Why Qualified Applicants for Tech Jobs Get Rejected

In today’s hot market for technical talent, you might think it’s easy to land any job you want, provided you meet most of the requirements in the job description.

But even with tech’s job market nearing full employment levels, you can still apply to a job that matches your skills and get rejected. Here are seven reasons why that happens, as well as some ways to minimize your risk of elimination.

Exhibiting a “WIIFM” Attitude

Displaying a “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) attitude (versus a “how can I help” attitude) during a job interview will get you the boot, noted Scott MacKinnon, CEO of recruiting firm Technical Connections. It doesn’t matter how technically qualified you are; you need to show a passion for contributing to the prospective employer’s goals.

“The employer is looking to hire someone because they have a problem or issue that needs immediate attention and fixing,” MacKinnon explained. They aren’t going to hire anyone who isn’t willing to put the needs of the team before his or her own.

Instead of inquiring about salary or other perks when the interviewer gives you the opportunity to ask questions, try to gain a better understanding of what the business is trying to achieve and how you can help the team advance. That way, you can avoid the fate of those who seem too self-interested.

Inability to Express Yourself

Even if you correctly solve complex coding problems on a whiteboard, you may end up eliminated from the hiring process if you can’t effectively communicate your ideas.

“Communications skills are becoming increasingly important, especially in small environments where developers need to sell their ideas to non-technical product managers and architects,” said Kevin Reetz, an experienced technical recruiter with Riviera Partners. “That’s why technical evaluators want to understand how you arrived at your solution before giving you the green light.”

You Seem Like a Risky Hire

The more it costs to hire you, the more selective employers become. For instance, if your recruiter will receive the equivalent of 30 percent of your first year’s salary, and you make six figures annually, you’ll definitely need to bring your “A game” to the interview. Otherwise, the hiring manager may figure that the risks of hiring you outweigh the potential benefits.

Seeming Unenthusiastic

Again, employers don’t want to hire people who are simply looking to collect a paycheck; they want tech professionals who are passionate about helping the company build a superior product or service.

To avoid coming off as uninterested, ask questions about the company’s product and how you can impact the team. Also, look for opportunities to describe your interests and the ways that you intend to apply your skills and experience to the company’s goals.

Winging the Interview

These days, failing to research the job, company and hiring manager before an interview isn’t going to cut it. With a plethora of information easily accessible via the Web, hiring managers expect you to ask intelligent questions about the technology stack, provide relevant examples when describing your experience, and show how you might fit in with the company culture.

“From the hiring manager’s perspective, failing to prepare for an interview sends the message that you just don’t care,” MacKinnon added.

Failing the Background Check

If an employer finds that you provided incorrect dates on your application, or that you never earned a degree that you claim to have, your experience and skill set won’t matter. (And by the way, regardless of marijuana’s legal status in your state, you may still be required to pass a drug test if you apply for a position at an international company.) Make sure that all the information listed in your application is truthful.

Requiring an H1-B Visa Transfer

Even if you meet the key job requirements, getting a new employer to consider you for an open position becomes more difficult if you need to complete an H-1B visa “transfer” (officially known as a petition to change employers) to switch companies.

“Some employers are hesitant to consider applicants who don’t appear to have a strong enough case to qualify for a specialty occupation,” Reetz said.

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17 Responses to “Why Qualified Applicants for Tech Jobs Get Rejected”

  1. WIIFM is also critical but only after they’re satisfied that you’re the right person.

    But if they drag their feet and make you wait and do other inconsiderate things that employers do, you drop their asses like a hot potato!

    If they do this during the hiring process, they’ll do other nutty things after you’re hired.

      • I’ve been told I’m too old at 34. I look young, am in good health, and am eager to work, but a lot of smaller employers and start ups want people in their 20s.

        I’m married and experienced… I’m more likely to stick around for several years at a stable company than jump at a new opportunity like many of my younger colleagues do. In other words, I’m much lower risk.

        • If anyone has ever said that you’re too old, you have an EEOC case to file against them. That is against the law. They can’t even ask you how old you are other than knowing if you’re over 18, or 21 in some cases.

        • They are not going to outright tell you that they think you are too old. They are going to give you some other reason that they chose someone with less skillset, less work experience, and more likely to leave if a better offer comes. With questions that must be answered on the online application, they are able to approximate your age. If you have work history from 2001, they know you are not in your 20s or 30s. Loopholes to discrimination are everywhere

    • If you know what to look for, it’s easy to tell what positions are fake.

      Usually they’re billed as junior or mid level and loaded with multiple years of several technologies, some of which are only loosely related or even exclusive to one another, only a very select few people who would definitely identify as senior or principal would have.

      The people who would be potentially qualified are likely at much cushier, stable, and higher paying jobs and wouldn’t leave them for the small time company asking for something like 5-7 years of serious production experience in REACT or GoLang or 3+ in a newer hot technology that has maybe been around for 1 or 2 in any meaningful and viable capacity. Unless you are incredibly lucky, you aren’t going to have been a ground floor user of that tech, I’m sorry. There’s so many flash in the pans, that this comes across as a red flag to me.

      What this sort of posting means is they’re either looking to poach someone from a FANG (unlikely) or have requirements so ridiculous they can claim no American can do it, so they need to import it. A colleague of mine who has done hirings says his company has done it. They put out absolutely ludicrous requirements, then get the visa permission and have the actual posting which is generally much more reasonable, usually 2-3 years in a small related cluster of technologies, and they’d have no trouble finding an American, but they don’t want to pay the rates, so they get the visa and hire a foreign worker for up to 50% less than what they’d pay the American.

  2. I work at a start-up and am getting ready to retire. When interviewing for my replacement, we actually went with someone older because of experience and a calm yet eager personality. We didn’t know their HB-1 status. We were fortunate to have a multitude of qualified candidates (some of whom were more qualified than myself). But unfortunately we to turn down candidates because we only had 1 opening. But I will agree, that the one we did choose got the edge because during the interview w/ one of the managers, he asked how she thought his qualifications might be able to help out in her department.

  3. Get the Job Consulting

    There are many factors for not being chosen for a position. In addition to the ones mentioned here, when you fail to effectively characterize your accomplishments you sell yourself short. You can be considered for an even broader range of roles when this work is done well.
    With regard to age discrimination, it distills down to the cost of hiring you as a worker. There are actuary tables for health insurance cost based on age, not based on the health of the individual. An older person costs a company more to insure.

  4. Get the Job Consulting

    You cannot apply for Medicare unless you are retired, Christine. I’m not familiar with the ability to retain insurance from a government position when you are no longer working for that organization. Do you have examples where what you’ve stated is the case?

  5. Get the Job Consulting

    Thank you, Steve! I apologize for my naivete showing! What if the requirement to sign up for Medicare at age 65 creates a new opportunity for people who are 65 and older working in tech? This conversation reveals the gap for those ousted for their age (55-65) and the cost of the insurance benefit for them. I hope HR professionals are paying attention here. What an opportunity to gain the contribution of experienced professionals who are not ready to retire!