Seven Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job (even though you were the best applicant)

Seven Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job (even though you were the best applicant)

By Jesse Campbell

Editor’s Note: I have had it happen to me, in my own career, and it has happened to more than a few of the 2,400 clients I have counseled as their career advisor. — You are a perfect fit for the job. You meet all of the specifications in the Help Wanted posting. It sounds like they based the job description on your own resume! You apply for the job and never hear back. Worse, you interview, think you knocked ‘em dead, and never hear back or get a “sorry, but no” email.  Wonder what went wrong? Jesse Campbell, writing for financial organization MMI, has some explanations that you will find helpful. Here are Campbell’s thoughts. — B. Blackwell 


If you’ve spent any amount of time in the workforce, chances are good you’ve experienced your fair share of rejection. Sometimes you take a shot in the dark at a job you’re not really qualified for and never hear anything back. “That’s fine,” you think to yourself. “I wasn’t really qualified for that job anyway.”

Sometimes, however, you are qualified for the job. Very qualified. You even come in for an interview that goes well, then later come back for another interview that goes well. Everything seems lined up for success, but then…well, nothing.

No matter how qualified you are, there are still a few reasons why you might not end up with the job – some you can control, some you can’t.

  1. The job disappeared.

When a job is posted, there are quite a few things going on behind the curtain that you simply won’t be privy to. And sometimes a posted job will suddenly vanish. Why? Maybe the position hadn’t officially been approved at the time HR began their search. Everyone assumed it would be approved, but then something changed and it wasn’t. Additionally, there’s the possibility that something significant changed during the search and now the position no longer makes business sense.

There’s also the possibility that the job was never really there in the first place. Sometimes a company has an internal candidate all lined up, but is required to go through the formal application process all the same.

  1. The job evolved during the search process

You have everything the employer is asking for. Seems like a match made in heaven, but sometimes the employer realizes during the course of the search that they actually need something else. Maybe someone came in with some skills or experiences they didn’t know they needed, or maybe another employee left recently and they’re trying to combine positions. Whatever the reason, your perfect skill set is no longer quite so perfect for the job.

  1. You came in a bit too early

A good job is going to receive many very good applicants. So many, in fact, that they may end up bleeding together a bit as the process wears on. That means the first applicant through the door has to be so outstanding that no one else can compare, or else risk fading from memory over time. If given the option, you may want to take one of the later interview slots.

  1. You didn’t do your research

Remember – it’s not about how great you are as an individual, it’s about how that greatness will translate for your new employer. That means you need understanding who you’re talking to and make sure you sell yourself in a way that will actually resonate.

  1. Someone else had an inside advantage

Another thing you won’t know about while navigating the application process – internal politics. No matter how qualified you are, and no matter how well you nail the interview, who you know still matters. And if someone else knows someone important within the company, you may be out of luck.

  1. You gave them a reason to disqualify you

When hiring managers are faced with stacks and stacks of qualified applicants, they start looking for a reason – any reason – to disqualify applicants. Complain too much about your former employer during the interview? You’re out. Post questionable things on social media? You’re out. Ask for special considerations right out of the gate? You’re out. It could even be something seemingly minor, like wearing too much perfume or cologne. The point is, do your best to not give anyone a reason to say no.

  1. Someone with similar qualifications is willing to do the same work for less

Finally, the fastest way to lose out a job is to price yourself out of the running. That doesn’t mean you have to take less than you’re worth, but it’s a good idea to try to delay the negotiations until after you’ve been offered the position.


Your “Un-natural” Network Connections can be the Best!

Looking for a Job? Did you Tell your Mechanic or Hairdresser?

Your “Un-natural” Network Connections can be the Best!

You’re at a networking event talking with someone, and you’re wondering to yourself — is this the best person for me to be talking to? Should I cut this short and seek out someone who might be a more useful contact or have better connections?

So writes Dave Opton, President of Execunet in a recent newsletter.

Opton goes on to talk about a fellow, John, who was on the job market. John was doing a lot of heavy networking and contacting everyone he thought could help him, but he wasn’t getting anywhere. One day, while getting his car fixed, he told the auto mechanic about his situation. When the mechanic offered to introduce him to some of his connections, John gave him a skeptical look. The mechanic countered by pointing to the Porsches, Mercedes and BMWs sitting at his shop. “Who do you think owns these cars? I know every one of them!” Lesson learned!

I call these “un-natural” connections – getting career help from people you would never expect could be of any value to you in your job search. We have countless stories about how our Career Strategies Group clients received invaluable aid from the most unlikely of sources.

One of my favorite stories concerns Joan, an all-American lawyer who had taken Japanese language lessons in high school and college. Her dream was to work for a Japanese-based company. She mentioned this one day to her hairdresser, who happened to be of Japanese extraction. Lo’ and behold, her hairdresser’s Dad was a senior executive with the New York office of a major Japanese bank. Joan is now on the legal team there!

Then there was Perry, a law firm lawyer who was seeking a legal position in the broadcast or cable TV industries. One weekend he went to a party at a friend’s house. There he met one of his other friend’s new girlfriends, who happened to be a secretary at a dentist’s office. He was small talking about his interest in TV, and she said she had a friend who was a legal secretary at a major cable TV company. One thing lead to another and Perry was able to start his career in the entertainment industry – because his friend’s new girlfriend’s friend.

Another favorite Career Strategies story is about Maria, who wanted to get into public relations in the fashion industry. One day on the way to court, she pulled into a gas station. Not being the type of woman who pumped her own gas, she asked the attendant, a young college student, for assistance. She mentioned how much she hated going to court each day, and how much she dreamed about doing fashion industry PR. The gas station attendant said his older sister was Vice President of Marketing for a major fashion designer. Maria is today writing press releases and supervising photo shoots for that fashion house.

The moral of the story is you can get the most valuable career help from the people you least expect to get it from. Just tell them your story. As Execunet’s Dave Opton concludes, someone’s title will tell you what they do, but not who they know. So, the next time you’re at a networking event, at the grocery store check out, or at the gas station, talk to the people there and mention what you are looking for — because you never know.

Good hunting!

Think recruiters can help you? Think again!

This is the toughest job market in 75 years, yet (allegedly) intelligent attorneys are being just plain stupid when it comes to their job search strategies.

If they want to remain ignorant fools, that’s their business – they can stay miserable in their jobs or watch themselves sink slowly into insolvency because they can’t find other work. Hopefully you are not like these poor schnooks — if you are smart enough to be reading this, then perhaps you really do want to make a positive change in your career.

I am a legal recruiter and job search coach who has talked with about 1,000 lawyers a year for the last 20+ years. Most of these attorneys are clueless about what recruiters can do for them. They don’t have faintest idea about what constitutes a “recruitable” candidate.

What I am about to tell you does not apply to executive recruiters, but most certainly does apply to legal recruiters. Go to or any other job site for lawyers, spend five minutes reading the postings, and you will see that what I am telling you is true.

In my practice, we started as career counselors, and eventually added recruiting to our services. As with any legal recruiters, we get 20-30% of a candidate’s first year salary as our fee. If you are in the $125,000 range and we place you, we will receive from $25,000 to $37,500. If we were to work with you on career testing and assessment to identify your career options, we would receive from $1,300 to $2,900 for the testing and evaluation, depending upon how many hours were involved in your testing program.

I am not stupid. Don’t you think I would rather make $25,000 for putting in the 20 to 30 hours so hours it would take me to find, screen and submit a candidate, than to make less than $3,000 for spending 12-14 hours on a career counseling case? Hello?

However, most of the people who call us are not recruitable candidates. We are able to help the few who are, and they make it economically possible for us to continue as counselors for those who are not. Truth be known, we actually prefer the counseling side so we are happy with this arrangement.

Here are the realities of the legal recruiting profession.

1. Legal recruiters are used by firms and companies to find candidates who exactly matchthe specifications of an open job, and who have the requisite practice area skills and experience. Recruiters will not submit, for example, a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney for a commercial litigation position.

2. The prime market for legal recruiters is young lawyers with from 1 to 6 years of experience. Once you have crossed the 7th or 8th year mark, you are no longer considered “recruitable.”

3. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if you are beyond your 7th or 8th year, you can be recruitable IF you have a verifiable book of portable business. Depending upon where you live, this typically means $175,000 to $1 million.

4. The term “top academics” will appear in many recruiter ads. This means 1) top 10% or 15% of your law school class and  2) Top 10, 15 or 20 law school. If you were in the very top of your class – I mean, first, second or third — at a lesser ranked law school, you may also be considered.

5. Age matters in legal recruiting. Discrimination is, in fact, legal. A recruiter friend of mine who wanted my help in finding a candidate told me they wanted someone from the class of 2006, 2007 or 2009. “What about 2008”, I asked. “Oh no, no 2008s. They don’t have any slots for an ’08,” I was told.

6. Recruiters do not handle many in-house jobs. Two recent studies have shown that only 5% of in-house positions are filled by recruiters. Companies do not want to spend money on recruiters unless they have to. Nearly all law firm lawyers would prefer to go in-house. There is an oversupply of willing candidates that a company can attract without spending tens of thousands of dollars on recruiting fees.

7. When recruiters do get in–house assignments, it is almost always for an attorney with very specific skill sets in a particular discipline: SEC ’34 and ’36 Act, ERISA, pharmaceutical patents, FCC regulations and so on. They seldom use recruiters to find generalists.

8. Most often when a legal recruiter does get an in-house assignment, the hiring company wants a candidate with prior in-house experience. I think this is stupid, quite frankly, but it is what it is. As a career counselor, I once helped a law firm attorney land a position as a corporate general counsel. He then hired me as a recruiter to help staff his legal department. Like so many others, he only wanted attorneys with in-house experience. “But Bill,” I said, “you didn’t have any in-house experience when they hired you.” “Yes,” he replied, “but that was different.”  OK, sure.

9. Recruiters are salespeople who are only interested in getting a fee. They do not care about your best interests, they care about their bank accounts. There is nothing wrong with this! They are paid to find people to fill positions. If you match one of their open positions, recruiters will try to get you to accept a job that you don’t really want so they can earn a commission. You are just a fee to them.

10. If you are at a career crossroads and are not sure what you want to do next professionally, recruiters cannot help you. Recruiters are not career counselors. They are not schooled in career assessment. They are not marketing professionals or trained resume writers. Most legal recruiters – in fact, every legal recruiter I have ever met – are former attorneys. They are deal-makers who try to find candidates who match an employer’s job specification.

Like many lawyers, you probably want to see “what else is out there” for you that is not another law firm job, that  frees you from the nastiness of litigation and billable hours requirements, and that provides a more collegial atmosphere, better quality of life, and a consistent income. If you expect to achieve this through a legal recruiter, then good luck! I wish you all possible success. Stranger things have happened and you might get lucky – but probably not.

As an attorney, you are smart enough not to take on cases outside of your area of legal expertise; you refer the case to other lawyers who are more qualified in that area than you. Don’t expect legal recruiters  to give you good counsel and assistance on issues that are not within their practice areas and which are outside their expertise.

How to prepare for an interview

According to Job Seekers Weekly, before the recession it used to take an average of three interviews to get one offer. Now it takes 17 interviews. Shorten your search by preparing diligently for an interview. Research the company, the decision-makers and the job requirements. Prepare your “success stories” to show how your background and skills can meet the needs of the employer. Anticipate the questions that they are likely to ask and be especially ready to handle the questions that you don’t want them to ask. The winner isn’t the person who is most qualified for the job – the winner is the person who best shows the value that they can bring to their employer.

Alternate Careers Lawyers Should Consider

With the economy being what it is these days, more and more lawyers and law firms are feeling the pinch. Business in many segments has simply dried up. This may mean seeking a new position or career somewhere else, or it may mean you’ll need to pick up some additional income. Here are three of the easier ways to accomplish this:

1. Freelance legal work. If you’ve just been laid off from your big firm, or if you have a lot of extra time on your hands, and you do not want to make an actual career change, try doing freelance legal work. You can get in touch with the contract legal staffing or legal temp agencies and get on the list for document review or other short term assignments. You can also contact law firms that do not provide services in your practice area and work out a split for business that they can refer to you. You can also approach law firms to take on some of their over flow work.

2. Freelance writing. There are all kinds of journals, papers and magazines that could use a fresh legal perspective – your legal knowledge could earn you money, without having to do any actual legal work. Write up some query letters and send them off to as many editors as you can find. Publications like Writers Digest and Editor & Publisher will have names of companies. You can also do a Google search for publications. Lawyers doing freelance writing work can command a high per-word fee.

3. Consulting work. This is one of the easiest moves for a lawyer to make. There are lots of businesses, both large and small, that are in need of legal consultants. This work can often be rewarding, and is a fantastic way to break up the monotony of day-to-day legal work. As an added bonus, contracted consultants usually are able to charge significantly more per hour than their salaried counterparts. The hardest part of making this kind of career change is finding the actual consulting gigs, so having above average networking skills are important.

3 Ways to Excel at Marketing Yourself in Today’s Economy

The key to landing your dream job (or dream career change) is to put yourself in front of potential employers – they can’t hire you if they don’t know you are out there. Learning effective ways to market yourself can have a huge impact on the number of resume requests and interviews you get. How do you start marketing yourself in a way that will make the employers come to you? Here are three techniques:

  1. Identify what you’re good at and what you can offer an employer. Hiring managers aren’t just interested in filling open positions; they are interested in gaining assets for the company. How could you be an asset? What kind of information about you does an employer need to see to know that you will be a valuable addition to the team? You need to address your accomplishments in all of your marketing materials. You also need to make it very clear about how an employer can benefit through bringing you on board.
  2. Rework your resume and cover letter. Depending on the industry, sometimes it is better to stand out and be different. People looking to make a career change to a  creative industry, like publishing or entertainment, could benefit from sending out distinctively formatted resumes and cover letters as representative of their creative talents. Often times, marketing yourself effectively means taking chances and standing out from the crowd.

Utilize new technology. The job market is a crowded place right now, saturated with many highly qualified people. Some have recently been laid off from a corporation or law firm, others are recent law school grads and there are also those who are looking to make a career change. To make sure you see (and are considered for) every available job, spread yourself out over the Internet. Use LinkedIn, Facebook and Craigslist. Post your resume on every job board and social media site you can identify – you never know where your next opportunity will come from. The posting process will take many hours, but if you land a six figure job, it will have been time well spent. You should also eblast your resume to as many executive recruiters that you can find; remember, too, that recruiters typically work nationally, not locally. In addition, you should  do cold mailings to companies of interest in your targeted location or industry — just because they are not advertising open positions doesn’t mean there aren’t openings. Keep in mind that research shows only about 7% of available jobs are advertised on the web. To find that 7%, you should  set up a “job agent” to scan the Internet for appropriate opportunities. Career Strategies can perform many of these services for you through our Contacts and Connections program.

The Top 4 Job Hunting and Career Planning Tips During a Recession

Is the recession really putting a damper on your career planning process? It’s hard to move up the ladder and land your dream job when you’re not even getting interview requests. It’s important to not lose hope, however. From hiring a professional resume writer to changing your career planning agenda, there are several things you can do to boost your chances of getting hired. Here are the top four tips and tricks to help you score the job you’ve always dreamed of:

  1. Brush up on your skills. Anyone who is serious about career planning knows that you’ve got to keep your skills relevant. Often times, this translates to taking a class on the latest computer programs or educating yourself about the latest things going on in your industry. If you know what you’re doing, you’re more likely to get hired!
  2. Hire a professional resume writer. Sure, a professional resume writer may cost some money up front. But it’ll pay for itself within the first week of you landing a new job, and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes along with knowing your resume is 100 percent error-free.
  3. Focus on social networking. Millions of organizations and people have Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages these days…including companies that are currently hiring. New media is a great way to find out about new jobs as they’re posted – getting in early may be what gets you the job. For more information check out our prior post on using the internet for a career change!
  4. Try part-time work. To prevent gaps in your resume (which is a major career planning no-no), try freelance, part-time or volunteer work. Keeping yourself busy isn’t just a great way to fend off boredom, it can also make the difference between getting hired and getting passed over for (another) job.

Why Hire A Professional Resume Writer?

The economy is unstable, unemployment rates remain shockingly high and it doesn’t look like anything is going to change dramatically any time soon. While there are jobs out there (our clients are getting interviews and we have already completed three cases in the first six weeks of the year), with the market being what it is, how is the average job hunter supposed to find a new position

When you have done all the career planning you can possibly think of, it may be time to hire a professional resume writer.

One of the biggest advantages of hiring a resume writing professional is that you know your resume will be flawless and compelling. One of the biggest complaints that recruiters and human resource professionals have with job applicants is one of the easiest to correct: cover letters and resumes with glaring errors.

Let me give you an example of a letter we received from a candidate just the other day:

“I saw your “ad” on Monster.Com and am interested in your services.  My interests, skills, knowledge and abilities far exceed the law and would welcome the opportunity to discuss alternatices.  Resume attached.”

Beside the obvious typo (I have never discussed “alternatices” with anyone before), and the two less obvious grammatical errors, there is an error in judgment and presentation that would be sure to turn off a potential employer.

By hiring a professional resume writer, you are doing more than just career planning: you are taking an active role in your job search, and eliminating the possibility that a grammatical or strategic error on your resume could be holding you back. Yes, it will cost more money than if you were to sit down at your kitchen table and write it yourself, but you will end up with a presentation-quality resume that is not only completely error free, but which presents your credentials and talents in the best light possible.

You can work with your resume writer to customize resumes and cover letters for each individual job to which you apply. Tailoring your paperwork to match the specific criteria of each job that you are applying for will go a long way toward getting you noticed by the hiring managers.

When you work with a professional to highlight only your relevant work history, it will look like you spent your entire life concentrating on building your skills in that particular discipline or practice area. Although a professional resume writer will cost money up front, it is a small investment that can help you secure a six-figure job more quickly, and it will pay for itself many times over.

The Top 4 Career Change Cover Letter Tips

If you’re looking to make a big change in your career – changing industries, applying for different types of positions than you’ve previously held, etc., you need to adjust more than your resume. An impressive career change cover letter can make the difference between getting called in for an interview or getting lumped in with the “do not call” list. To help you along your way, here are four tips for writing a career change cover letter that will wow your future employers:

  1. Make sure it’s formatted correctly. The way you format your career change resume is as important as the content itself. Not sure how to arrange what it is that you want to say? Do a little research, there are tons of samples online that you can use as a starting point.
  2. Cover your bases. Have employment gaps in your resume? Did you hold a former job for a short period of time? Your career change cover letter is the perfect place to address these kinds of issues. Explain anything that might raise red flags, don’t just hope the person in charge of hiring won’t notice (the job market is so crowded right now, everything gets noticed).
  3. Write a fresh cover letter for each job you apply for. Don’t just send out the same career change cover letter for every job you apply for – make it unique to the position. Include a bit about how much you’d love the opportunity to work for the company. Sure, it’ll take a little more time and effort, but it will most likely pay off in the end.
  4. Edit, edit, edit! Before sending out your career change resume, give it another once over and make sure there aren’t any errors in your spelling or grammar. Not sure? Hire a professional cover letter writer to edit it for you!

How to Write A Great Career Change Resume

Are you on the market for a new job? Looking to switch industries? The most important step in the career planning process is to have a great resume – you won’t get the job if your resume isn’t good enough to get you in the door. Below are five tips that will help you create a dynamic resume:

  1. Emphasize specific accomplishments. With today’s competitive job market, it is not enough to say that you managed 50 people. In addition to listing your title and duties at each job, include your accomplishments. Did you win any awards? Did you land any big clients? What did you do to make your department or organization better? What problems did you help your clients solve? You have many skills … how did you apply those skills to produce results? Be specific!
  2. Utilize an executive profile section. Make your resume stand out by telling the reader, at a glance, about your background and skills. Use this information, often as bullet points, at the top of the resume. Show the talents you have that relate to the needs of the targeted company. Don’t brag … just be factual about your experience and your strongest attributes. Get the reader interested in learning more about you.
  3. Remember, it’s all relative. If you are applying for a writing position, don’t emphasize your courtroom skills. Focus on your accurate, persuasive writing abilities, your ability to produce work under pressure and the range of your writing: motions, briefs, appeals, opinion letters and so on. Keep the experience and accomplishments you list on your resume relative to the job for which you are applying … otherwise, it won’t seem like you are focused.
  4. Formatting is important. The way you design your resume is critical. An effective resume is not just about substance, it is also about form. You want it to be eye catching, as well as easy to read. Leave plenty of white space in the margins. Use headings. Use bullets, but sparingly – too many bullets defeat their  purpose. Also, try to stay away from the standard templates that come with MSWord – everyone uses these templates so all of the resumes tend to look the same. Get your own identity!
  5. Edit, edit, edit! Does your resume have any typos? Are you sure? Don’t trust your “spell-checker” program: “then” and “than” are both spelled correctly, but may be used incorrectly in one of your sentences. Have a friend look your resume  over with a fresh set of eyes, because there may be something that you are missing. Having just one typo on your resume will almost certainly eliminate you as a candidate for a job.

Career planning and job search takes a bit of work; don’t be afraid to tinker with your resume before sending it out.