The 3 Most Common Reasons An Employer Will Not Hire You

By Gerald Walsh ©

There are three possible reasons why an employer will not hire you. They are pay, experience and fit. If it’s pay, you’ll hear the employer say something like: We can’t pay you what you want. If it’s experience, they say: You don’t have enough experience or You don’t have the right skills for what we need. If it’s fit, they’ll say: I am not sure you’re the right fit with our team.

These statements are what we call hiring objections and here’s a way to look at these objections. Think of the interview like a sales call. You (the “salesperson”) are trying to determine if the interviewer (the “customer”) needs your services. In turn, the employer is trying to determine if you (the “salesperson”) can meet their needs and solve their problems.

There are many aspects to a successful sales call. But one of the key things is to anticipate possible buying objections and then work to overcome them. Theoretically, in sales, if you overcome all the buyer’s objections, they will have no choice but to purchase your product or service. The same rationale applies to hiring. If you overcome any objections related to pay, experience and fit, you should move to the next stage of the hiring process.

Let’s examine the three most common hiring objections and look at ways you might respond.

Objection #1: We can’t pay you what you want.

This is a totally understandable objection. Employers need to be conscious of costs even if you are very well qualified for the job. It isn’t an objection to your experience or skills. It is simply saying that they may not be able to afford you.

Be careful how you respond to this objection. You do not want to be drawn into an early salary negotiation. Instead you should try to deflect it so you can continue in the hiring process and hopefully establish that you are worth more than the original salary range. If this objection arises, you might try saying something like this:

I am really interested in this job and the opportunity it offers for growth. I do recognize that salary is only one part of the total compensation package and I am willing to look at other areas of compensation, like benefits, vacation, performance bonuses, and professional development that may offset a lower salary than I had hoped for.

Although you shouldn’t offer the following suggestion at the outset, you might also consider saying to the employer:

I understand the job pays $50,000 and I was hoping for $60,000. I would be willing to start at $50,000 if you would agree to a six-month salary review and agree that that if my performance is fully satisfactory, you would then increase my pay to $60,000.

I have seen many salary deals come together using this approach. It indicates understanding and flexibility on your part and it minimizes the financial risk for the employer.

Objection #2: You don’t have enough experience.

Sometimes employers mistakenly equate years of experience with the ability to do the job. Think of how many times you have seen job postings that say, “Must have at least five years of supervisory experience.”

If you have four (or even three) years of good supervisory experience, you should not hesitate to apply. In fact, I suggest that employers never stipulate in a posting the minimum number of years of experience candidates should have. The problem is if they do, well-qualified candidates who have, say, four and a half years of experience, may decide not to apply assuming they have no chance at the job.

What should you do if an interviewer objects by saying you don’t have enough experience?

I would suggest that you respond by stating your measurable accomplishments and responsibilities. For example:

When I took over as supervisor, the client service team had ten employees and morale was at an all-time low. In the three years since I have been in that position, we’ve tripled our workforce to thirty employees and we’ve had no turnover in the past year. I am especially proud that the most recent employee satisfaction survey gave us a nine out of ten rating overall.

You might also suggest that the employer contact your references to attest to your skills as a supervisor. Or you might bring written letters of reference that you can present to the interviewer.

A word of caution: If you do not have the skills to do the job, do not minimize the importance of them by saying something like: I am a quick learner and I am sure I will be able to pick up those skills quickly. While that statement may be true, it tends to highlight your shortcomings more.

Objection #3: I am not sure you will fit with the team.

This objection could be raised if the interviewer, based on her first impression of you, feels that you will not mesh with her current team members. Let’s say for example that her current teams consists mostly of people with Type A personalities and her impression of you is that you are too laid back. She is concerned that you might not have what it takes to be successful in the role.

If an interviewer raises this objection, you should first clarify what she means by asking: How would you describe the culture of your current team and what is your initial impression of me?

Once you learn the basis of her concern, you are in a much better position to handle her objection by stating – with specific examples – how you have integrated well with other high-performing teams.

What to do if you cannot mitigate the objection?

Keep in mind that the mere fact that you’ve been called in for an interview means that employer feels – from your cover letter and resume – that you are close enough to what they are looking for to warrant an interview. So in most instances you will be able to mitigate their concerns.

However, if something has been overlooked and it becomes clear that their objection is valid, don’t make stuff up. Don’t lie or embellish your experience. It’s far better to acknowledge that you lack a particular quality than to fabricate a story. It will always come back to haunt you.


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn