10 Reasons Why You Won’t Get That Developer Job


You answered all the technical questions perfectly. You have solid experience with some shiny projects and companies in your resume. Your financial expectations are reasonable. Still, someone else will get the job. Why???

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I participated in tens of recruitment processes as a developer. Then I hosted even more when hiring to my teams. Based on that experience, I am listing the 10 not-so-obvious reasons for hiring managers to reject your application.

If you’re a developer, they may help you understand the reasons behind rejection. If you’re a manager, you may consider some of the below when recruiting for your team (and avoid the others…).

1. You are not likable. We spend a lot of time at work, so interactions with our co-workers may have a significant impact on our general happiness. Managers know that, and many prefer to hire a solid, but not great developer that has a friendly, positive attitude, rather than a top performing jerk.

2. You are too smart. A good manager will not hire an overqualified candidate, to avoid their disengagement with too simple tasks. A bad manager will not hire them from the fear of being ‘overthrown’.

In both cases, you should be thankful for it and look for another place.

3. You are too confident. If you’re acting arrogant during an interview – when people usually try to control their behaviors – what will happen once you’re faced with serious problems during actual work?

4. You are not the best match. Building a team doesn’t just mean ‘let’s hire the top X candidates that apply’. It’s a complicated process that requires some strategy, balancing the skillsets, experience, career aspirations etc.

The company might decide that the most skilled candidate isn’t necessarily the best one for the current gap – they might need someone more junior, or focused on different types of projects, with different ambitions and goals. What you can do is try to fully understand the need, and – if you still think you’re a good match – justify it clearly for the hiring manager.

5. You complained about your previous employer. This is a red light for many interviewers (whether that’s smart or not is a different discussion). They immediately start thinking of you as a complainer, or someone not trustworthy, who will spread gossips and negativity.

6. You didn’t show respect. Everyone needs to feel respected. A manager won’t hire someone who is not acting properly towards them or other employees. Even if you say something inappropriate by pure mistake, it’s likely they will notice and remember it.

7. You lack a good ‘why’. If you are unable to clearly explain the motive for seeking a new job, it will usually be assumed you’re going after money. And unless they are the highest paying company, they will be afraid you’ll do it again soon, or that you won’t be fully engaged in your duties.

8. Your resume doesn’t tell a story. This one is especially difficult to understand for many job seekers. Most managers aren’t stupid (no, really!) and they often realize that candidates may have a carefully-crafted answer to the previous question, so they look at their employment history in more detail.

Do your past job transitions make sense? Do they fit the bigger picture of declared career goals? Do they tell a consistent story of a growing developer? Be sure to analyze your resume from this perspective.

9. You weren’t honest. That’s an obvious one. If they spot you lying, or notice some signs of hiding information, that’s a red light. A good manager will prefer to know the ugly truth. If you made some bad decisions in the past, but are able to speak openly about them and explain what you’ve learnt, that may even be an advantage.

10. You are changing jobs too often. Some managers treat this very seriously, others – not so much. Some companies won’t even invite a job hopper to an interview. Project situation might affect this as well – if they are seeking someone to help with an urgent, critical initiative, they might not be too worried of the risk of losing you soon after.

However, if you are a job hopper, this will be one of the most common reasons to get rejected, regardless of your skills and personality.


Would you add anything to the above list? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.



4 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why You Won’t Get That Developer Job

    • Rafal Barszczewski says:

      One disclaimer: this is not a list of criteria that I follow myself (I would even advise against using some of them).

      There’s obviously no hard ‘limit’, and the perception varies from manager to manager. Most of them need some confidence that the developer they hire is actually looking for a long-term career in the company, rather than a temporary engagement (assuming this is a process for a permanent position, of course). That confidence can be affected by several things, career history being probably the most important, yet not the only one.

      Personally, I’ve seen cases when a newly hired ‘job hopper’ stayed at a new company for many years, as well as the other way around. So it’s always a matter of manager’s judgement and interpretation, and sometimes it’s just random events that cause it.

      Still, it’s a fact that many managers tend to avoid hiring people with short-term engagements in their resumes, and it does limit options – even for the best developers.

      • What does it really mean to have a long-term career ?.

        Based on my observations and i think some studies, the average ‘hop’ time is around 2-2.5 years. This is due to many various reasons, most of them related to dysfunctional reward system and lack of challenge. What should a developer do in such a situation ? Sometimes the only choice is to just switch job.

        I don’t want to start on the difference in pay rise when you compare long-term gig to more short-term ones.

        Personally I am currently in my first company that I plan to stay longer than one year. It will lead to probably 3 years, 4 maybe, 5 I don’t know. It all depends. Some recruiters even say that 5+ years in one company is a bad sign. What do you think Rafal ?

        Also what do you think about Michael O Church comment on that 🙂 ?

        • Rafal Barszczewski says:

          I’m not saying which approach is better for a developer’s career, just describing the observation that many managers will see it as a disadvantage when hiring. Whether that’s reasonable or not is a separate discussion.

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