With the unemployment rate still at 9.5% in the United States, you may find yourself in the position of applying, interviewing and still remaining jobless. You may have thought it was a sure thing; you may have left the office laughing and joking with the interviewer. So why was someone else hired and you weren't? These five reasons may shed some light on the situation. (Read Taking The Lead In The Interview Dance to learn the steps that will help you glide effortlessly through your next big job interview.)
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  1. You're Overqualified
    It's not just a cliché – you really can be overqualified for a position. It's especially true in a tight economy. A candidate that is more qualified would require a higher salary and benefits package for a competitive offer, and to retain said candidate long term. If someone else interviewed who fit the qualifications but didn't overly exceed them, it might be in the company's best interest to hire him and save the cash.

  2. You Don't Know the Right People
    You may be great on paper, and you may interview really well – but if another candidate is the employer's tennis instructor's daughter, you might be out of luck. This is often unavoidable. Your best bet is to make sure you follow up with a genuinely appreciative phone call or note. Leaving a positive impression will keep you in that employer's mind if other opportunities arise. (It is not advisable that you go into your finance interview expecting to land a job where you would be making multi-million dollar decisions. Read more, in Trying On Potential Employers.)

  3. You Hit it Off, just Not Professionally
    Having a good rapport with your interviewer is great – however, if you bonded over your love of tequila shooters, you may have made a friend and not an employer. In a less extreme example, you may be very easy to interview, but still not right for the position. While being friendly and personable are two very important traits, they won't guarantee you the job.

  4. You Came with Conditions
    Even if you are a good fit for the job, if you come with strings attached, you may not get hired. If you can't see yourself sticking to the position long term, or if prior commitments mean you'll have to work odd hours, it could take you out of the running. If possible, come in condition-free or at least willing to compromise. However, if you have a restriction that is non-negotiable, it's only fair to both of you to bring it up in the interview – there's no sense in wasting time if the situation won't work out.

  5. An Unpredictable Reason
    More often than not, the reason is one you may never know. You may get an unrelated job simply for having a shared interest with the interviewer, or perhaps because you have a skill the employer hopes to learn from you. It may be as simple as two or more candidates being equally qualified, and you lost the coin toss.

    It may also be a simple reason like an off-the-cuff comment you probably shouldn't have made, or a more blatant reason like answering your cell phone during an interview (never a good move, no matter how friendly you are with the interviewer!). Be honest with yourself about the interview process – if you can think of a slip up, learn from your mistakes and keep it in mind for your next interview. (Learn what not to do, in Top Job-Search Mistakes For Finance Grads.)

The Bottom Line
Whatever the reason, do your best to learn from it and apply it to your next interview. Don't be afraid to politely follow up and inquire about why you weren't right for the position – just make sure you don't come off as sulking. Be professional, and thank the interviewer for helping you to understand what you did wrong, or where you can improve. After all, if you made it to the interview stage once, you're likely to do it again.

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: Goldman Fined, Financial Fixes And Apple's "Apology".

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