“You’re Not What We’re Looking For”

Rats, rejected again. So now what do you do? Looking for work takes its toll, especially if you really invest yourself in the process. It can be mentally draining attempting to show the world a positive face, a smile and exude confidence at a time when you feel vulnerable, stressed and anxious.

If you think about the title, “You’re not what we’re looking for”, there could be some valuable clues in those six words that you’d be smart to think about and then do something about. The most obvious question to ask of the person making that statement is, “Why am I not what you are looking for?” In other words, what are they looking for that you lack.

You see it could be that if you hear this once, you were a wrong fit at that company. It’s not your fault, nor is it theirs. In fact, finding fault at all is the wrong thing to do. You may have all the qualifications on paper, but during an interview, the interviewer(s) made a decision that based on your personality for example and how you conducted yourself that someone else with equal qualifications would just fit in better. That’s fair I believe.

After all, the company and the person representing it know the culture and the kind of people who thrive and those that don’t or might put that culture at risk. You and I, we don’t know that, and they might have done you a favour from being hired and then shortly fired when you didn’t fit in as well as another candidate would.

Let’s suppose now that you hear, “You’re not what we’re looking for” frequently. What message could really be behind those words? Hearing it often could well mean that you just don’t have what it takes to compete with other applicants period. Say you got a job 8 years ago through a family friend in an office setting. You were let go a year ago due to downsizing and you’ve been looking for work for over a year.

In a situation like this, you may not have the credentials required by a new employer, such as certificate in Office Administration. You may have a working understanding of the software that company used, but perhaps employer’s are looking for people who have experience using newer programs, and face it, there are many people over those years who have upgraded their formal education in school and are now graduating with training in the latest and best practices.

You see that job you held in a small firm of 10 people was good while it lasted, but it has left you unprepared to compete with other applicants with more recent education or experience with larger companies. If you were one of those applicants, you’d be arguing that you’re a better fit and you might be absolutely right.

Now the above is just a scenario that I’m presenting. It does illustrate however that the experience you may have is valid and good so far as it goes, but it falls short of the experience other applicants have which may mean they are consistently hired where you are not. Frustrating? Absolutely. Understandable however? Yes, completely.

If you can determine therefore why you are not the best fit and what they are looking for, then you are in a position to do something about it if you so choose. If the message is that you don’t have experience working in large organizations, maybe you should confine your job search to smaller companies where you’ll be a great fit based on your work history. A job in a larger firm where you have to interact with many people in different departments may be something you’d have to learn but why hire you when other applicants know it already?

Recently I read a reply from a reader pointing out that it is companies not job seekers that are to blame when things don’t work out. I read their post and sensed bitterness, anger, resentment and a lack of full understanding when they have been passed over for others. I don’t think job seekers are to, ‘blame’ for their unemployment any more than I think employers are to, ‘blame’ for making the decisions they do.

Just as a job applicant can turn down a job because they don’t like the money offered, the travel involved or the work location, a company can turn down any applicant. In both cases, from either way you look at it, one or the other could decide it’s a bad fit. In fact, an applicant could withdraw from the application process and the company decide to hire someone else at the same time.

My advice is to respectfully ask for some clarification of why you are not presently what they are looking for in order to better compete in the future. If you need more experience get it. If you need a specific kind of experience, seek it out volunteering or take some upgrading if that’s the suggestion.

You may not of course get the real feedback that you’d like. If your personality and attitude are a bad fit, they aren’t going to tell you that. Some outfits don’t give feedback at all if you don’t work out. Be as objective as you can, open to feedback as you can and then pause to consider any feedback you do get before responding.




2 thoughts on ““You’re Not What We’re Looking For”

  1. First, let me say that I like your writing style Kelly. It is clear and ‘reader friendly’ but not ‘dummed down’. Second, in reading the above post, I can’t help but think that I may be your ‘targetted’ reader in your comment “Recently I read a reply from a reader pointing out that it is companies not job seekers that are to blame when things don’t work out… and sensed bitterness, anger, resentment and a lack of full understanding when they have been passed over for others.” This is unfortunate for several reasons. While I can certainly see how you might make your assumptions, and that is all they are ,what are they really based on? Getting a ‘sense’ of something, is one way to process information but it is not necessarily the most reliable or valid way. You suggest that I may “lack a full understanding” of these sorts of issues. You could not possibly know that I write as a post graduate scholar in the area of labour, and have studied the issue at a much deeper and broader scope than you, I am certain. Also, to suggest that my pointed response was directly related to being passed over for jobs myself is somewhat irresponsible unless you have all the facts (which you obviously do not because I am fortunate that my experience had been quite good overall!).

    As for your post today, while you present some things to consider, I’m afraid it continues to ‘miss the mark’ with what is really happening out there. The fact is that employers are not trainining anymore. All this ‘skill building’ and ‘education’ upgrading is falling on the individual’s shoulders and when one is making minimum wage or working a survivial job just to feed their families, or pay their share of ever increasing rent, there is nothing left to pay for the expensive courses that they may need to keep up with the preppy offspring of rich boomers! And you say then, ‘volunteer’! Where do you then weigh in on all the latest literature and research condemning how this volunteering is leading to all the unpaid ‘sweatshop-like’ internships? This is reality. And your suggestion to “confine” one’s job search to something one has ‘always done’ or have their only experience in, does a huge disservice to the countervailing idea of the benefit of diversity in the workplace. More of the same only gets organizations ‘more of the same’. Play it safe seems to be the message here (both for the job searcher and for the hiring organization).

    In the end, I respect that you have opinions and thoughts to share and forums such as this should lead to interesting dialogue. However I am disappointed that some of your comments only serve to reinforce a current ideology which is actually at the root cause of current trends and associated collateral damage in ‘joblessness. This shows that it is you who actually lacks a full understanding of the topic.

    Previous advice about ‘doing one’s homework’ and know as much about what you are applying for, continues to be paramount. Even if you have your heart set on working at Moxy’s for instance, it just won’t happen if you don’t fit their ‘preferred’ model criteria, no matter how wonderful your customer service or other experience may be!! So I am back to ‘it’s really not your fault”!!


  2. I have to agree with Anna. Expecting the unemployed or those working for low wages and barely surviving to pay for expensive courses to upgrade their skills is unrealistic. I can’t get a job in an office without a 2 year college course that would cost upwards of ten thousand dollars. I don’t have that kind of money. Volunteering is keeping me busy and providing me a way to remain useful and I enjoy it. I have wondered, though, at the amount of labor that is now being done as volunteer work. At the hospital where I volunteer, for example, the volunteer department is huge. It seems as though a great deal of work that was once paid employment has gone volunteer.


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