ask.fedweek.com | why you didn't get the job

Over and over I hear, “if I could only get an interview, I could get the job…” Yet, far too many times, you’re not called for an interview. What could have happened…you thought you were the perfect fit…and you may have even received an email saying that you were referred to the hiring manager.

Of course, truly knowing the precise reason for not getting interviewed for a specific position is difficult to figure out but here are some of the more common reasons why you were not called for an interview:

1. There could have been an internal candidate and the hiring manager decided not to interview at all. There is no requirement to hold interviews and if the hiring manager has already made up his or her mind, they might not see a reason to hold an interview.

2. You were perceived as “overqualified.” From a federal perspective, there is qualified and not qualified; overqualified is not a Human Resources (HR) term. Nonetheless, when some hiring managers receive the certificate, they may be projecting their views of “overqualified” into the decision of who to interview.

3. While you may be well qualified for the job, your resume doesn’t show it. Perhaps you neglected to “tweak” your resume to ensure you had the relevant key words for the specific job or your experience was not detailed enough to show the full breadth of your experience.

4. Other candidates were endorsed / referred by people already in the organization—and you were not. Most hiring managers want to hire someone they know—or at least someone who knows someone they know. You should always work your contacts!

5. Stronger candidates. While your qualifications are strong, competition may be stiff, and there may be even more qualified candidates than you.

6. Your online presence is not helpful. Whether they should or not, many managers will lookup people online before deciding whether to interview or not. Make sure your online presence is positive and professional.

7. You are not in the geographic area where the position is located. While the position may be open to people everywhere, most hiring managers prefer someone local—at least for the first round of interviews. They are concerned about potential delay while you move, unfamiliarity with what it costs to live in the area, etc. If you are really committed to a geographic area, you may want to consider getting a Post Office box or local address and include that address on your resume. Of course, you should not expect relocation benefits if you do this (and realistically, most government positions are not offering relocation benefits to many anyway).

8. Something may have happened to the position; the hiring manager may no longer have the budget to fill the position, a hiring freeze could have been announced, or someone may have been reassigned into the job so it is no longer available.

9. You didn’t follow directions. Perhaps you forgot to include your transcript or DD-214? Or they asked for five references and you gave them three instead. Precisely following all directions is critical—you can be eliminated for even simple mistakes.

10. You are not applying for jobs at the right level. Some people apply for jobs based on potential salary and/or how much they need to live on, rather than what they are truly qualified for. If you are right out of school, with minimal work experience, you are not at the senior level. Or if you are transitioning from the military, you might find that former senior officers are applying for jobs at the same level you’re targeting. You may need to take a small step back in order to move forward.