company rejected me, then asked me to recommend a better-qualified candidate

A reader writes:

I applied for a job on a very big company that’s actually doing very well despite the economy, and hiring several positions. They were looking for someone with standard requirements plus a somewhat seldom seen skill, which I had. I made as far as an interview but they turned me down. They told me it was because my experience in that field was lacking. (I did meet the stated requirements, by the way.) And then they told me they had to fill this position within end of this month and asked me to introduce anybody that shares my unique skill and has better experience.

My first idea was an Arrested Development-esque plot to send in way worse people than me, but I thought better of it. What would you do if you were that company’s recruiter? Would you be actually expecting me to introduce you to someone? Is it possible they might give me a chance if they can’t find it? Or should I just get over everything and move on?

I have a feeling my answer is going to be unpopular, but here it is: If you know of candidates who might fit with what they’re looking for, you should refer them. There are two reasons why:

1. By referring another candidate, you’d be establishing a networking relationship with this company. If the candidate is a good one, you’re now the connector source who brought them together. They’re more likely to think of you in the future for other openings that might be a better fit for you, and they might even refer you for an opening somewhere else. There’s no downside to establishing this type of relationship, and potentially a future upside.

2. You’ve been told you’re not getting the job yourself, so why not do a good deed for someone in your circle? Plus, these types of favors have a way of coming back to you, but even aside from that, if you have the opportunity to possibly connect someone with a job that would be a good fit, you should simply because it’s a nice thing to do.

Now, is the request itself a little audacious? Probably. I personally wouldn’t ask it of a candidate, because it’s a little too much like telling a date, “I’m not interested, but do you have any friends you can hook me up with?”  The issue, of course, is that — as with dating — there are emotions and ego invested. But it’s worth noting that if we could take emotions completely out of it and operate based solely on logic, I don’t think you’d bristle too much at them asking this. After all, the interview process is a business discussion, and you could argue that this shouldn’t be much different from telling a vendor, “Hey, your product is good but not quite right for us because we need a product that can also do X and Y — do you know of anything we might look at?” (And most smart vendors are happy to make suggestions in that situation, in large part because of principles similar to #1 above.)

But of course, the reality is that it’s very difficult to take emotions out of the hiring process, which is why I wouldn’t ask it. But since they’ve put the question out there, it might help to look at it from that angle.

{ 67 comments… read them below }

  1. Kimberlee*

    Agree completely! It’s a neat opportunity that most people don’t get… think of it that way.

  2. Michelle*

    If the OP can refer someone who will do a good job, yes, I agree. And not to be rude here…this person didn’t even proofread her/his response…

  3. Stephanie*

    I’ve had headhunters do this before. It’s sort of crappy on the company’s part, but there’s not much to lose (aside from a little pride).

  4. Anonymous*

    I think you missed the mark here about what’s audacious.
    The rejected candidate is being asked to work as an unpaid recruiter, doing the job of the hiring department which just rejected them.

    Would you advise the company to refer a qualified rejected candidate to a competitor?

  5. Anonymous*

    I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, it’s true that it would be good to build connections, and the OP could even help out a job-searching friend in the process. On the other hand, this request is so awful. It sounds like the company must not care at all how the candidate feels and I wouldn’t want to help them. I would feel completely awful if I got turned down from a job I really wanted and then was asked to find someone else to fill it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the degree of insensitivity depends on what the interview was like. If it was a one-sided interrogation and/or no rapport was built, then I agree it’s pretty awful. On the other hand, if it was the sort of interview that I’m always preaching about, where it was truly a two-way conversation that was more like a business meeting than an “interview,” then I think it’s still insensitive (for the reasons I wrote about in the post) but less so.

      Either way, though, I think the OP should make the most of the opportunity, if he/she happens to know someone who fits the profile they’re looking for.

  6. Peter*

    I had company recruiters ask me for other candidates/referrals after I was not offered a job multiple times. I never took it for more than just a boilerplate thing. I never was quite happy about itand I never recommended anybody — when you get a “no hire” decision for a position where description and initial phone screen and interview went well, you just wonder why the disconnect of their internal expectations and expectations that they have spelled out in their position description do not match. And I seldom wanted to put a friend through the same experience.

  7. Wilton Businessman*

    You’re not getting the job, why not help someone in your circle out?

    I went to interview at a company and they said they were looking to fill multiple positions and asked for other names. Assuming I was in, I was happy to give them other names. They hired two other people I recommended and left me without a job. Happy for my friends, but…

  8. E.G.*

    Alison, if I were the OP, your otherwise great answer would leave me still wondering about this: “Is it possible they might give me a chance if they can’t find [someone else]?”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not totally impossible, but it’s probably pretty unlikely. The OP got as far as an interview, so I’m assuming that what happened at that point is either (a) after talking more in-depth, they realized that the experience level wasn’t quite what they needed for the role (something that you can’t always tell definitively from a resume) or (b) there was some other reason it wasn’t a fit that was unrelated to skills/experience. If it’s B, they’re definitely not going to come back to the OP. If it’s A, there’s more of a chance, but it’s still pretty small.

      1. E.G.*

        Thanks for answering, Alison. :) I agree that lack of experience might not be the full and primary reason for rejecting the OP, but after all they did respect the OP enough to ask if they knew anyone, so I figure the possibility that they would let the OP learn as they go out of desperation might be non-negligible. But yeah, I wouldn’t strategize based on it, but instead take your advice.

  9. Anonymous*

    I agree with Alison.

    Doing the right thing without immediate benefit to oneself does pay off in the future.

    The OP is already off the list. Not getting the job. Just because of lack of experience. Start referring worse people, and now OP’s judgment is going to be called into question.

    I don’t see anything bad that can happen out of referring other people for this position. I see lots of potential upside.

  10. Katie*

    Also, if you recommend a friend or colleague who then gets hired, then you have an inside contact at the company. Which could translate to better odds for future opportunities.

  11. AK*

    I once interviewed for a position, made it all the way to the final interview only to be turned down. One of my good friends was looking for a job and after going through the experience myself, I felt that the position would strongly suite her better, so I told her about it. No hard feelings, maybe because I ended up finding something much better. Anyway, she is now currently interviewing with that company that turned me down.

    After doing this favor, I kind of feel that in the end, I was helping my friend out more than I was helping out the company. I felt less selfish. Yea, it does suck but you never know what better positions for you might come along. Plus, if I was in my friend’s shoes, I would hope that someone would help me out too if I was looking for a job. After all, what comes around goes around, and you never know how that favor could help you out in the future, maybe it will, maybe it won’t.

  12. Nick Machiavelli*

    If the person you recommend gets the job, that means there is a vacancy at their old company.

  13. XG*

    Thanks for answering my question! I didn’t expect to get picked so I feel I must share some more info. The position is for salesman that also speaks an obscure language. And I honestly doubt they can find someone that meets all their expectations, at least in my area. Even I don’t. But I am leaning toward that I should try to find someone for them.

    1. XG*

      Oops, i meant to say even I don’t know anybody that meets both their expectations. Also, the whole experience between them and I have been nothing but cordial and respectful.

      1. Katie*

        If you don’t know anyone who meets their requirements, that makes it kind of easy. You can just say, “I don’t know anyone else who would meet the requirements of the position.” :)

  14. Vicki*

    > “I’m not interested, but do you have any friends you can hook me up with?”

    No. It’s more ” “I’m not interested, but do you have any more attrctive
    friends you can hook me up with?”

    I would say “I’ll give it some thought” and then shake hands an walk away and not look back. Not a lie. I’ll give it some thought all right. But not much.

    I think the request showed you somehting about the company,. You don’t want to work there.

    1. Marie*

      Agreed! You gave an excellent analogy.

      If a hiring manager asked me the same thing, I would walk away.

    2. Justeace*

      Exactly. Reading some of these comments are wild. If a recruiter would turn around and try to hit you up as an unpaid recruiter what does that say about that person and that company. Whether you had a good interview or not how dare someone ask for someone who is better. That’s just rude, insensitive and unprofessional.

      I’d be polite and say I’ll give it some thought and if I think of someone I’ll give them your contact information. Which I would do and let my friend(s) decide if they want to deal with the company and the recruiter. I think it would be better to let my friend decide their path than to let that recruiter have any control. This way I’m still being nice while not being a doormat.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s really not being an unpaid recruiter; it takes very little time/effort to put two parties in touch with each other. They’re not asking the OP to go out and find candidates; they’re just saying to let them know if the OP thinks of a fit, which is the sort of thing that lots of people do all the time as part of networking.

        1. Katie*

          Except it’s a job interview, not a networking event. As I said, you can be polite to them, and if you honestly think someone would be a better fit and would be happy there, that’s fine. But I think a company that would ask a rejected job candidate that question has some sensitivity issues, and I would be extremely reluctant to refer a friend to them, just because of the things it says about the culture of the company. I’d consider not getting the job a good thing, and move on.

        2. Anonymous*

          So does that mean that, if a recruiter already knows a candidate, you expect them to charge less?

    3. Jennifer*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way!

      I have to say that “doing the right thing” is always good; however, this would have left me with a less-than-positive feeling about the organization, and I probably would not want to help them out, nor steer people I care about toward such an organization.

  15. Andrew*

    That is a very crappy position to put someone in. In fact, I will go so far as to say that it’s not fair. Yes, it is technically networking, but the interviewer is basically asking for a more “attractive date” than the candidate. How would you feel if you went on a date, and your date asked you if you knew of any friends who are more attractive?

    When it comes to networking, I only ask people who are in jobs if they know of any positions I might be of a good fit for. I don’t ask if I could have their job, or if I can interview for the same job that they are interviewing for. It’s why career websites say not to publicize interviews or leads on social networking, lest you attract competition with “friends.” If I feel this is the best job for me, than why would I refer someone else to it, even if they made it clear they’re not interested? It’s insensitive.

    Finally, I hear all these stories of good deeds being paid back in a good way, in that interviewers who are polite, kind, and bend over backward even after a failed interview eventually get a call back and magically get employed. In reality, I have found this to rarely be the case. I have a feeling that once these people find their candidate, even if it’s someone the OP referred, that they will cut off contact with the OP forever.

    1. Anonymous*

      Finally, I hear all these stories of good deeds being paid back in a good way, in that interviewers who are polite, kind, and bend over backward even after a failed interview eventually get a call back and magically get employed. In reality, I have found this to rarely be the case. I have a feeling that once these people find their candidate, even if it’s someone the OP referred, that they will cut off contact with the OP forever

      ‘Forever’ is a long time – AAM’s point (as ever) is that it lets the hiring manager feel better to think that, if it should so happen that they hear of a better opportunity for the candidate in the future, the manager would be sure to let them know. Actual activity is not required – it’s about giving the hiring manager a warm and fuzzy feeling.

      1. Marie*

        “…it’s about giving the hiring manager a warm and fuzzy feeling.” Which is why you wouldn’t want to work for such a company.

        1. Vicki*

          Precisely. I do not need, want, nor care to give a hiring manager who doesn’t want me a “warm fuzzy feeling”.

          Now, if they hired me and then asked: Do you know anyone else? We have two slots. Then I’d be motivated to supply some warm fuzzies.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not about giving the hiring manager a warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s about this actually leading — sometimes, certainly not always — to a different opportunity later on. Here’s an excerpt from a timely email I got earlier today, in fact:

      “Here is what happened to me: I interviewed for a position in December with the company that just made me an offer. I did not get that particular job in December. But the hiring manager called me in early July to tell me that another position had come up and she thought I would be a good fit for that job. So please let your readers know that sometimes hiring managers remember candidates and bring them back and offer them another job.”

      This writer’s story aside, you can’t possibly be so embittered as to think this never happens, right?

      1. Vicki*

        I don;t see this as being at all the same. There’s a big difference in leaving 1) a good impression, being passed over for a job, but getting another, later and 2) being blatently passed over for a job and at the ame time asked to do unpaid recruiting for someone else.

        I’m sorry, I just don;t see these as being similar, let alone the same. The former is luck, good interviewing, poor luck, and good networking. The latter is just cheesey.

        It’s not that “this never happens” but I don’t see it as being very probable in this scenario. They not only didn;t think the OP was a fit _they’re using her.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s fine, but let’s at least agree that this isn’t about giving the hiring manager a warm, fuzzy feeling.

          Out of curiosity, what is it about this situation that feels different to you than the vendor scenario I gave in the original post?

      2. Andrew*

        Hi AAM. Honestly, it has never happened to me. I feel like I do the right things by properly following up and thanking the interviewers appropriately, but I have yet to have a hiring manager call me, say that a position would be a good fit for me, and jot me down for an interview.

        I know it happens sometimes, but it seems to be more the exception than the norm. Maybe it’s because I feel kind of let down by hopes that don’t exactly come to fruition, even when they say that they will stay in touch with you for openings that come up.

      3. Anonymous*

        What if the hiring manager asks the rejected candidate for $100 instead of a referral? Should the rejected candidate fork over the cash because that might make the hiring manager more likely to remember them in the future?

        Of course not. Because that’s not professional. It’s extortion. It’s pressuring the rejected candidate to do something which has no bearing on their qualifications, in exchange for an unbinding hope of goodwill.

        (And I don’t see that the rejected-but-remembered candidate in the email had to did anything like this for a better chance at being remembered.)

        1. JT*

          There’s a big difference. Referring someone doesn’t cost the OP anything and possibly is helping the interviewer and the person she refers. That’s the beauty of networking – it needn’t be a zer0-sum game.

          And “extortion”? Really?

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          “What if the hiring manager asks the rejected candidate for $100 instead of a referral? Should the rejected candidate fork over the cash because that might make the hiring manager more likely to remember them in the future?”

          Come on, handing over cash is nothing like performing a professional courtesy of the sort that happens all the time in a networking context.

          “It’s pressuring the rejected candidate to do something which has no bearing on their qualifications, in exchange for an unbinding hope of goodwill.”

          There’s no real pressure here. The OP can simply say that no one comes to mind and that’s that.

          The point, though, is that there’s a potential upside to helping out and no real downside.

          And being angry and bitter will stand in the way of your getting a job — I guarantee it. Being professional and helpful will at worst be neutral and at best may open any number of doors that it can be hard to predict in the moment. (And my mail is full of letters from people who illustrate both points.)

          I write this blog because I want to help people succeed in their careers, and it’s disheartening to see people actually defending a posture of resentment and bitterness. I can promise you that you are not helping yourself or others by approaching the world with that stance.

          “And I don’t see that the rejected-but-remembered candidate in the email had to did anything like this for a better chance at being remembered.”

          I posted that story in response to the commenter who wrote this: “I have a feeling that once these people find their candidate, even if it’s someone the OP referred, that they will cut off contact with the OP forever.” The point is that employers will indeed sometimes return to a candidate who was rejected for something else earlier, which is a point that person was disputing.

          If you’re truly this embittered, believe me that employers will pick up on it and it will hurt you. I’m sorry for whatever experiences you’ve had that have led you to approach job searching with this kind of cynicism, but it is not helping you or anyone else.

          1. Joey*

            I think you’re overemphasizing the upside of doing it as a favor to the company. It’s rare, very rare for that upside to actually occur. Although I would certainly refer a friend if the job was a step up from their current one.

          2. jennie*

            I love AAM’s comment, especially the bold part. I sometimes get this resentful, bitter vibe from candidates and it turns me off right away. I think about how it would play out in the workplace. If they felt frustrated, would they badmouth the company or take it out on clients?

            I think people should spend less time getting offended and taking things personally. People are always complaining about getting no response from recruiters. This response is ‘you’re not quite a fit but we trust you enough to ask you to recommend someone else’. Where’s the harm in that?

            When you’re looking for a hard-to-find skill, especially a language, you need to do whatever you can to find candidates. If a candidate who wasn’t selected referred someone who was, I’d definitely remember that and go out of my way to help or hire them in the future.

          3. Anonymous*

            The point, though, is that there’s a potential
            upside to helping out and no real downside

            The hiring manager might think the candidate a fool for not recognising a piece of boilerplate in the rejection letter, and discount them from future consideration, perhaps?

        3. Joy*

          Really, now c’mon…the OP isn’t getting the job, knows an obscure language, and is highly likely to know other people that know the language and have the skills the recruiter is looking for. Even if the recruiter didn’t ask him to, he should refer any friends that might be a better fit, just to be a good friend. That employer may never ever ever call the OP again even if he hires the friend, but where was any harm done? Why should we always expect future good will for doing something nice?

      4. Suz*

        Something similar happened to me once. I interviewed for a position but didn’t get it. About 3 weeks later the HR rep for that company called to see if I’d want to interview for a position in a different department. I landed that job. Then about a year later there was another opening for the position I orignally applied for and I got it this time.

      5. Katie*

        This isn’t really the same thing, though. It’s not as if they told the candidate, “We’ll keep you in mind if something else comes up,” which is usually what companies tell you if you aren’t a good fit for the current opening, but they like you and think your experience is beneficial. This is a firm rejection.

        I don’t recommend anyone be unprofessional or burn bridges, but really? I wouldn’t want to work for this company after they asked me something like that.

  16. Anonymous*

    I think this is an excellent opportunity for the candidate to get some real feedback on their interview. You see, the OP knows lots of people who might suit the position better. Dozens in fact. So many, that there’s no possibility of the company being able to get through them all in the one month deadline mentioned. So, to help the company, the OP would have to know what particular characteristics they’re looking for, beyond what’s in the job description. Obviously don’t ask for feedback directly (they’re rejecting for too little experience, yet are so desperate for candidates that they’re prepared to ask those people for referrals? Something doesn’t add up there), but the above framework should provide an excellent opportunity for pumping further information out of them.

  17. JT*

    @3:26. I don’t see what’s wrong with asking for feedback directly.

    And regarding knowing “dozens” of good candidates – unless this is true don’t say it. Never lie. A little unconscious exaggeration (from time to time) is human, but don’t consciously make things up. Ever.

    1. Anonymous*

      Err…. who said anything about telling untruths? You never mention the dozens of candidates, simply that you need more information to narrow the field

  18. LP*

    I do think the OP should refer on another suitable candidate, if they know one.
    @Vicki and Andrew – It’s not like saying “Have you got any more attractive friends you can hook me up with?” It’s more like “I want kids and you don’t, so this isn’t going to work. Do you have any friends who want kids that you can hook me up with?” Yes, it’s still inconsiderate, but I don’t think it should stop the OP from making a referral.

    Making the referral means the hiring manager is more likely to remember your name and think of you if a good fit position does emerge. As Allison pointed out, this can happen. It’s also about developing a good network and helping people out. If you help out when you can, people will come to remember you for this and will be more likely to help you out. No, it won’t help in every situation or with every person but eventually it will.

  19. LJL*

    If I knew of someone that would work, I certainly would refer the person. That’s keeping the door open if you want to work with that company again, plus, as another poster pointed out, if the person takes the job then there would be a vacancy. Yes, it’s a little odd, but it would expand the OP’s reputation as a fair person who deals well in all situations. Maybe it’s because I’m in a small field, but your professional reputation is critical. I would, however, have fantasies about referring someone completely psychotic for the post. ;-)

  20. Anonymous*

    I don’t know…I really don’t see this as networking. To me it just seems a little rude. Sort of like a candidate turning down a job and asking the hiring manager if they can recommend another company that pays more, has a better culture etc. Somehow I don’t think that would go over too well.

  21. Lynda*

    After 10 months of searching, I finally got a job in my field. I have to say that during those 10 months, there were times when I became completely cynical (for example, when I spent 2 months and 5 interviews with one agency and didn’t get hired). However, it did sometimes make me feel better to do the right thing just because it was the right thing. That’s a benefit you get whether the hiring manager remembers you positively or not.

  22. Bob G*

    I don’t see why everyone is so upset here. I feel the OP didn’t get the job since he did meet the “stated requirements”. Obviously in the actual interview the interviewer came to the conclusion he didn’t have enough experience so it wouldn’t be a good fit. Really isn’t that what everyone on here constantly preaches….good fit for employee AND employer. It almost sounds like they interviewed the OP because he speaks the language they were looking for and perhaps were hoping he would “wow” them in the interview. I think it makes sense to ask if he knows anyone else that would be interested since one would assume if he speaks a specific language other people he knows may as well. If he doesn’t want to suggest anyone then just don’t suggest anyone. The OP even said the interview was “cordial and respectful” doesn’t sound like the employer was trying to make him an “unpaid recruiter”.

  23. Anonymous*

    There’s no reason to get offended. Just ask them how much of a referral fee they will provide if they make the hire. Most companies are pleased to pay a referral fee for a good candidate.

  24. Long Time Admin*

    The ONLY way I would do this is if my sister was out of work. Otherwise, I’d be thinking “screw you guys” and cross them off my list forever.

    Then, I’d email AAM so she can post it and people (who are not in this position) can post and tell my how wrong I am. Or that I had a typo in my original post.

    1. Marie*

      “The ONLY way I would do this is if my sister was out of work. Otherwise, I’d be thinking “screw you guys” and cross them off my list forever.”


  25. Anonymous*

    Everyone always complains tha tthey didn’t know why they didn’t get the job. Perhaps this is a solution.

    You could always try asking for rejection details:

    “I have a few people who might work well. But I perform my own internal screening for referrals. Can you give me a better idea of why you didn’t think Iwas a good fit? Your response would give me the information I need to refer people accurately.”

    1. Interviewer*

      Ooh, I love this! The stealth method of getting feedback. I’m sure they would be more honest if they thought it would help them tap into your network.

  26. TT*

    Some of these comments obviously just stems out of personal jealousy and not real objectivity, graciously agreeing to try to help them out (even if you don’t later do it) is the most optimal route in terms of gaining social utility (ie: no downside), anyone who disagrees just does so based on their own biased personal opinions.

    A simple situation that have occurred many times is that the actual candidate was OVER-QUALIFIED for the position, therefore hiring manager knows that he/she is unlikely to accept the proposed salary range/job title/job duties, therefore asking him/her to provide someone who would be less qualified and thus a better fit for the particular role. It does not have to mean that they have a low opinion of the initial candidate, it could be just the opposite, that they have too high of a opinion of the candidate.

    In other words, would you really ask a candidate who you perceives as incompetent during the interview, to provide you with personal leads? Asking you in the first place should be taken as a compliment imo.

  27. Sevenmack*

    Well, TT, and Alison, by extension, while one can see the objective argument for helping out a firm that just rejected you as a candidate, there is that thing called the subjective reality of the situation. For the losing candidate, it’s like getting kicked in the gonads and punched in the face right afterward; insult upon injury. Being asked to refer folks may not be all that insulting to someone who has a job and is just looking for another opportunity. But for those of us who may have been out of work for months-long stretches, been the bridesmaid for numerous jobs, and are just tired of sending out resumes and networking, the request is just plain galling.

    Sure, this is business. But you can’t remove the human factor from these transactions. The reasons why companies don’t end up selecting two of the three finalists for the job is almost always a question of the human factor, that elusive thing called fit (and believe me, for black men out there with master’s degrees and strong work backgrounds still looking for work, “fit” always ends up being the deciding factor against them). So to expect candidates to not be affected by the human factor, no matter how objective they try to be in this situation, is asking for far more than anyone should demand.

    Honestly, Alison, not to be mean, but the advice you offered on this doesn’t really work. Not saying that it’s bad advice. Just unworkable given the real dynamics of job hunting. Even if you aren’t bitter after long searches (and I’m not, because I’m also working on various projects that remind me of my value), being rejected for a job and then, being asked to recommend someone else, is rather intolerable.

    And TT, you fail to consider that there are many hiring managers and HR people who are clueless, insensitive and generally, self-centered. They could just as likely ask for a recommendation because it’s all about their needs (and never about the human factor) as it could be a compliment.

    Which leads to the final reason why the request for a candidate referral to a rejected candidate is terrible: It says that the company is not only inconsiderate of people (making it a terrible place for anyone to work), but incapable of finding quality people for their positions. It says that the hiring manager has few connections from which he can draw candidates, and shows that the HR department doesn’t know how to sort out good candidates from those who are not. Why work for such a clueless workplace?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That human factor is exactly what I was talking about when explaining why I wouldn’t ask this of candidates.

      But I disagree that the advice is unworkable — plenty of people ARE able to set hurt feelings aside and do something that might have an upside. That doesn’t mean that everyone can or will want to, of course, but some can/will.

      Regardless though, I agree fully that emotions are intertwined in the hiring process, especially when someone’s out of work. It’s really hard.

      1. Sevenmack*

        Let me clarify: I’m not saying it’s unworkable for everyone. Nor am I saying it’s bad advice. Objectively and from a business perspective, it’s actually really good advice.

        But, it is unworkable for most people given the emotional state they are in when these situations happen. Now, if some company came to me six months from now asking me for recommendations for someone to fill a position that isn’t related to what I do, hey, I’m more than willing to do it and most folks probably would. I’d do it even if its a position for which I applied and didn’t get it, especially if I landed elsewhere. There’s not emotional attachment at this point; it was an opportunity that didn’t work out.

        But immediately upon rejection? Some can put their feelings aside for potential upside. But when someone is looking for a job at that moment, and they have to think about the rent, the bills, and even, the plans for buying a house one day, starting a family or paying for college — and I know about three colleagues who just got laid off who fit those last three situations — they’re not going to set aside emotions. Not going to happen.

        As for me? Lots of savings, some side gigs, and God’s grace, has put me in a spot rare for many folks out of full-time work. And I’m used to setting side emotions for potential upside. But, for me, such a request would rub me the wrong way in every possible way. My response would be “let me think about it” and I’d be thinking for six months before giving any answer.

        1. JT*

          Anger is a useful signal, but it’s not always wise to let it dominate your decision-making. And this situation is not being *intentionally* kicked – at least the objective of the interviewer is not to hurt you, it’s only do do what’s best for them.

          It’s natural to take things personally, but it’s not always in our best interests to do so. At worst, it’s just business. And if things work out, and your good deed results in a call when there is a job they think suits the applicant better, it’s good business.

          It’s possible to practice to get better at putting emotions aside, or just using them as one of many signals, and thus make better choices. I can’t do it all the time, but have gotten better at it. I think many people can if they work on it.

  28. Alan Miller*

    TL;DR: helping them out costs you little/nothing, and might come back to help you.

    Two things: first, if the company is asking for contact information that they can follow up on, it may be inappropriate – this is a judgement call. On the other hand, if they’re asking you to pass along information on the opportunity to others that you know it may be worth your while to do so.

    Second, there’s very little downside and plenty of potential upside to working with them this way. Saying “I know several people more fluent in (language X) than I am, but I don’t know how they are at sales / how knowledgeable in your industry / whatever, would you like me to ask them to get in touch with you?” is unlikely to hurt you. If they hire someone else entirely, you’re only out a few minutes and you’re a helpful person – you may get a step up on the next job in that company. If they hire someone that approached them because of you, that may put you even further up on the list of “next job” candidates plus you get to help out a friend (and find out how the company is as an employer). If they interview your referrals but don’t end up hiring them (particularly if it’s a niche skill where they may not get a lot of applicants) you may end up with the job after all, though if they’ve already told you that you won’t get it that’s less likely – in part it may depend on how quickly they’re really looking to hire.

    Finally, it’s absolutely acceptable to ask them to clarify what they felt was your weakness that caused them to rule you out and find out if there’s a way to change that – with the job market as it currently is you may not be hired if they’d need to do more training, but if they can’t find someone who better meets their needs then expressing a willingness to learn won’t hurt you.

  29. TT*

    For those of you who still believe that there is still personal stake involved, you can always turn the tables around and say “Sure I’ll be happy to recommend some more qualified candidates that might be a better fit for this particular position, can I expect you to keep me as a recommendation of some of the other immediate openings in your company as well?”

    tit for tat, everyone wins

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