I’m on a company’s do-not-hire list

A reader writes:

About a year ago, I decided to apply for a sales position with a local software company. I got the interview and it was horrible. I was nervous and hadn’t slept well the night before and just did terribly, in my opinion. I did not get the job but was encouraged to reapply in a few years.

To make matters worse, a few weeks later, I ran into the recruiter when I was out at a festival and a few drinks in. I also had forgotten to eat that day and was pretty drunk. I’m sure she was not impressed. She added me on Facebook that night and then deleted me a few months later. It was odd…

It’s been well over a year since then. I started my own small business, I also work for a great local company, and I have started going back to school for computer science. I have a 4.0 GPA. I have a great boyfriend, great friends, great coworkers and a wonderful dog. Life is good.

I recently began looking into furthering my career in tech and applied for a technical position in that company. I was also referred internally by a few friends who work for the company. I found out today that I have been put on a “never ever ever hire this person” list. My friends and I were pretty shocked that I was blacklisted forever.

This sucks for a few reasons. They are the largest software company in the area. My friends work there, and they also share the building with my computer science program. The first floor is the computer science program, and the rest of the building is the software company. This means that I am going to spend the rest of my academic career walking into a building where I am not wanted and watching my friends take the elevator up to the next floor without me. Not to mention, I’ll be walking past company recruiters and managers who, it seems, do not have a high opinion of me. It’s pretty tough to swallow.

I am dying of shame. I realize that I failed miserably but I also would like a second chance to prove what I’m made of. I do not feel that I accurately portrayed myself the first time around or showed what I can bring to a company. Is there anything that I can do to fix this? Or is the verdict final?

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked: “How did you end up finding out you’re on the do-not-hire list? And if it was from a friend who worked there, do they have access to info about why?”

The response:

It was from a friend.

My application was blocked by the same HR guy/recruiter who encouraged me to apply in a few years. It was stopped it before it was sent to the technical manager. My friend was told it was because I had been deemed a bad fit for the company. My friend then asked what constituted being a “forever bad fit.”

This is the message that my friend sent me: “Yeah, I asked about people being flagged as can reapply vs cannot reapply and got an answer about people being encouraged to apply for whatever they thought would be reasonable and then each being considered on a case by case basis.”

Hmmm, from your friend’s elaboration, I’m not convinced that you’re on a “never, ever hire” list. It sounds like the recruiter just remembers your interview, didn’t consider you a strong candidate at the time, and so doesn’t think it makes sense to send you to a hiring manager now. It’s only been a year, after all; it’s pretty normal that if you interviewed badly a year ago, he’s still thinking of you as not the right match for them.

But that doesn’t mean that you’re on an internal list of blocked candidates. It just means this guy talked to you and doesn’t think you’re the right person.

Now, if I’m misunderstanding and your friend was specifically told that you’re on a do-not-hire-ever list, that’s different. I’d be surprised if that’s the case based on one bad interview (unless you did something like tell your interviewer to F-off or poop in the potted plant), and I also wouldn’t expect them to encourage you to reapply in a few years while simultaneously planning to block any future application from you.

But if they weirdly did that anyway … well, a few things:

* Yes, the verdict is probably final for now. But companies make this kind of judgment about candidates all the time, based on bad interviews. Employers do know that interviews aren’t a perfect science and good candidates have off days — sometimes really off days — but ultimately they’ve just got to make the best judgments they can with the information they have.

The rare thing here is that you know about it — more typically, you wouldn’t and would be left to draw your own conclusions, to wonder, and to keep fruitlessly applying.

* However, there’s a good chance that you can get this reversed in a few years — especially if you have friends working there. Once a few years go by, you can probably have a friend who has worked there a while and is in good standing make a pitch to reconsider you, or to at least remove your name from any “not right for us” list and get a future application considered with an open mind. (And hey, that recruiter might be gone by then too.)

* Meanwhile, I would not worry at all about attending class in their building. A company deciding that you’re not the right match for them doesn’t mean “we don’t want her in the building.” Those things are totally unrelated! I can think of a lot of people who I really like on a personal level who I wouldn’t consider hiring. And even if I didn’t like them on a personal or any other level, I still wouldn’t be irked or disgusted or scornful to see them going about their business in the same building as me! The building is, apparently, multi-use. You should not feel weird about this.

* Yes, it does mean that you will have to see your friends take the elevator up to a company that hasn’t hired you. But that could have happened anyway! You could have had a lovely interview experience there and still not been hired. (After all, in any given hiring process, the majority of candidates — even the majority of finalists — are not ultimately hired.)

* Most importantly, do not die of shame. We all have bad interviews. It’s very unlikely that they think you’re a bad person or a professional failure — they just don’t think you’re the right match right now. That happens, it’s normal, and it’s not shameful.

{ 140 comments… read them below }

    1. Jean

      FYI for newer readers: “pooped in a potted plant” was submitted as one of the more extreme examples of an interview gone bad. It’s become a mini-meme around here. (Shortcut: Click on the link Alison provided above, then search for the second appearance of “Alysia.”)

  1. neverjaunty

    LW, it might help if you change your framing a little; this is a business decision by the company, not a referendum on you as a worthwhile human being. Note that you say you want a second chance to “prove what I’m made of” – job interviews aren’t about personal redemption, they’re about you and a potential employer mutually considering whether a job would be the right fit.

    Let it go, and don’t worry about this company’s supposed opinion of you. Build your career.

    1. Isben Takes Tea

      Yes, it’s really easy to see your job interviews as assessments of your personal worth, when it’s really, really not. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a good impression or believing the other party misinterpreted your capabilities, but like any relationship, you don’t have the ability to control how other people react to you. As Alison said, they may not have hired you anyway, even if you “did all the right things.”

      1. RVA Cat

        This. How many people do you have on your personal “will not date ever” list? Not all of them are horrible people, they are just not romantic-partner material for YOU.

        1. Allison

          There are plenty of people I know whom I have no interest in dating, and it’s not because they’re bad guys or because I think they’re abusers or rapists, I just don’t have any attraction to them and it never feels like our personalities mesh well.

          Hiring is a little different than dating though. Personality and “fit” are still important because this is someone you’d be dealing with a lot, and probably depending on at least a little. If you think they’re arrogant, or rude, or they don’t make good decisions and hangovers might interfere with work, it’s your prerogative not to hire someone. But when you’re hiring someone, you’re deciding to pay someone to come in and do a job that needs doing, and if that job requires a niche skill set, maybe you need to think twice before turning down a talented individual just because you don’t get a great vibe, or because they were kind of a jerk two years ago. Some people are douchebags forever, but others do grow up!

    2. fposte

      In general, I’m seeing the OP as having a pattern of taking things very hard, including the possibility that she may be drawing a “never hire” status out of comments that don’t mean that. After all, people purge their casual Facebook friends lists all the time–it’s just a thing. OP, I think you can let up on yourself generally–most of what you’re describing isn’t shameful failure, or contempt, or personal rejection; it’s just daily life stuff.

    3. BRR

      I have a thought tied to this that if the lw thinks they can prove what they’re made of they must already have a certain level of confidence. Getting to that level means to me that the lw doesn’t need the company to validate them.

      1. Cat steals keyboard

        Or OP isn’t confident in their abilities and – like many people – is wanting external validation of them as they know they are capable but don’t believe what they know…

        1. BRR

          True. I was specifically thinking of times where I haven’t done so well at something and know I can do better I can do better I want a chance to prove myself. When I know I can’t do better (e.g. certain courses in college) I never have the desire to go back and prove myself because I know I can’t.

          It could also very likely be some combination of the two. Feeling confident and wanting external validation aren’t mutually exclusive.

    4. Clever Name

      Agreed. I think you’re taking this way too personally. I totally understand that it feels very personal (why wouldn’t they want me? I’m great!) because for you it’s your livelihood and your life. However, for them, it’s just a business decision. That’s it.

  2. Joseph

    I wouldn’t think about the building sharing at all. First off, it’s only this recruiter (apparently) and maybe the hiring manager for the job that didn’t like you. That’s like two people out of the entire company – most of the company probably doesn’t even know you exist.
    Secondly, this is just part of the deal that companies agree to when they rent space in a building. When you rent only part of a building, you have no real control over what else happens in the building. A competitor or major client might decide to move in. You might work next to an ethically/morally questionable (but legal) business. You might have people you don’t like walking into the building for other companies. It’s all part of the deal. If you want privacy and control over who enters the building, then you either rent out the entire building or buy your own private building. End of story.

    1. N Twello

      Agreed. Next time, you could have your friend put your resume directly into the hand of the hiring manager (presumably not the same one you bombed with) and circumvent that recruiter altogether.

  3. Venus Supreme

    I wouldn’t place much concern on the fact the recruiter friended you on Facebook then deleted you. Some people are really weird with their social media account and do “friend purges.” As for seeing the recruiter when you were drunk… I’m sure that isn’t burned into her memory as it is with yours. I doubt that has any weight in your potential future with this company. It doesn’t sound like you made a fool of yourself. (And in cases where I’m really drunk, I feel intense guilt in the following days even though people assure me I wasn’t belligerent or anything. It’s all in my mind.)

      1. pope suburban

        Yes, that was my thought too. People are allowed social lives, after all, and the recruiter was attending the same event. Frankly, even if the LW is getting judged for attending a festival and– gasp!– legally drinking, I would take it as a sign that this is not a company any sensible person would want to work for, as they clearly don’t understand the concept of work/life balance, or legally recreating on one’s own time. That’s a pretty terrible way to work and anyone would be well shot of it.

      2. M-C

        I’m not sure it’s helpful to the OP to be pretending that the festival incident didn’t matter. It may well have been the last straw. A bad interview could happen to anyone, but add to it being totally smashed in public.. and that person definitely can seem like a bad hiring risk. There is a definite line between mere ‘legal drinking’ and out of control, and I’d guess that if the OP mentions it the line was crossed, nobody would think twice about merely having a beer in hand at an outdoor festival.

        The facebook friending could have been checking that this person really does have bad judgement, and maybe even puts out in public things that would be best kept to themselves. There is more to hiring someone than mere technical competence, especially in a small town, representing the company comes more into play then.

        I hope the OP is young :-). They’ll have ample opportunity to redeem themselves then, but still it’s likely to take more than a single year. I actually think that taking classes downstairs is a real opportunity to demonstrate an increased level of responsibility and persistence. And possibly to interact with these people in a more normal way, casual chit-chat with the friends by the elevator or in the cafe and so on.

    1. Roxanne

      Actually, it’s not the festival and the drinking that I would be worried about. It would be “What did I post during those months when the recruiter was on my friend list that she might have found objectionable?

      And why would you want the recruiter on your FB friend list? That would suggest to me that I would have to be on my best behaviour online if I wanted to have chance to apply there again.

      1. TL -

        Really? The most likely reason I have for defriending people is that they’re really boring and I don’t know them well enough to want to keep up with them. (Whereas if I don’t know you super well but you’re witty or have lots of drama, that’s just good amusement value!)

        1. K.

          I’ve unfriended people for that reason, but I’ve definitely unfriended people because they said something offensive. ESPECIALLY this election.

          1. Roxanne

            Yes, I unfriended a cousin during the Charter of Values debate going on in Quebec because I just could not stomach his POV anymore…and his POV wasn’t pretty. I have boring friends, but I don’t unfriend them because otherwise, I would never know what is going with them since they live so far away.

        2. Turtle Candle

          Yeah. I defriended one person for offending me (racist memes). I’ve defriended, oh, dozens, because I had met them a few times and then never crossed paths with them again and could barely remember who they were.

      2. deeplymortified

        I live in a less populated area of the United States. I know at least a handful of people who know this recruiter personally and the chances of me running into these recruiters at another event or even at the grocery store is very very likely.
        She told me to add her on FB and I felt really uncomfortable telling her no at the time. I just didn’t think it would be that big of a deal to add her.

        1. Venus Supreme

          In my career bubble (the arts), my colleagues and I use Facebook more on a professional level — i.e. “hey, look what new project I’m working on now!” I’ll throw in the occasional “I just adopted a cat, say hi to Bob” post but otherwise I keep politics and partying off my timeline. Perhaps this recruiter uses her Facebook like that? Or maybe she’s just really nosy?

      3. Moonsaults

        This is exactly where I landed.

        I know a lot of people are pish-poshing it thinking “I don’t unfriend or judge others online ever…” only I’ve unfriended family members and friends for being outrageous and over the top in their opinions. “Everyone is entitled to their feelings”, yes and I’m entitled to not like them for those feelings towards certain groups of people, disrespecting national and international tragedies, etc. Or just being super personally messy in that “spews all their feels about an ex online” kind of way :|

      4. Unegen

        Yeah the thing that leaped out at me was that “the recruiter added me to her Facebook”. Umm…unless Facebook has drastically changed, one person cannot unilaterally add you to their account; there’s a request, and an accept. So the passive, agentless-therefore-helpless tone of this kind of bothers me.

        1. deeplymortified

          It’s a phrase that got the message across. I think you are reading into it a little too much. I’m pretty sure it’s a common phrase and my friends would know what I mean by it.

          Was it a mistake? Sure.
          Lesson learned.

    2. Whats In A Name

      My first thought when I heard the recruiter friended then de-friended was that the recruiter did it to stalk behavior, see what she was up to in her personal life and if it jived with what the company would want and then defriended her after a period of time she thought might cover up what she did.

      I might be so far off, but I can totally see it going down this way.

        1. EyesWideOpen

          This was my first thought as well particularly as it happened after running into the recruiter at the music festival.

    3. Ellie H.

      I go through and delete people I don’t really know periodically. It sounds like you ran into her in a shared convivial moment (she was probably in a festive mood too) and she encouraged you to add her on FB in a friendly way, but then later just deleted you bc she doesn’t know you. I think there’s like a 1% chance it was because of something actually about your character. I wouldn’t worry about it at all.

      Unrelatedly, the guilt after drinking feeling is SO WEIRD. I get it so strongly too even though people most often tell me they didn’t even know I was drunk in the least. I always have the feeling like I committed an unforgivable sin.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I get it but mostly because I’m a big dumbass when I get drunk. :P

        I thought the same thing about the FB friending. Maybe she just thought, eh, why did I add all these people I don’t really know? and deleted a bunch of them, including the OP. She might not even have looked at anything.

    4. KR

      I tend to add people on social media then wait a few months. If I’m not seeing much value from their posts or if they don’t post a lot or I’m no longer feeling close to them I usually delete them. I wouldn’t take it personally.

    5. Cath in Canada

      Yeah, I sometimes accept friend requests from people I barely know (e.g. friends of friends, people I know from Twitter) and then suddenly think a few months later “why am I reading this person’s boring/annoying/TMI posts when I hardly know them?” and delete them.

      1. Liz L

        I do the same. Not a reflection on their character or anything. Just not close enough or there’s some awkwardness for whatever reason. Not the end of the world.

    6. Specialk9

      I assumed the recruiter added her on Facebook so she could look for questionable posts, then unfriended her. OP, it’s worth going through all your posts, ever, and taking off, or changing privacy settings of, anything that a conservative grandmother might not approve of.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius

    A few thoughts I hope you find helpful.

    1) Not only are you overthinking this, but you’re assuming they care/remember everything as much as you do. Unless you did crap in a potted plant or something else egregious, I bet the HR guy doesn’t think too much about it. He sure won’t be telling people because your story doesn’t sound that scintillating. (It really doesn’t!)

    2) So don’t sweat it if you see employees or share an elevator or whatever. Easier said than done, I know. There’s a 100% chance they’ll be thinking about whatever meeting they’re coming from/going to or getting ripped into by the boss or what they’re going to eat for lunch or if the IT guy finally fixed their computer.

    3) Humans aren’t perfect. People do dumb stuff all the time. It’s true interviewers only have limited information to go on, but, hey, maybe in the future you’ll be a bit more compassionate when the tables are turned?

    1. Rusty Shackelford

      In fact, it could be awesome if you see them in the elevator, because they’re going to see you interacting like a completely normal person with your friends, and eventually they might say “she seems nice, and this note from the hiring manager who left two years ago seems kind of unnecessary, let’s give her an interview.”

      1. Whats In A Name

        This! I brought someone in once who was flagged “do not hire” for a position. I just didn’t quite trust the recruiter before me’s judgement. We hired the guy and he fast tracked to GSM in less than a year. He was an amazing cultural and position fit.

        1. Not So NewReader

          I agree with both of you. The elevator is an opportunity, OP, it’s not punishment. Chin up, eye contact and “How are you today?”, that is your best plan for the elevator/hallway. Each time, every time.

          If this is going to work it will take time, so be strong. Tell yourself, “Yesterday was the worst it is ever going to be, today will be a tiny bit better.”

          Other people have stepped in garbage, too, OP, I hope you don’t think I am minimizing your concerns. When I get worried about something that I have done or should have done, I start reading the news. I bet you will find several articles about people who have done far worse than what you are talking about here. What are they doing? They are just building up and maintaining the sheer brass to keep moving forward. See, stuff happens to most of us. It’s not that it happened, it’s how we respond to it that makes us or breaks us in other people’s minds. Do we own it? Do we change course, make different choices? People admire others who are able to rethink and learn from a situation because, like I said, most of us have done something in life that was not a shining moment. People relate to this stuff.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius

      True story: this happened to me five minutes ago. I just got out of a big meeting, and an employee from another agency stopped me to apologize for not responding to an email I sent her days ago.

      I had no idea what she was talking about; she had been obsessing over it because she didn’t have enough information on her end.

  5. JMegan

    Yes, there’s a long way between “your application didn’t make it to the technical manager” and “your application was blocked.” From the company’s point of view, the first scenario happens dozens of times for every recruitment; the second happens maybe once every couple of years. It’s super rare that people are actually blocked from applying for all open positions ever – as Alison said, you would have to do something much more egregious than simply having a bad interview for that to happen.

    The far more likely explanation is that your application was good but not great, and they already had several “greats” in the pile, so there was no need to continue with the ones that were just “good.”

    1. deeplymortified

      Fortunately, I didn’t do anything absolutely dreadful. No pooping in potted plants or telling people to fuck off.

      I tend to be a rather reserved person both in work and in my private life but was very genuine at this interview. I went to a really good university but had to drop out for financial reasons and was unable to afford to go back for a long time. I had to explain that to them. They then asked what I was passionate about and the only thing I could think of was education reform. Which is true. I’m a bit of an activist in my personal life. Overall though- I generally feel that I made an ass of myself. I was nervous and just didn’t conduct myself well. Nothing truly terrible but enough that I am not happy.

      1. Marcela

        Ugh. I was asked in an interview about what I was passionate about. In my mind, I thought “I can’t tell them kittens, sewing and murder mysteries!”. So I said something that afterwards sounded soo cheesy and ridicule, about my job and helping scientists to do science, so that when they sent me a email saying “sorry, we don’t have anything now matching your skills”, I thought “I’m happy with that!”. The question is ridicule.

        1. Specialk9

          Whenever I get that question, all I can think is “zombie apocalypse!” No, no, no. Ok, how about converting trash trucks into homes… For surviving the zombie apocalypse!

          I do actually have other normal interests, maybe too many, but my brain always goes blank.

      2. Not So NewReader

        Did you get Alison’s guide book?

        You do know that you were not the worst interview they had, right? They had other people tank farther. You were probably in the middle somewhere.

  6. self employed

    Just curious why the drunk run-in didn’t make Alison’s list of things to address. Do you think that’s a factor as well– kind of a “wrong fit” nail in the coffin?

    1. fposte

      Given that’s when the recruiter chose to add the OP on Facebook, I doubt it. And you can’t live your life on guard for running into a recruiter at every social event anyway. I’m presuming if the OP had said something discriminatory or otherwise workplace offensive it would have come up–and the recruiter wouldn’t have added her on Facebook.

      1. JHS

        Could the recruiter have friended in the hopes of spying/investigating the OP, rather than as a friendly gesture? That is what came to my mind….but I hope I’m just paranoid.

        1. BRR

          Possibly. But there’s also a ton of other possibilities. It needs to be filed under “we can’t ever know why they friended the LW unless they tell us.”

        2. fposte

          Sure, but it’s unlikely. The OP isn’t a big fish and a business like this gets a ton of applicants. It wouldn’t be worth the time.

        3. Turtle Candle

          IME most recruiters do not have time to add a bunch of candidates on Facebook and monitor them. Google search at some time in the hiring process, sure, but not that. To me, Occam’s Razor says “added in a moment of friendliness at a festival, removed because she was trimming down her list and really didn’t know them personally anyway.”

          1. Not So NewReader

            Or the recruiter got told by her boss no friending job applicants. So the recruiter had to go through and dump a bunch of people.

      2. MommaTRex

        Why did the OP accept the friend request from a RECRUITER? This is what LinkedIn is for. I only want recruiters to be able to see what I have made available to the public on facebook. As in my profile pic, not my other pics!

          1. Turtle Candle

            Yeah, while “why did the recruiter use Facebook and not LinkedIn,” is a reasonable question, I think a lot of people would feel like they maybe had to accept the request to look friendly and open–or worry about causing offense if they say no. The norms around this stuff are still being formed.

      3. MK

        I wouldn’t be so sure. My first thought when I read the story was that it went like this from the recruiter’s point of view: she interviews the OP and thinks she is inexperienced for the job, but might be a good fit after few years, so she encourages her to apply in the future. Then she meets her in a tipsy state and adds her on FB to learn whether this is a random happening or something to be concerned about in a potential employee. After she gets the information she wants, she unfriends.

        Of course, I could be way off the mark, but maybe the OP should consider what actually happened when they met and how she comes across in social media. And I also am surprised that the answer didn’t touch on this; Alison, do you think this was of no importance?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Then she meets her in a tipsy state and adds her on FB to learn whether this is a random happening or something to be concerned about in a potential employee.

          It’s possible, but pretty unlikely. That sort of premeditated spying just isn’t kind of thing a competent recruiter would do, especially just because someone had a few drinks at a festival. It’s more likely that they met in a social context, had a social conversation, and it turned it into a Facebook connection as people often do without thinking about it.

        2. Clever Name

          I guess, but why would the recruiter go to this much effort? If they were that promising of a candidate to want to keep track of them on Facebook (which seems silly when LinkedIn exists), why would being tipsy at a festival matter? And if being tipsy at a festival mattered, why would the recruiter make this much of an effort to keep an eye on them? If it were that big of a deal, they recruiter would have just thought they didn’t want to hire them and moved on.

          You and the OP are falling into the trap (often fueled by anxiety) of thinking that everyone else thinks as much about [general] you as [general] you do. Basically everyone in the world (and I will defend this very broad statement) mostly thinks about themselves and not so much about other people. And I don’t mean in a narcissistic or pathological way.

        3. Turtle Candle

          If the recruiter is going to situations where drinking is normal and socially acceptable, seeing candidates drinking, adding them on Facebook to monitor their (legal, largely socially acceptable) activities, and using that to make blacklist decisions, then to me the conclusion would be “congrats on dodging that bullet, LW!”

          I doubt that’s the case because seriously, who has that kind of time? But if it is, then yeah, I’d say bullet dodged.

        4. LaurenB

          I think there is a very small chance that could be the case had the OP been interviewing for very high-level executive positions, where the recruiter might feel there were high stakes involved. But I seriously doubt the recruiter would give a fraction of that amount of attention to an applicant for a standard sales job.

          My theory is that the recruiter was a little tipsy herself and was in the “Yay this is fun, we’re all friends!” mindset and then realized later she had someone on her Facebook she couldn’t even really remember.

  7. Mike B.

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a final decision even for now. If I learned that an internal recruiter had disqualified someone who had the endorsement of several current employees, I’d be tempted to hire that person purely out of spite. (Based on a cursory resume review, a few years ago our HR didn’t bother contacting a candidate even after the director and I had specifically encouraged her to apply and told them that we wanted to see her. We were pissed.)

    It might be different if there are plenty of candidates, of course, but in my experience an internal recommendation is usually enough to at least merit an interview with the hiring manager…as long as the hiring manager is aware of your application.

    1. deeplymortified

      Well that’s the thing. Generally, an internal recommendation guarantees an interview for the position. It’s just part of their policy. So the fact that I was not given that opportunity definitely is odd. It just isn’t normal for the company. That’s what makes me wonder what I did.

      1. Mike B.

        And you’re sure your friends have spoken to the manager(s) directly?

        It’s certainly possible that the manager puts more weight on the opinion of the recruiter than on the opinions of her own staff (and thus might not be someone you’d much enjoy working for), but I think it’s more likely that the recruiter made the decision unilaterally and the manager would not approve if she knew. Ask your friends what’s up.

      2. BRR

        My perspective is that it’s possibly because it’s a friend giving a recommendation. I think it depends on the position you’re applying for and whether your friends can speak to your skills but friend references aren’t always taken on the same level as professional references.

        1. Mike B.

          Perhaps. But if the candidate seemed appropriately qualified, I would at least speak to her personally as a show of faith in the judgment of my staff, unless I were already drowning in referrals.

          1. Meg Murry

            Yes, if OP hadn’t already been interviewed recently, I’d agree with this.

            However, since OP had a first round interview recently, if there are a lot of other more qualified candidates I could see them not giving OP another first round interview. Or if there is something that isn’t explicitly in the job description but actually is important for this position, and in the previous interview they already established that OP doesn’t have that skill at the moment.

            The other part of the “deemed a bad fit but apply in a few years” might be related to the fact that OP doesn’t yet have her degree, as she mentions upthread. Since it sounds like the company is located *at* a college/university, I could see them prioritizing people with degrees when possible (or possibly that in the recent past they used to hire a lot of people without degrees, so it isn’t listed as a “required” in the job posting, but they have someone new in the top brass or a new-ish policy that makes a degree pretty much required for all early career new hires.)

  8. The Bimmer Guy

    How even are blacklists generated and tracked, anyway? Is it some software that companies use, or an internal spreadsheet / database? Is it like those bulletin boards that some supermarkets keep up front with pictures and descriptions of customers who’ve been known to write bad checks?

    I’ve just always wondered. In every company I’ve ever worked for, we might have run background checks or checked that a candidate was eligible for re-hire if that person had been at the company previously…but there was never any mention of a blacklist. I’ve also heard that companies in the same industry share blacklists; is that true?

    1. Anonymous Educator

      It’s probably any of the above you mentioned. Sometimes it may be word-of-mouth, or a shared spreadsheet, or a database note or a database field.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      For me, it’s never been an actual list of names — it’s notes that go with the person’s previous application, so that if they apply again in the future, I’ll look at our past notes on them, which will make it clear that they’re not a candidate for us. That could be anything from “lied about X and Y — would not hire” to “rude to me, pompous to ED, not a fit.”

      1. Lily Rowan

        And I know there are people at my job who use the database fields wrong and don’t give any further detail — so it looks like the person is marked “do not hire,” but they actually meant that just to apply for their particular opening.

      2. some1

        Out of curiosity, would you tell one of your employees if they were trying to pitch someone on your blacklist to you, though? It seems like the smart thing to do would be to say something non-committal to the employee in order not to get quoted out of context. (Like what possibly happened here.)

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’d explain, in part because I value employee recommendations and I don’t want people to feel like their opinions aren’t taken seriously and in part because I think it helps hone people’s skills at identifying good candidates if they hear “well, there’s this other side to consider…”

          So I’d say something like, “His background does sound really interesting but we actually talked with him about a year ago and don’t think he’s the right one because of X.” (The level of detail I’d give about X would depend on what X was.)

          In most cases, I’d be fine with having the feedback passed along if the person wanted to, but if I didn’t want them, I’d specifically note that.

          1. deeplymortified

            On a side note, I’m really glad that my friend told me. If there are things that I need to work on then I want to know about them.

            I am far from perfect and am always learning. I would rather hear about what I did wrong, and what I need to do better, no matter how hard it might be to hear or to correct.

            Thanks for your advice Alison. I’m going to chalk this up to a learning opportunity and let it go for the near future.

    3. Anon 12

      Larger companies will use an applicant tracking system and the database has a field where you can check the box and add notes about why. People move on, though, and records get archived. I was in HR at the same place for a long time. After I left various former employee do not rehires started applying, assuming the black mark went with me. A few times former co-workers reached out and asked my about some of these folks and while they factored my recollections into their decision, it wasn’t the only thing they considered. I have absolutely seen managers reverse these decisions made by others.

    4. Specialk9

      My big corp has a resume database. If I resubmit the same person, it says no need to upload a resume we have it already. I assumed that comments are also logged on that same system.

  9. BRR

    I have a couple parts I want to comment on:
    – You in no way “failed miserably” or failed at all. People OFTEN think their interview went way worse than it did.
    – Your letter has a little “dream job” vibe in it. I would highly encourage you to read Alison’s previous posts about dream jobs. I also wouldn’t factor in that your friends work there.
    – You might get a break if you are applying for technical positions since you had previously interviewed for a sales position. As I was typing that be careful in applying for too many positions or with too many departments at the same company. There’s absolutely no indication you’re doing that but just in case.
    – If you’re focused on this company, start thinking about alternatives. You might be on a forever do not hire list or maybe they have one recruiter and you can’t get past them or maybe you need to develop more of a track record in your career before you’ll be considered again. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket in terms.

    1. deeplymortified

      You hit on a couple of truths.
      After I applied for the sales job, I was encouraged by mentors to apply for other positions to show how much I wanted to work for the company. I applied for one more position and was told to get more work experience and then apply again in the future. So I have applied for 3 jobs in total at that company. I’m not sure if that’s what did it.

      I also have a year in my resume that does not look fantastic. I had to leave a company for my own sanity after I got a new boss who bullied me and other subordinates. I didn’t have a job lined up when I left and I definitely suffered the consequences of that. It took me months before I could find a solid and wonderful company to work for. Does not look good at all on my resume. I’m just now starting to build it up again.

      You are right. I shouldn’t hold this company or job up on a pedestal…. which is totally what I’m doing. This might not have been my dream job after all.

      1. BRR

        I don’t think applying to three jobs is that bad (unless it was in quick succession and in three really different areas) but DON’T apply to positions to show how much you want to work for a company. It can come off as you’ll take anything and are not interested in a specific position/area. Applying to any individual job should show that you’re interested and if anybody at the company wants more it’s a potential red flag. The best companies want you to work for them. They don’t expect you to feel lucky you work there.

        School will help give you a semi-reset with your job history (there was a post not too long about this). My first job was a dream job which turned out to be a nightmare. So while it sucked it gave me a huge perspective on thinking of jobs as dream jobs.

      2. AnotherHRPro

        No company or job is “perfect” and certainly not “perfect” for everyone. It doesn’t sound like you got far enough in the interview process to be able to assess if you actually want to work there. Think about how many companies are out there. The truth is you will never get a job at most of them. And you wouldn’t want to get a job at most of them.

        I strongly encourage you to move on and stop focusing on this company and what they think of you. Continue with your education and build up your resume. Maybe someday in the future your paths may cross, but most likely they won’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a great career that is successful and rewarding.

  10. Jen

    FWIW, my husband was on a “do not hire” list at a massive company. When he and a couple other folks went to pitch an idea to them, it was first turned down and then they found out it was because of his association with it. After that knew that, they were able to address it in their pitch (in this case, to give the situation some context, to dispel some of the exaggeration that had built up on it, and to message that the situation had been a learning experience and growth opportunity so that it wouldn’t happen again). Long story short, they’re wrapping up their first deal and preparing to ink a second.

    You never know what the future may bring, and although right now it stings it won’t be like that forever.

  11. Boss Cat Meme

    I interviewed with an environmental organization, and at the time, I felt that it went really well. I didn’t get the job and I took it really personally and was really hard on myself. I quickly got a job with another organization and it worked out well for me. About a year later, I was at a conference on Clean Water issues at a hotel in New Jersey, and at a big after conference hotel bar gathering, I ran into the man who had interviewed me a year earlier, who conducted the interviews with two other women who were not at the conference. He was quite intoxicated, but when he saw me, he rushed on over and said, “Oh, hey, I remember you! I wanted to hire you SO BADLY but I was outvoted! You would have been perfect for the job and if it was up you me, I would have hired you. You were by far the best one for the job.” After chatting a little more, I found out that the other two women had selected the finalist who already lived in the area. I would have to move from another state and they thought that would be a hassle.

    That made me feel good to hear that this guy thought I was a good fit, but also that I wasn’t hired because of something that was completely not in my control. Sometimes, not being a “good fit” doesn’t have anything to do with you. I actually found out that there were other interviews where employers really liked me, and WANTED to hire me, but went with somebody else for some odd reasons I also could not control, like one girl was getting married and her husband was moving to the area anyway, so they went with her. At another organization ( we are all very close in the world of non-profits and move around a lot) my friend told me they wanted to hire me, but really made a commitment to building a more diverse workplace. Ironically, that very organization hired me for a special temp project about 8 months later. So even a “forever” no just might turn out to be a yes after enough time passes. Just try to do your best during an interview and don’t badmouth the company if it doesn’t work out and things could change for you in the future.

  12. MommaTRex

    In the future, I would never, ever accept a Facebook friend request from a recruiter. Maybe you shared a meme that she didn’t agree with politically. Maybe you said something negative about a reality show contestant that she loves. Who knows? Facebook is for friends, LinkedIn is for work and recruiters.

    1. MommaTRex

      You can just ignore Facebook friend requests without accepting. I don’t think you need to worry about “insulting” anyone in this situation.

      1. BRR

        I totally agree with you about the request. For people I don’t want to accept I leave them in request purgatory. I’ve been asked in person a couple times and just say a notification didn’t pop up.

  13. Sparky

    https://captainawkward.com/2011/01/21/reader-question-7-thanks-for-trying-to-build-bridges-for-me-where-you-work-i-think-i-will-set-them-on-fire/

    I think the post linked to above was my introduction to Captain Awkward. Anyway, above is how not to handle a friend trying to help you get a job at their company. That person is remembered, and their real name was attached to the letter out there on the internet for anyone to Google. That person is on the never, ever, ever hire list. I doubt the LW here is on that list.

    1. neverjaunty

      Good grief.

      Honestly, I think the worst part of that letter is the “but I still like her! she’s like a puppy!” I envision that LW now spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to patch up all the damage from staying friends with that person.

    2. Candi

      Like “a puppy who messed in the house”. >.<

      I say more like a puppy who completely demolished the divan and doesn't get what they did wrong.

    3. Specialk9

      Every now and then, I bounce back to Captain Awkward. Her advice in the columns is so right-on and great and empowering and great at calling out boundaries and abuse and the right to one’s own self.

      BUT she is regularly between cranky and hostile in the comments, out of proportion to the comment to which she is responding. It’s especially weird since the rest of the commentariat generally acts like folks here, respectful and careful. I just get so turned off by the moderator being a hissing porcupine, even if her advice is good in the column.

      I nope out for a year or two, see a link, like here, get pulled back in, remember what I like so much, then remember what I don’t like, and nope back out.

  14. AnotherHRPro

    Years ago, I applied for my “dream job” at my “dream company”. I didn’t get it. I was devastated. I eventually landed a position at another company that has resulted in many moves, promotions, etc. I’ve had the opportunity to live in some cool places and do some exciting work that I never would have been able to experience at what I thought was my “dream company”. Today I am thankful that I didn’t land that job. I can’t believe I was so upset about them not hiring me. Them not hiring me was the best thing that could have happened, because if they had hired me I wouldn’t be were I am today.

  15. Moonsaults

    My favorite “I f’ed up that interview” moment was when I sat down at the table across from the woman, the table wasn’t stable, unknown to me and I ended up slamming the thing into her. She was a tiny little thing so it hit her right under the breasts, there was no coming back from that one.

    You have to find humor in these moments to get you by instead of staying mortified for so long afterwards. They were very personal moments for you but that recruiter has seen so many other people since then, someone most likely has trumped you in the bad-interview category!

    Regardless, continue to apply and try to focus on your own growth. If you are meant to work there, you will get your chance but it sounds like this is a personal thing that is spiraling inside you that you need to work on getting over. When you’re over it, it’ll make applying again in the future much better.

    1. Catherine from Canada

      My sister didn’t see a clear chandelier hanging over the conference table when she sat down for an interview. She hit it with her head – bad enough – but it then swung and hit the interviewer on the head too! She was mortified.
      After working together and at other jobs in the same industry for decades now, they are the best of friends.

      1. Moonsaults

        This makes me giggle, what a way to introduce yourself!

        The person interviewing me was not amused, even though I immediately apologized naturally. I’ve had so many weird slap-stick moments that I just have to roll with it at this point.

  16. Anonnie

    LW, we all have done really, really badly at some interviews. A few years on, you’ll look back, say to yourself ‘Man, I’m glad I’m not that young and dumb anymore’ and move on. It’s OK. Everyone does stupidly bad interviews a few times.

  17. Dina

    One thing to think about, and this is a hard mental shift (I know because I am literally doing it now): If your boss [/recruiter] is worried you might not be a good fit for non-performance reasons, then seeing them in a social context [the elevator/lobby/water cooler/etc] is actually a great way to casually say hi and show the side of you that you want seen. Especially if the side you want seen is just a calm, friendly person who can chat about the weather in a 30-second elevator ride. As much as I cringe on the inside, I know I’m presenting much better than if I were staring at my email and ignoring the other person completely.

    1. Emmie

      Building sharing is very advantageous. You have opportunities to have countless interactions that will build your reputation.
      Have conversations with random people in the elevator. Be studious, punctual (not running late or frazzled), professional, and authentic to yourself.
      You have no idea how many times people have gotten out of the elevator at work, and people said “she’s a really good person” or “she’s smart.” That kind of stuff gets around. Long term day-to-day interactions will counter these two isolated incidents.

  18. Lora

    Don’t beat yourself up about it. There’s going to be loads of interviews where you think you did fantastic and you still don’t get the job, because it was down to you and someone just as good as you, and they ended up like, flipping a coin or something dumb. There’s going to be interviews for what sound like dream jobs that go great but you still don’t get the job and then you find out a year later from someone who works there that you really dodged a bullet. There’s going to be companies where they post the same job every few months for years on end, and you apply every 6 months because you really really want to work for them, and then OH HAPPY DAY a recruiter calls and says, “I found your resume on Monster!” and you’re all, “you found it WHERE?”

    It’s just a thing that happens. Life is weird. There will be other jobs and other companies.

  19. Erin

    Are you sure one of your friends isn’t burying you there?
    Once a person I knew wanted me to recommend her to my boss, but honestly she would have been horrible. I was in on the hiring process and knew she barely ticked any of the boxes important to my boss, had the wrong attitude (especially considering it was a very specific non-profit), so I had to tell my boss the truth, in a tactful way. I tried to explain the same thing to that person, but she insisted on applying and left me with no choice.
    But I also know of cases when the same was done out of fear of the friend turning into competition or because someone actually did not like the person.

  20. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    Yeah, I’ve seen this. I worked in a place where a weird memo went around – complaining that rejected candidates for one position have been called in for other slots — and — one was hired.

    This place had a “one strike and you’re out forever” policy – which, IMHO , was crazy. A man or woman may not be the best fit for a position — but in short order, another one may open up. Or, conditions and candidates change and the guy or gal you interviewed eight months ago may now be available – and the best choice out there.

  21. Anxa

    So, I have a question about htis issue.

    How do you find out if you HAVE been blacklisted, from perhaps having a resume typo, having originally applied from out of state, having a low GPA, a resume gap, a weak interview, a negative association on a search engine, or having applied to too many positions?

    If there are only a few employers in your field in your region, and you keep working toward somedays getting in with that company (in our area, the hosiptal and college are the huge non-retail employers)? It seems like it would be worth knowing BEFORE investing in internships, education, etc. to help position you into those positions.

    But it seems like there’s no way to ask if you’re blacklisted without undermining yourself.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s very unlikely you’d be blacklisted for any of those things other than an especially bad interview. The other stuff might get you rejected, but they’re not getting you put on a do-not-hire list.

  22. Not So NewReader

    As the song goes, OP, if a door does not open keep going until you find a window. Now that window could be that you find out dream company is actually horrid company and you want to switch career paths. But to reach that conclusion may take a bit of time. Likewise, if you do end up working for this company that may take a bit of time, too.

    I have a story and I hope it helps in even a small way. My first job was at a well-known vacation area. The story was you HAD to go through the local department of labor (yes, they even had a tiny office) in order to get a job. This area was not the most modern thinking area, either, there were practices going on that were reportable. I went into apply and unfortunately my father came with me. The woman who took my app recognized my father as someone who turned down her advances DECADES earlier. I was doomed, OP. I was never going to find work. My landlady realized I needed help. An employer called looking for Jane. Well, my landlady explained, “Jane is not here anymore, but I have NSNR who is looking for work.” My landlady talked me up because, hey, she wanted her rent money. I got a full time job and worked there for the rest of the summer.

    My wise friend pointed something out to me. When a person tries to sabotage another person’s efforts that sabotage usually FAILS. Why. Call it karma, twist of fate, whatever you would like. People who set out to harm others usually only end up harming themselves. Tricky part: It can take a long time for this to play out to the conclusion. In my case, I went on to get a full time job when the DOL lady said there were not any full time jobs left to be had. I have no idea what happened to the DOL lady, but I landed in an okay spot. I also met the guy that I eventually married. I might not have met him any other way. And this is how sabotage works, the targeted person ends up even better off, sometimes. Do your best every day and just keep going.

  23. Pink Teapot

    I think the recruiter is the issue here. Adding the OP on Facebook and then removing them is a little sketchy.

    I don’t think it’s a lost cause, though. Having friends who work there and a reason to be in the building will give the OP an opportunity to network. They just need to get to know people who work there and give their resume directly to a hiring manager when they hear of an upcoming opening.

    If there’s interest, the HR thing might come up. If it does, the OP could try to get more info about it. That way, even if they’re not hired, they can learn from their mistakes.

  24. SLC2010

    I don’t want to make anyone feel bad as this was a great question with serious ramifications effecting future life decisions…the responses, all, were useless and unhelpful. The question remains; how to get of a”do not hire list”?;

  25. Screw that company

    Wow!!! First off know your RIGHTS!! You found out that you were on a do NOT hire list and you have witnesses. Did you know that is completely illegal for a company to do? A company cannot prevent you from getting hired because you were on some sort of black list. If you have substantial evidence that this has happened, which it sounds like you do, please seek legal council. This is the same as if a company were to NOT hire you because of your age, race, or gender.

      1. no name

        Are you sure about that? Also If you are interviewing for a new job and a company speaks with your previous manager, the manager has to be very careful on what they say about you to the company. If you are not hired as a result of something a previous manager had to say about you there could legal consequences.

          1. no name

            Your statement “Yes, I’m sure” – is an assumption. It IS illegal to make a statement that prevents someone from getting hired on. Just as its illegal prevent someone from getting hired based on their age, race, gender, etc. There are some gray areas that companies can slide through the cracks on in many cases. Should you become aware of such an incident, the law is on your side. Here is an example: Lets pretend that you are posing as company ABC and you are contacting your previous manager from company XYZ to get some information about their thoughts about you. Should the manager say the wrong things during that discussion it could be used against the manager or the company legally. I don’t make the laws, I just follow them. Lets just say I know what I am talking about because I have successfully done this. Don’t allow for companies or people to bully you. Know your rights. I’d highly suggest consulting with an attorney as laws may vary from state to state.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              No, it’s not illegal. Your information here is wrong. If you’re skeptical, you should try finding the law that you think exists on this :)

              1. no name

                Wait did you read what I just said? There have been cases (including mine). Please do your research. If you are a manager at Company ABC and Company XYZ calls to enquire about a previous employee. Know your rights. There are specific cases (including mine) where a manager was doing such a thing. Once I was able to obtain the evidence, it was game over. It’s amazing that thing called E-mail! The main problem is finding that evidence that fowl play was involved. We hear similar accusations all of the time with the race card right? I wasn’t hired because I was black, Asian, Indian, etc.. but you MUST have evidence to your claim which I did!

                If one of your previous employees did a great job for you then by all means speak highly of them. If the employee was not a good employee then, you politely ask the company who is inquiring, if they are willing to sign a waiver that would exclude you from any legal liability should you choose to disclose. This would get the point across without having to disclose the specifics and putting your company at risk of being sued.

                Why do companies not provide potential employees with feedback when they don’t get employed? Its exactly what I just described! It’s a legal liability for the company to disclose so the best answer is to not to answer at all. There are most definitely grey areas which I am not disagreeing with but employees need to know their rights. I can assure you that companies with their huge legal teams know their rights and you should too.

                Well, good luck to you!

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  You were saying that it’s illegal to give a reference that causes someone not to be hired, and that is not true. It’s only illegal to give a false reference. True references, even if quite bad, are perfectly legal.

                  You are misstating the law here.

                2. no name

                  hmm yeah I think that you misread what I wrote again. Yes there are grey areas with regards to what you speak about with True References. Let me state this AGAIN I won a case where this type of fowl play was happening. I want to make sure that employees as well as employers know their rights. The purpose for my message is to create awareness and do your homework folks!

                  And no I am not misstating any law. If you need someone to translate the law for you hire an attorney as I did.

  26. Suzyq

    When a person is put on a do not hire list, is it per business, or a national list by a persons name & ss#? How long is a person on there for, and could a person get around such list?

  27. Requel

    Hi There
    I’ve found dozens of websites online relating to a ‘Do Not Hire’ list, and how to get yourself off the list. However, I’m the Employer and still searching for a site where I can anonomously place an ex employee on the list??.

    I have only recently found out I’m the 4th Employer where my X-Employee ‘accidentally’ hurt himself on the job. This was a very minor cut to his hand where he should have been back to work within a month. We ended up paying him for just over 12 months via workers compensation! Also, he was paid $70 thousand dollars for his so called permanant damage! Personally, I was shocked that Insurance Companies don’t seem to care or follow up on these scenarious. I also have learnt that once an Employee is due for workers clearance, they just needs to go to another Doctor to state he is still in pain. As Doctors can inflate their fees (once they hear the work workers compensation) they will quite easily write anything for their client. This whole experience has left me quite shocked on how easy the Employee can lie & rort the system. My Insurance Company as well as My Insurance Broker have personally advised me that this HAPPENS ALL THE TIME and is quite normal????????? The biggest shock of all is how easy an Employee can do this!!!!!!!!!!!

    Because of this employee, my workers compensation insurance increased nearly $5000 per year – and believe me I could not afford this. My small business almost went bankrupt as we just couldn’t afford to pay him his highly inflated weekly wage. Because of him, I went weeks without being paid (and I work over a hundred hours a week for $600 australian dollars), we paid him just over $1000 per week with a $70 000.00 pay out !!!!!

    I did question myself when this Employee came for an interview, as his resume showed he moves from job to job almost every 2 months. Silly enough, I ignored my initial thoughts as he came very highly recommended. I simply want to notify other Employers to SEVERELY QUESTION HIS RESUME AND RING HIS REFERREES to find the real story…………. Can somone help?

    1. Granny K

      Oh please send this to AAM as a separate question. I would love to hear her response to this. As someone who tries to do the right thing and not take advantage of the benefits provided from an employer, this really chaps my hide.

  28. Devin James Spooner

    In Jan.2013 i was terminated by Boeing. I was out ill with pneumonia.I had called in everyday i was out but mistakenly called my organizations office and not the attendance line. Long story short , they said that i could be rehired after 3 years. But i am now flagged not rehireable????? Do you think this is why?

  29. beaupeep

    This was bad advice. If you feel you are on a do not hire list you need to report that company to the Department of Labor for possible discrimination, because all of these companies proudly tout they do not discriminate base on sex, religion, blah blah blah. There is definitely a do not hire list but the only way to bring attention to a company for doing this is to let the department of labor know. Not a good fit the for company my behind. If your friends are there the culture is definitely one you would fit in.

  30. Private

    Whoever did this to you sounds like an idiot and a bully. I feel they did it simply just to crush you. THEY should be fired.

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