Why You Didn’t Get a Job Offer

“After careful review we have concluded that your qualifications do not meet our needs at the present time.”

Ouch. We’ve all received an email [or letter if you’re as old as me] like that at least once in our lives. We submitted our resume in response to a job opening and perhaps even had a phone or onsite interview. But in the end we didn’t get an offer.

It’s natural to wonder why, especially if you’re a less-experienced job seeker who only wants to improve your chances at the next place you apply.

Unfortunately, at Pointwise it’s our policy not to provide feedback to individual candidates.

However, I can address all of you collectively. And because we just opened up two engineering internships and because we’re still looking for an applications engineer it might be a good idea to share with you why other candidates didn’t get an offer.

You Failed to Meet the Minimum Requirements

You didn’t get a job offer because you’re one of the nearly 30% of candidates who don’t meet the minimum requirements. They’re called “requirements” for a reason. And I’m talking about the easy things – at least a B.S. in engineering or related degree, being a U.S. person, etc.

Regarding the latter, see my previous post about dealing with ITAR-controlled data. Lest you think us xenophobic, we have sponsored visas for several employees. But our customers tend to send us a lot of data that’s ITAR-controlled and therefore can be only handled by U.S. persons (i.e. citizens or permanent residents).

Read the job posting and be certain you present yourself as meeting the bare minimum requirements. You’ll have to face facts – sometimes you just don’t meet the requirements.

This differs, however, from other “nice to have” qualities or skills. My opinion is that skills (like use of a particular software) can be learned and we’re hiring for aptitude and attitude. So if the posting says you need to know how to run Program X you can apply and point out that you can run Program Y and those skills are transferable to Program X.

You Failed to Reply to Our Email

If you meet our minimum requirements, you didn’t get an offer because you’re one of the 33% (yes, one third!) who failed to reply to the email we sent confirming receipt of the resume.

It’s our policy to acknowledge receipt of each and every resume sent to us and to notify each candidate at each step in the review process up until the end – an offer, a rejection, or a notice that we’ve filled the position.

Our acknowledgment email has three purposes – to confirm that the email address entered into our system is accurate, to verify the candidate’s right to work in the U.S., and to send a brief skill survey related to the position.

I have no idea why one third of candidates don’t reply to that email. When I speak on college campuses I urge students to include on their resume an email address that they actually check on a regular basis. A good thing to do is go to Google and get first.last@gmail.com or Microsoft and get first.last@outlook.com. But please don’t use your fun email like sxykitten247@hotmail.com. [That’s not too different from some I’ve received.]

So get yourself a professional email address, put it on your resume, and check it regularly.

Your resume haz 2 many typos Or grammer errors..

A while back I blogged about the world’s worst resume. It had 37 spelling or grammar errors on a single page. I keep a redacted copy of it in my desk and refer to it from time to time.

You’ve made our job easy when your resume looks like this. We equate it to the work product you’ll produce if we hire you.

Have trusted friends and advisers proofread your resume for you.

You Can’t Explain Your Own Work

You won’t get a job offer if you’re unable to explain to us during the interview your thesis, or your senior project, or your current research.

You’d be surprised how often that happens. It must be some sort of interview brain cramp. We think it’s a fairly easy question – tell us about something you (should) know everything about. But all too often the answer comes across as awkward, incomplete or incomprehensible.

And we like details too – languages, tools, number of lines of code, how many people on the team, number of mesh points, run times, how you generated the graphics. These questions are easier than meta-questions about the significance of your work. When we ask about number of lines of code it seems that candidates think we need to know precisely that there were 6,278 lines and if their answer is off by just one line we’ll shout “A Ha! Gotcha!” and hang up the phone. Instead, we’re looking for numbers like 100, 1000, or 10,000. That your code ran overnight or while you went to get a coffee. And you chose your topic because that’s where your professor had funding.

So know your stuff and share it with us. Tell us a good story. And keep in mind that because it’s your work it’s unlikely that we’ll catch any of your wrong answers.

You Can’t Communicate Worth a Hoot

You won’t get a job offer if we can’t understand you. I think every job we’ve ever posted has asked for excellent communication skills. Those skills may seem obvious for a marketing or sales job. But we need programmers who can explain to support engineers why the code is behaving the way it is. We need support engineers who can explain to programmers why a feature needs a specific set of capabilities. And I haven’t yet touched on communicating with the outside world.

Far too many candidates supply monosyllabic answers to interview questions. Shame on us for asking yes/no questions. But shame on you too for not taking the opportunity to promote your own skills. When asked “Can you program in Tcl?” which might be a better reply? “No” or “No, but I wrote a backward fantabulator in Python using only my left hand and the basic skill sets are similar.”

We Want To Make You an Offer

You’ll get an offer if we conclude that a) you can do the job, b) we think we’ll like working with you, and c) you seem like you’ll enjoy working with us.

Candidates should keep in mind that employers really, really, really want to find and hire the right person. We don’t want to keep interviewing for months and months. We want to get back to doing CFD. So you can make it easy on us by avoiding these common pitfalls and give us every reason to make you an offer.

Now that I’ve shared all these insights, you should consider emailing us your resume for an exciting career in CFD mesh generation. We’re looking for an applications engineer and engineering interns. We look forward to hearing from you.


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8 Responses to Why You Didn’t Get a Job Offer

  1. Shenren Xu says:

    Hi John,

    I got this automatic reply after sending my application to jobs@pointwise.com
    Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups:
    Your message can’t be delivered because delivery to this address is restricted.

    Is there another way to submit my application if I couldn’t resolve this issue?

  2. John Chawner says:

    Hi Shenren: Sorry about the email problem. (A little housekeeping oversight due to a recent switch to Microsoft Exchange.) Please resend your resume to jobs@pointwise.com.

  3. ZJ Wang says:

    Hi John,

    I really enjoyed reading this blog. In fact, your reasons of “Why You Didn’t Get a Job Offer” are perhaps true for almost any jobs, including academic and government jobs. I chaired or served on multiple academic search committees, and the reasons are very similar. I will recommend your blog for our students who are or will be looking for internships or jobs. The fact that the reasons are from an insider, who makes the decision on who gets the jobs, makes the blog tremendously valuable.

    I liked the variety of topics touched upon by your blogs very much. This diversity makes the blogs very interesting to read. I also liked your perspectives from different angles, e.g., from a engineer, a manager and a recruiter. You have a much better overall picture, which is helpful to the community.

    Happy Blogging in 2013!


  4. John Chawner says:

    Thanks, ZJ. Resumes are a topic I always cover when I speak on campus.

  5. Nidhi says:


    It is a very helpful post. I almost never reply to the confirmation email that I receive from the company, I assumed that it was auto generated email that did not expect a reply. I am planning to fix this in future applications. Could you please share your post about the resume. I would love to give that a read and think that it would be helpful.


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