It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another: why don’t we always hire the best candidates? After all, shouldn’t that be the goal?
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. In many cases, there are other factors at play that can impact a company’s decision-making process. Here, we asked recruiters to explain some of the reasons why the best candidate doesn’t always get the job.
These are the most common reasons:
- Network and introductions
- The hiring manager’s personal preferences
- The candidate’s cultural fit
- Focusing too much on yourself
- Asking Inappropriate Questions
- Previous employer
- Cover letter
- Contact information
- You are overqualified
- Internal candidates
Let’s get more in-depth!
1. Network and introductions
We all know the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
And when it comes to job hunting, that adage rings particularly true. Just ask any seasoned recruiter and they’ll tell you: a great resume and top-notch qualifications are only part of the equation when it comes to landing your dream job.
At the end of the day, it’s often who you know (and who knows you) that will make or break your job search. So if you’re wondering why you didn’t get that job you really wanted, even though you had all the right qualifications, it could be because you weren’t connected to the right people.
This doesn’t mean that you should give up hope if you don’t have a lot of connections.
There are plenty of other factors that come into play when it comes to hiring, and there are ways to make yourself more attractive to employers even if you don’t know anyone in the industry. But it’s important to be aware of the role that connections play in the hiring process, so you can be strategic about making them.
2. The hiring manager’s personal preferences
One of the most common reasons why the best candidate isn’t always hired is because of the hiring manager’s personal preferences. Hiring managers are also humans, and humans are often biased.
Hence, recruiters will, subconsciously, prefer a candidate who seems similar to them, or who fits their subjective ideals.
Since these biases are subconscious, avoiding them can be difficult, and it’s something candidates don’t have much control over. But if companies are aware of them, they can take steps to mitigate their impact. That’s why having multiple hiring managers involved in the interviews is actually better for you than you may think.
Additional read: Hiring Bias – How to Make Unbiased Hiring Decisions
3. The candidate’s cultural fit
Another reason why the best candidate might not get the job is because of their cultural fit.
“Companies want to hire candidates who will mesh well with their existing employees and company culture,” says recruiter Amanda Augustine. “So even if a candidate is technically the best person for the job, they might not be offered the position if it’s determined that they wouldn’t be a good fit.”
Companies take the time to clearly define their desired culture and what type of candidates would be a good fit. This will help to ensure that everyone involved in the hiring process is on the same page and looking for the same thing.
Ensure to study the company’s culture before you apply.
Employment Personality Test [Complete Guide]
26 Executive Interview Questions to Ask (Leadership & Culture Fit)
4. Focusing too much on yourself
Chances are, you’re applying for a specific opportunity because it’s a perfect fit for your lifestyle. You might be able to take your kids to school or pick them up, continue on with your weekend social life, or other activities you might have to give up, otherwise.
While this is a great thing for you, the hiring manager doesn’t necessarily want to hear about that. They’re more concerned with how good of a fit you are for them. The focus should be more on why you’re a good candidate for the position, not how the position is a good fit for you.
5. Asking Inappropriate Questions
It’s always important to ask questions during an interview. Inquiring about information that is considered inappropriate can seem negative.
Refrain from questioning the following:
- What are vacation benefits like?
- Where will my office be?
- How much sick time is offered?
- Is personal time an option?
- How much will I be compensated?
Pushing for this type of information can seem like you’re in it only for compensation and benefits. If you’re a great fit for the position, you’ll be offered a deal where details like these will be included.
It’s best to wait until then to discuss them.
You might not keep track of things that you’ve done over the course of your past few jobs, but potential bosses want to know what you’ve done previously. Your accomplishments are important. Keep track of them and list each one on your resume.
However, don’t go overboard: There is such a thing as having too much of a good thing. When your resume is overflowing with accomplishments, it can actually work against you.
- It makes you look overqualified: This is especially true if the majority of their accomplishments are from previous roles that were at a higher level or had more responsibility than the role they’re applying for.
- It makes you look like a job hopper: Employers may wonder why you’ve been moving around so much and whether or not you’ll stick around for the long haul.
- It makes you look like you’re bragging: A resume that’s crammed full of accomplishments can also come across as being arrogant or self-serving. Hiring managers want to see that you’re humble and able to work well with others, so too much bragging can be a turn-off.
- It can make you seem inflexible: If your accomplishments are all from one particular area or industry, it can make you seem inflexible and unwilling to branch out. This is not the impression you want to give if you’re hoping to land a job in a new field.
- It can make you seem difficult to please: If your accomplishments are all from roles that are very different from the one you’re applying for, it can make you seem difficult to please. Employers may wonder why you can’t find a role that’s a better match for your skills and experience.
If your resume is crammed full of accomplishments, it’s important to take a step back and assess whether or not it’s actually helping or hurting your job search. In some cases, less is definitely more.
7. Previous employer
Did you leave your last place of work on a bad note?
There are a few potential reasons why your previous employer might be the reason you’re not getting hired.
It could be that your former boss didn’t give you a good reference, or that your job performance at your previous company was less than stellar. Additionally, it’s possible that your industry is in flux and your previous employer is no longer seen as a valuable place to work.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to be honest with potential employers about your previous job situation so that you can give them the full picture of your experience and qualifications.
Remember: Hiring managers rely on references to guide them in the right direction when hiring.
Make sure your resume is professional and doesn’t have any typos. Even the smallest grammatical error or accidental use of a letter can cause an employer to choose another candidate. Employers will view your resume as unprofessional and sloppy, and it will reflect poorly on your attention to detail.
Another thing to keep in mind is length: When it comes to resumes, less is often more. Employers want to see a concise, easy-to-read document that highlights your most relevant qualifications and experience. If your resume is more than two pages long, it’s likely that employers will simply stop reading it.
Not tailoring your resume is another mistake — Generic resumes are a huge turn-off for employers because they show that you haven’t bothered to customize your application to their company. If you want to make sure your resume stands out, take the time to tailor it to each individual job you apply for.
While it’s important to make sure your resume looks professional, you don’t want to go overboard with the design. Stick to a simple format and use easy-to-read fonts so that employers can quickly scan your resume and find the information they’re looking for.
9. Cover letter
Your cover letter is one of the first things a potential employer will see, so it’s important to make a good impression. Unfortunately, many qualified job seekers don’t put enough time and effort into their cover letters, and as a result, they wind up getting rejected.
There are a few common mistakes that can doom a cover letter, such as not tailoring it to the specific job or not providing enough detail about your qualifications. But even if you avoid those pitfalls, there are still a few things that can make your cover letter less than impressive.
One of the most common problems is using stale, overly formal language. This can make your cover letter sound like you’re just going through the motions, and it won’t do anything to set you apart from the other candidates. Instead, try to use language that’s more natural and engaging.
Another issue is including too much information about your personal life or hobbies. It’s fine to mention a few interests outside of work, but don’t go into too much detail. Remember, the focus of your cover letter should be on your professional qualifications.
Don’t make the mistake of sounding desperate or needy. Be confident in your abilities, and avoid phrases like “I would be grateful for an opportunity to interview” or “I would appreciate your consideration.”
These statements make you sound like you’re begging for a chance, and that’s not the impression you want to give.
10. Contact information
In order to land the gig you want, you have to stand out from the crowd – no one will know you are the most qualified if you don’t show it.
If your email address or phone number is unprofessional, potential employers might not take you seriously. So, what makes a contact method unprofessional?
Here are a few examples:
- An email address that is anything other than your first and last name. This includes addresses with numbers or symbols in them, as well as cutesy nicknames. For example, “iluvkittens1234” or “johnsmithy.”
- A phone number that is not a landline. This includes VOIP numbers (like those from Skype or Google Voice), as well as burner phone numbers. Employers want to be able to reach you easily, and these types of numbers make that more difficult.
- An email address or phone number that is associated with a free service. This includes Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail addresses, as well as public email domains (like .edu or .gov). These types of accounts give the impression that you’re not serious about your career.