Not landing that job? Here are 10 reasons why

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Print this page by Beth A. Berk

Have you been on interviews that you thought went really well only to find out you didn’t get the job?

If you have been looking, it’s unlikely you’ve received much feedback. Or, maybe the feedback you received was not constructive enough to help you understand what you could do to improve your chances next time, assuming it is something you can change. But without receiving feedback, it is hard to know what went right — and what went wrong.

Unfortunately, due to legal issues, discrimination laws and just plain, old work overload and résumé competition, fewer words, if any, are shared with prospective employees who don’t make the cut.

In my experience working as a third-party recruiter, I’m often privy to the kind of feedback jobseekers don’t receive directly. Below are some of the most common reasons (or, shall we say, “blunders”) that keep many applicants from landing the job. This list is not intended to include the more obvious reasons why one may not get noticed during the employment search process (e.g. typos, wrong technical background or qualifications, unreasonable commute, sponsorship requirement if not a U.S. citizen, cost-prohibitive salary requirements, etc.).

1. How do you rate on the 3 C’s?: Communication (verbal), communication (written), and communication (physical).

Physical communication skills may not be as obvious as verbal and written, and are more subjective. Some people do not look you straight in the eye when talking, which may be viewed as hiding something. Others may think the person lacks confidence or is uncomfortable about something. Maybe you fidget with your hands and feet when meeting someone new. Maybe you sit with your arms folded in front of you, which may be considered negative body language. All in all, body language and how you communicate verbally and in writing is very important. Are you aware of how you communicate?

2. Answer the question: You do not provide information requested and/or do not answer the questions during an interview.

If you don’t answer a question, the interviewer may interpret that to mean you do not know the answer or have the appropriate experience. Or the interviewer may think that you embellished your résumé (refer to No. 7 below).

3. One job too many:

Switching jobs every year or two seems to be the norm for some generations. Before the recession, professionals may have been encouraged to switch more frequently. But in today’s job market, having too many jobs may be a showstopper.

4. “JORT”:  You have displayed some form of the following or lack thereof — judgment, ownership, responsibility and/or trust. Ask yourself, “If I was a hiring manager, would I hire myself?”

When you are being interviewed, the interviewer may ask questions to determine if you are the type of professional that recognizes that your behavior and values, and/or lack thereof, contribute to your ultimate success.

5. What do you want to do?:  If you cannot answer this question, maybe you should not be sending out your résumé just yet.

A good employer wants to know what you can do, your commitment to the job/profession and more. Some employers are “body shops” and will hire you regardless. So beware! To be simple, if you are unclear where you are going, the interviewer will be unclear as to where you are going, too.

6. Rah, rah sis boom bah: Lack of enthusiasm or interest is certainly a deal breaker.

An interview involves presenting your best self and interacting with others. Think of it like going on a first date with someone you really wanted to go out with. Did you smile? Ask questions?

7. Swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth: If you were being deposed at a trial, how would you answer tough questions?

Employers may ask: if you left a job or the job left you, if your résumé includes all jobs since you graduated (even if in summary for earlier jobs), if the employers noted paid your paycheck themselves or if you were paid via a third-party contractor/staffing company, and more.

In today’s world, it is very easy to obtain information and many employers conduct some form of background check. If you are asked to complete and sign an employment application, there usually is some language indicating that by completing and signing the application, you are presenting truthful information.

8. I have a mortgage to pay, so I need to make $$$$: Are you asking for too large of an increase in pay?

Unless you have been grossly underpaid, in which case a large increase may be warranted, avoid making this mistake. Do your homework and find out salary ranges for different levels of experience, education and skills, and for different geographical locations.

9. What did you do between 1996 and 2000?: Beware of unexplained gaps in employment or dates that don’t match up.

Put yourself in the hiring professional’s shoes. If you noted a gap on someone’s résumé, what would you think? Account for your time and how it was spent (e.g. family sabbatical, overseas relocation, etc.).

10. The 3 C’s: Communication (verbal), communication (written) and communication (physical): Since communication is so important, this is worth repeating! Need I say more?

Keep in mind that if you were to interview lots of hiring professionals, this list could go on and on. For now, keep this list handy to determine if any of these apply to you. Until next time, good luck with your search.

Beth A. Berk, CPA, is an independent recruiter based in the metropolitan Washington area who focuses on placing CPAs and CPA candidates. She also places other professionals, including IT-related/network engineers, administrative and more. Contact her at or (301) 767-0670.


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