Ten Frustrating Candidate Rejections

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I’m sure we all have a mental list of frustrating reasons that a prospective employer has told us, “No thanks” over, sometimes even after a seemingly strong interview process. Here be ten odd stories and employer excuses that, from a recruiting perspective, have left me scratching my head.

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10.“It’s not brown, it’s chestnut.”

This anecdote begins with a candidate who was, skill-wise, a very strong match for the job in question, very likeable and personal, and who really nailed the phone interview and won the hiring manager over. After the in-person interview, which was to be the final step of the process, the candidate said everything went great and that things looked to be very positive. Unfortunately, the company decided to pass because the candidate had worn a brown shirt and a brown tie to the interview, and the manager felt that he would not be a cultural fit.

9.“You must go through conditioner like crazy.”

I have mentioned this tale in a previous post recalling craziest recruiting stories. This is one that I just can’t let go of. After a terrific series of interviewing and mutual interest by both the candidate and the company, the brakes suddenly came screaming on – the company ran a conservative work environment and would only be making an offer to the candidate if he would be willing to cut his hair (which he had worn long for many years). Neither side was willing to budge.

8.“It’s like a sauna in here.”

A very strong candidate was ultimately passed on because of profuse sweating accompanied by an odor during an in-person interview. The company had said themselves that it was probably just nerves, but after a few days of radio silence, in came the dreaded “No thanks” email.

7.“Nailed it! Wait…did you ever crew a catamaran?”

This has happened many times, so I will stitch them together into one lightning-animated monstrosity. The candidate in question goes through an excellent interview process but the hiring manager later decides that one very specific skill set is lacking. This skill set is not mentioned anywhere in the job description and has not been discussed at all during any conversations with the hiring manager in preparation for sourcing.

6.“Just wait. You’ll get what’s coming to you.”

Here is one of the more unfortunate cases I’ve encountered. A candidate interviewed well and was told point blank by the hiring manager that an offer would be made (in case you’re wondering, this is extremely uncommon). Feet were of course dragged and the manager carried on with very strongly-worded promises for over two weeks before communication went completely dark. A rightfully confused candidate deserved answers, which ultimately came in the form of the manager deciding that they were not going to make the offer after all. No reason was ever given.

5.“How much money did you make in 2001? How about 2002? And 2003?”

In this case, the hiring manager grilled a strong candidate on questions about compensation history. This was not a list of questions, mind you; it was a series of back-and-forth communications with a new question for every answer. After at least four or five of these back-and-forth sessions, the manager decided to pass based on the candidate’s skill set (nothing related to compensation history).

4.“What would you say ya do here?”

This is a similar situation to number six. The hiring manager had many questions about a candidate’s skill set and previous job duties (and, like in number six, it was back-and-forth with a new question for every answer). When we had answered four or five of these questions and the candidate had even provided a very detailed write-up of answers, the manager decided to pass because the candidate did not have a background working with Fortune 500 companies (completely unrelated to the questions being asked).

3.“Career contractors need not apply.”

Many managers, while seeking a permanent employee, shy away from career contractors whose work histories show several projects and clients over a relatively short period of time. This is usually due to the assumption that the contractor will jump ship after a few months (which, to be fair, does sometimes happen). Particularly upsetting is the use of the term “job hopper,” which is generally inappropriate in these cases as the contractor typically only moves on once a given project is completed.However, contractors now more than ever deserve your attention as many are genuinely seeking to settle down and grow with one employer. Nowadays in the IT world, especially in some niche areas of skill such as mobile applications development, job longevity is a rare gem that is actively sought by many well-traveled contractors.

2. “Sorry, you have ten years of experience and we only want nine.”

Here, a highly qualified candidate was sadly too much so. The admittedly somewhat overqualified candidate was in a very difficult situation where a long commute was combined with extensive out-of-state travel, making the work-life balance tough. The position in question was very local to the candidate’s home and had no travel involved, so there was a genuine interest in taking a step back in the career path in order to eliminate the travel and commute. Unfortunately, the candidate was rejected without so much as a phone screen due to being overqualified on paper.

1. No reason.

Here we have the very bottom of the barrel; the dumpster juice of feedback. There are few things related to the job search that are more frustrating and discouraging than a brusque email from a manager stating nothing more than “Pass” or some variant, especially when it follows a reportedly strong interview and/or an extended period of manager silence. This type of response is of absolutely no value to anyone (including and especially yourself, as a manager trying to fill an important role on your team). I know you are busy but if filling this role is truly important to your organization, it certainly deserves your care and attention.


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About Adam Barron

Adam supports EDI and IT professionals throughout the Midwest region of the US. As a recruiter with EDI Staffing since 2006, Adam has over 10 years of experience working with candidates to fill contract, contract-to-hire and direct hire positions, aiming to match each person’s unique goals with those of our clients. He is a frequent contributor to our blog, where he shares insight on industry topics such as marketability enhancement, resume improvement, interviewing and offer negotiation. Adam believes that strong relationships are key to the business and strives to connect with people, often keeping in touch long after a person has landed a job or interviewed with our clients.

Adam graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. Prior to joining EDI Staffing, he worked as a Business Development Representative for its sister company, B2B Contact. Outside of the office, Adam loves to spend time with family and also enjoys writing, Boston sports, skiing, movies and board/video gaming.

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