Failed job interview? The most common reasons why

February 15, 2023

Failed a job interview

Going to an interview and not getting a job offer at the end of the process can be extremely disheartening.

You can feel like you’ve nailed the interview, replied comprehensively to every question they’ve thrown at you, and put on your very best attire to make an impression – all to end up with a rejection email, or in some cases, no response at all.

And if they do respond, companies frequently use canned responses like “sorry, another candidate was much more qualified than you”, or “We will consider your resume for future suitable positions”.

Without feedback from the hiring manager about your failed interview, it’s tough to know where you can improve. Though the truth is, many candidates make the same mistakes – here’s a few of the most common reasons why you’ve been rejected from a role.

You’re not qualified enough

Though you may not want to hear it, there’s a chance that you may not be qualified enough for the position that you’re applying for.

A lack of qualifications and expertise can remove you from the hiring process completely, especially if they have a more qualified candidate they can opt for instead.

Because of this, it’s important to apply for positions within your reach. Instead of looking for the highest salary offer, it’s a better idea to find a job that matches your skills and expertise.

Over time, as your skills and experience increase, you can incrementally apply for bigger and higher paid positions when you become a good fit for the role.

You’re overqualified

Not only can you be under-qualified for a position, you can also be overqualified too. This usually means that you may end up finding the role boring because it’s not challenging enough, or undermined if you don’t have as much power as you’ve had in previous jobs.

You may find that your technical skills or work experience mean that you’re not a good fit for the day to day tasks the role entails. Because of this, it’s important that your skills match those needed in the job description.

On the upside, this can indicate that you’re actually worth more than you think, and can boost confidence when it comes to future interviews.

Speaking to an established company that has experience with job applications can help you to determine the level of jobs you should be applying for.

Resume Issues

Typically you’d assume that after you’ve been invited for an interview, you’ve already passed the first test. This is true, but there’s a chance that what you’ve said in the interview doesn’t correlate with what you’ve put on your resume.

The HR might be too busy to thoroughly run through multiple resumes on their desks, and progressing to the interview stage quickly allows them to assess your ability in person. Afterwards, they can go back and check out your resume in greater depth.

This is one of the reasons why it’s extremely important to have a professional resume. It needs to be well organised, concise and have the most important and relevant content near the top.

Then, you can list all of your credentials – previous employers, internships, academic projects and volunteer work at the bottom.

Cover letter issues

Similar to the resume issues, a cover letter helps increase your chances to be accepted for a job position. But again, if what you’ve said in the interview is different to your cover letter, it may indicate that you’re not the right candidate.

It’s important to make it clear that you possess the desired skills for the position, but you need to be truthful in your cover letter too. Your hiring manager will think about your resume, cover letter and interview together when considering your application.

This means that your cover letter and resume needs to be error-free and well-written, showing how you can add value to the company. Your cover letter can help them realise that you’re a good fit for the role, but it’s important to be honest too.


If you were asked to provide employment references, make sure that they are going to give you a good recommendation.

After you’ve handed in your resume and gone through the interview process, the last part of the hiring process is getting in touch with the references that you’ve given.

Having relevant experience is one thing, but it’s also useful to stay on good terms with your previous employers, as there’s a good chance you may need a reference from them later.

Talking about previous employers

There is no easier way to remove yourself from a potential employer’s shortlist than bad mouthing your previous company. Even if this is how you genuinely feel, it’s best to avoid doing this altogether.

This can be a red flag to a potential employers, as it may show them how you’d act if you were to ever leave the position you’re applying for in the future. It’s a good idea to consider typical interview questions you may receive beforehand so you can prepare for them in advance and avoid any slip ups.

Maintain a positive attitude and ensure to highlight your own attributes without complaining about your previous roles.

Not selling yourself enough

Strict competition requires you to be capable of selling yourself to your employer. Be confident enough to express your skills, achievements and experiences to convince the hiring team that you’ll thrive in their open role.

Being confident without being arrogant and maintaining eye contact with the HR professional can let them know you’re taking things seriously. Try to emphasise your experience and how that makes you the most suitable candidate for the position.

This is where soft skills come in useful, and it can even be worth running through a mock interview beforehand to get yourself used to the process.


We all have weaknesses, and being open and honest during your interview is necessary if you want your employer to trust you. Most failed interviews come down to an issue with your resume or cover letter, or in some cases, you may just not be right for the position.

Though failing a job interview can bring you down, it’s important to take it as a learning experience instead of taking it personally. Knowing where you may have gone wrong and the common mistakes people make can help to improve your process until you find the right job for you.

Harry Suresh
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