Frustration, anger, and confusion often accompany a job rejection email – why didn’t you get the job? This in fact is the entire basis for why I wrote my best selling interview guide, and continue blogging and writing about how to interview well. Most people never know why they didn’t get a job – you think the interview went well, your resume is great, the conversation was great, and then you receive the rejection letter or phone call.
What happened? This is where I really wish hiring managers could end an interview with direct feedback on how it went, and why you aren’t going to be hired. This interview feedback would go a long way to helping you in your next job interview. But, we can’t. Too many legal issues, risks, and years of guidance from human resources around what we are allowed to say and not say. So you often never know.
I recently interviewed a candidate for a technical writer role. She looked great on paper, passed her HR phone interview with flying colors, and was scheduled to come in for a group format interview. She presented herself well, answered most of the questions with appropriate responses, and seemed like she could do the job. We didn’t hire her (in fact we are now on month 4 of this job search). Why? Does this mirror your experiences?
Here are the “behind the scenes” discussions with my team after the interview, and the outcomes leading to a “not hired” decision:
- Her skills and experience were heavily weighted towards historical technical writing – picture long technical manuals for software, training materials, etc. Skills we needed, but with the shift more and more to multi-media, online help, instructional videos, etc. we needed more depth and experience balanced across that category.
- Ability to function completely independently and with little direction. Our organization runs very fast, we all wear 18 different hats on any given day, and we don’t have time unfortunately to always lay out detailed plans and approaches for what we need. This means we need a strong, confident, self-starter who can take an abstract idea or need and go figure out what needs to be done. Often candidates coming from a larger organization will have more resources, peers, and involved management to help guide, bound ideas off of, and structure approaches to creating a new online help module or 2 minute training video. Unfortunately this is not our organization, so without this ability she would be frustrated within weeks working for us, and likely be miserable in the job.
- Passion and excitement. The body language around being excited about challenges didn’t come across during the job interview. While the verbal interview responses were good, there was no energy behind them. Given how fast we need this role to ramp up and start producing content we felt the energy just wasn’t there.
- We will never find someone with every skill we need – so we need example of where the candidate self-taught themselves new job skills, technologies, and could learn on the fly. We always ask for examples in their past where they have had to do this. We didn’t find strong examples of this “self-learning” during this interview.
- Onwership – this kind of ties in with some of the above. We need someone who can take this function and own it as if were her own small business. Scope the work, find the resources, be proactive about growing the role and continuous improvement. Again this did not come across during the interview.
So it wasn’t a good fit for us, and really for her. She would have been too challenged and in an environment that was too foreign to her based on past roles and companies. The match for a role has to be on both sides – otherwise nobody is happy long term.
Job Rejection Email/Letter After Interview
So my sincere hope is people respond appropriately after receiving the job rejection call or email. Too often it is easy to take it personally, and have it impact your self confidence. And this carries into your next job interview which is really bad.
PLEASE keep these facts in mind if you don’t get the job, receive a job rejection email or phone call:
- Your skills, experience, and value as an employee are not bad
- You may have conducted [and likely did] the perfect interview
- Your ability to make significant contributions to a company remain the same as before you walked into the interview – nothing has changed with your ability to excel
- The job rejection “didn’t get hired” means you were not a fit for this particular organization and role. Who cares? Assuming the hiring team is experienced and are long term managers, this is a good thing. It means they stopped you from even considering accepting a role where you would be miserable after a few weeks or months -and then be going through all of the job interview preparation and process again.
- Sometimes we’re looking for very specific skills, mix of skills, and personality fit for our team. In fact, sometimes depending on the group the role is in, the personality profile might even be considered odd or not normal! Seriously! The team, corporate politics, and management styles of a group will often dictate a very narrow range of personalities that have been proven to be successful in this team. So never ever take this personally – often it is a function (or dysfunction) of an organization that makes stellar candidates like you not the best fit. I know – weird, and unconventional. But true.
- This particular candidate would have been out of her comfort zone day one with the level of responsibility and independence required. This came across in her responses, many of which were tentative or along the lines of “I’ve never been asked to do that but I think I probably could”. Why would we feel good about putting someone in a role that is so far outside their experience – not good for anyone!
So don’t ever take it personally. Are there things we see in interviews that can be corrected to increase your odds next time? Sure – common examples are being too chatty, trying to sell yourself, not answering questions concisely, or not coming across as confident.
In this case our candidate actually interviewed well and didn’t suffer from the above correctable behaviors – she just wasn’t a fit in terms of mix of skills and comfort level in a super independent role. Would I have advised her to change anything? Not really – other than maybe to be a bit more self-aware and early on make a decision that this wouldn’t be a good role for her and voice that concern.
Hope this helps – every interview is unique, many reasons for not hiring someone who looks promising initially are different depending on the candidate. They are all good, solid, productive, and talented people. You are too. The fit may just not always be there for reasons described above. Nothing to do with you!
Hope this helps. I will keep giving first hand experiences as we work through hiring for this role and others so you can get a sense for what happens after you leave an interview, especially as it relates to not getting the job, and ensuring you treat a rejection letter after an interview with the right frame of mind.