Why You Didn’t Get the Job: 10 Reasons Outside of Your Control

WorkCoachCafeI see so many comments here from job seekers wondering what they “did wrong” to derail the job offer they knew was coming from that very encouraging hiring manager who ended the 2nd round of interviews saying, “See you soon.” 

But then, the employer never called back.  What happened?

Many, many factors go into making a hire, and half of them have nothing to do with the job seeker!  Read next week’s post to see the 10 factors that job seekers do control.

Reasons You Weren’t Hired that You Couldn’t Control

In our list of 20 reasons you were not hired, the first 10, below, are outside of your control as a job seeker.   (The 10 things you CAN control in in the next post.) You could be the perfect match to the job requirements, have a resume that knocked their socks off, have a LinkedIn Profile that shows you could be President, and made life-long friends during the interview process.   But, you still might not get the job because of issues that have absolutely nothing to do with you, your qualifications, or your performance in the process.

The Big Picture Reasons

Many factors influence these hiring opportunity decisions, and some of them are related to the over-all health or plans of the whole organization.  I call these “Macro level” factors, and they are usually outside of the hiring managers’ control, even if the hiring manager is the CEO.

1.  Budget issues –

It’s a tough economy, and when sales fall or some other negative financial situation arises, budgets can be reduced, removing the  money to pay for the position.

2.  Organizational issues –

They decide to reorganize, shifting employees and/or responsibilities from one part of the organization to another.  Until “the dust has settled” they don’t add new staff.

3.  Today’s level of job market competition –

Many excellent people are competing in today’s job market, bringing their “A games” to the process, and it has changed expectations, raising the bar for everyone.  At the same time, many people are showing little interest or enthusiasm, applying sloppily for everything they see, which is making employers skeptical of job seeker interest.  This means that what worked 3 years ago often won’t work now.

The Local Reasons

At the hiring decision level in most organizations, many “local” concerns impact hiring and can kill a job requisition or bump a job seeker into 2nd place from first.  I call these “Micro level” inter-organizational factors, and they are also outside of the job seeker’s control (at least for this opportunity):

4.  Internal hire – 

Someone already working inside the organization got the job (which may result in another opening elsewhere in the organization).  This one is very tough to beat, since most organizations want to offer their employees the opportunity for advancement or, at least, for change.

5.  Someone else was a better networker –

With 2 equally-qualified and equally-impressive people to choose from, the person who was referred by an employee gets hired twice as often as the “unknown” person – probably because the referred person is viewed as a lower-risk choice.

6.  The job was canceled –

They decided that it wasn’t really necessary to fill this job at this time – not busy enough or not clear that having someone do the job would be necessary for the long term.

7.  Job was redefined

They decided to change it, replacing the first duties and requirements with updated ones, so they are starting from scratch and you may not be a good match to the new job.

8.  The “Chemistry” didn’t work –

The mysterious factor that is so important in determining who gets hired, often boils down to how well you were liked by the people who interviewed you.  They may have some very quirky characters working there, and you didn’t feel “right” to one or two (or more) of the people who interacted with you, which could be people outside of the official/obvious interview process like the receptionist.  It’s not a good idea to try to force chemistry to work. You must be your true professional self in an interview to find a job that you like (and vice versa).

9.  Wrong “fit” for the corporate culture –

They have an idea of the kind of person who succeeds in their organization, and you are not that kind of person.  Perhaps you are too “artsy” or too “formal” or not “professional” enough or whatever.  This is also beyond your control.  But, better not to be hired into one of these organizations.

10.  A mix-up/mistake –

Perhaps something was mislaid or misfiled, or they confused you with someone else – unfortunately, with someone they didn’t like.  You can do your best to help them know who you are, but you cannot guarantee that no one will make a mistake.

As employers are imperfect, so are job seekers.  However, since the job seeker is in “selling” mode, it is up to the job seeker to pay close attention to what the employer wants.  For more reasons you were not hired, read next week’s post – the 10 factors in a job search that are controlled by the job seeker.

Bottom Line

Try not to see lack of a job offer as a personal failure because it may not have been, particularly if you are paying attention to the 10 factors you can control.  Sure, as a job seeker, you have control over many critical aspects of your job search.   And, you can probably think of things you could do better – so do them better next time, and stop worrying about a lost opportunity. 

More on Recovering from Job Search Rejection

Why You Didn’t Get the Job: 10 Reasons You Can Control

Rejected Again? How to Handle Not Being Hired for a Job You Wanted

After Job Rejection, Why Following Up Gracefully Works

Job Offers: 10 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Offer


© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .


  1. I’ve seen the internal candidate issue repeatedly over the years. Often, they are only interviewing to satisfy HR or to make it appear the person wasn’t just handed the job. In these situations, you never really had a chance. It’s almost impossible to compete against a strong (or often, simply well-liked) internal candidate. I’ve seen situations where we interviewed merely as a formality only to find out our internal candidate wasn’t as strong as we thought. What happened? They still got the job and we almost always regretted it later.

    The past few years I’ve also seen a bunch of jobs canceled after interviewing for months. They usually say the position was eliminated but my personal belief is they had unrealistic expectations and couldn’t fill them. They are often trying to replace a person with intimate company knowledge who was probably doing the work of three people (probably why they quit). Oh, and they want to pay at the bottom of the salary range for that position. I often wonder if those unsuccessful candidates have any idea how lucky they are the position was eliminated:)

    When an unsuccessful candidate did a good job and was well-qualified, the company should go out of its way to let them know. It also wouldn’t hurt to enthusiastically encourage them to apply for future openings. Great candidates always have options, even during the recent recession.

    • Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your behind-the-scenes insights. I’m guessing these are things that many job seekers know nothing about.

      How unfortunate that candidates are going through the daunting, discouraging interview process with no possibility of being hired. But I hope this heartens them that there are many reasons they aren’t getting hired, that are NOT within their control.

      Makes you wonder about companies that are so stuck on hiring internally, even if the candidate is not a good fit for the position, but then complain about the high cost of hiring. It’s an odd way of doing business.

      As you say, wouldn’t it be nice if the external candidates who perform well in interviews but weren’t hired, for whatever reason, were commended and encouraged to circle back around to that company for future opportunities.

      Meg Guiseppi
      Member, WorkCoachCafe Team

      • Hi Meg,

        You’re so right about circling back for future company opportunities. I counsel my clients to make an impression after the interview by choosing one or three letters to keep their candidacy open. My letter-writing workbook features examples of the “Thank You Letter as a Second Chance,” the “Keeping-in-Touch Letter” and the “After-a-Rejection Letter.” This campaign reinforces the benefits and value my client offers to the job opening.

      • Hi Ruth,

        Thanks for your excellent reminder. Send an appropriate note (hand-written, sent via snail mail really makes you stand out) when you’ve been rejected. It’s a great way to reinforce your interest in the company or organization and stay top of mind with them.

        Many times, the person they hire doesn’t work out, and hiring professionals go back to the others who were interviewed. Who do you think has a better chance of edging out the others? The people who have sent those “thank you for the opportunity to interview, I’m still interested in your company” personalized notes.

      • Hi Ruth, I have experienced an interview with 4 rounds, the process took 2 months with all the positive feedbacks etc., and then local HR informed me (after me calling them), that the position was canceled and they’re not going to hire anyone. I was disgusted of course and I don’t understand how come the position was canceled after 2 months of interviews. Then the HR guy told me they may have interesting positions in the future, and as the feedback was very good, he would like to keep in touch. Why is he saying such things? After dedicating your personal time to prepare and do your best on the interviews which was a waste of time, this is really something you don’t want to hear. Cannot HR people speak frankly and sincere a single time in their lives?

      • Obviously companies would like to promote from within and allow internal candidates the opportunity for progression. I just went through a series of interviews for a position in my department (had one internal candidate who figured she had the job in the bag – she definitely does have potential). It was the worst interview I have had in 20 years. I guess this internal candidate felt so comfortable with me that she joked through the interview, insulted myself as well as the other individual that was conducting the interview. Too bad for this individual as I am extending an offer to an external candidate! I don’t care if she has worked here for 5 years – she blew it all together.

      • Brenda,

        Thanks for sharing your perspective. Agree with you — you should never assume that you have a job and approach an interview casually. This strategy doesn’t work far more often than it does!

        Thanks again,

    • Hi Brian,

      Yes, thank you for your comment, Brian!

      You raise a very good point about unrealistic expectations! I’ve attended a few recruiter conferences in the last 12 months, and recruiters are having a very hard time managing employer expectations.

      Where, in more normal economic times, hiring managers and teams were happy hiring someone who was an “80% fit.” Now, with all the great people available in the current job market, they want a 100% or a 110% “fit.” And THAT is very difficult to do.

      In addition, employers are taking much longer to fill jobs than in better economic times, too – sooooooo many good people to choose from right now! It’s apparently tough to make a decision.

      To which I say, “AARGH!”

      Good luck!

      • And yet we’re all going to be scratching our heads in ten years time wondering why over half the country is either unemployed or underemployed, completely ignoring the fact that companies have completely forgotten how to hire people that don’t meet their draconian standards of excellence, even if the position is simply that of a data entry clerk. I wouldn’t be surprised if this trend all started with some idiot writing a book about how to revamp the hiring process, and it just caught on like a wildfire, like all bad ideas tend to do.

        Either way, insightful article. It’s nice to read something about people not getting hired that doesn’t simply lay the blame on someone not having a good enough social network.

    • YOU HIT THE NAIL RIGHT ON THE HEAD! Currently I am in a postion doing the work of 3 people and have been held back from lateral moves/promotions due to the fact that they know nobody else would stay in this position for long. The work has increased and the pay has declined. I do not feel that most companies understand or even care what this does to the average worker. Thanks for your comment!

  2. I am a registered nurse seeking the opportunity to return to hospital nursing or a position as a travel nurse. I worked out of the clinical area full time for 17 years and worked per diem in the hospital three years ago. I am being told I need “recent” clinical experience. They define recent as within two years experience. This is very frustrating. Has anyone else encountered this?

    • chandlee says:


      I can see why you feel frustrated. That said, working in healthcare is similar to working in IT or engineering: because of technological improvements, new processes and protocols, the nature of work is continually changing and many facilities feel that “recent” work experience is extremely important.

      I suggest taking an alternative approach — find out how you can get additional experience that will enable you to get back in the recent experience category — perhaps there is a short course you can take through a local college that provides nursing training, you may want to explore continuing education programs, or seek out a staff member in training and development at the facility where you wish to work. Ask their advice on how to close the gap — then do it — and stay in touch with the people who’ve told you that you need to be recent — in order to update them. This will help you stay on the radar screen.

      You are not the first person to experience this problem, and likely — as you take steps to gain the experience they want to see — it will no longer be a problem.

      Good luck,

      Note: If you have to pay for training or to update your education, your expenses may be tax deductible. Consult your accountant or tax provider for more information.

    • I myself had worked in a Hospital for 27 years & I find it very difficult & frustrating to get back in the Hospital world cause they hire internally & or they tell me that I am not what they are looking for.

      I was Cleaning & sterilizing equipment for my dept, & stocking supplies as well as ordering supplies
      too internally as well as externally.

      I ask myself “What gives?” I have had 2 hospital interviews & that’s it

      I have been unemployed for over a year

      I had an interview one week ago for a full time position I did call the interviewer person to ask if they had made a decision yet & I am waiting to hear back from them.

      • Hi Mark,

        That’s tough…One question, I have is if you’ve extended the parameters of your job search yet — if you’ve worked in cleaning and sterilizing equipment and purchasing in the past, could you look to other fields and industry sectors that use the same skills — perhaps in positions in manufacturing for example that involve quality assurance or compliance.

        There are lots of places besides just hospitals that seek out these types of skills. Perhaps you could check some of them out?

        All the Best,

    • I worked in a hospital for 27 years & I was let go last year, I was in charge of cleaning & sterilizing
      equipment for my dept as well as ordering supplies for my dept
      I was trained on a Computer program called Lawson &that is used for ordering supplies,

      I have 5 years experience in this Lawson Program I applied at this one other hospital
      & in their job describition it said that one has to have experience in Lawson program in
      which I have 5 years experience in & well they tell me that I am not what they are looking for,

      I feel frustration with that & almost get upset I have been applying out side of hospitals
      & of course I get not qualified..

      • Hi Mark,

        I notice you have a couple typos and grammatical mistakes in your message above; make sure you check — or have someone else — check your spelling when you apply at another job.

        Another thing you can potentially do is to see if you can find out who the hospital uses to hire temporary workers — and potentially apply there as well. You may want to search job boards for descriptions that include Lawson and look at jobs in procurement.

        Good luck, hang in there, and keep on trying.


      • I have been using Indeed.com & typing in Shipping & Receiving & where it says City,
        I have been typing city where I live or another city close to where I live, within reason of driving
        distance & sometimes that don’t work, & I also use Simply Hired.com & type in Shipping & receiving, & or I type in Picker & Packer.

        I have been sending my resume online, cause I know most companies want resume’s
        to be sent online & which I have been doing from time to time.

        I have not heard from them , I can’t call them cause there is no phone number, no person’s name & no address, just city & so I have to do a search for the city & & adress.

      • Mark,

        If there is a career center in your area with free or low cost services you may want to see if you can see them — and if they can help you also. While applying for jobs you see online can help you feel like you are still in the game, networking and building relationships is also an important component of the search. I suggest you think about working your search in those areas as well.

        Keep in touch with us, hang in there and good luck.


  3. At least i am not alone. My first interview went great, and long, we had to cut it short because the next appointment was here. I actually built up a repore with the operations manager. I thought things were going great. Had second interview with the head of company, op manager, several others i wasn’t sure about. Again, I handled it -no sweat. Left the meeting being told we will give you a call.
    I knew i had two things going against me, ok I’m a women, three. 2) I am older- 57,3) i filed for bankruptcy in March of 2011, but my credit is ok enough for me to buy a new car.

    i emailed a thank you note- one week , two weeks- then i start to send some follow up emails. Nothing!

    Unfortunately i work in the same mall their new store is opening- and i saw it opened Friday May 11. They really crushed my spirit. This job was going to change my life- i went through the whole day on the verge of tears, and i finally went outside and cried me eyes out. I felt better the next day, but if i am rejected , i like to deal with that privately- they never afforded me that respect.

    My girl friend went down to the store and asked to see the manager under some rous. The person there said that there was no manager. What the hell does that mean?
    Is this the new way companies deal with interviewes? I gave them some very important personal information about myself on a job application. I don’t deserve a call to say – no thank you?

    Like a spurned lover, i am angry- but ready to move on with gusto/

    the universe has something greater for me

    • chandlee says:

      Hi Linda,

      How disappointing for you; I am sorry to hear your news. While it’s likely that they’ve decided to go a different direction and staff differently, I would not assume that they’ve lied to your friends — companies staff stores many different ways. There may be a team leader instead of a manager, who knows?

      Would you want to work for a company that doesn’t follow up with people?

      I encourage you to keep up your job search. That you are a woman is not grounds for discrimination — search the statistics on employment and you’ll find that often women have an easier time of finding work than men do. Age discrimination is also illegal, and — thankfully women have a lot of options they can use to look younger.

      I wish you all the best moving forward in your search for a new opportunity.

      Good luck,

    • I feel for you, Linda. I myself was retrenched two years ago now, and have managed to find temp work to keep myself in work for part of that time, while still looking for permanent work. Even a short term temp assignment seems to require one or two interviews. Some of my experiences you would not believe!

      It is normal to hear NOTHING from either an agency or the direct company recruitment team. I have been lucky enough to get a few interviews, where I have been told I am one of only a few to be interviewed out of usually over 100 applicants. I pretty much always fulfil all the essential criteria listed, which in some cases is quite specific and would limit the field quite a bit. Even then, there are plenty of times I don’t even get an interview.

      At one panel interview, two of the panel were having a private discussion while a third was asking questions. Later that same interview, the ‘lead’ panel member literally had his head on the desk. I really should have just left at that point, but didn’t want my natural impulse to terminate the interview definitely rule me out, even though it was pretty obvious there was zero chance of me getting that job. One month later, I still had not had an official “Thanks, but no” email, so I contacted them myself, to be told be a junior administrator “Oh, the new person has already started, sorry about that.” Now I’m actually very glad not be working with such people, but I still need a job!

      A fellow temp I met on a job has had similar experiences. She was told recently that the other candidate got the job because she was “calmer and more serene”. Now this friend is fairly outgoing, but very professional and capable, and highly co-operative – very much a team player. Having worked in a few more places since, we both see that the new jobs seem to go to much younger, very docile, timid personalities – not sure what that means exactly, but it is definitely something we have both observed. Perhaps, and I cannot know for sure, we as mature women are seen (correctly) as being more assertive, although this is very different from being aggressive.

      Age discrimination may well be illegal, but no employer is going to say you didn’t get the job because of your age. I have had two interviews recently that I thought went well – I certainly fulfilled all the criteria they needed and felt I was connecting with the interview panel – only to find out later that I didn’t get the job because of ‘cultural fit’. This can mean absolutely anything, is completely legitimate and lets employers off the hook any time they just want someone younger.

      To be honest, I don’t really see any way round it. I can do the work, fit well into organisations and make very good relationships with other staff members, yet either cannot convey that at interview, or the interview doesn’t see past my age.

      Just have to keep trying, I guess, and hope that something permanent comes up before I lose my house.

  4. Richard says:

    I’ve been out of work for 3+ years now after having close to 13 years working in the legal field. I worked in records management and docketing as an assistant. I didn’t have the opportunity to get a Bachelor Degree or higher – however, I do not begrudge those who have had this good fortune. However, I do have an Associate Degree in Paralegal and with my experience I KNOW I can do many of the jobs advertised. My issue is with employer qualifications – jobs which I can do, but am kept out of the candidate pool because the job “requires” a Bachelor’s Degree. The candidate can have NO experience in the area of interest, their B.A of B.S. etc can be as close a match to the job as Earth is to the the Andromeda galaxy, but they get the job. Why, they have a Bachelor’s degree. Nothing else, no experience, no relevant academic background, but they have a 4 year degree. Simple.

    • chandlee says:


      Getting screened out because you don’t have a degree has been an unfortunately common occurrence in the last few years — even for those with years of experience. Yuck.

      Here’s what I recommend: try a new approach. Reach out and develop personal connections at firms instead of simply applying. Seek out informational interviews, introductions, etc. Research shows that as many as 65% of law firms now use LinkedIn — don’t be afraid to seek out contacts on LinkedIn or Twitter — the increased transparency puts a greater sense of pressure/impetus for firms to respond.

      Good luck and don’t give up, but do try to make at least one human connection inside each organization that you apply to.

      All the Best,

      • Thanks for the suggestion Chandlee. I have to say that even as I have been job searching and focusing on networking with focus on relationships and helping my contacts, utilizing LinkedIn well with making connections there and reaching out to hiring along with volunteering on a hotline with a local nonprofit I still have not gotten an actual paying job. I have had few intermittent paying gigs after my 1 yr AmeriCorps term ended. Also, interviews at other places have occurred mainly through networking and one or two with just randomly applying, but no job. I am doing what I can as stated in advice in articles focusing on networking with trying to pass information to my contacts, grow the relationship and express how I am looking for the next paying job while asking for their advice rather than a job. Also, the place I volunteer at with such interest and sincerely called me in for an interview 2 weeks back for a part-time paying position with duties I like and certainly which I could do from my volunteer sessions.

        As I followed up with interest, I was told they hired someone else and someone who has done more calls, but I am not exactly sure of that and this person became a volunteer after my volunteer training in November 2013. I really like all the people here and wanted this hourly paying job and impressed with the aspects of it in the interview and description of the environment. I was told by them that they will keep me in mind for future positions and how the position I interviewed for pops up at times as an opening. I wrote a gracious thank you letter to them for the interview offer and expressing my further interest. One of the interviewers who I see frequently is very nice and positive and said she will let me know of similar positions in future and she along with the HR Director encouraged me to send my resume and cover letter for one position I first expressed interest while I was called in for an interview for another position. I am grateful for such even though I am feeling stung and not getting something even after my persistence, effort, sincerity and good deeds and from hearing how volunteering and networking usually leads to jobs.

        Also, while at a job club meeting once, I was hearing a speaker emphasizing volunteering to get a job and how he networked with people at top to get a job and advised me in an email to say how I am a great, unique candidate for the job which I tried with this nonprofit. It just gets to me how in general when a sincere, hardworking person volunteers and networks and doesn’t get the job as advised and sees others get. I didn’t get specific advice on how to stand out next time for getting the 2-1-1 position in the future. I still volunteer here. What do you suggest as I really hope my efforts pay off soon and karma kicks in? Thanks for all your time truly!

    • Richard,

      I would love to have your experience–I’m sure there is an employer out there who will too. What I run into is the opposite difficulty; I have a master’s degree and a “transferable” experience, while it is not what a seeming majority of employers are seeking.

      I wish you the very best; the very best for all of us who are still searching. Fight the good fight; do not give up.



      • Richard says:


        Thanks for the nice words. Yes, it is extremely frustrating, at times it seems like that these want ads are deliberately written to frustrate people.

        In fact one job ad demonstrates this (the same job title, the same company, everything the same) which I responded to just this last week. There were two ads for the same job on different sites. The first had my experience down pat, but a Bachelor’s degree as “preferable.” On the other site the experience wasn’t clearly laid out, however a Master’s Degree was “MANDATORY.” So, I responded to the first version of the ad! Have to see what happens

        Good luck to you too.


      • chandlee says:

        Hi Richard,

        It sounds to me like the role is more senior in one site (where the Master’s degree is required) than in the other. This happens sometimes. Good luck!


      • My wife and I have been very blessed in our lives. We have also lived tgrhuoh very tight times ( I. E., blood donations.) We have always felt the love if others. Many times, we picked up the bill for another at a resturant. Other times we paid for another’s groceries. Another time we put together a baby shower for a lady we never met who left an abusive home. Instead of money, we gave a man in the rain a sleeping bag, a coat, and accessories along with a gift card for a meal at Denny’s. When my wife ad I ran into financial issues, we were blessed by people who remained anonymous with a $500 gift card twice. We always asked why. We had a very hard time accepting. Why us? LovePay it forward It will come back when needed

      • chandlee says:


        Thanks for sharing your perspective. If you are currently unemployed, one of the best ways to demonstrate your ability and capacity to perform and achieve is to volunteer for a short-term project that will showcase the skills you want to use. You may also find that informational interviews with fellow alums of your Master’s program to find out how they parlayed their experience into full-time work — is a good strategy.

        All the Best,

    • Don’t feel so bad. I have a bachelor’s degree, only graduated from college 4 years ago, and have been working since I was in college. My luck is no better because of any of it. Ironically, I have a friend who has pretty much the same work history as I do – we worked at the same place when we were in college – and he’s some junior level account executive at a company that handles health care for senior citizens, making extremely good money. Meanwhile, I can’t seem to break the $11 barrier. Currently, I work as a residential concierge making $10.50 an hour, working weird hours, and getting a day off if I’m lucky. The company itself is incredibly disorganized and frustrating to work for. So yeah, I do absolutely know what you mean.

      • David,

        Thanks for weighing in here. Wondering what might be helpful to you — have you asked friends or mentors for job search help? Asked for feedback on anything in particular? If you haven’t done so already, it may be helpful for you to get another set of eyes and ears to help you with the search.

        Good luck and all the best,

  5. Of course, the (greying) elephant in the room here is “too old.” I am a very energetic professional who is often told I have a “radio voice” (used to work in voice-over and announcing at one point), and can see that special look on the faces of people who finally meet me in an interview after a phone screening when they see I am a lot older than expected. At one company, a younger manager who was interviewing with me loosened up to the point where she started prattling about her frustrations of dealing with a sales force made up of “white guys in their late-50’s who don’t like change.” I smiled and responded that I might be able to help her with that since they’d still be my juniors. She looked horrified at her obvious ageist remark, sputtered a few times, and curtly ended the interview– and told the company’s GM I “wasn’t the right fit.”

    It would be great if these articles would tackle this issue as well, instead of fielding easy ones.

    • chandlee says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective on this, and for your feedback on what you believe is the tip missing from our post, “Why You Didn’t Get the Job: 10 Reasons Beyond Your Control.”

      We agree with you that age can be a challenging factor for many applicants. That said, it is also illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants. In the U.S., the Age Discrimination Act of 1967 exists to protect workers age 40 and over; the EEOC enforces these regulations with U.S. employers.

      The hiring manager whom you met with is clearly in need of training in this area — and it is highly likely that her HR office would not condone what transpired if they were aware of it. In fact, they would likely tell her that she may have exposed the organization to potential discrimination charges.

      That said, my read of the situation is this: by choosing to disclose that you were in fact older than “white guys in their 50s” and that “they would be your juniors” — you drew attention to her error. The word choice of “junior” could also be misconstrued as thinking about seniority inside an organization in terms of position — and I wouldn’t recommend it. This could have made her uncomfortable and caused her to feel on the spot and feel that you weren’t on the same page.

      What the hiring manager may have been looking for was simply attitude towards change — and examples perhaps of how you work effectively with people across age brackets to make things happen. In any case, I think providing such examples is a more effective approach of tackling a situation similar to this — as there’s no need to ever tell someone your age and share that you are older than a group that’s been called out in conversation.

      As for our post on “10 reasons you may not have heard back,” it was designed for a general audience. We will put a post for older workers in our queue for future posts — though given that the Work Coach Cafe site is global in scope, we will not be able to focus on U.S. based resources for older workers. For that, we recommend resources including the AARP’s Work & Employment website, Job-Hunt.org’s resources for Boomers, and Encore Careers — an organization which provides funding opportunities for workers over 50 who seek to combine passion, purpose, and a paycheck.

      Thanks again for your comment and feedback, and — I wish you all the best.


      • Don’t worry about it– the company had a terrible reputation as a revolving door anyway. I got hired at a firm in a much more interesting industry but in a somewhat junior position and was grateful for the chance. A month later I was offered a higher-level position with a government agency, which I accepted but stayed on good terms with the first company– and two months later the first company asked me back to take over a senior role. Maturity worked for me every step of the way in that journey.

        And yes, I’ve encountered plenty of “walking lawsuits” in my career. What separates the men from the boys (sorry for the sexist terminology) is enough moral and ethical grounding to not look at them as lottery tickets– which is why I decided to leave that hiring manager’s come-uppance to her next victim and simply settle for a great job-search story to share here.

      • chandlee says:

        Thanks for the follow-up, Buzz. We appreciate it. And glad to hear your story had a happy ending.


    • My husband, who treats job hunting as his job, and spends 8 hours a day looking for work, saw a job ad that required someone with “no more than 10-15 years experience”. Ageist, much? He contacted the agent, no response, contacted his boss, no response, finally contacted the owner of the agency and got the response “Sorry, that’s against company policy and against the law”. The ad was withdrawn, but I’m betting that some none too bright recruiter was simply parrotting the requirements laid down by his client.

      Not that I will ever know, but I would be willing to bet that no resumes indicating their owner was over the age of 40 ever made it past the bin!

  6. I have been on many job interviews. Some I knew right away the chemistry was good with the team because I could tell how quickly I was advanced onto next interviews. I declined because of the level of the roles which is fine and not the people.

    What I don’t understand in some job interviews for temporary roles is that the hiring managers in some situations know I am 100% qualified and ask me extremely tough questions but they do not hire. I had this twice only.
    I once had a manager ask me how to resolve his own job challenge and business issue and even with that resolution I provided he still hire me.
    At the end of the interview I synesthized the info. and asked “Did I answer all of your questions?” and he said “Yes, you hit all the points”.

    That is what amazes me into why a manager would not hire a talented person but this gives me insight into the decision making of this type of hiring manager.

    Question is: Is being too smart a risk for some managers who aren’t that smart? I have been told by recruiters that the comments from some managers is: She is very intelligent…. or over qualified for this role.. So, I guess that may be it.. For me, I would always hire the most talented person temp or perm..

    • I meant to say: Even with the resolutions the manager still didn’t hire me..

      My question is: Do some not so talented hiring managers bring in candidates as a means of discovery and ideas to learn from.

      Also, showing that one is too smart a risk for some managers who aren’t that talented and smart?

      I never hold back and not show my intelligence in an interview…

    • Hi Curious,

      Not sure exactly what you mean when you say, you “declined some of the interviews because of the level of the roles which is fine and not the people.”

      Based on what you’ve said, I’m concerned that you are coming off as too confident. Often it’s not intelligence that intimidates employers and potential colleagues it’s an attitude that you think you”are too smart for some managers who aren’t that smart.” If you hit all the points, but don’t come across as someone who would be a team player, listen to other people, and be a good person to socialize with on occasion — you still may get passed over more than you would like.

      If you’ve been interviewing at a very high level, try going with a slightly more moderate approach to the interview — not necessarily hiding your intelligence but describing your experience in language a seventh grader could understand.

      Good luck.


      • Chandlee,
        Thank you for the advice!!!. Hahaha.. I was told that by recruiters that the interviewers said “She is too intelligent”. Well, that is funny because this negative reaction has happend usually by Men in high level positions.It just happened to be these men. Not all men of course.
        I hate to say this but there are chauvanistic men in the corporate world who must must be smarter than their subordinates and how dare the interviewer be smarter than them:-)

        I didn’t change my style at all and I have been having a lot of success. Interesting though, the two people that are involved in these are Corporate women… It just happened to be a coincedence.
        So, I think I may be right in terms of elements of the chauvinism.

  7. Great site. Unfortunately, there is still some mysterious element not listed here that is making me unemployable. My previous job was with a very large internationally known company for 15 years. I was not fired, or laid off. I left to move to another state to be with my fiance. His work was going well, then the downturn created a situation where I need to re-enter the work force.

    I got the phone interviews for a few companies. I’ve even gotten face to face interviews. With one particular company the face to face and phone interview went exceptionally great. I have all the qualifications they are seeking. Previous work experience even matched up with duties and day-to-day issues someone hired for that position might experience. Then unfortunately the rejection letter came. I was crushed, but sincerely wrote back thanking them for the opportunity to interview with their company. How much I admired their business and politely asked what I could do in the future to be a stronger candidate. I received a response to keep checking their website for future opportunities.

    The future opportunity came about three weeks later. Of the 10 people they did select, some or someone must not have worked out. The same job appeared on the job board. I reiterated my interest in the position. Resubmitted my resume. Updated my cover letter to show new information based on what we had discussed in the face-to-face interview and how I had the experience and qualifications to handle those situations. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts and having all the requirements, the company feels the need to interview and search for other candidates to fill the position rather than me. I just don’t know.. something is wrong, missing. lacking, or I’m actually just too old (I’m in my 40’s now) to be considered.

    • Andrea,

      A couple of questions:

      How long were you out of work between when you left the company and moved — and when you started work? If longer than 15 months, is there a way to put forth another explanation for where you were and how you spent your time? You want to make sure that you don’t give the impression that the economic downturn is not the only factor that motivates you to return to work.

      A couple of notes:

      In an down market, it’s always good to look busy. If you can find a volunteer gig or temporary work that you can list on the resume as you search — that often helps.

      If even a small part of the job description was changed, it’s quite possible that they changed their minds on what they were looking for. Or shifted directions. Often this has nothing to do with you, and isn’t personal — even if it feels like it. Hang in there, and don’t give up…

      All the Best,

  8. I had a job interview set for tuesday, just 30 minutes ago confrimed all for tuesday. I jus got an email from the recruiter at the company saying

    There has been a last minute change of direction and at this time , we are putting the Paralegal search on hold- sorry I need to cancel the interview for Tuesday. I will let you know when things change. Thanks

    Maybe something legitimately happened but woah, talk about a fast switch. I am bummed but have to think it wasn’t meant to be and who the hell knows maybe this is true what he said. I’ll either him from them or I won’t but either way I am currently employed.

    I still say what the hell though. Do things seriously change that fast?

    • Kim,

      Sounds like it has nothing to do with you. And yes, business needs do change inside organizations during the hiring process. More than likely this wasn’t a snap decision but rather something happened in the hiring department or with the budgets — and that this was communicated to the recruiter AFTER the interview had been set up.

      Hang in and look for other options in the interim.


  9. Hey thanks a lot for the response. I am a firm believer in things will happen as they are meant to happen. So if this interview didn’t come to fruition than it wasn’t meant to be. I am a go with the flow kind of person. I am grateful to have a job in todays economy and this company sought me out not the other way around so I’m for all intents and purposes happy where I am. I will just stay here and look forward to the future. Thanks again.

  10. Interested says:

    The job market is very interesting because if you have a master’s and 10 years of experience you are over qualified, but if you don’t have a BA/BS then you don’t even qualify for some (most) positions. My question is what is the “right” skill set to obtain employment in this economy? If what I am reading is true (companies want over qualified incumbents) then those with advanced degrees and several years of experience shouldn’t have a problem obtaining employment…however, this is not the case. This economy has forgotten that qualifications are important and it has become a case of who you know not what you know, which is why “networking” is emphasized.

    • Dear Interested,

      The challenge lies in that often more than one qualified candidate applies for a position. To get the job, you need to show that you are actively engaged with the subject matter, understand what the job is for, and would work well inside a culture. In many fields there are often been more candidates than positions. If you are currently in school, assess the market demand for employees in your field and make sure you are gaining the experience you need to fill the needs of the market.

      Introductions and networking referrals never hurt in the hiring process as hiring is expensive for employers — and they want to feel comfortable that you are up to the job…

      Good luck,

  11. I had a lovely interview for a position at a very small non-profit, at the end of which it was clearly stated that I was going to be invited back for the next round of interviews. I was incredibly well-qualified, the interviewer and I seemed to really click (the interview went long, etc). Instead, I received today (less than a week later) an impersonal email stating that they had decided instead to restructure their existing staff. Seriously? Your office of four people is going to magically “reorganize” in order to cover a position you advertised as being full time with benefits? That’s some special contortion, isn’t it?

    • Oh Renee,

      This has nothing to do with you. Small non-profits often run on shoestring budgets…and sometimes in the process, they realize that they can’t afford to hire additional staff. This is likely what happens and it is unfortunate. It’s quite possible that their were changes in funding, a grant did not come through as expected, or an outside Board Member did not give the final permission to hire.

      I know this feels painful, but it is way easier than if they had hired you and let you go quickly after they realized they could not afford the new position.

      I recommend responding with a very gracious note letting them know how much you enjoyed meeting all of them. Address them by name and mention your continued interest in working with them should their organizational structure change. Hang in there, and good luck.


  12. How about someone else having more suitable experience? At least this was the reason given to me…after reference checks.

    I did apply for a job about 5 weeks ago, attended the interview with the hiring manager ( I did really well !) , my references got call from the hiring manager (two of my references gave me glowing references) and still I ended up not getting the job. I got an email today from the hiring manager who said that I was one of four very qualified candidates and she had to go with another candidate whose experience was more suitable for the job. I don’t get it though why she would call my references if I was only “one of four very qualified candidates”.Really really disappointing…as I thought I would get the job, at least I was their top candidate. To rub salt in the wound, I have been asked to give my approval for them to keep my resume on file should another opportunity arise. You comments would be much appreciated…that still doe snot make sense to me.

  13. Andrew Kelly says:

    I have been to several interviews in the past and I must say that not one company or hiring manager know what they want even if it came out and danced on their desk. I have been to many interviews in the past and was poorly mistreated. I have a mild cerebral problem which affects my vocal cords but not my abilities for the job. Many interviews the hiring manager walked out after the first few seconds of me speaking saying, “I don’t want to deal with this!!!” or as another excuse, “You don’t look like…” who am I supposed to look like George Harrison? Michael Keaton? I will give you case in point of how dumb hiring managers are. I have a Business Management Diploma along with Real Estate property management and 12 years security experience along with computer repair and electricity. I have assisted with my parents with their property management problems handling rental and condo board concerns. I applied when I lived in BC for jobs in property management. I got no response as most employers want 4-8 years experience. I finally I nailed 2 interviews out of the hundreds of resumes I sent out. At the interview I was told “I have related experience and can’t hire because of related experience.” I was shown the door. So why are employers bitching about experience and lack of in Canada when somebody comes in the door with once in a life time skills. Employers completely ignored my Business Management diploma talking to me like as if I am a two year old, and ignored my Property Management certificate from University of British Columbia, (UBC) which is a requirement to get my Real Estate License. I thought employers like to save money as I am per-trained with my related skills and education. It seems they like to complain and hire some goof and then go to the newspapers and complain about lack of skilled Canadians. Related experience is not good enough some how the hiring manager had the experience fairy hit them on the head and “poof 8 years experience.” Gee I wonder how hiring managers got hired after the fact in reality they had related skills or somebody gave them a break in their career and that is how they are interviewing me or else they would not be sitting in their chair making decisions. Employers kept telling me “You don’t have condo board experience.” Then why did I take the course and how do you think I got around condo board decisions that where illegal according to the law? Secondly, my security background in handling situations and Business Management Diploma from community college helped as well as I used that, “Related experience!!!” to make the decisions. What people are saying “You can’t use my bathroom because you don’t have direct experience you have related experience using your bathroom.” Somebody trained these people, instead of making the applicant go through hoops and hurdles to get hired give them a break like somebody did to you because no experience was never thrown in your face when you got hired or how else are you interviewing me, you had related experience. Because of this charade of stupidly and mistreatment of applicants they are forced to take a lower pay job or go on welfare because employers play these mind games.

  14. My situation is a bit different. I went through the internal interview process, I am at least 20 years senior to the other 2 candidates. I was today told that I am the only one that nailed the spreadsheet project yet I am not in the final 2 candidates , which by the way are both young single latin females-i am older white married female. I am way more qualified for the position as far as what was posted yet the director has now indicated that the other two are in the final running due to another qualification which I do have but wasn’t considered for. I need to know what recourse I have. I am feeling race and age both play a part in this. Please advise.

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi Karen,

      Try assuming that this was simply a misunderstanding, and follow up with a letter outlining the qualification you do have which was perhaps not noticed.

      Thank you for the opportunity… To clarify my qualifications in [the qualification you feel you are not getting credit for], [describe your qualifying experience and/or credential].

      It is very difficult to prove age discrimination. It needs to be part of a larger pattern. You could contact a local attorney specializing in employment law to see what might be done, but any legal recourse won’t be a quick fix.

      Good luck with your job search!

  15. Hello, a position in our company opened up…I interviews they really like me, it is in the same area I already work so I know the people..It came down to me and someone else..The other person had more experience in what they actually needed..they hired her, Great she deserves it, she was our VP’s admin…she has the position for a couple of weeks, coming in and training…our VP never even look for someone else…then she decides to stay with the VP and declines the position??!! OK, the hiring manager decides OK fine she will hire me, we are both excited! We are waiting to hear from HR when we can do the transfer…couple of weeks later they decide to put the position on hold, and hire a temp?! What, really?! they temp has now been here for almost a year?!

  16. Michael says:

    The real problem is corporate america is rife with incompetent and criminally deceitful people. Before someone argues with me understand that I know of which I speak. One time I was put of a job because of upper management padding a bid on two of three properties I managed. Which they subsequently lost. It was a temp position and I was to be hired as of January 1 and given a raise. I was put out as of December 30. After that I returned to an old company but six months later the owner of the building sold it another company. The CEO of that company met with me to convince me to stay. I did and on the first day with the new company I found that everything she told me was an abject lie. I knew what was coming next. Just short of three months later I was put out and replaced by an assistant manager for less money. Its been a year and four months since then and I have had many interviews and yet nothing. I know why this is happening. Three reasons: 1- they are holding these two lay offs, perpetratred by their incompetent and deceitful brethren, against me even though they were through no fault of my own. 2- they are holding my age against me. While I am 45 I look much younger and I am in much better shape then the folks interviewing me. 3 – they are not looking to hire the best candidate for the job. They are intent on covering their asses and protecting their jobs so they hire someone way under experienced and at less money. I have 16 years experience and even a recommendation from an employer where I received most of said
    experience and yet I cannot get hired? Ludicrous! Never believe or trust anyone in corporate America tells you, ever. They are lying to you and deceiving you, always. Every single time.

  17. Andyhams says:

    One thing that is driving me nuts is the following interview goes well (if i get one most times no replies only for jobs i have no motivation for as sales or telesales) and
    this morning my heart shank as i wanted to work the job from this reply

    Unfortunately on this occasion you have been unsuccessful in your application. On the day, there were candidates who had more experience in the roles which we were looking for.

    Thank you for your interest in (Company) and we wish you every success in your future career.

    any advice appreciated
    Thank you

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      If you really want to work there — liked the people, the organization, the location, etc. — send them a thank you note for letting you know the outcome since most employers don’t bother. Tell them that you enjoyed meeting them and would be interested in other opportunities that may develop.

      Few people send that kind of a note, so it stands out. And, if the person they hired doesn’t work out, you could be on the top of the list when they need to hire someone. Or, they could decide you fit for another opportunity they have.

      NO guarantees that this will pay off for you, but it might…

      Here’s my post about this: The First Thing You Should Do After a Rejection.

      Hope it works for you!

      Good luck with your job search,

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