Why You Weren’t Hired for the Job

Job Interview Tips - Why You Didn't Get the Job

Was my tie crooked?

I’ve been interviewing for jobs a lot over the past couple of months.

Without getting into too many details, our situation is such that I need to find full-time employment again in my old career.

I’m confident that I will eventually find a job, but the process has been tough on me.

After a couple of rejections you start to doubt yourself. Here’s some lessons I’ve learned over the past few months.

Hopefully they’ll encourage you to make yourself a better candidate and keep at it.

You Never Even Had a Chance

I’ve been on both side of this scenario. The company already has a person picked out for the job but they need to do some interviews to show a good faith effort. Regardless of your feelings about this tactic (I hate it), companies do it.

And in these situations the cards are simple stacked against you. Just move along and be glad you had the interview practice.

You Are Looking for a “Job”

When companies can be picky about who they hire, they typically go for candidates that are in it for the long-term. A lot goes into bringing a new employee on (training, equipment, etc.). As with any upfront investment, you want it to pay off in the long-run.

So be sure you present yourself as someone who’s interested in the company (that means know about them before hand), and someone who has a passion for their career field. Even if you don’t, you need to act like you do.

Your Previous Salary is Scaring Employers

An employer doesn’t want to hire someone who will be looking for another job from day one. If they know that they can’t compete with your previous salary, they will be scared off. Sometimes this is hard to overcome.

But one thing I’ve been trying to do is use this language when they ask about salary: “My previous salary was x a year, but I want you to know that I’m not necessarily focused on a specific target for my next job.

In this economy I’m more concerned about finding a well-established, notable company to work for…somewhere I can make a difference and make use of my skills.” Using this language has enabled me to get past the first interview with a few employers.

It also helps if you can articulate why you were paid so much at your old job: heavy travel, long hours expected, etc.

You Didn’t Act Interested

Put away the ego and the attitude. They are in the position of power. They have all the leverage. Act appreciative of the opportunity, excited about the position, and be sure to thank them for their time.

Make sure you say, “I’m definitely interested in this position.”

You Couldn’t Articulate Your Skills and Experience

Your resume got you in the door, your communication skills are going to have to carry you the rest of the way. This is where I struggle. I have an impressive background (at least I think so). But I can’t always articulate what I’ve done effectively.

Spend some time writing down all of the projects you’ve worked on in previous jobs. Use what you know about the new role to tailor your talking points. At least spend a few days going over your resume and practice discussing what you did in each role. Be ready to discuss details too.

You Haven’t Been at it Long Enough

I’m convinced that finding a job in a rough economy is just a numbers game. If you consistently put your best foot forward and go to enough interviews you will eventually find a job. A recruiter once told me that it would take on average, one month for every $10,000 salary increment you require.

Therefore, if you make $50,000, it will take on average 5 months. I sure hope it doesn’t take me that long.

What are your tips for doing better on your next job interview?

photo by Alex France

About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon. He created this website back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. Financial Samurai says

    How’s the job hunt going? Would love to know the latest!

  2. I am recently unemployed so this article helps. I had an interview and I thought I really did well, but got ‘the letter’ so now I find myself second guessing. I am older and do not have that on my side. It is very scary. Too young to retire, but too old also. I am thinking of doing my own thing, but that is scary too. I know I just need to take the leap of faith but either way, I will be fine. I have food on the table, a very understanding and loving family and savings if I need it so until I find something I am going to be ok.

  3. Financial Samurai, it’s actually illegal for employers to ask about family situations, including marital status, children, and similar questions. They also can’t ask bout age, religion and several other questions. These could be deemed as discriminatory.

    Phil, best of luck in your job search! 🙂

  4. I like your article because you are honest and forthright, sharing first hand your own experiences and the knowledge you have gained from them.

  5. Yep. You zeroed in on the ethics of the dilemma we’re in. For what it’s worth, I would likely commit to at least a year with the company (we’re just 3 months pregnant).

    Although, I would not tell them upfront about this. And I’m comfortable with that too. A company can let me go whenever they want. I’m fine working for them as long as I want. That’s the cost of doing business, in my opinion. The company wouldn’t fit the bill anyway. The insurance company would. I doubt my little move would mean higher rates for the fortune 500 company plan. The real harm is to my resume. But I’m not planning on needing my resume in the future.

    People do this all the time with places like Starbucks and Lowe’s. Many budding entrepreneurs turn to these places to get insurance. I could do that as well, I guess. But I’d rather just go back to work in my old career. A lot of other things would line up for me as well if I did this (e.g. ability to get a refinance loan, 401K match).

    It’s all been a big stress for us. We struggle with this decision daily. But I’m not going to complain publicly about this situation because we’re so blessed to even be in this position. We’re healthy, supported by online income, have wonderful kid(s) who we spend a bunch of time with. Life is good. This is just a little bump in the road.

  6. Financial Samurai says

    Hi PT,

    Thanks for the color. Health insurance really is the biggie and 20K is a big nut to pay.

    So let’s say your wife is 8 months pregnant and you found a job. The employer then foots the bill for the 20K birth? If so, do employers in Texas have a right to ask, or ask in general what an employee’s family situation is given they have to pay some or all of the bill?

    It’s admirable going full time blogging all the same. I have a 7 year plan myself to just do something online part time after retirement from the 9-5.

  7. @Sam – Thanks! I’m actually an internal auditor. Jobs are still plentiful in this area. Employers are just being picky. No, the wife is done working for a while. We actually have a second kid on the way too. So she’ll be home for a while. We both want it that way. That being the case, getting on group health insurance is my only real issue. Blog traffic and income has never been better. Texas private health insurance doesn’t cover maternity though. That would be $20k out of pocket. I can’t stomach that. So, I’m on the job hunt. There’s a bit more to it, I guess. But that’s the gist of it all. And you’re right, would probably make for a good money story. I just don’t want to seem like a guy who’s complaining about things, or a guy who’s just using the system. There’s a fine line I’m walking here.

  8. Phil I wish you the beat. What was the field you were in again and does your wife work? Maybe the tv gig can help?

    I would love to read a post about your change in direction and probably many others would too. Would probably be your most popular posts!

  9. Rejections can be very discouraging, and if your $10 000 for every month of interviewing it takes holds true, then I should be making a six figure salary by the time I land a job. I really doubt this will happen because I’m in the education field and I am just starting out. It is especially difficult for those of us who are just starting our careers because employers do not seem to want to take their chances with college grads when there are so many experienced workers applying for the same jobs. You just have to keep trying, and eventually something will come through.

  10. @Stu – good tips. good luck in the search.
    @mike – good point. i guess i just need to interview with a talker. 🙂

  11. Good post Phil T. I think people make another mistake that is quite th opposite of your issue. People like myself tend to try and overtalk ourselves into the spot. Sometimes showing the interviewer that you are a good listener (part of being a good conversationalist) is essential to gaining their respect. We lin a world where everyone talks and no one listens. Its refreshing to see the opposite of that sometimes.

  12. Stu @ Pennywise2Pennyworth says

    Thanks for the post, Phil. I recently was turned down for a teaching job back in Oregon. A lot of times in the teaching profession schools have an idea of who they want to hire so I think it was a case of me, never having a chance. But I also think that I have a problem, like you, articulating my accomplishments. I did what you said and wrote down all my talking points, but I always get so nervous in interviews (on top of that it was my first phone interview). I think for the next interview I will sit down and practice answering the questions with my wife interviewing me. Practicing out loud (not just in your head) I think is the key.