Being in HR is one of those jobs; like being in the medical profession, you end up answering a lot of people’s personal questions at dinner parties. Instead of “Does this look infected?” I get a lot of “Can I get fired for that?” along with “Is what my boss did against the law?” or “Should I ask for a raise?”


But the question I get most often is, “Why didn’t I get the job?”


More often than not, I can diagnose the answer, and it isn’t why people think.


Below are the common reasons why people think they didn’t get the job and what your pals in HR know the real reason is.


“They thought I was overqualified.”


No, you just didn’t connect the dots well for the hiring manager. 


I have no idea why a former CFO would want an Accounting Specialist job. Are you just looking for a paycheck? Do you want a foot in the door because you love the company? Are you looking for a career shift? Tell the story. Very few hiring managers will say no to the “extra value hire,” which means getting a more qualified candidate for less. But they will say no to someone whose motives are unclear. 


“They didn’t bother to read my resume.”


Newsflash, we don’t read anyone’s resumes. 


There are not enough hours in the day to read every single applicant’s resume for each job that is posted. What we do is strategically glance. It is on you to make sure that your resume is easy to read, attractive, and concise. Think of it like dating. Sure, no one should judge a person by his or her looks, but if you show up to the blind date with pit stains, unwashed hair, and you fidget incessantly; you’re not likely to get a second date. If your resume is confusing, wordy, poorly designed, and full of grammatical errors, employers are not going to be inclined to make this a permanent relationship.


“Should I have practiced more for the interview?”


Over-rehearsing can backfire. 


You should be prepared, know about the company, and speak well to your resume. Practicing and scripting your answers, however, often leads people astray. Interviewers are trying to get a deeper understanding of something they are excited about or something of concern. Your rehearsed answer does not come across as thoughtful and rarely answers the real question. Really listen to the questions and try to best answer them; take a moment and be thoughtful.


“Maybe I should have stopped by.”


Nope. Never. Please don’t. 


The unsolicited “drop by for an informational interview” is a sure way to find yourself on the “thanks, but no thanks” list. It creates an uncomfortable situation and can be inconsiderate to the hiring manager’s time. A simple, direct email is a nice way to keep you on the radar and shows that you respect their busy schedule.



“I am sure the fact I was laid off (or have a gap in employment) was a red flag.”


I have found this, for the most part, to not be the case. 


Yes, there is the occasional hiring manager that sees this as a problem. But I think they are a growing minority. The economic crisis really changed the way a lot of HR and hiring managers view employment gaps, layoffs, and job jumping (less than a year or two at each company). Tell the story in your cover letter and explain the “red flags” in your resume: “I was laid off and have been using this time to go back to school”; “I took a few years off to spend with my family”; or “I have been experimenting with different fields, but now I have found my niche.”   Even if the hiring manager doesn’t relate to your explanation, having one is better than not.


Understanding the real reasons you might not be getting that call back is the first step to landing your dream job. So clean up that resume, rewrite that cover letter, and go get it!


Interested in applying for a position at XPLANE?  Send us a resume and cover letter to


Katie Augsburger

Sr. Manager of Employee Experience and Expert Strategic Glancer