“We are sorry, but we will not proceed further with your application, blah blah blah….” you heard them saying straight to your face. You were so shocked that you only noted the first sentence. You missed all the rest, and that’s ok!

“We are sorry, but we will not proceed further with your application” – that’s all you need to know.  There are times when there is nothing useful to you in the remaining phrases, just well-decorated excuses unsuccessfully trying to resemble a solid, constructive justification.

Now, instead of getting drawn in the misery of failure, I would propose you re-think your candidacy from another point of view.

Try to answer the question “why have I been rejected?” following a more holistic, open-minded approach. It is what you are and what you are not. It is what you can do and what you cannot. It is what they want from you and what they don’t.

All these elements might be COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from your perception about the profile of a perfect candidate. Or there might be decisive factors that you do not consider at all.

Sometimes, the so-called “positive” elements of your professional personality (irrespectively the hard, painful and consistent process you have followed to build them up) might be UNWANTED, INAPPROPRIATE, DISCARDED for reasons you cannot imagine at first. At times, you are rejected exactly because you have some (too) good characteristics. Weird? No, not at all, if you realize that a job is not a “one size fits all” suit.

On purpose, I am not going to elaborate on the one, usually obvious and over-discussed “translation” of a job rejection – there are objective reasons for having been left out. You are usually discussing these with yourself and/or your friends trying to apply some kind of profound, universal logic on the decisions communicated to you. Nor will I try to “reveal the conspiracy” in case you think that the whole (hiring) world has nothing more serious to do than fighting against you.

I will discuss the other part, the hidden one, the irrational one, the rarely discussed one; because I think you should also include that in your consideration before and after any job application.

With the exception of being TECHNICALLY inappropriate for the job (not having the expertise / experience / specific skills / behavioral attitude requested), there might be “other” (non-obvious / non-easily explicable) strong reasons for you to be rejected.

You might have been/seemed:

  1. Better than your future supervisor (more talented, with a higher potential, a stronger personality, more advanced skills, better recognized, with a wider network…), so you are likely to get ahead in the following promotion or “grab” her position or even turn her out of the job entirely. She will do whatever it takes to kick you out before you turn in.
  2. Better than the owner’s son/daughter (who will join 2-3 years later, after finishing his/her studies in the university). No chance to ever get this job, forget it. A clever, forward-looking employer would absolutely hire you to train his kids! But that’s too rare. Obviously, you have come across the other type of business owner at your interview.
  3. Dangerous for the company’s (silent) peaceful climate (if you love taking initiatives, propose improvements, make changes etc.). “Pax Romana” in the working environment is so important for the survival of lazy, easy going managers; they will not take the risk to get out of their comfort zone hiring you.
  4. Too fast, too aggressive, too energetic, too much results-oriented for the company’s culture. If the company’s tempo is slower than yours (easily discovered during an interview) a clever hiring manager realizes that you will soon have to slow down in order to survive. But this is going to be only temporary; you will surely keep an eye open to new opportunities (outside the company).  So, why should they bother with you now?
  5. Excruciatingly assertive, which means always communicating the truth, never closing the eye on what’s going wrong in the organization and consistently fighting for improvements. Such professionals are hard to be managed in organizations that have based their existence on “silent, productive machines” instead of free-will, competent people. You are not their kind of blessed employee, I’m afraid.
  6. A highly recognized person in your professional network, so the (silly) question is: “is it the company that’s being further promoted or you?” If this – basically wrong – a question arises in the mind of the hiring manager, you do not have many chances. The organization is afraid of extroverted and widely recognized people, simply because they are also self-luminous. If you are not heavily depended on the “master’s” will, then you are uncontrollable and therefore unwanted.
  7. Paid at a much higher level than they can afford (either practically or “conceptually”). Regardless the market conditions, wise employers know that hiring someone at a much lower salary than she/he used to earn (and can still claim for) is a short-term, pretty conditional cooperation. It is a compromise that will end sooner or later, and guess who will decide for that… So, yes, they won’t hire you to avoid being negatively surprised in the near future.
  8. Too young / too old to fit in the company’s preferred age groups. Of course, most of the times this target is accompanied by specific experience and knowledge stage required for the open position. They won’t tell you explicitly but be sure that the preferred age group comprises a strong, usually unwritten, hiring criterion. It mostly affects the older people, after a certain age of around 50 (they are neither young enough to be fully acquainted with recent advancements in their field of expertise nor too low paid to be attractive cost-wise).

In simple words, yes there have been occasions  where you lost the job because you were not up to specific (mainly technical) expectations, but there have also been other instances where you lost the job simply because you were better than they could afford!

Do not blame yourself for that. Getting to know is always an advantage, even if rejected from a job. React constructively: either buy a suit for YOUR SIZE or GET THINNER to be able to buy the small one you found next corner.

My piece of advice (in business language): either re-focus to a more RELEVANT-TO-YOU job or RE-FRAME your desire. In both cases, you’ll end up with something much more suitable. Good luck!