Don't quit - Why didn't I get that job
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My interview was brilliant – why didn’t I get the job?

1 Dec 2016

It happens to the best of us. You perfected your CV, you practised your interview skills and you presented your best self. They loved you! So why didn’t you get the job?

There’s a lot of steps to get to your dream job, starting all the way back at the job-hunting stages. You have to know where you want to work or what you want to do. Then you have to put some time into researching the companies you’re applying to, in order to perfect your application.

Once you’ve sent in your best CV, you have to play the waiting game, which can be torture. But once you get called for an interview, you’re already halfway there. Then you just have to prepare and practise for your interview, put your best foot forward and impress them as best you can.

We all have bad interview stories, where we probably know exactly why we didn’t get a particular job. We also know of situations where we were great, but someone else just had that bit more experience. But what about those other times? There are some occasions when you feel like the interview went really well, but then you didn’t get the job and you’re left wondering why. Well, we have some ideas.

They judged a book by its cover

This is an awful reason and it can be hard to stomach, but employers will look at you physically and judge you before you’ve opened your mouth. Not only that, but it can go for or against you, no matter what way you look.

A company might pre-judge you as too attractive to be taken seriously, or they might subconsciously judge you for not being what they perceive to be ‘attractive enough’. For these, it will be a bullet dodged on your part.

On the flip side, take a second look at your interview outfit. What you might have originally thought was perfect, might have been too business-like, not professional enough, or just not fitting with the company culture. Ask for a second opinion on your outfit choice before your next interview.

They hired internally

Unfortunately, this can happen even when you have better experience than the internal candidate. Posting the job might have just been a formality, when they really knew who they were hiring all along, which unfortunately means you couldn’t have possibly done any better.

Sometimes companies trade off more overall experience with someone who knows how the company works already and who already fits in with the team. Don’t take this one too hard.

The best advice for these situations is to look for ‘buzzword’ experience an internal person might have that could trump your bigger-picture skills. You might never beat an already lined-up internal hire, but you can make it harder for them to justify turning you down.

They couldn’t afford you

For jobs that have salaries listed as ‘depending on experience’, this can be tricky to manoeuvre. You might be overqualified for the job you’ve applied for and, while they may have loved you, they have decided that they can’t afford to pay you your worth or match your previous salary, opting for someone less experienced and ultimately cheaper.

While it can be hard to convince companies that you value the experience more and would take the salary they’re offering, you shouldn’t get too disheartened by this.

It’s frustrating, but it’s important to know what you are worth and think twice before taking a job with a low salary when you exceed the required experience by a country mile. The company that wants you will want you for what you bring to the table, and they should be prepared to pay for it.

They think you won’t stay

Your CV is colourful and busy. You see a wealth of varied experience. They see a flight risk.

Many companies will look for loyalty and where they don’t see a lot of it, they will look for proof that this is truly where you want to end up.

There’s nothing wrong with having multiple jobs, internships and other hobbies, but make sure you convince your interviewees that you’re passionate about their company, and this is where you want to settle for the foreseeable future.

Even if your CV does show loyalty, it might highlight what your true passion is. A financial services company might work out from your blog, media degree and experience in radio that you’d jump at the chance to work in a very different industry.

You showed up too early

You know that making sure you’re not late to an interview is lesson number one, but did you ever think showing up too early can be just as bad? Research shows that some interviewers make up their minds about you within the first 10 minutes of meeting you.

If you’re 45 minutes early to your interview, it can show two things. Firstly, you’re overly eager, desperate even. That can put people off straight away. Secondly, you might stress your interviewers out when they know you’ve been waiting for ages, even if it’s not their fault.

It’s good to give yourself a decent buffer to ensure you’ll arrive on time, but if you’re more than 10 minutes early, head to a nearby café or just sit in your car and collect your thoughts. There’s no need to head into the building any earlier.

You asked the wrong questions

We know the sage advice that it’s always a good idea to ask at least one question at the end to show your interest, knowledge and curiosity about the job and the company.

However, contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as a stupid question. Make sure you’ve researched the company and prepare a question or two that you either couldn’t find the answer for, or know the answer but can safely ask without sounding stupid – one final chance to show why you’d be perfect for the job.

For example, if you find them lacking a social media presence, ask them why that is or if there are plans to enhance it, before inquiring about whether it’s something you might be allowed to take a look at, should you be successful.

They just didn’t like you

This is possibly the most common reason someone didn’t get the job when they did everything right. You’re not going to gel with everyone you meet in life, and sometimes, for no reason at all, people just don’t click.

With all the right experience, you might find this reason unfair. They don’t have to like you for you to be good at your job right? Wrong.

Teams need to work well together and a bad work environment can be bad for business. Whether you agree or not, you might just not have fitted in well with the team that’s already in place. Try not to take this to heart. You shouldn’t change your personality to suit an interview or job because it won’t last, so the best thing to do here is to move on.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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