VIDEO: Why you didn’t get the job & what to do about it | Life In Tech by Bessy Tam

VIDEO: Why you didn’t get the job & what to do about it

Published on 27 March 2019 by Bessy Tam | Filed in Career

It hurts. You didn’t get your dream job and you’re wondering why?!

You KNOW you have the right credentials.

You KNOW you will do 3X better than anyone this company hires for this position.

You KNOW you’re made for this position - blending in with the company culture, acing the work itself, matching the team dynamics, or fitting in with what the industry needs.

And that’s why it’s so frustrating when you didn’t get the position.

I’ve been there before… and I remember like it was yesterday, as if I got punched hard in my stomach.

I basically got a manager/operations role at a PR firm when I got back to Hong Kong, after I’ve done 2 years of PR/SEO/Marketing in Boston. I got the role and was even going to manage people. However after a week of bliss and celebrations, the job got revoked without any reasoning at all. And I was once again “jobless.”

I was devastated.

"I felt ashamed."

And I definitely felt a mix of emotions:

  • I felt ashamed - not only because I might’ve announced my job to everyone that I knew, but also because I really thought I had it. I was going to kill it at this new position.
  • I felt like I didn’t get a good shot at it - it’s like.. I didn’t even get a chance to show them all the amazing things that I could do for them!
  • Most importantly, I thought I was doomed - because I couldn’t get this position, I felt like there was no chance I’d get any job better than this.

Luckily, I always trusted that things happened for a reason and listened to my dad’s advice (who was a business founder and CXO).

He said, “If a company rejects you, it’s not a reflection of how qualified you are. In fact, it’s opposite, it’s a reflection of what they’re looking for at that very moment. This has nothing to do with you at all.”

[translated from Cantonese.. And probably not an exact translation but you get what i mean haha]


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“If a company rejects you, it’s not a reflection of how qualified you are. In fact, it’s opposite, it’s a reflection of what they’re looking for at that very moment. This has nothing to do with you at all.”

I really took it to heart because I respect him so much. And this really paid off within a day or two I got back up on my feet as if nothing happened. This perspective and these crazy experiences only led me to something better.

Within a hard 5+ month journey looking for more jobs, I learned that tech was a great fit for me and eventually landed my job at Google.

I’ve interviewed dozens of people since I’ve started working at Google and have built this platform to help people get into tech.

Most importantly, I wanted to share behind-the-scenes why people don’t get the jobs they want - both from my personal experiences applying for jobs as well as my professional experiences interviewing candidates in tech.

2 Reasons Why You Didn’t Get the Job and What You Can Do About It:

#1 There’s a specific set of skillsets that the team needs that unfortunately you wouldn’t be able to offer.

Let’s say you’re going for an Account Manager role in Facebook and there happened to be one open role that served retail/e-commerce clients.

Looking at the job description, it may seem like a “normal Account Manager role” servicing clients. While tech companies love people who are well-rounded and showcase different skillsets, the team might be looking for something specific to balance out their team dynamics/specializations.

For example, the team might be looking for..:

  • Someone who has extensive retail/e-commerce experiences externally.
  • Someone who has extensive Facebook advertisement optimization experiences from an agency.
  • Someone who has a particular skillsets or specialization in performance marketing
  • Someone who has experiences in brand marketing
  • Someone who has a background in TV advertisement
  • And the list goes on...

The key takeaway here is that you JUST WON’T KNOW what they’re specifically looking for unless you talk to them! There’s a slim chance you can “guess” your way into a job. And you can only do that if you have all-the-above checked and be able to wiggle your way into it.

But that only happens if you’re already in the industry or already in tech.

Before I went through interviews for Google Hong Kong, I had informational interviews with the vendor company (I was hired as a temp/contract worker) to understand what the company was looking for. This was scrappiness, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a huge willingness to sell.

He was able to lay their needs out for me before I went through 4 rounds of interviews.

Before I went through interviews for Google Chicago (yes, you have to interview formally even when transferring internally), I chat informally with 3-4 people on the team to understand what they needed. This was a specific marketing measurement knowledge and experiences selling/influencing large customers.

They were all able to lay their needs/challenges out for me before I went through 4 rounds of interviews.

That’s why I always tell my students you HAVE TO talk to the people on the team and get information interviews!

Learn more about how to Ace your (tech) interview

#2 Your timing is off.

Jobs are increasing in the tech market. 67% of tech and engineering hiring decision makers said they want to increase headcount in 2019 (Modis).

While this is the case, getting the right candidates is harder than ever. Tech companies have to ensure they’re still rigorous and specific in their interviewing process in order to hire the right fit and maintain retention, but also be able to fill the open role ASAP.

The key to this is to be ready when openings come up. It’s almost too late when you see your dream tech job opening online.


1) A pipeline is already being built before the job was posted externally - Tech companies usually open roles to the “internal system” first. This way, they can see if there are enough people looking and interviewing for the job before they get a huge wave of candidates with scattered skillsets. 

When I finally went through the formal interview process for Google Chicago, I was one of 50 internal candidates applying for the job.

2) They might have a particular person in mind - The people who succeed in getting into tech would have talked to dozens and dozens of people in various tech companies before roles are open.

It’s not about what you know, but who you know.

You need to be top of mind and have made a lasting impression for them to consider you among the 100+ “pieces of paper” aka resumes they receive.

I met my Google Chicago manager through having a coffee 6 months before I formally went through the interviews. The same way I had my informational interview before joining Google Hong Kong.

3) The role has just been open for too long - I helped someone go through a tech interview process recently but another candidate was just too far down the interview process.

If someone is a 75% fit that is in the last round of interviews vs another person who is a 99% fit just applying, there’s a high chance the company or team cannot wait for 2+ months before getting someone on board.

Hiring is the #2 most difficult thing tech companies face (Forbes). We faced the same thing when we had to fill 50% of our 9-person Google Chicago team. It took us 5 months. And I was doing 2-3 people’s jobs while recruiters and our managers were scrambling to find the right fit with complementary skillsets.

Every team goes through a 3-4 year cycle of teammates leaving, this is normal. But when the time comes, we just have to make a decision.

If timing is your issue the case, what should you do about it?

Start your “referral process” early! If you have people you’ve chat with through reaching out on LinkedIn, friends of friends, or the alumni network, you’ll be able to find out exactly what the teams’ need and when they’re hiring.

I knew about the 2 Google Chicago roles opening 6 MONTHS before the roles even EXISTED.

Headcount in a tech company is almost like a value that is gifted from the managerial “gods,” especially in large tech firms. You get headcount like you get gold stars in middle school - you know when they are given, and why - whether it’s because of a client need (aka your parent talked to your teacher during the parent-teacher conference) or whether it’s because you did well.

This way, you can get the inside scoop instead of getting the generic external messages after you’ve applied like this one:

You’re like WUHHHH??

Instead of not knowing what exactly they’re looking for, why you got the message, and who the team even IS.

You can get someone inside to talk to the manager/team directly and find out what exactly the team is looking for quickly. See example below for someone I was looking to refer:

You find out exactly what they need and might be able to hop on the phone with them too.

Only the team will be able to tell you what they need. Only the team will be able to convey their current business challenges and how this role would help them. And only the team will be able to communicate whether your background is exactly what they’re looking for. If not, they’d at least have you in mind or refer you to another team that might be a better fit.

I know it’s easier to just apply and go to the interview hoping you’d get it. But I can promise you, the hours of preparation and chatting with people months before the interview is worth it.

This way, you can match your experiences and answers to exactly what they need during the interview, instead of shooting in different directions within the 15-30 minutes of time you have with the interview and hope for the best.

I can almost guarantee you, you can even get the job without applying with this method.

Tell me, if you’ve ever had an experience getting rejected. Why do you think YOU didn’t get the job? Comment below.



PS Did you know you could get direct help from me  instead of reading dozens and dozens of articles, not knowing where to START your job search process? Schedule a free assessment here with me so that we can get you the dream tech job you deserve ASAP!

About the Author

Bessy Tam is a career coach who helps busy professionals get into their dream non-tech job in tech. She’s helped dozens of clients get interviews and offers from companies such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Lyft, Amazon, Babbel, & More. She currently works at Google in Chicago.