A reader writes:
I just want to know if I handled this situation right.
I am fresh out of college and finishing up a course online, which requires some intense work because it’s a lot of work compacted in a short amount of time. I applied to many different jobs, and I got a phone call from one of the employers requesting an interview. They said it can be “any time at my convenience,” and since I had a lot of coursework to work on and I was leaving the country after my work was done, I told the girl on the phone that the day after I get back would be good, which would be two weeks from when they called. She noted that and gave me a time to meet at and the call ended well. I didn’t mention that I had school work to do, but I told her when I leaving the country.
About 30 minutes later, she left a message on my cell phone saying they filled the position. My dad got so mad that I didn’t schedule an interview earlier and started yelling that I blew it and it’s all my fault, etc. As I got more irritated with all the negativity, I ended up calling them back and asking why they chose to cancel my interview and go on to hire someone else. She told me they had a second time applicant come in and decided they were what they wanted. My parents told me they think that the employer thought I wasn’t interested because I scheduled a date too late, while I thought they had this applicant in mind and if I didn’t have better skills than the other then they would hire that other person. When I called back to ask why they chose someone else, the girl on the phone sounded really irritated with me. She spoke in a “what part of ‘we filled the position’ don’t you understand?” tone of voice and it made me feel bad for calling back and asking.
Did I do the right thing by calling back? I’m still mad at myself because I possibly could have done the interview earlier but then I would feel like I wouldn’t have gotten the job anyway.
Well … no. It wasn’t really reasonable to call back and ask why they chose someone else. If you had already been interviewed and then rejected, it would have been reasonable to ask for feedback on how you could be a stronger candidate, but that’s a different question — it’s asking for feedback to help you in the future versus asking them to justify their hiring decision to you.
For what it’s worth, it is a little weird to be told 30 minutes after scheduling an interview that they filled the position. I suspect that what happened is that they decided they didn’t want to wait two weeks to interview you, and decided to go with whoever their top candidate already was. In many cases, two weeks is a long time to ask to delay an interview — and especially with an entry-level position, where they probably have many qualified candidates, it can knock you out of the running if they’re trying to move quickly. I know that they told you that the interview could be “any time at your convenience,” but that doesn’t really mean any time. Usually it means “within the next week or so.”
There are other possible explanations too, of course: It’s possible that they had already filled the position before you were called, and the woman calling you wasn’t yet in the loop. Or it’s possible that they had an offer out to someone else, but they have a policy of continuing to interview candidates until their offer has been accepted, and it was accepted soon after you talked to them. Or something else. But the most likely of these possibilities is the one in the paragraph above — they had a candidate they liked, they were willing to talk to you because you looked promising, but they weren’t willing to wait two weeks to do it.
So yeah, you made a couple of mistakes here — you took it literally when they told you that the interview could be any time (in general, assume that sooner is always better with interviews, because if a candidate they like comes along, they could always hire that person and short-circuit the rest of the process), and you didn’t frame it quite correctly when you called them back to ask what happened. But these are pretty minor mistakes, and not uncommon when you’re right out of school and learning how this stuff works.
Meanwhile, it might be smart to stop sharing pieces of your job search with your dad if he’s going to yell at you and tell you that you’re blowing things, which he really can’t know from the outside.