The Real Reasons You Didn’t Get a Call Back

Applying to a job (or internship or co-op) can feel like sending your application into a black hole, to hear back months later, if at all. What’s worse is not hearing back after an interview that you thought went well. Consider these reasons for not getting a call back.

The organization went in a different direction

You did everything right on your application, you nailed the interview, but you still didn’t get the job. It’s not that you’re not the right fit, the employer was just able to find a candidate that more closely met the qualifications or fit the company culture.

Perhaps the position was “filled” before they even posted it. Oftentimes, organizations have a candidate in mind that they have found via networking, but they have to post the position and conduct a search anyway. The organization still has to interview applicants, but these other applicants don’t stand a chance against this networked candidate. That’s why networking is so important in the job search!

Or, maybe you are the right fit, but a last-minute budget cut or hiring freeze eliminated the position before they could offer you the job.

In these cases, it can be helpful to follow-up with the employer and inquire about the search status.

Your application was not tailored or error-free

First, re-read the job posting. Is this position truly a good fit for you? Do you have the skills and qualifications? Do you like the duties and responsibilities? Or, are you just applying to get another app out there, because “you’ll take any job”? Employers can tell if you’re apathetic.

If this position truly is a good fit, then your résumé or CV and cover letter should showcase this. You need to make sure you’re clearly demonstrating that you have the desired skills and qualifications, and a general résumé you’ve sent to 50 companies is not going to cut it. Though optional, an objective statement on your résumé can really showcase your interest in the position as well as the relevant skills you possess and will highlight in your résumé. Your bullet point statements should then clearly demonstrate that you have these skills. Similarly, your cover letter should be customized to the position and employer with a personalized greeting and a body that highlights how your relevant skills and experiences will add value to the company. Do not assume that the employer will just “get” that you have the skills – you need to make it obvious to them, whether that be a person glancing at your résumé for 20 seconds or a computer software (i.e., Applicant Tracking System) scanning your résumé for key words.

Maybe you did tailor your application materials, but your application contained errors and was immediately rejected. When applying to a job posting, be sure to follow directions carefully. If the posting requests a cover letter and a résumé, be sure you are submitting exactly that. Don’t submit the CV you already have on hand. Don’t omit the cover letter hoping they won’t care. Furthermore, the documents you submit must be free of typos and other errors. Failure to follow directions or having errors in your application materials shows laziness and a lack of attention to detail – two qualities employers are not looking for in a candidate.

Visit the Center for Career Development for job searching strategies, résumé or CV critique, or cover letter review to make sure your application materials are polished and tailored.

Your interview was not strong

It’s common to get nervous during an interview, and unfortunately these nerves can prevent us from showing our best selves. Maybe you were fidgety or rambled on or “blanked” on a question. Or, perhaps you did have an answer to every question, but your answers were not as impactful as they could have been. When I conduct practice interviews, I often notice that students will provide an initial answer but not use their experiences to support their answer. For example, if an interviewer asks you about your strengths, not only should you name a strength, you should share an experience that demonstrates that you possess that strength. Anyone can say they have a given skill, but the employer wants you to prove it!

Interview etiquette is also important. Employers are less than enthused to hire a candidate that was late, dressed unprofessionally, or asked inappropriate questions (e.g., asking about salary, benefits, and other perks too soon). It’s also important to follow-up by sending a thank you note to each interviewer!

Practice makes perfect – schedule a practice interview with the Center for Career Development!

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By Kelsey Keefe
Kelsey Keefe Career Consultant