A Recruiter Tells All: Why You Didn't Get the Job

Ever receive a rejection letter after interviewing — or worse yet, hear nothing — and wonder what went wrong? Here’s what a recruiter has to say about common mistakes that put candidates out of the running.

I’ve been a professional recruiter for more than 15 years, and I love what I do. During all those years, my hardest task has been telling candidates that they didn't get the job.

Of course, certain factors may simply be outside a job seeker's control. For example, a competing candidate may have specific industry experience or software knowledge that you lack. However, you can make sure you avoid several common mistakes. Have you heard the phrase, “You didn’t get the job” recently? Then consider whether the following reasons apply to you — and learn how to overcome them:

You weren’t prepared

You don't want the reason you didn't get the job to be because of something easily avoidable. Today, there's no excuse for not being prepared for an interview. Start by reviewing the company website, and really dig into the content. Companies often provide profiles of their key executives, which you should read carefully. Look for the company’s press releases, too, where you may find information that doesn't show up anywhere else.

In addition, identify the company's competitors, and research them. And if you know who you'll be interviewing with, be sure to review that person’s LinkedIn profile. Look for commonalities, such as going to the same college or belonging to the same fraternity or sorority. Then mention them in the interview, because they give you an instant connection.

You didn’t ask enough questions

Just this week, I had a candidate who didn't get the job for this very reason. Asking questions in an interview shows that you're engaged and truly interested in the position. As a general rule, prepare at least three questions to ask at the end of an interview.

Sometimes, candidates don't ask questions because an interviewer was so thorough. But even in this situation, always ask questions. And make sure your questions help an interviewer picture you in the job. For example:

  • If I were hired for this position, what would be the three most important things for me to master in my first 90 days?
  • If I were hired, how would I be trained?
  • If I were working in this position, how would you evaluate my performance?

If you believe you have already covered these questions, ask the interviewer about him- or herself (people love to talk about themselves).

  • Tell me about your career path at this company.
  • What do you love most about your job, and what you would change?
  • How would you describe the most successful person you have ever hired?

Looking for more administrative job opportunities? Search our job listings. An OfficeTeam recruiter can help find a position that's right for you.

You didn’t 'close' the interview

Closing the interview means asking for the job. After you finish asking your questions, the interviewer is likely to ask if there's anything else you want to know. This give you an opportunity to close the interview, using a statement like the following:

“No, I think you have answered all my questions. After meeting with you, I’m even more interested in this position, and I really believe I'd be a perfect fit. Since this is probably our last meeting before you make a hiring decision, I'm wondering whether you have any concerns about selecting me as your top candidate?”

Of course, closing takes some guts. And many people find it uncomfortable, especially if you are introverted or shy. However, this step is crucial. If the interviewer shares any hesitations, this is your chance to explain why the hesitations aren’t valid.

You lacked follow-up

One reason you didn't get the job may be because of what you did — or didn't do — after the interview. As the meeting comes to a close, make sure you get business cards from everyone you met with. Then immediately send them all personalized emails to thank them for their time, as well as to express your interest in the position. I’m old-school, so I also believe that a handwritten thank-you note goes a long way. In fact, I would do this in addition to the email thank you. Make sure to mail your handwritten note on the same day that you interview.

Finally, treat every interview as a learning experience, even if you receive a rejection letter saying that you didn’t get the position. Let the company know that you appreciated the meeting. And point out that you'd love to be considered for future positions at their firm, if this particular position wasn’t a perfect match for your skills.

Take it from this recruiter, with confidence and practice, you'll eventually get past the phrase, “You didn’t get the job.” Instead, you'll start hearing: “You’re hired. When can you start?”

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