Career Advice for Job Seekers

5 Reasons why qualified job applicants get rejected

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash
Shelby Konkel AvatarShelby Konkel
October 31, 2022


When you apply for a job, there’s typically a lot of waiting around. You wait for a response, hope to get an interview, and after the interview you anxiously await news about whether you’ve been chosen for the position.

That waiting game can be challenging and stressful to deal with, especially when you’ve been in the running for a job for a while. When that long process ultimately leads to a rejection, it’s even more frustrating and upsetting. Getting rejected for a job is never a great feeling, and it’s easy to sit around and wonder what it was that cost you the job. Sometimes you may even worry that your appearance or demeanor had something to do with it. In reality, candidates are most often rejected for simple reasons like not being the right fit, but in other instances, you can be a very qualified professional who still gets turned down for a role that aligns with your skill set.

Why exactly do qualified candidates get rejected despite their skills and experience? Let’s break it down with some common reasons that you might not be getting the opportunities you deserve.

5 reasons why qualified job applicants get rejected:

An applicant tracking system didn’t read your resume correctly

These days, many hiring managers rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS) to sort through resumes and flag qualified candidates before the next phase of the process begins. If your resume isn’t optimized for an ATS, the software may not recognize your qualifications and could filter your application out. You want to ensure that your resume is well-labeled and uses keywords that pertain to the job itself; that way, the system will know that your experience is relevant to the job in question.

The employer already has someone in mind for the job

This may be more common than you think! The truth is, sometimes a job listing is just a formality, and there’s an internal candidate in mind for a role already. Sometimes hiring managers or employers even have outside candidates in mind for a job who didn’t necessarily apply for it. Unfortunately, you’ll likely never know whether this is the case, but it happens quite frequently. Employers are often required to post job listings, even if they already have someone in mind for the role.

It was between you and one other person

If you make it through an entire interview process and then get rejected, that often means that you were one of two finalists for the position. If someone else gets the job over you, that could be for any number of reasons, like maybe the other candidate was a better fit for the company overall. You should try to look at this as a win, though, because it means you came as close as you possibly could to securing the job.

You might be overqualified or slightly underqualified

Your qualifications ultimately mean a great deal in terms of whether you’re the right person for a job, but that can sometimes mean that you’re perhaps too qualified for a specific position. If you’ve got a lot of experience and tons of valuable skills, that’s obviously a great thing. But it’s possible that you’ve applied for something that’s a little below your skill level, and the employer might think that you’d be too expensive as a result. On the other hand, you could also be largely qualified for something but come up a bit short for that specific role. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either, and it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be a good fit for something else.

The job pays less than what you’re asking

If you get rejected at a later point in the process, it’s likely that you’ve already been asked about the salary range. It’s important to be honest and forthcoming about what you need in order to make a decent living, but sometimes it just doesn’t align with what the employer is able to provide. A lot of employers still aren’t transparent about salary range up front, so it’s sometimes hard to gauge whether or not the role you’re applying for offers enough money. Consider asking about the salary range yourself, preferably early on in the process. That way, you’ll know what to expect and can make an informed decision about whether you want to continue with your application.

— Article by Sean Kelly. In addition to being an analyst researching the latest industry trends for College Recruiter, Sean Kelly also co-founded a nonprofit local news publication in Savannah, GA called The Savannahian.

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