Why One Candidate Got Rejected Three Times

Have you ever gone on an interview and been rejected, and wondered forever after why you didn’t get the job? In the many years that we’ve been sending candidates out on interviews, we’ve learned that employers reject candidates for a multitude of reasons. Not all are obvious, but some make more sense than others, as you will see in the following true story about why one candidate got rejected three times. (All names have been changed to protect anonymity.)

Mark had found the perfect candidate for his client, ABC Shoes. Bryan was personable and smart, fit the position’s requirements, and seemed to be a great culture match for ABC. Mark was truly surprised when Bryan came in afterward to say that the hiring manager at ABC had rejected him.

As they talked, Mark learned that this was not the first time Bryan had applied at ABC. In fact, this was his third interview in a couple of years. Mark marveled that Bryan could have been rejected three times when he seemed to fit everything that ABC had asked for–and then he happened to look down at Bryan’s dress shoes.

“Wait a minute, Bryan! Did you wear these shoes to your interview?” Mark asked. When Bryan answered affirmatively, Mark said, “That’s why you were rejected. Your shoes are made by XYZ Shoes, the direct competitor of ABC!”

Mark got on the phone with the HR department at ABC Shoes and made a case for why Bryan belonged at ABC Shoes. He begged for them to give Bryan another chance at interviewing and promised, “Rest assured, Bryan will be wearing shoes made by ABC Shoes!”

It’s no surprise that Mark’s persistence and insight won Bryan another interview. Sure enough, ABC Shoes discovered that Bryan was, after all, the perfect fit for their open job–a happy outcome for everyone.

Now, don’t oversimplify and think that all you have to do to ace an interview is to don the logo of the company where you want to be employed! The point is, when you go on an interview, you need to look at yourself the way your interviewer will see you. This will involve doing your own research on the company, as well as taking to heart whatever prep advice your recruiter gives you. What is the company’s mission statement? What are their pain points? Why do they need to fill this open position? What do they hope to learn from you?

Then, armed with this knowledge, put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager (no pun intended) and look at yourself through his or her eyes. Do you look like the kind of person who would fit in here at ABC? Do you think, talk, and walk like an ABC Shoes employee? Or do you dress like the competition?

It might be easy to overlook the fact that your recruiter is a great source of information and wisdom about the company with which you’ll be interviewing. Mark had been conversing with ABC Shoes for quite some time before he sent Bryan out to interview. Your recruiter’s job is to find out everything he can about the client so that he can deliver the best match. While your potential job is on the line, don’t forget that his pay is at stake. Recruiters usually work for free until a client says, “Let’s hire that candidate!”

So the next time you go out on an interview, remember why one candidate got rejected three times. Do your research and get into the mindset of your employer. Get a friend to help you practice interviewing so you’re sure you’ll reflect the company’s values and needs. Follow through on the advice your experienced recruiter has given you. And above all else, be sure to wear the right shoes!



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