Career Strategy: 5 Common Reasons You Did Not Get the Job

My name is Mark Wayman, and for the last twelve years I have owned an Executive Recruiting firm focused on gaming and high tech. Compensation starts at $100,000, average placement is $200,000+, and last year I placed eight executives north of a million dollars. Over the last 12 years I placed roughly 800 executives.

Have you ever interviewed and thought, "Why didn't I get a job offer? I was definitely the best candidate." Based on my experience, here are five of the most common reasons candidates don't get the job offer.

Let Go and Let God - This may not be the #1 reason, however it is a 100% deal breaker: badmouthing your former employer or boss. Interview over. Never, ever say anything negative about a former boss or employer. You want to be right...or you want to be President? Well, throwing your last employer under the bus may soothe your ego; however it will paint you in a bad light. You are NOT the GM of the Universe. Your purpose is to find a new career opportunity, NOT to "get them back." Let go and let God. As my Dad used to say, "They will get what's coming to them. No need for you to help."

Integrity - Another complete and total deal breaker. A CEO once told me, "If they don't have integrity, I don't care how talented and brilliant they are." Integrity has become a high profile issue over the last few years. I first noticed it during Depression 2.0 in 2008. Candidates spinning the truth, being less than forthcoming, flat out lying. Here is the thing. You are going to get caught. One example is candidates that list colleges on their CV that they "attended." If you don't have a college degree, don't list the college. Another example is titles. Don't put "Chief Marketing Officer" and say, "well, I'm the de facto CMO because we don't have one" when you are really a VP. Finally, don't lie about your compensation. When asked for your current base salary, don't give your total compensation package and act like you didn't understand the question. These are all real life examples I have seen on multiple occasions. The hiring company is going to validate your education, title, tenure and compensation. If you were not 100% honest, they will drop you from consideration. If you were already hired, you will be terminated.

Ego is the Enemy - So what is the definition of ego? "An unhealthy belief in your own importance. Self-focused with a disregard for anyone else. Arrogance; self-centered ambition." But what about Steve Jobs and Kanye West? In his book Ego is the Enemy author Ryan Holiday states that although there are exceptions to the rule, most arrogant people end up being failures. And after 12 years as an Executive Recruiter, I would agree. Being a narcissistic megalomaniac may work for a while, however the best long-term strategy is to be humble and genuine. Nobody likes the smartest guy in the room.

Companies Hire Smiley, Happy People - Bitter and angry is NOT attractive. If you are angry about being terminated from your last job, take some time off and pull yourself together. I once had a candidate that was laid off after 25 years at a company. He got paid out and was in a great spot...except that his ego could never get past getting laid off. Eventually I gave up on him as a candidate. This was years ago, and he is still unemployed. Your old boss is not obsessing about you. Don't let it affect your life going forward. Companies hire smiley, happy people.

Everything Happens for a Reason - Assuming you are a strong candidate, the most common reason you did not get the job: there was a candidate better suited for the role. You probably don't believe that, however I see it every single day. For senior management roles, there may be three, five, ten highly qualified candidates. These days most of the candidates are technically qualified, so it's more about cultural fit. And the X Factor: companies hire people they like. You may be the most qualified candidate, however they may LIKE another candidate better. I see highly qualified executives beat out by the "we like them better" clause on a regular basis. But keep in mind, everything happens for a reason.