Why Qualified Candidates Don’t Get Hired

Likeability 2Recently I read Liz Ryan’s article Why Qualified Candidates Don’t Get Hired?, which has a lot of great information that I am in total agreement with. But for me it focused more on why qualified candidates are not being sourced or applying for certain jobs, thus they are not getting to the interview stage. These are all very important factors that job seekers need to take to heart.

But what about the qualified candidates who got to the interview stage, why are they not getting hired? This is a serious problem, especially for older job seekers and people in locales where coveted jobs are few and far between.

Competition is one reason; after all (in most cases) only 1 out of 5 or more qualified candidates interviewed can be hired. But why is it that out of those interviewed the most qualified candidate is not always or at least 9 out of 10 times the one offered the job?

The answer is simple – They lacked the ‘Likability Factor’ and the company hired a person they liked better. Some people call this a matter of chemistry and others a better cultural fit, but the bottom line is personality trumped talent!

So what is this ‘Likability Factor’ and what can job hunters do to acquire it.

It starts with the resume. Most resumes focus solely on showing how qualified a person is.  Don’t get me wrong, this is an important factor but in the end other resumes in the hopper are from equally qualified candidates thus making it hard for a talent acquisition specialist to discern who to reach out to, interview or pass on. Consequently quality candidates fail to win the numbers game.

For me a resume should focus on the likability factor and this can be done by telling a story about a likable person through the use of the proper words placed in the proper place along with the accomplishments, experience and other factors that show value to the employer. To accomplish this the writer needs to understand who they are writing for and how to match the resume to the desired chemistry and cultural fit the company is looking for. When done right, this resume will create a first impression of a person interviewers look forward to meeting because they have ‘the right stuff’ to fit into the company and work with the rest of the people in the organization. After all this is the final determining factor in most hires.

Next is your physical first appearance, and here I am not talking about good looks. Have you dressed the part to make the people who are deciding your fate take notice about how well you blend in? This is an important factor and one that some people tend to overlook. Before you walk through the door you need to research the company’s culture and how to ‘look’ like you fit in. If you blend in interviewers are more likely to like you and if you look out of place chances are they will not.

Then there is the initial greeting and handshake. I can’t tell you how many times I interviewed a person who gave me a limp handshake, no smile or a bored look, and bombarded me with smoker’s breath; three strikes against them before we even sat down for the interview. No matter how qualified they were for the job, these were people I did not want to have around unless there was no other choice. These deselects were easily correctable, but the attitude of the candidate was not to make the physical or mental effort to correct them and they ended up paying the price.

William Knegendorf a consultant, speaker and author on hiring strategies for individuals and organizations shared this statistic with me. While surveying 327 Hiring Mangers on how long it takes (on average) for them to decide NO to hiring an applicant after the beginning of an interview, his data showed an average time to rejection of 4 to less than 10 seconds. And what did the hiring managers he surveyed say was the cause of their rush to judgment? “I didn’t like them.” Skills or talent was never mentioned.

Personally, I can’t begin to tell you how often I heard “It didn’t go so well, I don’t know why but I don’t think they liked me” as the response when I debriefed a candidate after an initial job interview. Rarely did they say “It didn’t go so well because I don’t think I was qualified for the job.”

When I asked client wjo interviewed them for their feedback on these same candidates this is a sample of what I was told about why they passed on them.

I didn’t like him; he was too talkative, arrogant, self-serving, self-centered or condescending. I passed on him because I thought he came across as a phony or a posterior kisser.

Some other reasons truly talented people are not hired are because they come across as too much of a liar or braggart – two more qualities people abhor – by overstating who they are and what they’ve achieved, while others blow it by showing a lack of interest for the job they’re interviewing for or by telling the interviewer what’s wrong with the company or the job rather than what’s right about it.

A most important fact many job seekers fail to understand which can diminish the chances to be hired is showing a lack of respect for the person who is interviewing them. This is especially so if they are more junior or at a somewhat lower rung on the org chart than the person being interviewed. Too many people forget that they would not be interviewing you if their opinion did not carry some weight on whether to pass you upstream or make an offer to you. This is especially true in companies who make a decision on who to hire by consensus and each opinion carries an almost equal weight.

These are but a few reasons ‘why qualified candidates don’t get hired’. I can’t say this enough times, so I’ll repeat it again. Candidates need to pass the chemistry and culture tests as well as the skills test to be hired because in the end “people hire people’, and personality will usually trump talent and experience.

As always I am happy to critique U.S. resumes and LinkedIn pages at no cost. Email me at perry@perrynewman.com

Perry Newman CPC/CSMS is a nationally-recognized career services professional; an executive resume writer and career transition coach, certified social media strategist, AIPC certified recruiter and charter member of the Career Rocketeer team. Passionate about all things related to career management, Perry has been critiquing Career Rocketeer readers' resumes at no cost since 2009. For a complimentary critique, email your resume to perry@perrynewman.com.

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  1. It’s disheartening that a decision is made on a first impression in under 10 seconds. Let’s be brutally honest — you’re mostly at the mercy of genetics and your credentials go out the window in a sixth of a minute. More daunting is the group interview setting where four people love you but one has a “gut” feeling you aren’t right for the position.

    I’m more like Andy Rooney than George Clooney at this stage in my career, and I know that’s an automatic strike against me. In recent interviews, I’ve practiced listening more than speaking, as I’m more articulate on paper than I am verbally. I then tailor my answers/comments to positives such as “Yes, I’ve dealt with similar responsibilities” or “That’s an area I’m interested in pursuing and one of the reasons this opportunity appeals to me.” Safe, humble and honest. I’m somewhere between an introvert and a slow-warming extrovert, so that’s another strike against me, particularly when having to make a snap judgment about the personality type(s) evaluating you. (Am I coming across as confident or arrogant? Am I avoiding eye contact or staring? Oh, God, is my body language now speaking in tongues?!?)

    I’ve dealt with rejection for more than 20 years, yet I’ll still press my good suit and try to do better the next time; I would like to be more than a one-line obituary when I die. Occasionally, I feel like “Red” in “The Shawshank Redemption,” though. After years of appealing and being rejected for parole, he finally received it when he told the board he didn’t care if they granted it or not. There may be something to that philosophy. I also (grudgingly) accept the dictum that “If it was meant to be, it would have happened.”

  2. Hericles Velazquez says:

    In my situation I wrote my CV and cover letter in such a way that would match the requirements, later I got a form that had questions like an interview then I actually got a phone interview, the interviewer’s questions were very personal and about the same things I HAD covered in my CV, cover letter and the form she sent me, for my disappointment I got a rejection email, no tips, advice or the reason of the rejection. Why did I get a phone interview in the first place?

    • Bobby Jennings says:

      I identify with your frustrations. I would encourage you to contact your interviewer and ask her these questions. Also, I would contact HR if you suspect or have evidence of foul play.

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