belligerent rejected candidates, part 3

Here’s a conversation I had with a rejected job applicant today. He left me a voicemail inquiring about the status of his application, and I checked and saw that we had sent him an email two weeks ago to let him know that we would not be able to consider him for a position. Feeling bad for the guy, I broke my own “no rejections by phone” rule and called him back to tell him. Here’s what happened:

Me: We sent you an email on July 22 to let you know that we wouldn’t be able to further consider you. I’m sorry you didn’t get it! Sometimes emails inadvertently end up in a spam folder, so you might check there.

Candidate: I don’t have a spam folder.

Me: Well, I’m very sorry you didn’t receive it. In any case, we’d certainly welcome an application from you in the future if we have other openings you’re interested in.

Candidate: But I don’t have a spam folder. So where is the email?

Me: I’m not sure. I’m looking at a copy of the email right now, and it went to (redacted) email address.

Candidate: That’s my email address, but I don’t have it.

Me: I’m not sure what happened. I have a copy of the email here, so I know it was sent on our side. In any case, I’m sorry we weren’t able to move you to an interview.

Candidate: So you’re not considering me for any positions?

Me: No, I’m sorry, we’re not.

Candidate: Whatever. (Hangs up.)

Lovely. So I’m thinking, well, at least our screening process works and we rejected this guy right off the bat.

Two minutes later, my phone rings again. It’s him.

Me: Hello?

Candidate: Is this because I listed (name redacted) as a reference?

Me: I’m not sure what you mean.

Candidate: I listed (name redacted) as a reference and then he told me that there’s bad blood between him and your organization.

Me: No, it’s nothing like that. We have a very competitive hiring process and generally have many well-qualified candidates to choose from. We only interview the top few who are the best matched with the position.

Candidate: So you’re really not going to interview me?

Me: No, I’m sorry.

Candidate: (Hangs up on me again.)

Seriously, what is wrong with people?

See also: Job rejections and vitriol and Job rejections and vitriol, part 2

{ 22 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Maven*

    OOHHHHHHHHH, don’t you HATE it when you BREAK your own rules and it BITES you? I have had this conversation more times than I can count; I want to say – DUDE (or DUDETTE) do you have ANY idea how busy I am and how much this is a favor? (Muttering that I won’t do this again…)

    I am also always stunned that people don’t seem to realize that we have caller ID, applicant tracking systems to identify losers and memory like elephants.


  2. almostgotit*

    What a jerk. So sorry! Maybe next you should call HIM back and say, “just wanted to make sure you got the message *this* time? That we aren’t going to interview you? Want me to spell that? N-O I-N-T-E-R-V-I-E-W?”

  3. Anonymous*

    You are turning the man down for what he views to be no good reason whatsoever, so he’s trying to find a reason. It sounds like he’s frustrated. It’s likely he’s recently been turned down by other employers.

    In some ways the job hunt is like dating – the guy has asked a number of girls to the dance and they’ve all said no. You just happen to be the last one to tell him no, so he’s upset, but it’s not your fault.

    That said, there is more pressure to perform on the job hunt than in dating. It can be extremely stressful looking for work. Men equate their self-worth with their ability to provide for themselves and their family. He doesn’t know how he is going to pay rent or feed his kids. It is his fault if his wife and kids suffer. He is letting his family down every day he goes without work.

    Granted, no company should hire just anyone who applies. That’s certainly not what I’m saying. But, you should know that some of the people applying are on the brink of a desperate situation. Some are already in them. Desperation and constant rejection can certainly make people short-tempered.

    Your understanding and compassion are wonderful traits. You are commendable for showing them and attempting to help this guy out. But asking, “what’s wrong with people” certainly doesn’t help. There is nothing wrong with this guy. He’s in a bad situation and trying to cope. He could do a better job at coping, but you certainly can’t blame him for his completely normal reaction.

  4. Ask a Manager*

    HR Maven: I know! The rule is there for a purpose, and now I remember why.

    almostgotit: See, now you see why I use email for rejections! (Something we have talked about before.)

    Anonymous: I see your point, and you are maybe a kinder person than I am! But most candidates don’t respond to a job rejection like this at all. Most are gracious. Some even respond with nice notes of thanks. 99.9% of job applicants manage not to shoot themselves in the foot by being rude. I understand frustration — but smart candidates know that there may be opportunities at that company in the future and don’t burn bridges. Being frustrated doesn’t have to mean being rude and unprofessional. (Just like being frustrated in dating doesn’t give you license to be rude to someone who turns down a date!) How is this guy going to handle frustration on the job?

  5. HR Maven*

    AAM, absolutely agree with the ‘how will the candidate handle frustration on the job.’

    Anonymous, I understand how unemployment- especially long term – can affect people – I can see it in their eyes and how they handle themselves. The concern, the fear, the anxiousness for a job. It’s there. We are compassionate … however..

    How people handle themselves in the pre-employment process can be a precursor for what work life would be like. Candidates need to remember that.

  6. Just another HR lady...*

    LOL…AAM, I feel your pain. If I had more space, I would tell you the story of the person who was crying and screaming at me for a good 30 minutes on the phone when I told her she was not the successful candidate for a job. That was enjoyable. When I finally got her off the phone, she then called again and again, and had the same reaction with my boss, the hiring manager, and eventually our CEO, all of whom were pretty ticked that they had to listen to her yell at them, and who thanked their lucky stars that we did not hire her. That was the last rejection phone call I made voluntarily, I moved to letter rejections as a rule.

    Anonymous: We all understand that it is frustrating to job hunt, but it’s our job to screen candidates for our company and particular jobs. I can tell you both as a Recruiter and someone who was unemployed for a period of time, that it IS normal to be frustrated and upset while job hunting, but it’s NOT normal to direct that anger and negativity towards a Recruiter. How we handle difficult situations tells a Recruiter a lot about what kind of employee we will be, sorry this person would be on my “no hire” list.

  7. HR Godess*

    Now that was funny. Not because it didn’t happen to me but because it has been happening more often. I always feel bad when I have to let someone know they don’t get the job. And if they have gone through several interviews here, I used to call them personally to let them know. I thought it was the respectful thing to do. That is, until I had people telling me off, sometimes with inappropriate language that I won’t repeat. Other times showing up here and demanding to see me in person so I can “tell them to their face” (are these people serious??)

    Now, I send an email and from what I hear, some company’s don’t even do that!

  8. Kelly O*

    A LOT of companies don’t even send a letter, you are absolutely right. I feel fortunate when I get an email telling me another candidate has been chosen, so I at least know I don’t have to keep waiting to hear back from that particular company.

    The rejected candidate might be frustrated, he might be getting close to desperate to find something, and he might have eleven hundred other things going on that stress him out. But there are rules to job-hunting, and successful candidates (those who are successful in the long run) figure them out. One of those rules is not being rude to the people you might potentially work for or with. No, AAM might not have a job now, but if this person had said “I appreciate your call, thank you for letting me know” and understood that sometimes technology messes up, he might be considered for an opening down the road. I bet that’s not the case now.

    One thing I’ve learned through the seemingly never-ending job search is that you are ALWAYS on. If I give out my cell phone number to a potential employer and they call while I’m in the grocery store, I have a choice – I either answer the call and leave the store or let it go to voice mail. (FYI, I have no ring-back tones, and my voice mail response is pseudo-businesslike in case I get a call.)

    Any time you have contact with a potential employer, you want to be as on as you possibly can. Yesterday I took some paperwork and just dropped it off with the receptionist at the front door. I made sure my hair and makeup were straightened from driving in the heat, I checked the mirror before I went in, and I tried to treat her exactly the same way as I would have the recruiter. You absolutely never know who is watching, whose opinion is being heard, or where your next impression will be made.

    And yeah, it’s hard when you can’t follow up in what seems like a reasonable way, but it’s people being unreasonable, desperate, or purely that egotistical that ruin it for the rest of us.

    Sorry, I climbed right up on my soapbox about this one, but it’s a personal peeve.

  9. HR Godess*

    Another great point, I ALWAYS ask the receptionist how the candidate acted. If a potential hire is rude in the interview process, how are they going to be when they are hired and more relaxed?

    We, by the way, have the most complimented receptionist I’ve ever seen so if you’re rude to her, it’s definitely a problem.

  10. Rick*

    There’s nothing wrong in sending an e-mail. Yes, it may seem a bit impersonal to some, but I’ve been interviewed before a couple of times and gotten nothing in response until I called the hiring manager or HR rep. Sending something is far better than sending nothing.

    On the other hand, if I were to notify a candidate that he or she wasn’t the choice, I’d be very impressed if that person were to acknowledge my message with a “thank you” note. That act of professionalism alone would want me to keep the person in mind if there were to be another suitable opening.

  11. Anonymous*

    I’m getting up on my soapbox regarding the anonymous comment that gives this guy an excuse (well, several excuses) for being a jerk. THERE IS NEVER ANY REASON TO BE UNPROFESSIONAL. I don’t care if you just got hit by a car on your way to my office, spilled your coffee, had a bum steal your wallet and tripped coming out of the elevator…that is not an excuse to be rude to me. Likewise, if all those things happen to me on my way to work, I would never take it out on a candidate and if I felt like taking it out, would try to reschedule the meeting. Why? Because it’s unprofessional. I’ll remind this reader that employment is “at-will” and is not a God-given right in the US. There are a lot of people who are losing their homes, jobs, and hope for a bright future. People feel that they are entitled to be employed and they are not. It’s a competitive market out there and you never know when behavior like that will come around to bite you. It is not a normal reaction to hang up (twice!!) on someone who has the courtesy to contact you directly regarding your employment status. Period.

  12. Rachel - Employment File*

    People think they’re entitled to everything. It’s a good thing you passed this guy up.

  13. Anonymous*

    This is a hilarious story; thank you – I laughed and laughed…

    I’m hunting for a job myself and I would cringe if I ever got self-absorbed enough to talk to a hiring manager that way!

    Imagine if every pizza delivery company who dropped a leaflet through your postbox was rude to you because you hadn’t put in an order??

  14. Anonymous*

    this person was frustrated because maybe he sees the whole thing as a popularity contest or a who can write the best resume contest. a person can take a 10 month course at the tech and work in hr. many hr professionals are really really poorly prepared. i have a degree in psychology and believe me some of you hire people for the stupidest reasons…

  15. UDO*

    To be honest with you I think it is too harsh to brand him a ‘jerk’.

    Job-hunting is an awful process and as one person commented, he sounds frustrated.

    He probably was very wound up about the job because he had not heard anything in his opinion…

    It’s very easy to forget the range of desperate emotions you go through when you are the one with the job. So cut him some slack, and stick to your company rules infuture. Blogging about the incident is stupid. You broke the rules and now we are supposed to take your side just because someone reacted unfavourably.

  16. Ask a Manager*

    UDO: It’s not a company rule. My point was that my general practice, by choice, is not to do rejections by phone. There’s no rule-breaking going on. And I understand that job-hunting is frustrating, but everyone should be able to pull it together to be polite and professional.

    1. NewReader*

      Just a good life habit. Check with medical professionals- who gets the better care? The patient who is a jerk? Or the patient who works like heck to be cooperative and personable?
      I have seen the same common thread with contractors. Hire someone to build an addition on your home. Treat the contractor with respect/thoughtfulness and the contractor will (99% of the time) respond in kind.
      If we want people to act in a thoughtful manner toward us, we have to demonstrate that thoughtful manner to them. It does come back around- not every time, but sometimes it comes back in BIG ways.

  17. Scribby*

    Sorry but this made me really laugh out loud ! What’s wrong with people,seriously !!!

    I’ve come across such applicants..some who actually drop at your office to ASK the reason !!! Huh

  18. Nicole*

    Seriously nearly burst out laughing in a ‘study cafe’ (basically a library with a great cafe) – where I am currently sitting..
    People thought I was watching comedy on my computer and gave me the evil eye~ anyway after yet another rejection – I have been able to laugh :) – from Korea

  19. D R*

    Let me say this loud and clear – I would rather hear a “no” than hear nothing at all. it is very common that one interviews for a position and never hears back. People are expected to interpret silence as rejection!!! I always get extremely frustrated by this. It is better to hear a “no” instead of yo-yoing between hope and depression!

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