A surprising 44% of candidates told us that they never heard back from the employer at all after their most recent job interview. And even those unsuccessful applicants who do get the polite rejection call or email are never told why they weren’t selected.

Sometimes it’s just that the employer met with several candidates and you weren’t the strongest. Other times candidates commit some blunder during the job interview that turns the employer off.

Often, however, people are not selected for causes that actually have nothing to do with the strength of their candidacy. Here are a few very common reasons why you won’t get the gig, without you ever knowing what went wrong.

Why you weren’t hired

They were hiring for fit – and you weren’t it

And at the job interview, employers are assessing more than your credentials. They’re selecting a person who will become a part of their team’s daily lives, so details about personality and fit really matter. Sometimes this can be taken too far – to the level that they really only want to hire someone just like them. Same cultural references, fashion sense, taste in restaurants, etc.

So if you don’t fit into the cult of sameness that the hiring manager is trying to create in their own image, you could be passed over for a candidate who does.

The hiring manager had a specific person in mind that they really wanted to hire all along

It can happen that there’s an internal candidate, or someone who was referred for the job by an insider who is already a clear front runner for the position. Often companies will look at one or two other strong candidates just to make sure that they’re covering all their bases and doing due diligence as to evaluating how their preferred choice compares to available talent.

The cannon-fodder candidates are not informed that they really had very little shot at the job to begin with.

You made a bad first-impression

We’ve mentioned before that there are four things we decide about a person within four seconds of meeting them. A powerful one of these is “Who do you remind me of?

So if you bear more than a passing resemblance to the bully who used to pick on the hiring manager in high school – or you look like someone they’ve had issues managing in the past, you could be rejected for reasons completely beyond your control. (And the employer may not even consciously know that this is why they didn’t want to hire you.)

You’re too smart

Employers always want to hire the best and the brightest, right? In theory, yes. But it can happen that an insecure manager may select a B grade candidate who can simply do the job over one who can do the job so well, and bring so much to the table, that could quickly outshine them.

Bosses need people on their team who can make them look good, and a smart manager will know that the team fails or succeeds together. A leader lacking in self-confidence however, may fear a candidate who could steal their job. That’s not the reason you’ll be given, however. You’ll either never be called back, or you’ll simply be told that they found another applicant who was a better fit for the role.

You’re too attractive

Speaking of looking good, psychological studies have shown that there is a hiring bias against particularly attractive women for some roles. (There is no such corresponding negativity noted for good looking men.) This reluctance to hire the beautiful was particularly noted amongst female managers evaluating candidates they considered to be much more attractive than themselves. You can read further details of that study here.

Of course the interviewer will never tell the candidate that they’re simply too hot to hire, but if you’re making them feel insecure about their own appearance, it could be a factor in the decision.

You are you

And you weren’t what they were looking for. You have an interesting work history and career path, and your own unique way of telling your story. That’s great, but sometimes your profile or image, your personal brand, doesn’t fit with what the hiring manager had in mind for the role. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t competent or capable, it’s just that the hiring manager had a vision of who they wanted before even meeting anyone.

The candidate who comes closest to this made-up image will have the edge.

The requisition for the position was cancelled

Sometimes it happens that you were actually the top candidate. The hiring manager loved you for the job and wanted to offer it to you. But then for reasons completely unrelated to you or your candidacy, the position gets kiboshed.

This has happened to me before when working for a multi-national company. I had sourced three or four potential candidates for a hard-to-fill role, interviewed them, analysed portfolios and selected a stand-out person for the job. Before I could actually get her in to sign the offer, word came down from head office in Boston that there was to be a freeze on all new hires for the foreseeable future.

The candidate called back to follow up on her status several times, and I tried to keep her on the hook telling her that she was the number one person for the job, I was just having a bureaucratic snafu with some of the paperwork. But in the end, I wasn’t able to get the position past the hiring freeze and had to continue relying on freelance talent.

Sometimes it’s just out of the hiring manager’s hands.


All you can do is prepare as best you can for every job interview, and make an enthusiastic and professional case for your candidacy. You probably won’t get hired for all of the jobs you interview for, but you shouldn’t let those setbacks shake your confidence. Often the reason you weren’t selected doesn’t actually have anything to do with your abilities.

It’s just that nobody ever tells you some of the things that could have gone on behind the scenes.