Not getting the job you spent weeks and months interviewing for is a demoralizing experience. But at least, there’s usually a script for what happens next. A good hiring manager will say something along the lines of “thank you for your time” and, if you’re lucky, may even give you helpful feedback on how to improve.
But sometimes, hiring managers will go off script and get weird or perhaps too honest. Ladders asked its own readers and delved into Reddit threads to find the funniest, most ridiculous reasons an employer has given for you not getting the job.
Turned down for salting their food before eating it
Ladders reader Joel said that he once observed two candidates get taken out to dinner on back-to-back nights by a hiring client.
“When a decision was made, I inquired as to why the choice was made. I was told that when the food was delivered to the table that the losing candidate salted their food without first tasting it,” he said.
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This may seem like a crazy reason, but it’s actually a business legend that has been popularized by newspapers since the 1970’s. Famous American businessmen like Henry Ford and Howard Hughes, and companies like IBM and J.C. Penney have all been linked to this fable.
The thinking goes, that a person who salts their food before eating it is a hasty decision-maker who doesn’t gather the facts before making decisions. People worth their salt think before they salt, the thinking goes.
So whether this is a legend or not, think twice before asking for the salt when you get your business meal.
Turned down for writing his own interview script
An anonymous software developer told a Reddit thread that he was interviewing for a job in Silicon Valley that was based on frequently asked questions for a particular software. His interviewer was perplexed by the developer’s answers—because they were almost verbatim to what the official FAQ stated.
“They didn’t hire me, because my answers were almost word-for-word the same as the answers in the FAQ. They thought I’d just memorized it,” this developer wrote. “But I didn’t memorize the FAQ. I wrote it.”
When the developer told his interviewer to look up the author of the official FAQ page, this interviewer said, “Oh. Wait,” according to the developer.
They never spoke again.
Turned down because employment offer would have been “insulting”
“Was told they didn’t want to insult me with a job offer!” Ladders reader William Kramer wrote.
Ah yes, getting a job offer is so insulting to job seekers’ self-esteem.
Turned down for wearing jeans to a blue jeans company interview
“I wore a pair of dress jeans to the interview. It was for a company in [San Francisco] that made jeans. They told my recruiter that I wasn’t properly dressed,” Ladders reader Nick Mavrogenes wrote.
Maybe you were wearing their competitors’ jeans?
You don’t have experience in a field that didn’t exist 15 years ago
Quora user Steve Johnson relates the tale of a friend who knew of companies looking for “15 years of social media experience” and willing to reject anyone who lacked it. That’s a tough set of requirements unless they’re time travelers, as he noted: “Uh, 15 years ago there was no Facebook or Twitter.”
You’re looking for a job but you don’t have a job
Some companies are looking, paradoxically, for job-seekers who already have jobs. It’s a way of avoiding candidates who are unemployed. “Not.currently.employed,” wrote Quora user Cassandra Lazos. “Sounds insane, I know, but it is a trend I have noticed during my job search. I have also had several recruiters tell me their client only wants applicants who are currently employed despite being laid off during one of the worst oil and gas industry downturns (+300,000 people lost jobs). Perhaps they think I am damaged goods because I was laid off.”
Being told you’re overqualified is not ridiculous
Several readers have wrote in with hiring managers allegedly telling them that they were too good, too educated, too qualified for the job.
This may seem outrageous to hear — it’s rare to be rejected because you’re simply too amazing to handle —but it makes sense from a hiring manager’s perspective. Ridiculous rejections are outlandish, darkly humorous, and ironic. Being turned down for too many years of experience is depressing, but expected.
Hiring a new employee is an investment of a company’s time, effort and money. When a hiring manager thinks you’re overqualified, they wonder if you’re actually going to be happy in this position. They don’t want you jumping ship for a more appropriate position, so they’ll pass over your years of experience for someone else who’s a better fit and who may grow in the position.
As one AOL Finance article noted, the idea that the hiring manager is scared that you’ll take their job is too often an excuse job seekers give themselves to justify their rejection.
Let’s be clear: that is wishful thinking and almost never true. Anyone in a position to make hiring decisions is probably pretty secure in his or her career, and a newcomer is rarely so dazzling and knowledgeable about a subject that their mere hiring destabilizes the entire company structure.
“If you are more qualified but can convey sincerely to the employer that you respect their position and don’t want it, you can get hired,” the article states. “In fact, I know many hiring managers who like to hire people whom they feel are smarter or more accomplished than them in certain areas, as a way to strengthen the abilities of their team.”
No matter the reason, rejections are nothing to obsess about. If you want to dig deeper into why you didn’t get the job, there are subtle ways to get that feedback. But we advocate what one sage Ladders reader, LeAnn Srite, advised: don’t get bogged down in these rejections, however strange they may seem to you: “When I don’t get a job I interviewed for…I just move on!”