interview went well but still not hired

A reader writes:

Had the first interview – seemed to go well. The HR Recruiter told my recruiter that they were getting the req approved and that they wanted me and would be in touch for a second interview.

Second interview came and I felt it went well – just like before. On the way up to the interviewer, the HR Recruiter told me it was just a formality, that the offer should come the following week and that the start date would be around 1/5/09. This information was unsolicited. The interviewer was not feeling well but continued on the interview. He was the COO of the company. He was out all week last week – yesterday we found out that the position was now under a different HR Recruiter and that there was no word yet on the position. This info came directly to my recruiter.

I followed up with a call to the hiring manager, who was the one that really wanted me. I just stated that I was very interested in the position, and wanted to see if she could provide any insight on where the hiring process was.

This morning my recruiter got word from HR that they were going to go in a different direction. No explanation or feedback on the second interviews. We all were shocked and floored, as it had gone so well. The manager of the recruiter who I am working with is going to try to talk with the hiring company to get some feedback.

How can I get back in the game at this point? I have no idea what happened in those second interviews that apparently didn’t go as well as I thought. With one of them being sick – could that account for anything? Is it appropriate to fight for it (so to speak) and if so how do I go about that? The opportunity would be a good one and so would the company. Any advice on how to approach this with the hiring company or my recruiting company?

Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon. Even if an interview goes well, someone else’s interview may go better … or the company may truly decide to go in a different direction, as they’ve told you here. A different direction could mean all sorts of things — from reworking the job description, to focusing on candidates with more of a background in ___, to dramatically cutting the pay range for the position and thus focusing on cheaper candidates. It’s also possible that you might not have been as well-matched with what they were seeking as you thought you were.

Your recruiter is trying to get more feedback, which is exactly what she should be doing. But aside from that, all you can really do is move on. And remember: Things are rarely as perfect as they look on the outside, so if the company felt the match wasn’t right, you may have dodged a bullet.

{ 29 comments… read them below }

  1. Just another HR lady...*

    I think that asking for feedback is appropriate, however when a recruiting decision is made, I’m sorry but it’s usually final. I never tell someone they are not successful in obtaining a position unless I am absolutely certain, and I would guess that this HR department is the same. It’s unfortunate that the road was a little bumpy in this recruitment process, but I think it’s probably best for you to move on to the next opportunity.

  2. HR Maven*

    Sadly, this is something does happen and can happen. I had a couple of thoughts reading this post.

    1. If it were truly a formality, you would have met the COO after your hire. In my mind, huge faux pas on the person/people giving that information.

    2. Perhaps the interview didn’t go as well as the writer thought.

    3. When I have situations where we really do choose to go in a different direction, I will tell candidates the details. Recently we advertised for a position but the VP changed directions. We let all the candidates now the change with the expected position description and probable date. This had nothing to do with the quality/people who had applied. We simply identified a different business need based on feedback from a study and decided to use that FTE for it.

    If the other feedback is that it DID go well, continue to explore other options with the company. Perhaps something else will open up.

  3. Rachel - I Hate HR*

    Anything could have happened. Lesson learned is: Don’t get excited until it’s your first day on the job.

  4. Wally Bock*

    Re-read Rachel’s post. You’re not hired till you’re hired.

    That’s always been sage advice, but it’s even more important today. I’ve seen coaching clients simply stop looking for work because they were “sure” or were “told” that they were as good as hired. The fact is that “as good as hired” is not hired.

    Today companies are looking for ways to cut expenses. One way they can cut costs without letting people go is to allow vacant positions to remain that way. Companies are also streamlining and consolidating operations. They’re cutting back on expansion plans. Those are all things that might have been meant by “going in a different direction.”

  5. Anonymous*

    Just a little add-on. The company may have decided to not use this outside agency/recruiter to fill the position. I’ve worked at companies before who have worked with outside agencies on hard to fill positions, but then when crunching numbers, the additional 20% placement fee was a no-go.

    I would not “fight” for this position. To be completely honest, it won’t land you the job, and will probably come off as rude. As an HR professional, part of my job is filling a position with the most qualified candidate. Why wouldn’t I want to succeed?

    There are numerous possibilities for why you’re no longer being considered, from budgetary constraints to fit. I would let the agency you’re working with try and find out more feedback, and move on.

  6. Anonymous*

    If I were you, I’d decide that if people in the company are being dishonest, it’s not as good a job as it seemed. Yes, telling someone they are as good as hired, is not the same as hiring them, but, it is still a lie. Although, it could possibly have been that the one felt you were truly hired, s/he should not have said that without confirmation. There’s nothing like being led around in circles.

  7. Anonymous*

    Part of an HR Professional's job may be to fill the position with a most qualified candidate but the sad thing is, in a recent news article a lot of companies out there are complaining that there are not enough qualified applicants out there. I can understand if people are not qualified by education but to reject an applicant for an entry level job just because he/she lacks the years of experience the employer is looking for is questionable. Just how do these employers expect inexperienced applicants to get experience if they are unable to get it because no one is willing to hire them? Obviously an entry level job is meant to hire people right out of college with new fresh talent or a few years out of college with little or no experience to help them to grow and become qualified for experienced title positions. In addition, someone with 2-3 of experience already has the experience to claim an experienced title so what do they need an entry level job for?

  8. Ask a Manager*

    Anonymous: The reality is that entry-level jobs aren't there to give inexperienced applicants experience to help them grow. They're there because employers need work done. So in an economy like this one, where employers can get more experienced people to do that work (which often means it'll be done faster/better), they often take that route.

    Does it suck for inexperienced candidates? Yes, absolutely.

  9. Anonymous*

    I had an interview with a company did a background check… called a week later to check on the background check was told it was complete…. went in 3 days ago to do the paperwork was told would be put on the schedule this week….. still haven’t heard anything … should I call ?

    1. Ask a Manager*

      Yes, call! This situation is a bit different: You were basically told you were hired. (I hope they gave you a formal offer and allowed you to negotiate salary, start date, etc.) Call and find out what’s going on.

  10. haidy*

    what if the hr department sent u an apology email telling u that the vacancy has been filled…is it truly filled or is it a nice way not to say why u didn’t get the job?….N.B : that was after a phone interview and the 1st ( face to face) interview…they said they’ll reply in 5 days & they did through email !

  11. confused*


    I had a final interview recently that lasted 2 hrs with 3 people for an entry level program. The next day I saw that the posting was gone on the website. Does that mean they hired someone else or should I take it as a good sign and should hear back soon?

  12. Disappointed and Confused*

    So i had 2 phone interview and 3 face to face interviews. After the last interview the recruiter called HR and HR said that everything went well – they were going to meet with the hiring manager and get back to us. finally hear back- they said they decided not to hire anyone for the position.
    How am I supposed to take that? No feedback – no explanation. After all the time that was wasted on the interview process.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It could mean they didn’t think any of the candidates were quite right or they decided to reallocate the money for the position to something else, or any range of things. Not uncommon — you can never count on a position until you have the offer in writing.

  13. Traci*

    I just offered a job to a person last thrusday, she accepted. Then today I heard she went on another interview. We were questioning her commnet before the interview but asked her to come in to explain herself…she seemed really nice, and to be a good fit. However, I am not so sure now. Any suggestions?


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “Really nice” isn’t a qualification. You want “talented” and “proven track record of achievement.”

      In any case, if you’re sure your information is correct, unless she has a very compelling reason for continuing to interview, I’d seriously consider pulling the offer. You don’t want to hire someone, train them, and have them leave three weeks later. Or two months later, for that matter.

      1. Traci*

        Thank you for time to answer my question. I spoke with this women today, and after speaking with her, she is just not going to work for us. Is there anything legaly that I have to do or be concerned with, if I do pull the offer? (she has already given her current boss notice)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not a lawyer so you might want to consult one (especially as the law can vary in different states), but as long as you didn’t sign a contract or otherwise negate her at-will status, you’re entitled to pull the offer. However, you might consider offering some amount of severance since she already gave notice.

          (Note that I’m assuming here that your reasoning is that she’s still interviewing for other jobs, and you’re sure about that. If you changed your mind for other reasons, I do think you have much more of an ethical obligation to her.)

  14. abbi*

    I went to an interview with stony brook 1.5 week, my first interview went well
    I met with 3 people, and the next day I was call back for a second interview went to that interview when I got to the office ask for the person I was going be meeting with she came out and give me this look really strange, I think she was shock of me just being I felt I was not what she was expecting , did the interview with her and the director seem to went well, I was told they were still interviewing this week , and nice meeting I said like wise , anyway I got home I call back that since lady that give me that wired look to ask her when I will be I expect to hear back from them pertaining to hiring decision she was like I don’t know how my hr work , we would call you back if we offer you the job you have to check with them she was nasty for a women in her early 60s
    It day 4 after my interview I have not herd back anything what should I do? I being out of work for the past 8 month I cannot live off unemployment while being a single mom.
    sorry for my typo in my early post i am so stress right now

  15. Anonymous*

    I HATE HIRING MANAGERS! I just interviewed for an internal position at my job. It was a part-time 24-hour per week payroll position. I have 30 years of secretarial experience and 6 years of payroll experience. I am currently in school. I was told that the reason for my not getting the position was because I require the company to work around my school schedule and I don’t have current payroll experience. I did leave an executive assistant position last July to go into patient care because I needed to accommodate day classes. Now, however, I have no more day classes to take and the job is only 6 hours a day 4 days a week. Plus the payroll system isn’t much different from what it was last year.

  16. Angie*

    I had an interview that I felt went really well. I was able to answer the employers questions,we got along well and even joked a little. She even remembers my daughter being in her pre-school class,when she was a teacher’s assistant. I sent her a thank You letter. She said that she’d definitely email me. That was 6 days ago. What happened?

  17. Anonymous*

    I went to an Interview and I felt it went really well…..the office Administrator mentioned that I have the experience that she needs for the office….besides discussing the position we also talked about our family and the weather… at the end she told me she loves my name and she will be intouch either…..a couple of days went by and she called…( my heart was racing) to say , sorry it took me so long to call you but the company wants to hire in january instead of December… check this…..I was working for the holidays in a store and guess who walks in…(YUPP)…. I said Hello …she gave me a hug and said…omg…what are you doing here….I said oh they called me for holiday help and here I am .( with a smile)….she said I really really like you and I will be intouch with you in january……so I’m on pins and needles…..Hmmmmmm…..

  18. Awe...We can Teach You That...*

    I interviewed for a highly technical job. I did not have direct experience, but I did have general experience to conduct the job. I interviewed in a two hour slot, which ran 20 minutes over. Down to the last question, the interviewers were writing ample notes on my answers to all questions. The questions were situational, historical, and promlem solving explanation questions. Not a single Technical Question or any Indicator to even prove I knew anything about electrical or mechanical concepts. At the end, I asked why they had not asked me any techical questions or to prove I knew HOW to DO THE JOB TASKS. They replied back non-chalantly “Awe…we can TEACH YOU that…hmpfff.” I was told the next day that they hoped to have an anwer BY NEXT WEEK. The next week, I sent a clarification email because I would not be at my normal contact number the rest of the week. They resonded, confirmed and assured me that they EXPECTED TO HAVE AN ANSWER THE NEXT DAY. The NEXT DAY came and they notified me they would NOT continue with me in the hiring process.

    A) this was a dream job that I felt destined for. How can I keep in contact with out being pushy or bothersome, as to being kept in mind for future openings?

    B) If they can TEACH me what I need to know, am I to believe they felt there was a character issue or concern, even though the interview seemed to go so well?

    C) with the interview going over and them writing notes up to the very last question, I would think they were highly interested, or else in my opinion -they would not have gone over time so far if not even interested, and they would have stopped taking notes and just went through formality -VERBALLY.

    D) I followed up to their rejection with class and High Road appreciation. I asked for feedback on my downfalls or where I could improve for future interviews with ANY company. I got no reply. I understand Political Correctfullness, and Legal Aspects, but is there any way to get feedback from a rejection…is there a proper way to request that useful tool?

    E) Is is ethically wrong to keep in touch with that company, say every 3-6 months, send warm regard or holiday card….in attempt to keeping myself in their minds in a positive way, showing how seriously I wish to join that company, and how dedicated or determined I am in my efforts to eventually joining that company -WITHOUT coming off psychotic, over-bearing, or desperately obsessed?

    I think its truly a DREAM JOB, the PERFECT JOB, that I am personally and emotionally attached to and feel that there is NO OTHER JOB in the WORLD that I would wish to have…I’m willing to work the rest of my life -into getting that job…then working that job the next 20-30 years.

    Can anyone help me sort this all out?

  19. Ask a Manager* Post author

    This is a very old post without active commenters on it, but if you email this to me, I can put it in my question queue (see the Contact page for address).

    P.S. Clean up all those caps!

  20. Eddy Kim*

    Wow. Thanks for the article.
    I thought someone posted my story.
    My recruiter’s placement fee was 30% and I feel this might trigger them not to hire. I’ve got email and letter about interviews and paper of hiring from corporate office. But, still didn’t get hired.
    How can I think more, than thinking about 30% placement fee.
    My hire was $85K, so, 30% is 25.5K, totals $110,500..I would drop too.

  21. KJR*

    I had a interview yesterday I believe it well. I was told the salary. Also as a bonus incentives I told them I would accept 2.50 less then what they were offering just to sweetened the pot with a raise every 90 days base on my job performance. I hope I do get this job.

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