12 Reasons Why You Didn’t Get the Job or Internship

Reasons You Didn't Get the JobYou thought you nailed the interview – and you expected an offer. But the offer never came. The job or internship went to someone else.

What went wrong? What happened that made the recruiter choose another candidate?

When trying to understand how we could get so close but come up empty, we tend to over-complicate things. The reality is that if you were a finalist for a job, and didn’t get the offer, the reasons are often quite simple – and fixable.

Here are 12 reasons you didn’t get the offer this time (and what to watch for next time):

You Showed Up 4 Minutes Late

The interview doesn’t start once you’ve delivered that confident handshake. It starts well before that when the recruiter looks at the clock 10 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start. Then 5 minutes before… then 3, 2 and 1 minute before. At the scheduled time, if you aren’t there, a big red flag is raised. 4 minutes… big deal, right? Yes. Yes it is. That’s your first impression.

Your Personal Appearance

Right or wrong, your personal appearance is a huge issue during the interview. Selecting (and then ironing) the right clothes, putting on the right amount of cologne or perfume, and getting a fresh haircut all count. Even shining your shoes and cleaning your glasses matter. Be conservative, and be impeccable… because chances are at least one competitor will be.

You Didn’t Use Your Manners

It may be old school, but the recruiter expects every finalist candidate to be on their best behavior during the job interview. Their thought process: “If the candidate doesn’t exhibit solid manners now, naturally and without thinking about them, when will they? What will happen in front of a client? Or at happy hour with fellow employees?” “Please” and “thank you” matter. A lot.

You Talked Too Much (or Too Little)

Recruiters know a truly confident person isn’t afraid to talk about what they know well. And they’re aware that a confident candidate also knows when to shut up and listen. Finally, they know the most confident candidates aren’t afraid of brief moments of silence. To a recruiter, talking too little or too much, then, reveals one thing: you lack confidence. And once labeled as less-than-confident, or even worse… insecure, a job offer rarely follows.

You Said One Negative Thing

It only takes one comment. Or one eye-roll. Or a stare-down at the floor to avoid the recruiter seeing your facial expression. Positive people don’t badmouth former employers or bosses. They don’t complain about issues like commuting or the lack of a smoking area for employees. Positive candidates look a recruiter in the eye, even when answering difficult questions. And those are the candidates that get the job offer.

You Tried Too Hard

Some applicants seem to feel a job interview is a 45-minute pitch session. All they do is talk about themselves, as if they are selling a used car to a willing and naïve buyer. A good interview is an easy, mutually-beneficial conversation between two people with common interests and goals – it is not a high-pressure sales call. State your case. Ask good questions. Then be quiet and let the interviewer have her share of the floor.

We Weren’t 100% Sure You Were a Fit

In today’s job market, culture and fit is such a big issue. Recruiters simply can’t get this part wrong. If there was something in your communication style, personal goals, how you articulated your understanding of the company mission – anything, really – that leads the interviewer to question your ability to fit in… you’re out.

Your Salary Demands Were Too High

In every aspect of the job interview, you excelled. You are, without a doubt, the first choice. So the conversation turns to references, benefits, start dates, and salary. And this is where far too many young careerists fail. They are either ill-prepared for the conversation, or have some figure in mind (“When I graduate I’ll make $76K per year!”) that has nothing to do with reality. Go to Salary.com and Glassdoor.com; work their salary calculators. And then go in with educated – and reasonable – salary expectations.

You Failed to Exhibit Passion for THIS Job

You have options. Three other interviews went well, and you expect an offer from at least one of them. This company? Well, you wouldn’t mind working for them, but it isn’t your first choice. If this is your attitude going into the interview, the recruiter will notice. They will then ask qualifying questions to gauge your interest – and passion – for this job at this company. And if you fail to convince them this is the job for you… the offer goes to someone else.

Your Follow-up Was Weak (Or Non-existent)

Following up with a thank you note or email isn’t just a “nice thing to do” – it is a mandatory element of every job interview. Recruiters know that the top candidates – those who really want this job – will send an email, or a thank you card. And they know they should receive that within 24 hours of the interview (email) or 72 hours (snail mail). And they also know the communication shouldn’t just say “thank you” – it should clearly state why you are the best person for the job. No follow up? No job offer.

Your References Were Weak

Everything else went well. You presented yourself as a problem solver. You showed the appropriate amount of passion. You asked very good questions. You nailed it! And then… one of your references doesn’t really remember you. Or they talk in a too-calm, non-committal fashion about your work. They just don’t “sell” you. And that makes a recruiter think: “Am I sure about this person? Let me take another look…” Right or wrong, the recruiter then finds reasons not to hire you. Don’t let that happen… make sure your references are 100% ready.

Today, Your Competition Was Just a Bit Better

Sometimes, no matter how badly we want it… someone else on that day performed just a little bit better. They are already an existing employee, so perhaps less risk for the recruiter. Or they really impressed at every stage of the interview. Whatever the reason, you didn’t get the job offer – and it hurts. Rather than showing that hurt, own the opportunity to improve. Ask for feedback. Be positive. Be gracious. More important, ask the recruiter how to stay on their radar for the next job opening.

Next time you interview, keep these 12 reasons you didn’t get the job or internship – this time – in mind. After all, in an ultra-competitive job market, every little thing can mean the difference between getting a job offer… and the need to continue the job hunt.


Mark Babbitt AuthorAbout the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable and Forbes regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Switch and Shift, and Under30CEO.

Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors,” HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and CareerBliss’ “Top 10 Gen Y Career Experts.” Mark is currently working on two new books: “A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive (AMACOM, August 2014) with Ted Coine and “The Ultimate Guide to Internships (And Making Your College Years Matter Again)” (Allworth, January 2015). Questions? Contact Mark on Twitter.



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