Career Advice Opinion

Why Am I Not Getting the Job?

By AAEE — February 22, 2008 2 min read
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As I watch the comments that are posted here, I am struck by the questions many are posing about why they are not being hired. Several of these are related to administrative positions, with a few in the teaching areas. There are a number of questions that can be asked in return, so I will pose a few of them here myself.

At what level/in what field are you applying? I find general agreement that middle- and secondary-level administrative positions are more difficult to fill than those at the elementary level. In teaching, the shortage fields are well-documented, with others that have an abundance of candidates.

In what type of community are you seeking employment? Again, positions in rural areas and urban areas may be less desirable to candidates, so the pools of candidates tend to be smaller than those for suburban districts. A friend and colleague seeking his first administrative position several years ago found his first position in rural western Kansas, though he had spent his long teaching career in the more populous northeastern part of the state. Geographic flexibility helps.

Have you asked the hiring officials why you didn’t get the job? Often they will simply tell you that you were not the right fit or that they found a candidate more qualified. Ask what you could do the next time to be a better fit. Ask what they were looking for that made the other candidate more qualified.

Did you examine how you might fit or not fit into the community served? While in some ways it may appear to conflict with the suggestion of looking outside the region, community fit is important. Think about it - we tend to hire those that reflect our own values, our own culture. Community flexibility helps.

Does the district where you applied for the administrator position have a “grow your own” program? If so, the homegrown candidates usually get the job. The district has invested in those folks for a reason. How familiar are you with the district and the building? You need to be able to speak confidently about the job and about your concrete plans once you have the job.

Have you asked someone you really trust to be honest with you about why THEY think you did not get the job? Ask someone that you know will tell you the unvarnished truth. Sometimes things that you have not really thought about will come to light. For example, the candidate who has been passed over for positions several times becomes exasperated, and that will show in interviews unless the candidate maintains a conscious and significant effort to NOT let it show. Sometimes you have to be an actor - a good one.

There is more, but all of this goes to the makeup of the pool of candidates. What a lot, and I mean a LOT, of candidates lose sight of is that the selection process is a competition. There is one winner. The person who knows best how to get the job will win; it will not necessarily be the “best” person for the job. A huge factor that you have no control over in this process is who your competitors are. Since you do not know who they are nor how well prepared they are, you must simply be the best candidate you can be for the specific job you are seeking. Do your best and be persistent. Good luck!

--Kent McAnally,
Director of Career Services,
Washburn University, on behalf of AAEE

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