Why you didn't get the job

Subject: Why you didn't get the job
From: Steven Jong <SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1999 17:25:21 EDT

The recent thread on hellish interviews prompts me to offer some reasons why
one *doesn't* get a job, from my perspective these days as a hiring manager.

First, I fully endorse Andrew Plato's blunt comments. Don't flip out over
rejection; at least these days, there's always another job. But the corollary
is that there's always another writer. I try to *only* interview candidates
who are already qualified for the job. It comes down to degrees of
qualification, and to "fit" within the team and the company, that decides the
issue. (There's also thank-you notes, but that's another matter 8^)

The attitude I detect in recent postings seems to be, "I was qualified for
the job, so the employer was an idiot for passing me by." Well, in light of
my previous comments, you probably weren't alone in being qualified! What
other reasons might there have been for you losing out?

I now know that managers can have budget slots (like the salary slots for a
sports team). If I have three senior writers and I need to balance the budget
with a junior writer, I am likely to pass on someone with fifteen years of
impeccable work in favor of someone with three. This could be even more
likely if I have a small salary slot open and the person with the fifteen
years is making a large (though entirely fair) salary. Things can work the
other way, if all my writers are junior and I need someone senior to show the

If I have several candidates to choose from, all qualified, I might go for
the person who's written about product most similar to ours. If I have a UNIX
database product, and my choice is a writer who's done databases and one who
hasn't, I might go for the database writer.

As far as cultural "fit" goes, I used to work at the #2 computer maker (there
have been several; I'm being ambiguous 8^), and the word on the street was we
were shunned by small, fast-moving companies, because they thought we
wouldn't be able to adjust to the pace. Now I'm in a small, fast-moving
company (so I know it can be done!), but the issue does exist down here in
the undergrowth. Also, if we need someone who can aggressively seek out
information from some ogre of an SME, a candidate who seems passive and
doesn't have stories of digging out the facts might lose out to someone more

Other elements of "fit" are subjective. I've heard of candidates over the
years who blew it one way or another. One lost a job just on a body-language
gesture that indicated computerphobia. One was so pathetically downbeat that
he talked the company out of hiring him. One was so stressed-out in the
interview that the HR rep walked him out the door lest he burst a blood
vessel on the premises. One, asked what kind of boss he didn't like working
for, nearly burst into tears. One said, "No, I've never used your DTP tool,
but they're all alike, and I can master it in a week."

I hope these comments shed some light on the process, hopefully without
shredding anyone's dignity. I apologize if I've said too much.

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Documentation Team Manager ("Typo? What tpyo?")
Lightbridge, Inc., 67 South Bedford St., Burlington, MA 01803 USA
mailto:jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com -dot- nospam 781.359.4902 [voice]
Home Sweet Homepage: http://members.aol.com/SteveFJong

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