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by Cathy Vandewater | June 08, 2012


At Vault, we spend a lot of time telling you which factors of a job search are in your control: cover letters, resumes, networking, first impressions (firm handshakes, everybody!)

That may lead you to believe that when you don't get the job, you must have done something wrong.

And it's a possibility. But there's also a chance that some silly stuff is going on with employers that has nothing to do with you.

The truth is, it's a buyers' market. And with huge pools of candidates to choose from--and a huge risk aversion--employers are really dragging their heels with hiring. Thus, they're also getting a nit picky with their hiring criteria.

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about misinformed, unfair, or just plain ridiculous requirements--but you can take heart knowing it's not always you. Sometimes, it's them.

 1. A Hot Spouse

James Franklin, the head football couch for Vanderbilt, has strategy for hiring, and it doesn't have much to do with qualifications. "I've been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant until I see his wife. If she looks the part and she's a D1 recruit, then you got a chance to get hired. That's part of the deal."

The reasoning? "There's a very strong correlation between having the confidence, going up and talking to a women, and being quick on your feet and having some personality and confidence and being articulate and confident, than it is walking into a high school and recruiting a kid and selling him."

Okay. So it's this tactic is really about finding candidates with confidence. But it's still gross.

2. A Job

Yahoo's Vera H-C Chan illuminates this obnoxious practice with a dating analogy: "Wanted: Someone exactly like my last boyfriend (see list of qualities), only better. Demonstrate success in a proven relationship, preferably a current one."

It seems counterintuitive—why ask that those who need a job don't apply for it? But the practice of only wanted to hire the employed has to do with risk management. Employers don't want to invest in a candidate whose skills have gotten rusty. And it's easier to assess the employee's current situation for clues to work history than it is to ask questions about a job from months or years earlier.

But beyond just unfair and extremely frustrating, many have been wondering whether stipulating that "unemployed need not apply" is actual discrimination. Several bills seeking to ban this practice have been brought to legislation committees as recently as April.

3. A Hop-Free Employment history

You've probably heard that switching jobs often is bad for your employment prospects in the long run.

And unfortunately, weeding out the job hoppers is a fairly common part of employers' screening process: between two and six percent of job seekers are rejected for having moved around too much, according to a study by Evolv.

Too bad this conventional wisdom is completely unfounded. Evolv's research also showed virually no difference in candidates "survival" rates at their next jobs, whether they'd had one job their whole lives, or 15. Check out this handy graph for a visual on the nonsense.

4. Current Employment with the Company

To be fair, there is merit to the practice of hiring internally; it's less expensive, time consuming, and has better chances of working out to consider employees for new or elevated positions.

But it can sure feel like a lock out to everyone else.

Read More:
Y! Big Story: Why you can't get the job (Yahoo! News)
Having a Hot Wife Could Land You That Job (Business Insider)
Is 'Unemployed Need Not Apply' discrimination? (U-T San Diego)
An Inside Job: More Firms Opt to Recruit From Within(WSJ)
Does Previous Work History Predict Future Employment Outcomes? (Evolv Study)