my employer says I missed the deadline for an internal job posting — but outsiders can still apply

A reader writes:

I am currently in a duel with my employer regarding a 10-day internal job posting policy, which states internal candidates must apply to job postings within that 10-day window and will not be eligible for consideration beyond that time. The position was posted on 6/16 and according to HR remained posted until 6/30. I unfortunately missed the window (I had medical leave days from 6/16 through 6/23), and HR notified me I still should have been able to catch the posting regardless.

Prior to my finding out about missing the 10-day period policy, I learned of the job being posted externally and tried to apply. I notified my current managers of the intent to apply and then the hiring manager, all of whom encouraged me to apply (and evidently were not very in tune with the policy either). The hiring manager seemed very interested in me from the start, has received push-back from HR, and recently contacted me to get the full story of why I missed the internal posting. He is still trying to plead on my behalf. The position is still currently posted for external candidates, or at least was as of today.

Any understanding of why HR would make such a policy, and be so rigid on extending internal candidates a concurrent opportunity, or at least an equal period of time to apply as external candidates?

I cannot imagine why they’d have this policy (or moreover, why they’d insist on enforcing it so rigidly in a situation like yours). I especially love it when HR overrules a hiring manager, who they’re supposed to be serving.  Grrr.

Anyone want to speculate?

Meanwhile, you could always ask them what the rationale for or goal of the policy is.

{ 43 comments… read them below }

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      You know, I’d think that except that the hiring manager is pushing for the OP to be able to apply. Unless the hiring manager is being misleading about that.

      I also don’t think they’d make up a policy that doesn’t really exist, because the OP would easily find out about it the next time an internal job is posted.

  1. TLColson

    I’ve seen it happen where an HR person gets frustrated with hiring managers coming to them at the last minute (after screenings, interviews and even offers have been done) to say “we are going to hire this one internally”. Thus the unbendable “rule” of internal postings is born.

    Is it right? Certainly not. Is it reality? Yes.

    Which means either the Hiring Manager should grow a pair and take it up the chain if they are truly interested in you, or perhaps you should take this as a big sign that management is NOT looking to develop their employees if they won’t even let you apply for new position. (no one said you’d GET the job, just that you should apply, and if they stop you at that point… well… bad leadership.)

  2. TLColson

    Oh, and bad HR regardless. Its about employee development, not rules. (and people wonder why I got out of HR after 17 yrs. – I apologize on behalf of good HR leadership everywhere)

    1. Tom

      What would other HR representatives acting ‘badly’ really have to do with your deciding to ‘get out’ of HR work? Sounds to me like you weren’t so ‘nice’ yourself, and got canned, or you got bored. Must be awfully tiring to sit there in a cozy office, pictures of your family and your dog and cat surrounding you and your can of pepsi resting on a napkin, working SO HARD at filling in the blanks of paperwork, while hte REAL workers are out there making money for the company you represent.

  3. Katy O

    I would think the policy is to save them the time, money & hassle of public postings by offering it internally first. Is it strange that they won’t bend? Yes. However, the policy is not new & you admitted you came back from leave before the internal posting expired. Plead your case but don’t be outraged if they refuse to break the rule. Rules are there for a reason. If you work there, it’s your job to know them and adhere to them. If you don’t agree with the rules, find. New employer. No excuses.

  4. Eric Woodard

    Or….

    It could be that our friends in HR are on a big ol’ power trip.

    Just speculating…but sometimes when people are otherwise powerless, but they have a little bit of power in a certain area, they wield whatever power they have just for the sake of wielding it.

    I would DEFINITELY send in your application anyway – and make sure all the decision makers know you’ve applied. Then they can go to Bob in HR and say hey, I know you got this application too – I’d like to see it.

    When somebody stands in your way and they’re wrong, circumvent.

    1. Long Time Admin

      Eric, you are so right! I worked at the home office of the world’s largest retailer (who shall remain nameless) for one year, and the “People Division” ruled completely. You wouldn’t believe the crazy and impossible rules they had for absolutely everything, and their total inflexibility about those rules. Come to think of it, most of the company was like that. I couldn’t stand it; it was one of the most unpleasant years of my entire life.

  5. Sergey Gorbatov

    My theory is that HR sees this position as a development opportunity and you do not fit the high potential profile. The line manager is scared to deliver the hard message and is hiding behind the comfortable policy book. I would recommend to have a heart-to-heart conversation about your career opportunities in general, using this precedent as a departing point.

    1. Tom

      I was thinking the same thing. The girl’s boss knows the truth, and (going by the story posted on here) his action — or clear lack of — says everything.

  6. Bluphoenix

    There could be more to this than just mean old HR :). This strikes me as something that probably came about in response to some kind of behavior they wanted to stop. Where I work we have a similar policy although not as rigid and if the managers asks to repost it internally we do it without an issue. We have some managers however who open a position to hire friends/family/neighbors whatever and have to be browbeat in to considering qualified internals. By having the cut off date it allows us to say you must consider the internals who applied x to x before you look at externals. We have had internals come back and make discrimination complaints etc because they didn’t get considered so we really push the managers to consider the internals. (Keep in mind the only discrimination going on is that your not the managers buddy) Alternatively, we have had managers try to sneak a “fake promotion” by us and stick an internal in a slot/title they don’t have the qualifications for and others are better qualified for because they want to give the person a pay increase that is outside of the merit increase guidelines. (Many times because these same managers lowballed the candidates when they hired them and now fear losing them). Again same kind of “i don’t have to follow the rules” mentality. So while they are being very rigid, it’s possible this company has this rule (and is super rigid about it) because of some kind of similar past issues.

    1. wits

      When I worked for the govt, jobs were posted for internal & external candidates simultaneously. However, that’s not to say that upcoming openings weren’t spread by word of mouth, which meant you could get an “in” by doing some research/networking, but you still had to wait til HR officially posted the job to apply.

  7. A. Nonymous

    I’d take a look at the OP’s math first:

    On medical leave 6/16-23.
    Position posted 6/16
    Position removed 6/30 (according to HR)

    The OP had a week to discover it and apply for it. So when did the OP find out about it and how “hidden” was the advertisement. The OP might have had a more fighting chance if the posting was removed on 6/24 because that’s not enough time really to get everything ready to apply, depending on the application process for the company.

    1. KellyK

      I don’t think the OP is arguing that they had no chance, only that their chance to apply was really limited and that they had extenuating circumstances for missing the window. A week sounds like a lot of time to apply, but for someone who’s just come back from medical leave and is trying to catch up on a week’s worth of missed work, it really isn’t.

      1. A. Nonymous

        I think it depends on how the situation unfolded. Did she wait for it to expire before applying or did she talk to someone in HR beforehand (which I doubt from what I’ve read here)?

          1. A. Nonymous

            That’s what the OP says, but with having it been up a week after s/he returned, it’s sort of hard to get away with that excuse. If the OP returned the day off or the day before its expiration to internal candidates, then s/he might have a case to say “hey, I was out sick!” However, according to the timeline presented, there’s a week in there between having him/her return and HR switching it to an external search.

            In another respect, if you break the rule, no matter ridiculous anyone thinks it is, then you have to break it for others. Our OP here can be perfectly legitimate – s/he was sick and didn’t see it until after the posting’s expiration. However, who’s to say the next person won’t be so honest? Then no one will need a legitimate excuse for anything; just complain and voila, your wish is granted.

            1. Julie K

              When I was managing a small team, I also thought that if you break a rule for one person, you have to break it for everyone (in other words – abolish the rule). But after reading AAM for a while, I no longer feel that way. If the next employee’s situation is different (in whatever ways are relevant), then the outcome can be different (meaning, you can uphold the rule), and the manager should explain the reasoning to the employee so the employee (hopefully) will understand the difference and not be resentful or think it’s unfair.

  8. Anonymous

    This sounds like a form of control. The individual in HR is probably doing this for one of the follow reasons:

    1. They have lost some sort of control in their job and feel they need to hang on to any control they have left.
    2. They feel they are not a support department (I agree, grrrr) and people need to do what they say.

    Who is in charge of this HR manager? In one occurence, the company should have rewritten the policy. It’s ridiculous that internal people have less time to apply. What would make more sense is that internal people get an opportunity to apply first and then can continue to apply throughout the process with an understanding that they may be passed over if a qualified candidate is found, interviewed and a offer made before they apply.

  9. Joey

    This rule was probably born out of a bad experience where money and/or time was spent externally recruiting and a hiring manager went with an internal candidate. The inflexibility is to prevent claims of discrimination and other employees from crying foul. If you make exceptions to the policy that subjectivity is harder to defend when someone of another demographic complains. Not saying that’s right just saying that some organizations don’t want that added risk.

  10. Anonymous

    As someone who once worked (I say once because I would never ever ever do it again) in a union environment as an HR Manager, this could very well be tied to a labor contract and really have nothing to do with anything else other than their hands being tied due to the contract.

    The other thing I’m going to point out (that I also picked up in my time working at this unionized not-for-profit) is that HR likely knows a lot more about the candidate than the hiring manager might about this candidate’s work history that they might not be able to share with the hiring manager but want to avoid moving this person.

    One third point (that’s been made before) is that there was a full week of time for this person to apply and the deadline was six weeks ago. I’m not entirely unsure I’d be so open to helping this person out either.

  11. Zach

    This a bizarre story…yes, maybe there is some sort of legal contract, but, um, then the contract doesn’t make any sense.
    It’s interesting how intricate and individualized job problems become. At fitango we’re trying to guide people towards success in all sorts of ways. i hope people will look it up and maybe contribute content for guidance in these strange circumstances. z

  12. ANON

    I think it’s ridiculous rule, but think about it this way:

    The people you are talking to have to follow the rules whether they agree with it or not. If they bypass the rules, and someone above finds out, it’s their neck on the line. Depending on the size of the organization will tell you how quickly they can bypass it. If it’s a small organization, then maybe it will be quick to bypass. If it’s large, maybe it will be harder to bypass.

    The key thing is to get the right person pushing for it. If the hiring manager has little influence, ask him/her to get someone above him/her to take action or speak to the right person in HR.

    I can also think of a reason why HR is acting this way- perhaps the company got into some trouble (even if it’s not legal) before regarding interviewing internals and externals at the same time. Perhaps they got a beating and will never want to deal with it again.

  13. Ashley

    While I agree that this is bad HR for being so rigid on this rule, we have the same type of set-up in my department. The job is posted internally first with a deadline, then externally. We are a bit more flexible and allow employees to apply after the deadline in some cases; however, when an employee applies late, it shows us that they don’t have great attention to detail, might be a procrastinator, and don’t have respect for or ability to meet deadlines. Sometimes, the behavior of the employee is more important to consider than following or making an exception to the rule.

    What we don’t know from the OP’s letter is when she finally did apply for the job. Was it two weeks after she returned? Three? If she was aware of the job before the deadline (I’m not clear if she was or not), why didn’t she contact HR and ask for an extension due to her situation? Proactive communication is always better than assuming the rules will be bent for you. These are the types of questions I would be seeking answers to if I received a late internal application.

    1. Mike C.

      “We are a bit more flexible and allow employees to apply after the deadline in some cases; however, when an employee applies late, it shows us that they don’t have great attention to detail, might be a procrastinator, and don’t have respect for or ability to meet deadlines.”

      It could also mean the person had just finished a huge project or had a death in the family or simply made a once in a life time human error. Why assume the worst in a candidate?

      Does your company regularly employ people who don’t pay attention to details, procrastinate or simply don’t respect or cannot meet deadlines?If not, why make this assumption?

      1. Ashley

        Of course not, but employees in our company are often applying for different types of positions, maybe from a position where deadlines were not a huge factor, but they are for the position they are applying to.

        Notice that I also said that we do make exceptions, and I encourage proactive communication. You took one thing I said and made it negative, whereas that was not the one and only point in my comment. I simply stated what I would be looking for and the questions I would be asking if this situation arose in my company, yet you assumed I was being negative. Let’s be practical here – behavior shows an employer what type of employee you are. If this was the only time she has missed a deadline, I would make an exception. We don’t know her performance history, so we can’t make that call.

  14. GeekChic

    My current place of work has a rule that is somewhat similar and it is part of the negotiated union contract.

    When management posts a position they must post internally first for a set period of time and then see if any qualified candidates apply. If any do, those candidates must be interviewed at least once.

    If no qualified candidates apply or no candidates pass the interview stage, management can then post externally. Once openings are posted externally, no internal candidate will be considered (no exceptions, the union will not help someone make their case if an internal candidate misses the deadline).

    It’s a slightly cumbersome policy but it not a controversial one for either side. Many openings have no internal applicants.

  15. iDuckie

    I can tell you exactly why they won’t do it.

    Because if they did it for you, they’d have to do it for EVERYONE. And this can become a huge mess if word got out that they let you apply for a job after the internal posting date, and everyone would expect the rule to be bent for them.

    I understand missing some time due to leave, and playing catch up for a couple of days. But, you did have a week to look and apply for the posting. Them’s the breaks. Now, for the future, you know the policy, and you know to look early and look often. I think you should chalk this up to a learning experience and move on.

  16. Suzanne Lucas

    Why would HR do something like this? Because we’re evil, of course!

    Bwa, ha, ha!

    I suspect I would lack sympathy for someone who was in the office for 5 of the days that it was posted. I don’t like the general rule, by the way, but if it was the rule, I’d enforce it.

    However, it should be possible to overrule all HR decisions, but the person who can do that probably doesn’t want to.

    1. Jamie

      I don’t like the rule either, but like Suzanne, I would enforce it.

      In a company with more then 2 people it really does become a slippery slope. On a case by case basis it’s easy to say, sure…ignore the deadline…but everyone can make arguments about why certain rules should be bent for them.

      I’m in favor of speaking up if you think a policy is bad (done professionally, of course), but selective enforcement never ends well and it’s unfair to expect HR to disregard their own policy.

  17. Beth

    I seriously have to wonder if the hiring manager is really advocating on the OP’s behalf or saying “Oh, gee, I really pushed for you with HR but they won’t budge” because they don’t want to be the one to say “no.” It’s always easier for the hiring managers to make HR be the bad guys.
    Really, I think a poster above iDuckie has it right. If they bend the rules for one, they have to bend the rules for all. I believe that HR is about consistently apply the rules for everyone all the time. IMHO

    1. Tom

      Like you, I think this has FAR more to do with the manager not wanting to promote the OP, than it does any “HR rule”. The manager is the ‘bad guy’ here, but he has his reasons.

  18. TLColson

    I am all for equal application of “rules” – but the bigger picture is… why is this rule in place, and who, exactly, does it benefit? Certainly not the employees within the company. If the position hadn’t been filled in 60 days, and a qualified internal candidate came to the attention of HR – who’d just been given a dressing down for not filling the role in a timely manner – don’t you think this little “rule” would go quickly by the wayside? “Rules” like this are process guidelines, not based on federal, state or local law (unless part of some union contract).

    Would love to know the outcome from the OP… and encourage same OP to look for other development opportunities.

  19. Sarah

    Friendly HR Representative here…

    We have a “10 day policy” but it is not at all like the OP describes… we post all positions internally for 10 days before we open it up to our external site just as a courtesy to internal applicants to get to see it first and possibly get a jump on applying. That is it. No rules, weird deadlines, etc. Just a courtesy “head start”.

    My speculations about why OP’s HR department might be doing this:
    – Power trip
    – OP has done something to piss them off in the past?
    – They are obsessed with hiring someone from outside for this particular position … either they just feel like they need to or they have someone in mind.
    – For some reason they are convinced you are not the right fit
    – Your position you’d be vacating is a pain to fill and they don’t want to have to fill it
    – Where you’re at in your paygrade is already too high for this position or what they’ve budgeted for this position and they’d have to go through comp hell to get it approved?

  20. Laurie

    Ah, this happens routinely at my workplace – HR overruling even Vice Presidents. I work in government. Enough said?

  21. Amy

    Wow. I think the first answer makes sense! I just spoke to a hiring manager within my company about a position listed internally and externally (well 2 of the same). I was informed that this person only has one position and it is for something entirely different. To this day the 2 original positions are still being posted and recruiters are still trying to find candidates for them.

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