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“Not Eligible” at this Time for Hiring?

An acquaintance of mine who is job searching recently asked me for some advice on an interesting – and disturbing – incident that occurred when applying to a particular company.  A couple of weeks after sending in his resume and application, he received a standard form letter advising that he was not eligible at this time for hiring at their company.  Note that it didn’t say “not qualified” – it said “not eligible”.

He was understandably puzzled and called their HR department to ask exactly what “not eligible” meant.  The HR person simply said their policy was not to provide reasons for standard decisions, so he asked me, as a hiring manager, what I thought it meant.

If you’re had a similar experience with being turned down for a job and not given a specific reason, it’s very likely that the company found – or think they found – something negative about you.  Here’s some areas to consider.

First, did they ask you for references and did you provide them?  If so, one of your references may have made some negative comments about you.  While this is unlikely if you’ve chosen your references carefully and obtained their permission in advance, it could be simply that a well- intentioned comment came across wrong.  What will help here is to make sure your references know the exact companies to which you’re applying and that you give them as much information about the position as you can.

Next, since almost all applications require that you list previous employers, one of them may have been called and gave some negative feedback.  Many job applications will specifically ask if it’s okay to contact each prior employer, so if you suspect you’ll get a negative review from one or more you may want to ask that prior employers not be contacted.  Of course, the downside of doing this is that you’re then very likely to be asked to explain this if you get called for an interview.

Assuming you don’t have a criminal background, they may have run a background check and received some incorrect information about someone with a similar name.  If you’ve been turned down more than once with no reason given, it might be worth your while to have a background check run on yourself.  You can find any number of companies that provide this service by doing a Google search.

Lastly, and this may very well be the most likely reason if you gave them your social security number, they may have run a credit check on you.  Sadly, this is becoming increasingly common with employers.  If you have a poor credit rating, that could explain why you were deemed “not eligible”, particularly if you’re applying for financial positions of any kind.  If you’ve always had a good credit rating, there’s a chance that your identity was stolen and someone is ruining your credit without you knowing about it.  In either case, you should order a credit report on yourself so you’ll know what it says to potential employers.  If you didn’t provide your social security number, you can scratch this reason off.

Being turned down is always disappointing and being turned down with no reason given is particularly frustrating.  If it only happens once, I would ignore it.  If it happens repeatedly, then consider the above possible explanations and take as many remedial actions as you can.

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