Understanding why you were unsuccessful after your job interview

26th Dec 2020

If you have attended a job interview, and been unsuccessful, you may be wondering exactly what went wrong. It is a good idea to ask for feedback on your interview, but you can never guarantee that the feedback will be an honest assessment, or you may not even receive any feedback. Unfortunately, this can be even more frustrating, but by doing some self-assessment, you may be able to figure out what went wrong. These are some potential reasons why you may have been unsuccessful in your job interview.

Late Arrival

Turning up late might not seem like such a big deal, but it could have a huge impact on your chances of success in the interview. Of course, situations occur out with our control, but when it’s a job interview, you should ensure you take all potential obstacles into account, including traffic jams, and late trains or buses. If you are unsure of the location, you should do a dry run the day before, so you know how long it will take. The recruiters need to be sure that you will be a reliable, professional employee, and turning up late to the initial interview, is not a good indication of this.


Consider if you were hiring for your own company. You would want to be sure that the candidate you were interviewing was genuinely excited and interested in the role, and the company. If you came across as unenthusiastic during the interview, this could be a reason they have decided not to progress.

Think back to the interview and how you answered the questions. Did you show a genuine interest? Were you excited about the company and the prospect of working there? Or do you feel you could have been a bit more interested? Interviews are nerve wracking, and candidates often get more caught up in their answers, instead of listening to what the interviewer is telling them. For instance, they may have told you that they are expanding in another five countries throughout the world, and you may have failed to react. This could be misconstrued as a lack of interest/enthusiasm.

Lack of Examples

The interviewer is expecting you to go into detail and provide examples, not just to answer with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ For example, if they ask if you have ever worked as part of a team, they expect you to tell them the occasions you have worked as part of a team, and pull out one specific example of a positive experience you had of team working, i.e.

‘I have worked within teams in each of my roles, however, one such example was when I worked at {insert company} and I helped lead the team and motivate individuals. The teamwork we exhibited helped us to get the store prepared for Christmas, weeks before schedule.’

This not only expands your answer, but it gives the interviewer some information to probe a little further on, such as managing deadlines etc. It is important that the interview is a two-way street, and more of a conversation than a yes or no answer session.

Think back to your interview, and whether you answered fully or not to the questions. It may be something to consider and work on for your next interview when you are looking to sell yourself.

Not Following Instructions

It is important to always read the interview invite carefully incase there is any key information. For example, they might request that you bring your portfolio, ID etc, and if you haven’t brought this with you, it may influence the overall income. Of course, if you are miles apart from every other candidate, and you blow them away during the interview, this is unlikely to cause significant problems, but it could if it is a close call. It shows a lack of attention to detail, which may be an essential aspect of the role.

Casual Attire

Did you dress well for the interview, or did you wear casual attire, such as jeans and a t-shirt? Unless the recruiter specifies otherwise, you should always wear professional, smart attire to the interview. It shows that you are professional, that you take care of yourself, and that you want to make a good impression. If you have not made this effort, it could reflect badly on your interview, especially if you will be in a client-facing role. It is not as much of an issue if you are working within construction, but it is always better to be too smart, then too casual. This could be the reason you were unsuccessful at the interview.

Hired Internally

Another reason for being unsuccessful at an interview may be nothing to do with you, or your performance at the interview. It may be that the recruiters have decided to hire someone internally instead but have had to go through a formal process. Unfortunately, this is quite common, and it is obviously extremely frustrating for candidates. It can make your job search feel like a waste of time, but you never know what opportunities may arise from it.

Overly Nervous

There is nothing wrong with being a bit nervous during an interview. After all, you are outwith your comfort zone and being in the spotlight can feel quite uncomfortable. However, there is a difference between a bit of nerves and being overly nervous, to the point where the recruiter would be concerned about hiring you.

If you do suffer from the jitters during an interview, there are some steps you can take to reduce your nerves. Make sure you have researched and prepared your answers prior to the interview, as this way, you will feel more relaxed about the interview. Always ensure you get a good sleep the night before the big day and take your time with the questions. Listen to what the interviewer is asking and don’t be afraid to take a minute or two to consider the answer. The interviewers are not in any hurry, and they would prefer that you are able to answer the question properly, than if you are rushing through them without answering fully.

Failed to Build Rapport

Hiring decisions are not just based around your skills and expertise, they are also based on your ability to build a rapport with the interviewers. Try to judge their personalities and act accordingly. For example, if they are relaxed and making jokes with you, this is not the time to be uptight. Conversely, if they take a serious stance during the interview, you should not start making jokes. Judge the situation for yourself and try to replicate the attitude of the interviewers. Another thing to consider is conducting a bit of research on the interviewers. You might find that you have something in common with them. For instance, you may have studied at the same University or may be a member of the same group. It might be best to refrain from statements such as "I know you went to Birmingham University, I also studied there.’ Just mention where you studied, as this alone will help you build rapport.

Confusing Answers

It may be that some of your answers do not quite add up, and this may be a cause of concern to the interviewers. For example, the dates you mention in the interview, may be different to those on your CV. It is important to be clear and concise with your responses, and ensure you know your CV inside out. This is why it is imperative that you are always honest on your CV, as otherwise, you could easily slip up!

Better Candidate

It may seem like a cliché, but sometimes a successful interview simply comes down to selecting a more suitable candidate. It might not be anything you have done in your interview, but rather, that someone has just pipped you to the post. It could be that the selected candidate has specific industry experience that you may not possess. If you are up against more qualified job seekers, there is not much you can do.

You Won’t Stick Around

Recruiters want to hire someone who is going to be there for as long as they need them, and if you say anything during the interview which suggests you won’t be happy in the role for long, they will be unlikely to hire you. For instance, if you say you are looking to progress to a job that they don’t have within their organisation, or you suggest that you want to relocate, these will be red cards to the recruiter. Make it clear that you want the job, and you intend to be there for a long time. Otherwise, they may end up choosing someone else. When you are looking for job vacancies in the UK, make sure you apply for those jobs which you are passionate about, and won’t be looking to instantly move on from. Seek career advice if you are not entirely sure what type of role to go for.

No Follow Up

If there are two suitable candidates and the recruiters are unsure who to hire, it may come down to who follows up after the interview. If another candidate reaffirms their interest, they may end up with the edge. Make sure you always send an email after the interview to let the recruiters know that you are still keen on the role. This will only be a positive to recruiters.