Not Hired? These Excuses Employers Give Might Sound Like BS, but They’re Legal

paper that says "application rejected," telling someone they weren't hired

A job applicant finds out, rather bluntly, that they weren’t hired. |

We’ve all been through the job hunting process. You prepare a resume and cover letter, and you work on your interviewing skills. Perhaps you go on a series of interviews and get called back for second or third interviews. Finally, you can feel yourself closing in on a job offer. Only, it doesn’t come. You wonder why. After all, you did everything you were supposed to. Then, you get word from the employer and their reasoning for why you didn’t get hired? It’s underwhelming.

The most frustrating part of it all? It’s almost always legal. Even if you feel you’ve been treated unfairly — which is often the case — an employer has the right to do it. You might not have any recourse from a legal perspective. There are, of course, some protections for job applicants, including federal discrimination laws. But you’re not entitled to any job, no matter your qualifications.

So what are some of the reasons you can miss out on a job offer? There are many. But these 10, in particular, tend to sting because they feel so unfair or unjust.

1. Credit checks

It might be surprising to learn a bankruptcy or similar financial struggles you’ve experienced in the past might hurt your job search. In fact, you can lose out on a job opportunity because of it. Credit checks are becoming increasingly popular among employers during the hiring process.

Although it’s a justifiable step for some positions, it’s often an unneeded hurdle for people who are already struggling. It can feel unfair, from an applicant’s point of view, but it’s not against the law in most of the country. Around half of employers look at using credit checks as a part of their hiring processes. However, a handful of states, such as California, Colorado, and Maryland, have restrictions on how employers can use credit checks during the hiring process.

2. You’re not a ‘cultural’ fit

Charlie goes on a job interview in "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"

Charlie goes on a job interview in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. | FX

If an employer said you weren’t a cultural fit, what would you take away from that? It’s vague and unspecific. Sometimes, you simply might not be a good fit, culturally, for a workplace. That can mean your skills and experience aren’t a match, or a hiring manager foresees potential personality conflicts. But if you mesh well during the interview process, this can be a suspicious thing to hear from an applicant’s perspective.

Not being a cultural fit might be an excuse not to hire you for some other reason, but you’ll probably never know. If you feel it might be due to reasons, such as race, gender, etc., then your options open up. But tread carefully. That’s a whole new can of worms.

3. You didn’t pass a background check — even if you should

A judge's gavel

You shouldn’t always trust background checks. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Along with credit checks, many employers utilize background checks to make sure they’re not hiring unsavory characters. That’s perfectly understandable. But there are some very real and serious issues with the companies that service these requests. They often bungle the process and deliver bad results, and people can miss out on job opportunities as a result.

Some people are trying to fight back against the industry to get some oversight, but bad or inaccurate background checks are an ongoing concern. And yes, an employer can pass over you as a result of a bad background check.

4. You didn’t pass a personality test

A personality test

A personality test |

Tests, tests, and more tests — and we’re not done yet. Aside from background and credit checks, an employer might want to dig deeper into your personality. That’s when a personality check enters the fray.

This is still a somewhat rare step, but if a company is planning on investing in your hiring (and paying you a significant salary), it wants to make darn sure you’re a good fit. These tests, like the others, have their own problems. And if an employer doesn’t like the results, they can use that as justification not to hire you.

It’s frustrating, yet legal. But it’s not as frustrating as being passed over because of your views and opinions — especially of the political nature.

5. Political views

Supporters watch Donald Trump at a rally

Supporters watch Donald Trump at a rally. | Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Politics is a contentious subject. There’s a reason, after all, that people say you should avoid the topic at work and at the dinner table. And your political views or affiliations can also be an asset or liability on the job hunt. An employer can withhold a job offer because they don’t like all of the “MAGA” references on your Facebook page or the “Bernie” posts on your Twitter feed.

This is one of those elements that can enter the “cultural fit” conversation. There are some legal protections when it comes to beliefs, and if you suspect you weren’t hired (or were fired) due to your beliefs, there can be some avenues for recourse. Proving it, though, is a different conversation.

6. You’re unemployed

Fired man in suit sitting at stairs

A man considers his next career move. |

If you don’t have a job, you likely want one. That’s why you’re applying in the first place, right? But there’s a troubling new trend among employers and that’s to discriminate against applicants who are unemployed.

Presumably, employers think if you don’t have a job already, there’s something wrong with you. That might be true, but many people are missing out on opportunities simply because they’re out of work.

7. Your appearance

Lauren Adam in "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"

Lauren Adam is interviewed in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. | Netflix

As uncomfortable as it might be to consider, your appearance is probably going to play a role in your job hunt. That can work in your favor or to your disadvantage, but it’s something you need to be aware of. And often, it’s a type of discrimination that flies under the radar. It’s not going to be openly discussed, which would give you cause for fighting back.

Factors, such as race or gender, come into play here. But so do other physical traits, such as how attractive you are or whether you’re overweight.

8. You lack applicable skills, even if they’ve made it impossible

resume crumpled in cyan background

Your resume might not be enough. |

We’ve all seen ridiculous job postings. You know, they’re the descriptions that call for skills that are simply impossible to possess, such as five years of experience with a software program that has only existed for two years.

When employers blame the “skills gap” for a lack of talent, this can be taken as code for “we don’t want to pay more.” You can have the skills to do a job and not get hired anyway — that’s the point. By creating a job description with a bar so high nobody can reach it, this also allows employers to dip into foreign markets for (cheaper) talent.

9. You’re ‘overqualified’

people in a job interview

People attend a job interview. | Apple

Few things are more confounding and frustrating than being told you’re “overqualified” for a job. Basically, they’re saying, “Yes, you can do the job,” but they don’t want to hire you. Why? In most cases, it’s because you’ll ask for higher pay or are perceived to be a threat to those in management positions.

Basically, you’ll get bored with the job and gun for people higher up the chain (among other things). If you need a job, this can be really hard to hear, especially if you’re struggling to get back into the workforce. But it’s easier to hear than “I hired my brother instead.”

10. They want to hire friends or family instead

Michael Scott introduces his nephew in "The Office"

Michael Scott hires his nephew instead of someone more qualified in The Office. | NBC

Yes, you can be (in most situations) passed over for a job because an employer instead decided to hire a friend or family member. It’s their job to give, after all. And despite your qualifications, you can be passed over for someone who lacks the capacity to do the job. Remember, you’re not entitled to anything. An employer can hire whomever they want. And there’s not much you can do about it.

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