WorkWise: Getting turned down may not be your fault

August 28, 2011 

In mid-March some years ago, Timothy Wiedman received a community college teaching offer “contingent on funding.” He’d work out a building slated for completion in July.

Several weeks later, the offer evaporated, thanks to a construction delay of eight or nine months. Wiedman had also applied for another position, which came through and led to his 15-year tenure there.

Today he’s assistant professor of Management and Human Resources, Division of Economics and Business, at Doane College in Crete, Neb.

This story illustrates the point that not getting a job may have little or nothing to do with you or your excellence as a candidate. Job seekers are all too familiar with their limitations in experience, education, skills and personality. Many of the little-known reasons they don’t receive offers aren’t as evident.

Greater familiarity with broad and highly specific factors helps minimize disappointment.


Chantay Bridges, senior real estate specialist at Clear-Choice Realty & Associates in Los Angeles, cites a host of factors affecting hiring, beginning with “the decision-maker being out of the office the day you interview.”

She points out two financial ones: an interviewer’s failure to confirm a budget prior to an interview and a company’s decision to reduce spending by replacing the manager’s job with a non-managerial job, a part-time position or an internship.

Bridges mentions that timing might be off because of a hiring freeze or a person hired earlier in the day. She also says that you can’t compete with an internal candidate who might have been pre-selected. Finally, she notes, you couldn’t possibly know that an interviewer might hire a person he already knew who’d just lost his job.

Additional general factors extend to “unspoken requirements,” remarks San Mateo, Calif.’s Paul Freiberger, co-founder of “To succeed, you’d have had to be a mind reader. Also, the employer may have made the wrong choice. You may have fallen prey to unknowable politics. You may have been too good.”


Among specific factors is fit. Patricia Thompson, a corporate psychologist and management consultant at Sperduto & Associates Inc. in Atlanta, explains that a person who “is not a good fit ... could be successful in the same position elsewhere.”

If the position is freelance, a last-minute change of specifications by a client might alter your suitability, indicates Vanessa Finaughty of The Write Way Freelancers in Cape Town, South Africa.


You might also lose out when hiring requirements don’t come together. Coach Barbara Roche, president of Fearless Career Coaching LLC in Wilmington Del., had a client who didn’t get a job, because “the search committee was in complete disagreement on the ideal candidate. They decided to start from scratch and re-open the search.”


Illegal discrimination is also an enormous factor. It’s terribly personal – on the part of the employer engaged in turning away people for such reasons as age, race or religion. Nothing you do will get you the job. You can take legal action or move on, but neither action will secure you a job you set out to get.


Being aware of many reasons employers don’t hire with no reference to you or your candidacy makes rejection sting a little less. However, don’t sit back and assume you know the reason. Call the employer to find out.

Then, listen carefully. If the person hedges, ask another question. If you still don’t get a specific response, the employer might have some proprietary reasons to remain vague.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at © 2011 Passage Media.

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