There are some very good reasons why otherwise qualified candidates are rejected for jobs. Most of the time it’s because a candidate lacks expertise in a certain area, or because of an issue with soft skills—that is, the hiring team doesn’t think the candidate is a fit for the organization. The whole “soft skills” thing can be tricky because it’s amorphous and not easily defined. Sometimes a “soft skills” rejection makes sense. If you’re a very dominant personality and the clients for the given position are super laid back, this might not be the fit for you. But sadly, most of the time when candidates are rejected for reasons other than competencies, those “reasons” are absurd.
Here are the Top Ten whackiest reasons I’ve heard for someone being taken out of the running for the job. NONE are related to skills/experience. My point in sharing this with all of you is to reaffirm that this is often NOT ABOUT YOU. At all. Read on:
Great candidate. Awesome experience. Everyone on the team loved her. Except the managing director, who didn’t like the person who had referred her, and, therefore, deemed her unacceptable.
Hiring manager noticed that candidate’s phone case bore the logo of a baseball team he didn’t like. That was the end.
Interviewed someone who was perfect for the role. Years of relevant experience. Eager and ready to go. Instead of hiring him, we hired the COO’s niece. Because, she’s the COO’s niece.
In a post-interview debrief, the head of our department eliminated a candidate because he chewed his fingernails. To be clear, he didn’t chew them during the interview, but they were evidently quite worn down. Disgusting? Yes. Disqualifying? I don’t think so, but I had no say.
Big Boss didn’t like the college our top candidate graduated from 20+ years ago. “That school is a joke!” Big Boss has an Ivy League degree and thinks it’s All That.
HR told us we couldn’t extend an offer until the candidate’s undergraduate degree could be confirmed. Usually, this would be an acceptable reason to hold off on the offer. However, in this case, the candidate, who had DECADES of sales excellence, had graduated with his B.A. in the mid-70s. Because the college hadn’t yet digitized those records, it would take a few weeks for them to pull his transcripts out of the archive. In the interim, he went to a competitor who didn’t care about his transcript from Spring 1976.
Candidate was rejected because someone on the hiring team went to high school with his younger brother, who was apparently quite a jerk. What does that have to do with the candidate? Nothing.
Hiring team rejected 4 qualified women candidates, but were all on board with hiring a blatantly UNQUALIFIED man, whose resume shouldn’t have made it past HR. As you might suspect, hiring team was all male.
Manager Bro didn’t like uber-qualified candidate because he said he didn’t follow sports nor did he play fantasy football. Seriously?
Years ago, someone on the hiring team worked with a candidate’s manager. According to this colleague, this person was a horrible human being. When the candidate came in, he refused to “dish the dirt” about his manager. Ergo, this person determined that the candidate was untruthful and not trustworthy. When we pointed out that you’re really not supposed to trash talk anyone or anything in an interview, we were summarily dismissed.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of absurd reasons candidates have been rejected, and I share these anecdotes to remind candidates that the job interview Is Not About You. So, control what you can, focus on your qualifications and how you can add value to the organization.