate they call in for an interview. It has to do the talking for you. Your resume needs to be filled with quantifiable statistics and powerful descriptions of your job responsibilities. Use the cover letter to position yourself as the best person for the job.
With applicant tracking systems becoming the norm, especially with large companies, having your resume properly formatted and keyworded is absolutely critical. Without proper keywords for the system to flag, your resume may not even make it to the hiring manager’s desk. Instead, the system determines you aren’t a suitable candidate, puts your resume in the decline pile, and you receive a form email thanking you for your interest in the position. Alternatively, even if it’s an actual person looking over your resume versus an AI application, it still has to jump out and say, ‘I’m the one you need to hire!’.
What can you do to get the job next time?
Learn from your experience.
Don’t get dejected if you don’t get a job offer. Instead, turn it into a learning opportunity. Ask for feedback on why you weren't selected. Many hiring managers are happy to pass along constructive criticism after an interview. This is perhaps the most valuable advice you’ll receive in your career, as it will give you the exact things you need to work on to move onto the next level. Make it your mission to focus on improvement and use those critiques as focus points when you go into your next interview.
Remember that just because one company says no, it’s not the end. It’s a chance to learn and become better for the next time an opportunity arises.
Ashira Prossack is a Millennial & Gen Z engagement expert and speaker working to bridge the gap between generations and prepare businesses for the future of work.