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; last year I placed eight executives north of a million dollars.
One of the most common questions I get is, “I was perfect for that job and crushed the interview – why didn’t they hire me.” This article gives a few of the reasons a candidate is not hired. Some are you; some have nothing to do with you. Overall, my advice would be: don’t take it personally and move on. Obsessing and fretting about the “why” changes nothing. Maybe God just has a bigger plan for you.
Culture/Chemistry Mismatch – This is the #1 reason candidates are not selected. Although you may be 100% technically qualified, there was not a strong match with the culture of the company. Or possibly you did not have chemistry with the hiring manager. Nothing you can do about it. Not the right fit. Move on.
Relationships Trump Talent – The #2 reason candidates are not hired: the boss hired one of his friends. If I have learned nothing else in my 12 years as an Executive Recruiter, I know that relationships trump talent. Executives with a history of failure continue find work. Talented executives are challenged to find work. Life is not fair, but it’s always worth living.
The Job Was NOT Perfect For You – My #3 pick, and the one most executives struggle with the most: you were not senior enough. Recently worked on a “C” level role and submitted an executive that was a 90% match. In her mind she was a 110% match. After multiple interviews the feedback was “she is just not senior enough.” She had to eat some humble pie. Executives really struggle with this one; the disconnect between their opinion of themselves, and the reality of not being qualified for a job.
You Came Across as Bitter/Angry – This one is YOUR fault. Don’t interview unless your head is in the right spot. The worst candidate I ever represented had been laid off after 20+ years with his employer. He came across as bitter in the interviews and I had to drop him from consideration. Companies hire happy smiley people.
You Came Across as Arrogant – This one is also YOUR fault. No one likes a narcissistic megalomaniac. Humble and genuine is attractive. Never try to be the smartest guy in the room. As my Dad used to say, “You can be right or you can be President.”
You Did NOT Crush the Interview – You may think you did…but you did not. Some executives are highly competent, but just don’t interview well. There are plenty of books on this, but in general, keep your answers short and concise, and give concrete examples of how of how you can fill the role. Don’t overwhelm the interviewer with your brilliance.
You got Submarined – Burning bridges is a terrible career strategy. Eventually it comes back to haunt you. When you leave a job, shake hands and part friends. Don’t leave on bad terms with the company, your boss or your peers. Most companies check around for references, and in my industry (casinos/gaming) everyone knows everyone. Recently saw a “C” level executive that was expecting a job offer get “submarined” during the background check. His resume was great, but when they called his peers it was unanimous that he was difficult to deal with.
You Were Great: They Went Internal – Best recruiting strategy ever. Executives that are already on payroll know the company culture and have the internal relationships. If a company can promote internally, they will. Another big reason? For a VP job that should pay $200,000, they can promote a Director that is $125,000 and pay him/her $150,000.
You Were Great: Someone Else Was Better – Sometimes you hit a home run and someone else hits a grand slam. Rats! Depending on the required skill set, there may be a dozen highly qualified executives in the competition. And make no mistake, interviewing is a competition. Personally, if I can find the talent, I like to submit three highly qualified executives for my searches.
There Was a Background/Compliance Issue – This one is ugly. If you can’t pass the drug screen and background check, you are going to be challenged to get a senior level job. At the “C”/VP/Director level, companies want to hire people with a history of good decisions. Bankruptcies, DUIs, and criminal records can be a deal breaker. In 700 placements, I only had two of these. A CFO that failed the drug screen, and a VP that failed to disclose an issue in his background. Was not a deal breaker, but failure to disclose…is.