after rejecting me, employer is compiling a whole document of feedback

A reader writes:

I’ve been looking for a position in the creative industry. My application generally consists of a resume, cover letter, “teaser” images, and a link to my portfolio website. An agency I would love to work for informed me that they’ve decided not to move on to the interview phase with me. Their email included the typical “we’ll keep your information on file for future opportunities.” They also offered to send feedback regarding my application. I’d love to find where I can improve and expressed my interest in receiving their feedback.

It’s been about a month, and they haven’t sent me anything yet. Just a string of emails (all initiated by them) along the lines of “Sorry, we haven’t had a chance to send you our thoughts, but we’re still busy compiling all our notes for you into a document.” Honestly, I was just expecting a few sentences, not an entire document! It just seems odd that a firm that wasn’t interested in moving forward with me is going through all this trouble. Could this mean they’re reconsidering me for the position?

I have no idea what’s going on here — this is very strange. As I was reading your message, I thought you were going to complain that they hadn’t sent you the promised feedback yet, and I was going to tell you to let it go because sometimes these offers are made and then end up falling through the cracks. (Which I’m not defending, but if it happens, you’ve got to just let it go.)

But then I got to the end of your letter and discovered that that’s not your issue at all. Your issue is that they’re implying that they’re creating some sort of detailed feedback document for you, which is really unusual. And maybe incredibly kind of them too. I don’t know whether it indicates that they’re considering you for a position (either the original one or something else), or whether they think you’re really promising and could be a strong candidate for them in a year or two with some feedback now, or whether they’re for some reason in the business of giving people who they never intend to hire detailed feedback on the side. Or, hell, maybe they’re just going to send you a paragraph, and they haven’t gotten around to writing it up yet, and their choice of words inadvertently implied it would be more than that.

All you can do is wait and see what they end up sending you. Please let us know once you find out, because this is an intriguing mystery that I want an answer to.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 8 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    To my academic eyes, this is the response of a perfectionist/procrastinator who means to do it but wants to wait until s/he can make it really perfect and wonderful before it goes. If so, you’re probably not going to get anything, and it’s not a standard company practice.

      1. JT*

        I think the OP should try to get this into over the phone – email them and say “I know how busy you are and really appreciate the offer of feedback. Rather than your going to trouble to write it all down, could we just have a brief phone call about this? I’ll be all ears. Thanks again.”

  2. Anonymous*

    I used to be a hiring manager in a creative field, and if candidates asked for specific feedback, we would try to give them clear, detailed information. For example, if someone’s portfolio did not demonstrate a skill we needed, the candidate would only waste our time and theirs reapplying if we didn’t specify why their current examples weren’t going to suffice. Personally, I used to just chat with the candidates, bc I was able to gauge if they understood my recommendations and allowed them to easily ask for clarification, but I can see the value in writing out the notes, as it would give both the artist and the hiring manager something to refer back to down the line. The type of information they would presumably be gathering to pass along to you would be along the lines of “The third image in your portfolio is weak in terms of posing and negative space. For some strong examples, you might like to take a look at [web pages].” or “Your work doesnt demonstrate a wide range of styles. We recommend focusing on [techniques] and adding a few samples”. It’s good to keep in mind that even seasoned professional artists spend time regularly reviewing their portfolio and making adjustments, and that criticisms are not a judgment of your work in and of itself, but rather a judgment of how your work relates to specific tasks they are hiring for. What they recommend right now may not apply 3-4 years down the line or even for other companies right now.

  3. anonymouse*

    “Compiling?” I’m picturing bullets cut & pasted into a half-page Word doc. Or maybe the reviewers had conflicting feedback. Or maybe some well-intentioned person volunteered the reviewers to write something, and they really don’t dig it. I think they extended an offer they weren’t expecting you to grab, like offering to help someone move.

  4. AGirlNamedMe*

    Strange. My first thought was that some kind of scam is coming.

    “Our hiring experts have compiled all of our thoughts on your resume and submission and will make them available to you at the low low cost of just $99.”

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