when job candidates shoot themselves in the foot

I want to share two letters from readers who hire, about bad experiences they’ve had with job candidates recently. Here’s the first:

I received this today from a candidate who had difficulty with our online application:

“I just filled out an online application. I entered a document that was too big and was told to go back and fix it, so when I do, ALL MY PREVIOUS ENTERED INFO WAS DELETED.

It takes 30 minutes or more to fill out your app and to have everything completely erased when I went back, does not make me want to go back and fill out your app again.

I will do it once more, but may I suggest fixing this glitch because its beyond frustrating.”

A second email sent a few minutes later was similar but longer and with more all-caps and exclamation points. The form is working properly (no other complaints and I tried it myself), so this is probably user error on her part. Regardless, this email alone has demonstrated a lack of ability to roll with the punches, something definitely required for this job. How should I respond? I’m not interested in pursuing her candidacy.

And here’s the second letter, from a different reader:

As a little bit of context, our organization sends a nice email to any candidates who are not moving forward in the process. Sometimes candidates write back thanking me, which I find gracious and professional (though not necessary). About half of those candidates will ask for feedback, which we generally do not provide. Here is what a candidate sent me in response to my email letting me know that we wouldn’t be moving forward with him:

“Thanks for letting me know about the XXX search. I’m curious about why I did not get invited to even a second-round interview, considering I have, in abundance, all the desired qualifications listed for the position.

Thanks in advance for any information,

I responded to explain that we have a policy not to give direct feedback. I also mentioned that the first interview was used to learn about competencies, experience, and fit with the role, and that while many candidates may be qualified, we only move forward with the ones who are the closest fit. In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have responded at all, since I could sense the bitterness in his first email, but I always try to respond to people to let them know that we can’t give feedback, since I think that’s more polite than simply not responding at all.

The candidate wrote back:

“Letting me know that my well-qualified candidacy didn’t get to the second stage, then refusing to give me any information that may help me improve in future interviews, is uniquely unhelpful.”

I didn’t write back to that one.

In contrast, I’ve had candidates who weren’t right for the role, but who generally left a good impression on me. When I emailed them to decline them, they were gracious and professional. Since then, I have reached out to each of them a couple of times to let them know about other opportunities, either at our organization or at organizations in our network. We’re a fairly well-connected organization, and various job postings and requests for referrals come across my desk regularly. Because of the way these candidates have conducted themselves (with positivity and grace even when they were rejected — one of those candidates also asked for feedback and sent a gracious response when I let him know I couldn’t provide any direct feedback), I wouldn’t mind recommending them to someone else, and I may even go out of my way to send them an email about an opening that could be a fit. I do this because one of the things I love about my job is meeting smart, capable people who want to be involved in the nonprofit sector. They might not be a fit for a particular role in our organization, but if I can connect them to other people in the sector, then hopefully that’s a win for everyone.

These letters are a good illustration of how job seekers sometimes lose sight of the fact that their goal is to get a job — not to vent, not to force an answer that an employer isn’t ready or willing to give, and not to make a point on principle. And yet sometimes frustration makes people lose that focus.

It’s not hard to understand why this happens. Job candidates these days have plenty to be frustrated about: a difficult job market, the increasing use of endlessly long and glitchy online applications systems, employers who never get back to them after they interview, routine invasions of privacy and violations of dignity from employers who feel they hold all the cards, and more. And these are legitimate grievances. These things are frustrating and rude.

But job seekers go wrong when they let that frustration spill over into their job-searching behavior.

If you’re job-searching, it’s worth stepping back and asking yourself if you’re letting your frustration get in the way of your own best interests. Examples: Becoming so annoyed that a recruiter hasn’t responded to your requests for a status update that you starting thinking about showing up in person to force an answer. Or letting a user-unfriendly application system so anger you that you end up more interested in venting to the employer than in how that will make you look. Or reacting with hostility when you’re rejected and burning that bridge forever.

Don’t let all the legitimate frustrations of job searching in this market distract you from your goal of actually getting a job.

job rejections and vitriol, part 1
job rejections and vitriol, part 2
belligerent rejected candidates

{ 190 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Oh, and in answer to the question in the first letter, about how to respond to the candidate: Personally, I’d send a one-sentence response saying something like “Sorry you’re having trouble; we’ve tested it in several browsers and it’s working on our end” and then simply reject the person later if they do end up applying.

    (I would, however, make sure that someone on your staff has tested it in multiple browsers; sometimes things work in, say, Internet Explorer but nothing else, and if that’s happening, you want to know. For every candidate who does bring a glitch to an employer’s attention, there are plenty more who don’t bother to and simply don’t apply.)

    1. LadyTL*

      It seems like the employer missed a key part of the email that could potentially help them as well. The applicant mentioned that the cause was attaching a file that was too big. A simple warning about what file size is the limit would address that issue. Saying that it is working without testing that issue is kind of arrogant.

    2. Anonymous*

      Web glitches can happen due to odd combinations, like if you have IE8 with a certain Windows service pack, or Firefox with Ghostery or a script blocker. It’s nice to have warnings up for people to use. I know the employers think they have plenty of great candidates and don’t have to care about the ones who slip through the cracks, but the perfect candidate could be the one who shrugs, accepts that the site won’t work for her and moves on.

    3. Brett*

      Speaking as a software developer, career site software may be the single worst software I’ve had to interact with. There’s a special place in hell for Taleo in particular…and sadly they seem to have a huge amount of marketshare.

      I wouldn’t be at all surprised if their site is terrible (probably the back button on your browser resets the whole application, whereas an obscure icon on the page somewhere that says back will preserve it), though emailing them a complaint is also terrible.

      1. Suzanne Lucas*

        Yes, this. It may have worked perfectly when the recruiter tested it because she knows to push the little arrow that you have to scroll clear to the top of the window to find while the candidate pushed the back button.

        I hate online applications with a burning passion. And if Taleo and the others really wanted to help candidates (which they don’t, they are only interested in the companies), they would establish a system where you can fill out an application once and then with a password you can transfer your info to the particular company’s application and then edit from there.

        1. Mike C.*


          If the colleges can figure this out (it’s called the common application!) why can’t companies!?

        2. Kou*

          God, I know! Every time I go to apply somewhere and it has that “powered by Taleo” emblem I think the same thing. I’ve given you my info at least 30 times in the past, Taleo!

          Also when I see that I know it’s going to be a long, annoying process with a high probability of losing some of my progress or throwing back ridiculous errors at some point or another.

          1. V*

            Interviewexchange is pretty good as far as this goes. You create a login and password that will work with any employer that uses it.

          2. mh_76*

            There are the job-search-engines like Monster and Indeed but a lot of companies set those to send you to their own Black Hole sites and those are often frowned upon by companies (I don’t blame them on that count). LinkedIn also has an apply feature but I haven’t used it yet and it also is sometimes set to send you to the Black Holes.

        3. class factotum*

          You mean Taleo, which insists my college major was not English but was English Studies? Because there is nothing like adding “Studies” to a word to give it academic credibility.

          1. Anna*

            I wonder what they would make of that certificate I have? Would it be “bookkeeping studies”?

            This reminds me of another user of a bookish site I’m on, who once reported moving the bookkeeping titles he saw in a store he frequented back into the business/finance section when he found them in the books-about-books section.

      2. JPB*

        This is the author of letter #1, and I appreciate all the different thoughts on here. I’m genuinely unsure how to handle this one. Hiring is about 10% of my job so I’m no expert. I CAN tell you, though, that the application is just a JotForm (similar to SurveyMonkey) with about five questions and a place to attach your resume. It does state that there is a size limit to attachments (which is a limit placed by JotFotm, not determined arbitrarily by us). We use JotForm expressly because it works very well cross platform and has very simple instructions. I’ll certainly acknowledge there is the possibility of form error (which is why I said it was only “probably” user error) but I still feel like I learned more about the candidate from her response to the form than I did from the application (which she did submit about an hour later). Does anyone have further thoughts specifically on what-I-learned-from-the-emails vs. what-I-learned-from-her-application?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Honestly, the emails she sent are prohibitive; it doesn’t matter what’s in her application. Her emails were rude and unprofessional, so that’s the end of that.

          (And think about the signal you’d be sending her if you interviewed her anyway; you’d be telling her that that type of behavior is fine in your culture.)

          1. Katie*

            Agreed. Generally, I think feedback from an applicant like, “There may be an issue with your application software. Here is what I did, and here is what happened” is helpful for the employer. However, someone suggesting you fix an issue because “its beyond frustrating”–grammatical error and all–is unprofessional. There’s a polite and helpful way to point out a potential problem, and this wasn’t it.

      3. Josh S*

        Thank you for saying this. I’m currently in a job search, and in my chosen field it seems that more than 50% of the major employers in my area use Teleo. And every time I see Teleo, I despair a little bit, knowing that my nicely-formatted resume is going to be broken down into keywords and will vanish into the Teleo black hole.

        I understand the need for resume/candidate tracking software. But please, give me a HUMAN to communicate with. *le sigh*

            1. Josh S*

              I don’t even mind that because I can (and have done so) make a plain-text version of my resume that still looks good, has bullets replaced by dashes, and awkward line breaks are fixed.

              But when you just ask me to upload my resume and then strip out all the formatting so that everything looks broken and disjointed, or if you take my uploaded resume and (incorrectly) attempt to parse my employers, dates of employment, and even contact information I hate your software.

              You want the information, ask me for it. You want my resume, ask me for it. If you want me to give you some random input that you can run through your poorly-implemented RegEx code to extract meaningless gibberish, all in the hopes that I’ll jump through your hoops to be employed by you, with the full expectation that my entire working life at your company will be run by the same sort of redundant, inane bureaucracy–FORGET IT!

              1. Kelly O*

                OMG, I hate that too. I have a plain text version of my resume that I don’t mind uploading, but when I do upload it and then your program doesn’t get things in the right fields, or moves things around and I wind up spending a good hour filling out your application, I am a little perturbed to start things off.

                Now, granted I probably wouldn’t send an email like the OP got, but I will add that I really truly hate when someone warns me that their site runs best in IE (version whatever) and I have to get out of my Firefox to use it. (I’m looking at you, rather large educational organization who shall remain nameless.)

      4. mh_76*

        Bullhorn too…both from the perspective of a job-seeker whose mostly stopped using the Black Hole apps (but might give it one more whirl to test the new keywords that my last job added to my res…LinkedIn showed-up-in-search #s are up as are those on Monster…might be worth a shot…debating…).

    4. Kou*

      I flat out don’t believe that it’s working 100% and the applicant did something stupid to cause it to lose her progress. As others have noted, even if it appears to work when they try it themselves that doesn’t mean it’s working for everyone. Replicating bugs is frequently harder than you’d think it should be, and if they think their online application system is all working (even when told of a specific error) they’re kidding themselves.

      I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone halfway through an application in the wrong browser (what turns out to be the wrong browser, they rarely tell you in advance) and then gotten screwed and had to start over. Or lost my progress for an even dumber reason. I actually feel for the annoying applicant so much that I can’t even be miffed by her entirely uncouth letters. I’m not an easily riled person and I’ve had to stop everything and have tea/count to ten to calm down from many online application processes.

      I’m looking at you, Taleo.

      1. Flynn*

        I spend a lot of time helping students with computers, and I can assure how – however basic, however straightforward, someone will find a way to break it (or think they have).

        I regularly have to show people how to save to a USB stick, for example, send an email, navigate the university website (or other random sites that I have never seen but figure out just fine but have baffled them for half an hour); even use Facebook.

        I can think of two or three dumb but form breaking things people have done in front of me and were not the fault of the program – and sure, loads that WERE the browser/site/form, but I have learnt never, ever ever to assume that it is definitely the site. The most likely problem is ALWAYS the user (and you can waste so much time assuming that “of course” they aren’t doing basic silly thing 1 and worrying about less basic and less silly thing 2).

        1. Ellie H.*

          Who cares if the “most likely problem is ALWAYS the user”? If the site is not well suited to the average person, even if there’s a “right” way to use it that a non-“dumb” person would be able to figure out, then it’s really not a good method for something as important as job applications.

        2. JT*

          “I can think of two or three dumb but form breaking things people have done in front of me a”

          What are these things?

          And more generally, would these things an online sales transaction (that is, a transaction in which the website owner has money at stake) to fail?

          There are always going to be problems in online systems that are accessed by diverse browser/computer/OS combinations. But it seems like online shopping has found ways to be more reliable. Why can’t job application systems work as well? Could it be because the “cost” of failure is transferred to the user, not the site owner…

    5. Anonymous*

      Last year my 17 year old son applied for a job at a new Sprouts going in near our home. The online app was impenetrable for him and even me, and I am a career HR professional with a subset of nine years in recruiting. It would not let him indicate he was still in high school by requiring a graduation date before he could proceed, and it wouldn’t accept a future date. Based on the information he was allowed to submit by the app’s limitations, he looked like a 90 year old with no work experience.

      The Safeway ATS was very confusing as well. He got so confused about the placement of questions that he accidentally told it he was a convicted felon. I’m not sure we were able to fix that.

      1. Anonymous*

        Oh yes “Indicate whether or not you have never been convicted of a felony with the exception of ..” an exaggeration, but only slightly…

        1. Jamie*

          What my kids have been finding lately is a lot of online apps not giving temp options for why they left a job.

          All of them had temp jobs during school breaks which were only for the duration of the break…but the options are quit or fired. There isn’t even an option to check ‘oher’. It’s happened so many places, this seems like a pretty big oversight.

      2. Long Time Admin*

        I’ve had the same thing happen more than once, and the frustration is gut-wrenching, especially if you’re unemployed and desperate to find a job.

        Being old, I remember job hunting before non-professionals (like doctors, lawyers, architects) had resumes (and way before personal computers). It was personal then; we actually got to talk to the head of Personnel and fill out applications in the lobby. All the human touch has gone out of the application process, and not all reasonable options are offered.

        Yeah, frustrating to the twelfth of never.

    6. Vicki*

      Dear Hiring manager #1 – Don’t worry about rejecting the candidate in the first letter. She doesn’t want to work for you any more than you want her. You disregarded her bug report, told her the problem she reported didn’t exist, and made it very clear that you don’t value her feedback. There’s a great deal of difference between unwillingness to use bad software an “a lack of ability to roll with the punches” and if you can’t see that, you’re going to have poor software developers and thoughtless QA people working for you.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think that’s really unfair. We have no way of knowing for sure that that’s what happened, and in fact, the OP’s response above (5 question form similar to Survey Monkey) sure makes it sound likely that the problem wasn’t on the employer’s end.

        It’s really not reasonable to always blame the employer, just because one might have had bad experiences with other employers, and I’m not down with unwarranted employer-bashing here.

      2. fposte*

        It sounds like the hiring manager hasn’t actually responded to this email at all yet, so it’s not really fair to suggest her answer to the applicant was problematic.

      3. Emily*

        The “lack of ability to roll with the punches” isn’t just that the candidate submitted a bug report. It’s that her bug report was unnecessarily hostile. She resorted to all caps, she comes off somewhat arrogant with the “I’m going to fill out your application once more even though I don’t want to, but may I suggest you fix your system” comment, and she sent a second, angrier email a few moments later that was apparently worse. Not only is this a poor approach to reporting a technical error to begin with, the applicant had no reason to assume that the person reading her email is even responsible for the design or implementation of the hiring software (it’s quite like incoming email is handled by an HR/assistant-type person and the hiring software is handled by an IT-type person), which makes it doubly poor judgment. This is a company you supposedly want to work for, and you’ve just started your relationship with them by virtually shouting at the poor person who handles incoming email for something that is most likely not her fault. If that’s how you handle a technical glitch in the application process, how are you going to interact with vendors and clients when something doesn’t go smoothly?

        1. Jamie*

          This. Speaking as an IT type person I would resent the message being delivered in this manner from someone with whom I actually work.

          There is nothing that needs to be expressed which can’t be done in a civil way – when it comes to work.

      4. JobSeeker*

        I agree with Vicki. The last 9 months of looking for a job have given me such a negative view of people who work in HR, that I’m pretty sure that is where they put the incompetent, uncaring people who aren’t good at anything else. I wish I wouldn’t feel so negatively, but I’ve found that people in HR are generally unhelpful and don’t care if their system doesn’t work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There are loads of incompetent people in every field; they just have more of an impact on your life when they’re in fields like HR or management. And you tend to notice them more than you notice the ones who simply make things run smoothly.

          And for the record, I’ve known plenty of good and competent people in HR.

  2. Rob*

    I can certainly understand the frustration with the actual submitting of information of the application process. Sooooooooo many companies have terrible ATS’s and they either don’t know how bad it is or they just don’t care.

    If I encounter this problem, and I have a way of contacting someone who may be able to fix the problem, I’ll say something like ‘I tried applying to X job, using Y browser on Z operating system and I am having problems submitting my information. Can you provide me with assistance or an alternate way of applying?’

    A few times I’ve received feedback thanking me for the information about the problem and providing me with contact information of who I could email my resume/cover letter to while they investigate. It’s not a guarantee way to make things better, but being professional about the situation certainly goes a long way in helping.

      1. Kelly O*

        This is definitely something I would consider doing too. Or even saying “I’ve tried this using Browser X, Y, and Z and consistently get the same error.” – Or something like that. I have been known to take screen shots of the error message itself and send those to our IT guys, just so it’s clear what is happening. Not sure if that would be okay here or not but it might help show a legitimate issue.

  3. Anonymous*

    For letter #2:

    I do sense the arrogance in the candidate’s email, that he has, “in abundance, all the desired qualifications listed for the position.” I also think the OP in this instance went a bit too far in explaining how other qualified candidates went ahead and the generic criteria they search for. I would hope the candidate would already know that despite the inflated ego, to give him some credibility. However, while his second email was rude, there is still a point in there. Why say anything if you aren’t going to be specific? (I understand: company policy.) Furthermore, you say you sensed the bitterness in his first email. Therefore, I ask why did you feed into it more?

    I am by no means condoning this person’s rudeness on the emails, but it might save your sanity if you just let some people fade into the sunset. That’s my disclaimer.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can understand why she responded. If someone asks you a direct question, it’s rude to ignore it. She gave him what sounds like a polite answer. I don’t think she can be blamed for his response.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m definitely not blaming her for his response or saying that her response was rude, but I think sometimes it might be better to not stir the pot if someone is already on the defense, as he was in his original email. It should just reassure her that she and her company made the right choice. Perhaps she can add some line in her rejection email stating what she wrote to him in order to avoid receiving feedback.

        1. Lily*

          Not answering might have been just as bad. It is possible that if OP hadn’t answered, the applicant would have written back bitterly that he/she hadn’t gotten an answer. Sometimes, people just want to pick a fight / let off stress by yelling at someone.

  4. Sara*

    I can sympathize with these jobseekers but

    “We’re a fairly well-connected organization, and various job postings and requests for referrals come across my desk regularly.”

    ….THIS is what stops me from letting my frustration get the best of me. I NEVER reply to an email right away, I always take a few hours so as to make sure no negative emotions come across in my emails…so as much as I’d love to give them a piece of my mind, I control myself–this is why we have avenues to vent–friends, online blogs, and you’re alwyas super duper helpful too! ;)

    1. Long Time Admin*


      It’s what makes me long for retirement, even though I don’t have nearly enough money to live for more than a few years.

  5. jobseeker*

    in a perfect world, there would be none of these silly rules to prevent ppl from getting honest feedback (ok actually in a perfect world, everyone would have jobs, but let’s just go with my point for now). I had a phone interview and the person on the phone was so warm and friendly, and she actually got back to me within the time period she said she would (a huge + these days!)….i didn’t get to the second stage, I sent her a friendly response asking if she can give me feedback, I’d truly appreciate it, but she didn’t. Ah well…now I’ll never know if it was my stuttering or my answers that prevented me from moving forward.

    1. Job Seeker*

      I understand not knowing all the rules. I am someone that has made a lot of mistakes with phone interviews and following up. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It is so hard looking for a job these days.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, if your response to your potential employer reads as a complaint to customer service, boy, are you doing it wrong.

  6. previous seeker*

    While the candidate who was rejected from a second-round interview seems to have crossed the professional line, having been in the position of searching for a position for some time before landing one in this market, I can’t help but sympathize with their frustration. It can often seem that employer decisions on how to move forward with candidates are incredibly arbitrary. Having every single qualification for a listed job, and then some, to the point that one’s resume almost seems to be a perfect match to the lengthy job description, and yet not getting a call for an interview can be maddening.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But there are often dozens of perfectly matched candidates for any one job, and an employer can’t interview all of them. So of course you can be perfectly qualified and still not be interviewed.

      It’s not reasonable to believe that matching the qualifications should guarantee you an interview.

      1. previous seeker*

        I’m just speaking to human nature–I think most frustrated job seekers understand that it is unreasonable to believe that they will be granted an interview for every position for which they are qualified. That being said, job seekers are extremely frustrated and even, at times, demoralized. While I’m not excusing the behavior of the of angry applicant above, I can understand his/her frustration–especially in the current job market, and if they’ve been searching for months or even years.

      2. Hari*

        Can I ask from your perspective what does? If there are 2 dozen applicants all with matching qualifications for that industry (not necessarily same job titles but no experience or cover letter really distinguishes any from the rest although they are looking good on paper) how are they chosen to be interviewed if say there are only 10 max interview spots?

        I was asking my friend that who hires for retail when many people apply but often lots are young with no prior experience so she says scheduling and availability play a big part in who gets a call. I know in other industries it doesn’t work like that for obvious reasons but I’m curious what other factors could be involved besides maybe having an internal reference? I’m thinking its probably more of a random crapshoot or who ever applied first kinda deal but I’m curious if there is anything else that could play a factor (besides cover letter or reference).

          1. Katie*

            My only thoughts on the importance of the cover letter is this: unless I’m hiring for a position where writing is a critical skill, or where I need a person who is particularly gifted at being both exciting and persuasive, I don’t really understand the value of them for most positions. Yes, I understand they give insight you can’t get from a resume, and yes, I understand they are often one of the only ways you can gain a better sense of the candidate from fairly limited source material. Still. It bothers me that so much focus is put on them in hiring.

            1. Lily*

              I’m still feeling my way, but I’m thinking that a cover letter shows whether the candidate has read the ad carefully and thought about whether he or she would fit the job (as opposed to just wanting a job in general).

              Maybe writing is not that important for many jobs, but clear communication is necessary for all jobs, because misunderstandings and conflicts are bound to occur and how do you solve them otherwise?

              Cover letters are also convention and you probably want someone who will follow your rules.

        1. Emily*

          When I was doing hiring for a nonprofit, the cover letter weighted very, very heavily. Great cover letters typically got interviews even if their resume was a reasonable rather than a perfect match, because the cover letter made me want to give them a chance to pitch themselves. Among equally well-matched resumes, cover letter was also a tiebreaker.

          To be honest, I rarely had situations where there were too many equally matched candidates once cover letter was factored in. The truth is, very few people write good cover letters. So if I’m lucky enough to get a lot of applicants with solid resumes AND great cover letters, I do have to get nitpickier in ruling people out, but it’s never “arbitrary!”

          Another tiebreaker could be the other contact I’d had with the applicant. For instance, someone who wrote, “Dear [name], Attached please find my resume for the position of X. Sincerely, [name], [phone number]” could edge out someone who just sent a blank email with their resume attached. Even though the blank email wasn’t wrong perse, if I need to whittle the pool I might reason that the candidate who sent the polite email with contact information is demonstrating a sense of professional thoroughness that would be helpful in a position where they might be emailing external contacts, for instance.

          I would also start to take people out of the running based on things like, did they give me a 4-page resume and a 2-page cover letter despite having only 3 years of work experience? Did they pester me with frequent requests for “status updates” while we were building our applicant pool?

          Although I’ve never done it, I suppose I might also Google the tied applicants and see if that turns up anything that could break a tie.

      3. UK hr bod*

        It sounded from the letter that the person had been interviewed once (“I’m curious about why I did not get invited to even a second-round interview”), and I’d tend to expect that once a person has given up their time for an interview, that a company would give specific feedback on why they weren’t progressing to a next stage (when requested). I may have entirely misinterpreted this though. And in honesty I think that this particular candidate would have responded in a similar way even if given clear and constructive feedback.

        1. fposte*

          In the U.S., it doesn’t matter whether you’ve interviewed or not. Feedback is never standard; it’s something you might ask as a favor to help you in future, but even then responses will be pretty rare. A query that boils down to “Why didn’t you pick me?” is inappropriate, and it usually means “Can I tell you how wrong you were?”

          I get the jobseeker’s frustration, but this is how you make hiring managers dance with joy for not having hired you. That is not the response you want.

        2. Lily*

          I think the idea of giving feedback when asked is nice, but I wouldn’t know what to say if the problem is interpersonal communication. Would you really be specific about what they did wrong? I can’t think of a suitable generic answer but I can’t imagine telling them the following either:

          When I explained the structure of the interview, you told me you hated something about it or you completely ignored my questions and started asking some of your own.
          When I expressed interest in X and asked you to get back to me about it, you didn’t.
          When I told you about the conditions of the job you stated they were impossible.
          When I asked you for some details about what you would do in a particular situation, you refused to tell me on the grounds that you had many years of experience.
          When I asked you about interpersonal conflict, you stated you never had any conflicts, but we had several misunderstandings during the interview.

      4. Kou*

        That’s specifically why I would want feedback, though. If I knew it had something to do with my qualifications, that makes sense to me and there’s not a huge amount I could even do about it. If it’s not, then I really want/need to know what it is qualitatively that is setting me back or pushing them forward, since that’s something I can work on and want to work on.

          1. Sandrine*

            I get you on that one Alison, but I’ll take a silly example to show my confusion.

            I’m a job seeker. I wear blue. In my region, people wear blue or purple, doesn’t really matter. I also drink with my left hand.

            I move to region B. Here, people wear red. Sometimes orange. And they drink with straws.

            I go to a job interview in region B. I’ve seen people wear red, so I’m thinking, I’ll be on the safe side and wear red. I’m offered a drink and use my hand. No one tells me anything. I don’t get the job.

            Now obviously real life examples would have nothing to do with the way you drink something, but do you see the pattern here ?

            If there is something that employers in the area prefer or that they like to do, why wouldn’t they mention that to job seekers who don’t do those things ?

            To me, it’s not about being a job coach: it’s about being clear about what you’re about. If a candidate has no chance of being hired ever unless they, say, change the way they answer to question X, I think it’s a very, very nice thing to do to tell them so.

            If they ask nicely, of course :D !

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Of course, I don’t think anyone is disputing that job seekers would like to have feedback. But it doesn’t cancel out all the reasons discussed here for why they often won’t get it.

  7. Good_Intentions*

    Forgive my ignorance if I’ve missed something, but could someone please explain to me why the second letter writer in Alison’s post did not include his/her quoted email responses to the candidate?

    I appreciate the letter writer’s decision to directly quote what prompted the exchange with the job candidate, but I am left with several questions about why no parallel concrete example of his/her own emails is included in the posting. The uneven presentation of the information forced me to do a double take when I first read it and gave me a moment of pause.

    The letter writer states that he/she always sends out emails to those candidates not moving forward. I am curious as to the content of such a “nice email” as the letter writer indicates rejected candidates generally respond very favorably to it and actually send “thank-you” notes. Is there any chance that the letter writer could redact any identifying characteristics (logos, language, location references, etc) and post it in the comments thread?

    I am sympathetic to the letter writer for being put in the awkward position of trying to avoid an email confrontation with a job candidate who declines to accept rejection in a professional manner. Still, the phrasing of the letter, particularly what was absent, are causing my mind to conjure up a lengthy list of questions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because they sent me their letters independently of each other; they didn’t coordinate what they’d be including. And her point of her email to me was about what the candidate wrote.

      I’ve received hostile responses from rejected candidates many, many times, in response to very nice rejection emails. (See the three posts linked at the bottom of this post for real-life examples.) Most employers will tell you they have too. It’s very common. (And given the candidate’s first email to her, we should have no trouble believing he was volatile and hostile.) There’s nothing here that indicates that the OP somehow provoked the response from the candidate.

      1. Good_Intentions*


        I believe that we’ve had a slight misunderstanding.

        My comment, with its reservations, referred solely to the second example featured in the post. I am genuinely fascinated by a nonprofit organization that writes kind rejection letters and helps professionally-acting candidates not hired sometimes find other job leads.

        Please understand my intention was never to put you on the defensive about your or other people’s experiences as a hiring managers.

        However, I continue to stand by my critique of the obvious inconsistencies with the presentation of information. I suppose that we’ll just have to respectfully agree to disagree on that point, which I am more than willing to do.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah, I thought you were comparing the two; sorry for misunderstanding! In any case, I do want to defend the letter-writer, because my own experiences confirm what she’s reporting here — that plenty of rejected candidates are rude in response to perfectly polite emails.

  8. Michael*

    I’ve got to admit that advice like this feels like a two-edged sword. On one hand, as you said, you’re trying to get a job and should conduct yourself accordingly. On the other hand, companies are rude, also as you said, and think they can do whatever they want, legitimately or not. Since we’re not machines we don’t always let things go and the situation can turn very much into something like a pressure cooker about to pop.

    How do you suggest a candidate handle those invasions of privacy and violations of dignity? To do nothing is to ‘take it,’ as it were. Shouldn’t we, as people, respond to let others know when they’ve treated us incorrectly? I’m not saying the examples in your blog fit the bills of privacy and dignity violations. What would you advise on how to assert yourself as the job applicant to say effectively that there is a right and wrong way to treat me and I won’t handle being jerked around or marginalized?

    I know there’s no way to force someone else to act a certain way and that jerks will be jerks. But, to simply say ‘deal with it’ doesn’t really work either, for better or worse, and yes I noticed the EmailYourInterviewer.com ad, haha.

    I don’t agree with no feedback policies on interviews as it feels shady so I can relate to the second situation. I see it as such: either a) there is a very obvious reason such as insufficient amount of experience in x, y or z, the decision maker didn’t feel you’d make a good fit personality wise or someone else simply seemed to be a better fit, the position is no longer needed, etc or b) the decision was made on legally shaky grounds and the company doesn’t want to own up to it such as thinking a worker is too old, or rejecting a pregnant woman, they didn’t realize you were a certain race (true story: I’ve been to ‘equal’ opportunity employers who had a majority of white workers in important roles with people of colored descent filling the majority of less glamorous roles in a pretty well mixed area), etc. If a person can disrupt their day to talk to you, you can disrupt your day to let them know how it panned out. Given your ad, I think it’s reasonable to assume you feel the same.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Lots of employers have a policy of not giving feedback to rejected candidates because they don’t want to deal with candidates who will then try to debate the decision (which is common), or because their lawyers have advised them not to get into the reasons for job rejections, in case a candidate doesn’t like the explanation and decides the “real” reason must be something else, something discriminatory. And on top of all that, employers aren’t job coaches. They’re not in the business of helping job candidates improve — that’s not their job. In my opinion, employers owe candidates an answer (yes or no), but they don’t owe them feedback. (And I say this as someone who does sometimes give feedback.)

      As for what you can do when you encounter frustrating hiring practices … your best bet is to move on. There’s no point in burning bridges or making yourself angry and bitter.

      1. Michael*

        Thanks, Alison. I can appreciate an employer not wanting to debate a situation. I can think of a solution to at least come half way on both sides. Use your resume submission platform as an email forwarder so submitters never get anyone’s direct email. Messages back and forth work like a ticketing system and as long as you have a certain ID in the subject line it will be delivered to the correct person. If someone gets to the interview stage and then rejected make the system requires feedback from the manager before they can be marked as rejected which will be sent to the submitter. However, once marked as rejected, the system will auto-delete any further messages from them.

        That’s more just sharing a thought and not so much wanting to discuss the merits of such a thing.

        Thanks again.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, because what if you come across another opening later at the same company, with a different manager? If you burn that bridge, you kill your chances of ever applying again. If you’re really nice about it, no matter how jerky the manager is, it seems to me that their last impression of you will be a good one.

    2. fposte*

      “Shouldn’t we, as people, respond to let others know when they’ve treated us incorrectly?”

      Most of the time? Probably not, and not just in the job hunt. Letting things go is an underrated skill that’s a very different thing from being a doormat; it’s about having perspective, and prioritizing outcome over viewing situations as competitive. Treatment is usually a subjective call (“incorrect” is wishful objectivity, I think), and if your ultimate objective is to be viewed with more respect, you’ll often work against it by telling people they should behave differently toward you every time they do something you don’t like. The OP who received the second email, for instance, was being treated inappropriately, but the best use of the OP’s time is to shrug and move on.

      1. Rana*

        Plus there’s the fact that people who are genuinely and deliberately inconsiderate are unlikely to become nicer in response to a complaint.

        I generally console myself that at the end of the day, people like that have to live with themselves, and I do not.

        1. Kelly O*

          This is so true. There are some people who will never be happy with any response short of “you know what, you are right. I was wrong. Can you start on Monday?”

          No amount of patient explanation, professional distance, or even honest desire to help by pointing out what could have been better or what other, intangible thing made another candidate better will ever be enough for that kind of person.

          1. Lily*

            And if they did start on Monday, they would be criticizing me, the department and its processes on Tuesday and trying to re-organize the department on Wednesday.

            I’m thinking that people who are very sensitive to criticism interpret situations so that they are not at fault. I would expect any new employee to make mistakes, but someone-who-can’t-deal-with-the-idea-of-making-mistakes is going to blame me and their co-workers for anything that goes wrong, first criticizing and then trying to tell us what to do.

    3. Emily*

      Honestly, in the last job where I did hiring (for a small nonprofit), I simply didn’t have time to give feedback to everyone we rejected. I also frequently wasn’t the one doing the interviews, I was just the applicants’ contact person in the organization, so I would have had to pester the hiring manager (my supervisor) for feedback, figure out how to word it diplomatically, take time to communicate that to the applicant, and deal with any subsequent communication–multiplied by at least a dozen candidates per position. I was not an HR person–we didn’t have one because we were so small and rarely hired for new positions, so the support I provided in screening resumes, scheduling interviews, and communicating with candidates was squeezed into my schedule around the job duties that both I and my boss considered to be my real, primary responsibility. My nonprofit had to do a lot with a little and taking time to correspond with candidates about why we aren’t hiring them was not advancing our mission and was therefore not the most appropriate use of my limited time.

      1. Lily*

        I hire when I need to hire, but it isn’t the most important part of my job and I received absolutely no training and our HR manager told me she was instructing her people to not answer any more of my questions. So, any knowledge I have about hiring comes from this blog and Evil HR lady and books which I read in my FREE time!

        Other hiring managers are probably also learning by doing with no training and no time.

  9. Lisa*

    The emails actually made me pretty sad about our hopes for raising employment. With all the “punches” the unemployed are supposed to roll with, you’d think the employers would be more willing to let a few VERY minor things go, too. I mean, as an employee, I have to manage a whole load of different personality types; if I let any of them get to me, I wouldn’t be very good at my job. To instantly shut someone out because they are passionate about what they do and just want to opportunity to prove that… I don’t know. You don’t need to hire everyone who comes across your desk, but have a little empathy.

    1. A Bug!*

      I understand where you’re coming from, but to me, the important thing is to remember that these were sent to the potential employer. It’s not just that these people were frustrated or whether or not their frustration was reasonable.

      How you feel is one thing, and everybody’s entitled to their feelings. How you act in response to those feelings is entirely another. These letter-writers should have turned to a friend or family member or Internet forum or cat to vent about their job-hunting and limited their communication with the hiring employer to the purely professional.

      I’m sorry, but “lashes out in response to frustration” doesn’t read to me as “passionate about what they do.” The letters were just plain disrespectful and if those applicants are being disrespectful to the person with the power to give them a job then I’d have serious concerns about their ability to conduct themselves in the workplace. And if I’m not hurting for suitable candidates who aren’t being disrespectful to me, I don’t see why something like this shouldn’t take them out of the running.

      1. Ellie H.*

        I don’t know. Everything you say is reasonable and correct. It is particularly supported by the point the second letter-writer makes that, in response to a gracious and professional response, she sometimes refers rejected candidates to other positions. However, I just can’t help feeling like rejected candidates do not need to further supplicate to hiring companies. I think there is some legitimacy to saying how you feel. Yes, it’s rude, but I’m not sure it’s so truly awful or unacceptable.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well, the point is that it’s an action that’s out of alignment with you goal — which is presumably to get a job, not to vent.

          And it’s not supplicating to be courteous.

        2. fposte*

          I think gratuitous rudeness is unacceptable, though. I don’t think it would be acceptable for a hiring manager to send a rejection that said “I can’t believe you wasted our time when you were so obviously unprepared,” either, even though that’s a legitimate feeling as well. Ultimately, I guess I don’t agree that just because it’s how you feel there’s any particular merit or legitimacy in sharing it. I don’t think you have to supplicate to an employer–and I do get sometimes it sounds like that’s what’s demanded–but there’s a big difference between supplicating and not sending a pissy email.

          I also think there’s a significant difference between the two examples, and that I cut a lot more slack to the first than I do to the second.

          1. A Bug!*

            It seems to me that there’s a really important distinction to be made between “acceptable” and “understandable.”

            I can understand the applicants’ frustrations and empathize with their experiences but that doesn’t mean I have to accept the action they choose in response.

      2. Rana*

        I think the other thing to keep in mind is that, for the employer, this isn’t personal. It’s a business transaction. They’re not rejecting employees or using difficult forms to be mean, but to save money and to hire a candidate who will do the job they need done.

        Acting as if it’s personal suggests a certain level of immaturity on the part of the applicant, because, honestly, in the vast majority of cases, it’s just not. They’re not saying “You, Susie Teapot, are a sucky human being and we don’t want you working for us”; they’re saying, “This candidate’s resume and experience are not the best match for what the position or our company requires.”

        Now, the effect of an indifferent company will be experienced by people, and thus will feel personal, especially if the result is disappointing, but I really, really doubt that most hiring managers have any emotional stake in most candidates’ success or failure. They don’t know you, except from very constrained circumstances; why should they care, except in the most general of ways?

        1. fposte*

          And I think that’s another risk of asking for personal feedback–it can make a rejection very personal indeed.

  10. Hari*

    I absolutely hate lengthy online job submission applications, however I find any errors ever had with them are because of the browser I’m using. For some reason those application sites (the dreaded Taleo) seem to LOVE I.E. (the bane of my online surfing experience) and hate Chrome, Firefox and/or Safari. I would NEVER EVER as a potential applicant complain about anything (unless I absolutely could not submit anything and with the most humble demeanor).

    Also those responses back to rejection letters only confirm they were not the correct candidate for the job or anyone anybody sane would want to work with.

    I don’t understand some people.

  11. Zee*

    I just had fun reading the old stories you linked on here. What was up with the guy on the phone?

    Form letters are, to use a phrase already used here, a double-edged sword. They get the job done but they are very vague towards a specific candidate. I remember receiving a form rejection letter after interviewing with this company. It was via email, stating that while my qualifications were impressive, they’ve gone with others. When this opportunity came about again, I reapplied, but that time, I did not get an interview. And again, I received an email rejection – with the exact same wording! I thought that was weird; I would think maybe they might change it up between those they interviewed vs. those they didn’t.

    Afterthought: I decided to do some research into this particular internship, and I think I found out the two specific qualifications they were seeking. One of which I do believe would be okay to mention in the ad; the other they probably wouldn’t be able to get away with. However, since I can’t prove it, I won’t write it here.

  12. Anonymous*

    People should avoid venting their frustrations in general, not just when applying for jobs. I work in retail, and I don’t know why people think that throwing a little hissy fit is going to make people want to help you. The odds are good that you’re not even venting to the person who can fix whatever the issue is, and they’re almost certainly going to get pissed back at you. This means that if there was even a slim chance they could do something to make it work for you, now they’re going to avoid that at all costs.

    My mother was one of the snippy types and for a while I was like that because I assumed it was how you got things done. Then I started working and realized my folly. If nice doesn’t work, nasty sure isn’t going to.

    1. -X-*

      I don’t agree with avoiding venting in general. If the person you’re venting to has potential power over you, then sure, it’s unwise. But if not, and your venting is for a real reason, it can be emotionally satisfying. That can have inherent value.

      I don’t vent to get things done. I vent because I am mad and enjoy spreading that around.

      1. Colette*

        … and because you don’t want an actual solution, right? I’m also in customer service, and I can tell you that venting (especially when you are at least 50% responsible for your issue) will not speed up your solution. If you make it clear you’re not going to be happy no matter what I do, what is my incentive to go out of my way for you?

        1. Jamie*

          I’m not sure how you are alluding he term venting, but I don’t think there is anything wrong in expressing dissatisfaction, even extreme dissatisfaction, in a vendor as long as you aren’t getting personal with the agents.

          I have one vendor who realized high tens of thousands of dollars of my business each year. There was a huge snafu with customer service while he was out of the office, dealing with disingenuousness regarding processing and order and rudeness and avoidance after the fact.

          I made it very clear to my rep exactly what happened and how unhappy I was. The other option I was considering was switching vendors. Had I been ‘nice’ enough to not spell out exactly how they dropped the ball he’d have lost a sizeable commission each year. I’m sure he appreciated my candor as opposed to the loss of a client.

          Again, it wasn’t personal and I didn’t raise my voice, but I was clearly angry and I’m sure many would have called it venting. Controlled, livid, quiet through clenched teeth venting.

          I now have a different avenue to escalate issues when my rep is out of the office and he still has a client. Win win.

          This is in regards to customers and vendors and in no way applies to the job hunt – just that venting can be more than cathartic, it can alert the company to a problem before they lose customers.

          1. Colette*

            Expressing dissatisfaction is fine, of course – we need to know what the issues really are. But “I vent because I am mad and enjoy spreading that around.” isn’t constructive, and isn’t likely to help you achieve your goal.

        2. -X-*

          When I’ve given up on getting a solution.

          Also what Jamie said below is spot on about complaining: “I don’t think there is anything wrong in expressing dissatisfaction, even extreme dissatisfaction, in a vendor as long as you aren’t getting personal with the agents.”

          And someone else wrote:
          Venting to “csr people is so not cool.”

          As long as it is not personal (unless that person specifically screwed up) and instead is dissing the company, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            There’s a difference between venting and professionally/politely explaining dissatisfaction (which is what Jamie described). Venting outside of your circle of family and friends will rarely get you an outcome you’re happy with … and in the case of job searching, it will burn a bridge with that employer. What if they have a job open up next week that you would have liked to apply for? What if the hiring manager later pops up at a different company you’d like to work for? For most people in that situation, the momentary release of venting isn’t worth the price they may pay for it.

            1. -X-*

              We’ve gotten off-topic for this blog, but in my post above I thought it was clear I was talking about dealing with CSR people, vendors, salespeople etc. who screw up.

              1. Risa*

                How are you venting? Because if you scream, cuss or degrade my CSRs, even if we made the mistake, I will do only what is minimally necessary to fix the problem – usually a refund to make you go away. As much as you have “fired” me as a vendor, I have “fired” you as a customer. If you are polite, express your frustration clearly and articulately without being obnoxious, I will bend over backwards to make the situation right and usually give you 2-3x whatever is owed to you by our mistake. 99% of the time, the issue is not the fault of the actual person that you are talking to on the phone – it’s the company’s mistake, yes, but not the mistake of the service rep who answered your call. They deserve to be treated with respect and not with vitriol. Most CSRs genuinely want to make the situation right for you, but that desire goes right out the window with the first cuss word uttered by you.

                1. Jamie*

                  The behavior you noted is unconscionable no matter what the issue.

                  Swearing, raising one’s voice, berating anyone is both unprofessinal and, from a pragmatic perspective, counter-productive (as you’ve noted.)

                2. Rana*

                  Agreed. My brother once got an upgrade to first class after his flight was cancelled because he was (a) polite to the desk clerk, and (b) came right after a guy who did nothing but yell at her.

                  I find approaching things like this as a mutual problem that we can solve together, rather than as an attack by the company on me, usually works best.

                3. Lore*

                  There does come a point, though, where civility just completely fails to get you through a block of unreasonable behavior. I remember a certain exchange with the USPS wherein they insisted that they did not, had never, and would never deliver a package to my office; that the only way in history anyone working in my building had ever possibly received mail from the USPS was to intuit that a package was waiting for them at the local post office (because they also, of course, did not deliver package notifications to my apparently invisible building) and then go there and without any evidence of said package get the post office to hand it over. I asked if I could speak to someone else, was told no, because they’d only give me the same answer–and then the post office hung up on me. I was polite for the great majority of this conversation, but eventually? I confess there was raising of the voice.

            2. Lily*

              Would what he described also apply to talking to employees as well? Specifically, can I show that I am angry about serious problems? I have never had a boss show anger towards me, but I have also never lied to a boss and then been caught lying, as an example.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Well, if you catch an employee lying, I think that’s something you need to fire over — there aren’t second chances; it’s serious and it goes to integrity. You need to be able to trust that your employees aren’t lying to you.

                But to the bigger question, about whether it’s ever appropriate for a manager to show anger with an employee … I’ve actually argued over this with other managers who I respect. I say no, there’s no reason for open anger — serious concern, definitely, and serious warnings, but not anger. But I’ve heard other good managers say they feel there’s a place for it.

                1. Lily*

                  I guess it is better for the manager to show some anger than ignore the topic or wait until the performance evaluation. I guess it also depends on the sensitivity of the employee to criticism. Some may not take criticism seriously until the manager gets angry, but you don’t want to crush sensitive people, either.

          2. KellyK*

            There’s absolutely nothing wrong with expressing dissatisfaction. There’s plenty wrong with being rude, whether it’s personal or not. There’s very little difference between “You jerk, you screwed up my coffee and ruined my day, what is wrong with you?!” and “Your company screwed up my order and ruined my day, what is wrong with this place?!”

            Also, what in the world is the point of “dissing the company” to a CSR who didn’t create the problem, when you’ve already given up on getting the problem solved? The CSR is there to try to solve the problem and keep you as a customer. If that bridge is burnt and they can’t fix it, it’s not appropriate to waste their time griping at them because it makes you feel better.

      2. Esra*

        Are you talking about venting to friends etc, as a bitch session? Because everyone needs that now and then. But venting on random sales or csr people is so not cool.

    2. Lily*

      Carol Tavris did research on anger. Venting just makes you stay angry longer.

      I wish I could remember that when I am angry! :-)

    3. Surlyhrgiel*

      I know I’ve read it in Reader’s Digest, for one, and other magazine articles as well – something along the lines of, “make a stink and you’ll get what you want.”

  13. Anonymous*

    *raises hand* I am a frustrated job seeker. I am one of those many underemployed (and I am grateful for that job, even if it isn’t much,) college graduates.

    I think the main source of my frustration is that I feel like I am doing the right things, but am not getting the result I want (a job.) I do my homework on the company, write a customized cover letter, dress professionally, show up on time, ask the right questions, show enthusiasm, and send a thank you note, but still end up with nothing. I know that logically, there are a lot of good, strong candidates, and that they probably went with someone with more experience than me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want to move out of my parents’ house, that I want to make enough money to start my life, that I want to get out of my current job.

    It further frustrates me when I read HR-oriented message boards , see topics about whether HR should send rejections and/or feedback, and have some posters describe the worst job candidates as reasons for not wanting to get back to applicants. They will mention candidates who threaten, go in drunk or act unprofessional, curse and dress up terribly. I don’t do any of those things! Don’t punish me for what somebody else did!

    You know some people lift heavier or with more intensity at the gym when they’re angry? I have tried to apply that philosophy towards job searching. I am frustrated, but I tried using that frustration to push harder. Looking back in retrospect, I don’t think that’s the best approach.

    And to tell you the truth, I have been gracious when I receive rejection letters and have always responded in a polite manner and always wished them the best. I have yet to have any company come back and say, “Hey, I remember speaking to you in the past, I think I may have found something for you.” I know that it’s good to be nice and courteous for the sake of it being the right thing, but I would like to see it reap a benefit for me some time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I suspect this attitude toward it all isn’t helping you. Even if it’s not showing to employers (and you haven’t said anything here that makes me think it is), it’s got to be making you unhappy, and that’s bad for you.

      (And yes, you should be courteous for the sake of it being the right thing, not because you expect to get something in return.)

    2. jobseeker*

      YES!!!! I do all that-dress well, show up on time, ask the right questions, have a great cover letter/resume…..and then to be told I’m not getting a job because I”m not presenting myself well becuase I’m fat/smelly/hairy/ogre (yes that’s what someone said to me), or these websites that tell you just the basic stuff and you should be good…no I’m not “good” because I follow everything and I’m frustrated. at least AAM’s approach is different/better than most work-related websites/blogs.

      1. KellyK*

        What is *wrong* with people? Is this an actual employer giving you this ugly personal feedback, or some other random person?

        1. jobseeker*

          oh, no this wasn’t an employer, it was just someone I knew for a short time. Their tips for getting a job were to smell good, look nice, don’t have smelly breath. Yes, it’s all technically correct, but the way it was said + the fact I”ve been working for 8 years, advice like this is downright insulting. Lesson learnt? Keep my job issues to myself and a few select people.

    3. Elizabeth M*

      “You know some people lift heavier or with more intensity at the gym when they’re angry? I have tried to apply that philosophy towards job searching.”

      When I was last job searching, I poured my frustrations out into working out. It did pretty well for me. I could vent my energy into something non-job-related, stay calm when dealing with the job hunt, and I wound up nice and toned!

    4. fposte*

      But most of the time the answer won’t help you in the slightest, because the choice is about what the other person did, not about a flaw you have–it will be “We had a candidate that absolutely killed at the interview” or “Our eventual choice brought a wealth of foreign experience”–even though foreign experience wasn’t mentioned in the job description. Sometimes it’s “Most of us could have gone either way, but Fred was strongly for the other person.” A lot of the time it’s “We just liked her better than you.” It might be all of those things. (And the poster a few up from me apparently did get feedback and it made things worse.)

      I think people should send rejections because they’re an absolutely basic courtesy, and I don’t think bad responses should change that. However, feedback is a whole other matter, and I think job seekers are better off without most of the feedback they’d get, which isn’t going to be the helpful kind they’re hoping for.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s absolutely true!

        And the feedback that would be helpful is the kind that most employers wouldn’t share anyway: You chronically interrupt, you seemed vaguely angry, you looked unkempt, you seemed high maintenance, you didn’t seem as smart as the person we hired, you creeped out the receptionist, etc. Most employers aren’t going to have these awkward conversations with people who aren’t working for them.

        1. JPB*

          The better question is SHOULD we give feedback like that, even if it is awkward? Do candidates actually want to know or are most requests for feedback just attempts to extend the relationship?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That type of feedback would generally be really helpful for people to hear, but in reality, it takes a very healthy ego to hear and process that type of thing without getting angry or defensive. And very healthy egos are disappointingly rare. So it would rarely go well or end up being truly useful.

            And of course, in reality, employers just aren’t going to do it anyway. Those conversations are awkward enough that they often don’t even happen when it’s an employee who needs to hear it.

            1. fposte*

              Plus there’s the time that would need to be taken in crafting these feedback statements with as much care and tact as possible. That’s no small task there.

            2. Jamie*

              This. In a perfect world where people genuinely want to hear the truth, sure, give feedback to everyone. But unfortunately a lot of people want feedback in the form of validation only…I.e. yes, we were wrong and if we have enough of a dialogue I’ll find another spot for you.

              It’s been discussed here quite a bit how it’s hard for people to accept feedback on the jobs they have, even when it’s minor enough that their position isn’t in jeopardy. It’s even riskier when people don’t have that security, and honestly, even the most secure among us are more likely t be insecure when facing rejection while job hunting.

              ‘Tell me where I fell short’ is hard to hear for most people and as Alison noted, hiring managers aren’t job coaches (or therapists).

              1. Kelly O*

                A thousand times this.

                We see this all the time on the internet too. Someone posts a question or issue, and the second they get an answer that is not “you are absolutely 100% right and that person is a junkyard dog for not (hiring/dating/agreeing with) you” they get all defensive and argumentative.

                1. Jill of All Trades*

                  Yes! I understand wanting validation, but it’s a huge red flag if someone asks for help and then rejects all of the help because it doesn’t match what they hoped to get, so they go on the attack. It signals not just a lack of maturity, but also a lack of business maturity.

            3. Rana*

              Plus, unless you’ve got a major problem of some sort (like being smelly), what rates as a “less than perfect” with one employer isn’t necessarily a concern for another. So you might waste energy correcting a “problem” that was only a problem for one individual, or even overcorrect yourself into a new one.

              (Candidate: “They said I wasn’t enthusiastic enough, so I’ll work on showing enthusiasm more.” Next hiring manager: “What was with that person? This is a serious job, and they seemed too emotional.” etc.)

    5. nyxalinth*

      Same here, x9000. I can’t seem to find what it is that will push me out of the “Thanks for coming in, we’re interviewing other people, kthnxbye.” category and into “We’re hiring Nyx!” category. At this point, I’m guessing it’s just a matter of time and math for us both.

  14. Steve*

    I once applied for a job as a scientist at a fairly large company specializing in consumer goods. Part of the online application process included a 30 or 40 part spacial reasoning test (you’re shown an oddly shaped geometric image, and then asked to identify what it would look like backwards, upside down and in a mirror for example), prompts for writing samples and personality based questions and then only after that was I provided an opportunity to upload my resume and cover letter.

    Employers who use these really show no respect for an applicants time.

    1. Tmm*

      these screening tests not only test your ability and other things but also your desire for the job . (Leaving aside the debate about the validity of on-line tests for now). If you aren’t willing to spend the time applying then we aren’t willing to spend the time processing your application. When receiving hundreds or thousands of applications these tests can help to weed out the casual job seeker.

      1. Elizabeth M*

        I disagree with this approach. Sure, you might weed out someone who is applying to jobs simply scattershot – but you’d also weed out someone awesome who’s pretty happy at their current job but thinks yours might be an interesting step in a new direction. By making them jump through irrelevant hoops to prove their interest, you are showing them that you don’t really value their time.

        1. class factotum*

          Elizabeth, I absolutely agree. The only reason I spent two hours taking the online algebra/spatial reasoning test as part of a job application was because I really, really needed a job.

          I now have a job that I like. A new job would have to have very compelling advantages over my current job for me to spend two hours of my now-limited free time taking a test.

        2. KellyK*

          That makes sense. Also, when you don’t value job applicants’ time, you’re showing that you probably won’t value their time as employees either. The same organization who finds it appropriate to ask an applicant to spend an hour on something totally irrelevant that they’ll never even look at to prove their interest will have no problem asking an employee to cancel a vacation at the last minute to deal with something that can wait until they get back, or asking them to work all weekend just to prove that they’re dedicated.

          If you’re drowning in awesome applicants, that might be working for you, but I’d be very concerned about deliberately screening for “desperate” and “willing to put up with anything.”

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Elizabeth is exactly right here. The best candidates will have options, and they’re the ones least likely to jump through lengthy hoops at the beginning. If you want to hire the best people, you need to keep the barrier to applying fairly low in the beginning — you can do these sorts of tests as the second stage in the process, but not the first.

        1. Kelly O*

          I completely agree with this. It should not take me two hours to submit a basic application online, but it happens more frequently than you’d think. And while I want another job, I’m also facing the same time constraints that many already-employed job seekers are – I may just skip on to the next one and try to come back later in the name of getting something accomplished in the time I have.

  15. PuppyKat*

    I saw and heard job applicants doing this kind of thing even before the economy went into a free fall, when there were still plenty of jobs. One guy even wrote semi-threatening e-mails to our Director of HR and was spotted hanging around the company parking lot after being e-mailed one of our polite, professional rejection letters.

    So I think there are just some people who unfortunately have an overinflated opinion of their qualifications and abilities, and probably also a predisposition to react in inappropriate ways.

    I just have to shake my head when I read about things like this. No matter how frustrated you are, you don’t do yourself any favors pulling this kind of behavior. I work in a small industry—and we share notes.

  16. Sharon*

    I think many companies have an over-inflated opinion of themselves based on how many of them treat applicants so rudely. When I was job-hunting last year, I found a job pretty quickly luckily. But I also did compile a list of local companies that demonstrated how dysfunctional they are and not worth my time applying in the future when I do my next job search. Here are some example:

    * the company that insisted on a printed, snail-mailed resume. Interestingly, they were also using some outsourced recruiters and I first discovered them that way. The recruiter submitted me and we heard nothing for weeks. Finally the recruiter told me that they had very precise requirements for the position and felt I didn’t qualify so that’s probably why they weren’t communicating. I was curious, so went directly to the company’s website and found the job ad (interestingly they managed to describe their very precise requirements in a one-line job description!) there with the instructions to apply via snailmail. I dismissed it for a few weeks and then finally printed and sent in my resume just to see what happened. I heard nothing from them for two months and then I finally received a snail-mailed letter. It said that they’d been trying to contact me for an interview and if I was still interested to call them. I laughed and threw away the letter. Why? Because it was clearly a lie – my phone did not ring, my email had nothing from them, and this was the very first snailmail letter from them. I was willing to overlook their refusal to use 2010 technology (email) – or even 1900 technology (the phone), but to then lie about trying to call me for an interview? Also their inability to write a proper job description was a huge red flag. Good luck to them.

    And similar to letter #1 in the original story, I had a problem with a very large, well-known corporation’s HR site. I created a profile one day. A couple weeks later, I wanted to log in and browse their job listings again. The login screen said that it didn’t know who I was and I needed to create a profile. The create profile page said that I was already in their system and needed to reset my password. Their password reset screen said that I didn’t exist. And the icing on the cake: a polite email to the website tech support got no response. Too bad for them.

    There was another very large corporation that actually did bring me in for an interview. What they didn’t tell me up front was that their interview method was to get 10 – 15 candidates in a room, each sitting at a small table and let the hiring managers go round-robin to each one for a quick 10-minute “interview”. It was exactly like speed dating, and the entire process lasted 2.5 hours. At no time did they tell us where the bathrooms were, or let us know that there were snacks just outside the room for us (I discovered that as we were leaving).

    Then there was the small company that brought me in for an interview. They wanted a writing sample from my previous employment, but I couldn’t provide any. (I feel strongly that work I do for one company is company intellectual property, plus it would take too long to anonymize the document.) They brought me in anyway, and then the hiring manager made a big deal out of me not providing any writing samples. He said “well, how are we supposed to evaluate your skills then”, and I suggested “well, I’d be happy to take a writing test if you provide me with something to write about”. He said “we can’t do that”. There was an uncomfortable pause as we stared at each other at an impasse. We politely finished the interview, but I think we mutually crossed each other off our lists. He probably felt that I was not a team player or whatever, and I felt he was rigid and uncompromising and…. if it was THAT important, why did they bring me in for an interview when they knew up front that I could not provide a sample? Just to beat me up? Is that really an effective use of time?

    These are all examples from a local part of a metro area, in a 5 month period of time. Very small sample in statistical terms. Imagine this expanded to all job-seekers in the country. We’ve all read news articles telling us what not to do in an interview. How about some articles telling employers what not to do?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “How about some articles telling employers what not to do?”

      In fairness, I write those all the time too :)

      For instance:





      There’s bad behavior on both sides of the hiring process. But frankly, most job seekers have fewer options in this economy than employers do, and it’s in their best interests to keep their frustration from impacting how they come across.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        #8 on the Bill of Rights–we’re scrutinizing employers as much as they are doing to us. So true!

        Alison, I’ve asked a couple of the questions you recommend in your book How to Get a Job, and I’ve surprised employers with them. I really don’t think they give this much thought at all. Thinking “I’m going to this interview to see if I want this job” also helps me not be as nervous, and when I’m a bit more relaxed, I’m better able to present myself.

        1. Emily*

          I noticed that when interviewing in July for the position I now hold. It had been more than two years since I last interviewed and in that time I’d sat on the other side of the table a few times and read this blog regularly. I remember a moment of self-awareness in the interview where I realized I was leaning slightly back in the chair, with my arms unfolded and resting lightly on the arm rests while I listened to the interviewer describe a facet of the position. When I’m nervous, I’m the kind of person who leans forward, self-touches a lot (playing with my hair, touching my collarbone, putting a hand up on my neck, etc), and tends to “close off” my body with my arms. I was employed while interviewing for that position, and was in fact interviewing only for that one position and not conducting a full job search. I was truly trying to learn more about whether I wanted this job and I realized it made me feel and behave in a much more confident, relaxed fashion than I have in interviews in the past.

    2. Josh S*

      Alison is good at calling out bad behavior from both job-seekers and employers. She tells it like it is, and doesn’t pull punches.

      That said, there are a LOT of dysfunctional hiring managers/companies/HR folks/recruiters out there. People who just don’t get it when it comes to “what process will help me find and attract the best talent for _______ job?” It’s kind of sad.

      But that’s why the application and interview process is a two-way street. As much as the company is interviewing me and assessing my skills, I’m interviewing the company to ensure it will be a place I don’t hate working and evaluating whether they are sane, reasonable people.

      I hope you found your job. I’m sorry there are so many stupid employers. (But at the same time, it’s a little encouraging to me…because otherwise the question of “How does the drunk, absentee, slacker find a job when Mr-Responsible Me can’t?” becomes really hard to answer. These bad employers are the way that the bad employee finds a job. And I wouldn’t want to work there anyway!)

      1. JPB*

        Agreed. As a recruiter, that is why it is so frustrating when candidates do not ask questions about the job, even when I prompt them. I always end my questions by saying something like, “you’ve answered my questions, so what questions can I answer for you?” The folks who do not seem to be making it a two-way interaction raise red flags.

    3. nyxalinth*

      –And similar to letter #1 in the original story, I had a problem with a very large, well-known corporation’s HR site. I created a profile one day. A couple weeks later, I wanted to log in and browse their job listings again. The login screen said that it didn’t know who I was and I needed to create a profile. The create profile page said that I was already in their system and needed to reset my password. Their password reset screen said that I didn’t exist. And the icing on the cake: a polite email to the website tech support got no response. Too bad for them.–

      Exactly. I had the same problem just yesterday with a large and well-known satellite TV company. Their website didn’t recognize me, but then it would say I already existed in their database. I shrugged it off and moved on.

  17. Yup*

    I think there’s a growing pool of frustrated candidates on one side and companies looking for the purple unicorn on the other side. A candidate needs to be the exact match for everything the employer is looking for — skills, talent, attitude, experience, expectations, salary, style. And with a bell curve distribution, that means the odds are against you on nearly every application. Getting rejected again and again takes it toll on sanity and judgment.

    And on the flip side, company are overwhelmed for choice. Hundreds of applicants for every job so they design ever more complicated filters to narrow it down. I can’t even calculate how many lunatic job ads I see. Employers looking for a mid-career neurosurgeon with CPA designation who speaks French and volunteers as a karate teacher for at-risk youth, starting salary $25k. With the glut of job seekers, they will probably even find this unicorn after an exhaustive search. But only after moving past 200 qualified candidates who could have done the job wonderfully with a week of training.

    Everyone needs a time out.

    1. mh_76*

      (Frustrated job-seeker here) It is definitely frustrating to read listing after listing that essentially says “seeking purple squirrel-unicorn hybrid that swills Kool Aid, sh–s ice cream…[and the list goes on and on]. Has x years experience in this hyper-specific micro-process, y years experience using this particular software, z years experience…” etc.

      1. Josh S*

        The one that’s really funny to see is requirements for programming languages for X years when the programming language has only been around for X-Y years. Oops.

        Like, “Requirements: –10 years progressive experience programming in Ruby” even though Ruby has only been around since 2005.* It’s going to be REALLY hard to find a qualified candidate for that position, unless the candidate has also invented time travel (in which case, double win!)…

        Really, what they’re looking for is a developer who has progressive programming experience/responsibility and ALSO experience with Ruby.

        *Yes, I know that Ruby was really invented in the 90s or something for you technical nit-picky types (in which group I include myself). But there were only like 2 people using it prior to the Ruby on Rails explosion that took off sometime between 2005 and 2007, and Ruby 1.9 was only introduced in ’07, which was basically the up-to-date iteration of the language, and the only one that employers are really looking for.

        1. nyxalinth*

          My ex-boyfriend does Ruby on Rails.

          I see that sort of nonsense fairly often. Once I saw a job listing wanting 5 years experience with Windows 7.

          Windows. 7.

          In regards to frustration, here’s how I do it. I’m on a Facebook-like site that’s been around since 1999 or so (it never caught on the way Facebook has, which suits me fine) with tons of communities and stuff. the only personal information I have on mine is my location. No name, no age, etc. I belong to several job hunting communities–one dedicated to venting–and a community specifically for venting about difficult customers.

          I don’t link my posts anywhere else, and no one on Facebook knows I have this, so unless an employer has Anonymous-style mad hacking skills, they won’t find me. When I post, I’m careful to never state particulars, too.

          1. mh_76*

            5 years experience with Windows 7?!? LMAO!

            I’ve had a few recruiters* ask me specifically about pivot tables – had I used them, for how long, in which jobs, etc… To me, they seem easy as heck and I sat down one day and, with the aid of the help menu, figured them out in 20 minutes using real data that I keep (checkbook etc). I’ve tried answering that I can figure them out (really…they’re easy), that I’ve used them a bit outside of work (um, these recruiters wanted to know about experience in a -paid- setting), and most recently the simple short answer “yes, I know how to do them” backed up by the knowledge that I can, in fact, figure out MS-Office things I haven’t already used. Another pet peeve in job listings: specifically mentioning “Microsoft Office” as a required skill…um, in 1999 (when I finished coll.), probably OK. In 2012, almost 2013…unnecessary.

            On the flip side, I’ve seen resumes that mentioned things like “fax machine” and other “duh” things on them…granted, this was sometime between ’02 and ’06 when I my job title was EA and fax machines were used more frequently…

            *aside/observed gender difference: the recruiters who got bent out of shape when I said that I could figure out pivot tables and acted like they were difficult were all women. I’m not trashing women here, just noting a difference that I’ve observed. The gentlemen all said that they’re easy enough to figure out and that I’d be fine…except for maybe one very young guy with no work experience except for his current recruiting job…how that happens is beyond me but for another comment.

            1. Jamie*

              Wanting 5 years with Windows 7 tells you two things about the company. They either have no one on staff who’s even slightly technical and/or sloppy and disorganized enough to not vet the specifics or even google.

              And I wish Office skills were commonplace enough be assumed, but they aren’t. They aren’t remarkable, but they aren’t universal either.

              1. Rana*

                No, no they are not. Especially if you move beyond the basics of “insert cursor, type, highlight, delete.”

              2. mh_76*

                Agreed…but Office is easy enough to learn. The hurdle that most people who don’t know MSO (and other things that they don’t know) already have is their own fear. I had to learn MSO on the fly – the job I had Sr. year of coll. switched over to PCs mid-year and I grew up with Macs and pre-Mac Apples. Fast forward to my first FTE job out of college…never used Excel before… colleagues showed me the basics (I think it took less than an hour…was a long time ago). W7 isn’t as logical as the older systems but none of it is “rocket science” and those who don’t know it can learn it quickly once they relax and set the fear aside (or just ignore it).

                1. Jamie*

                  I agree with you personally, it’s not complicated – but I disagree that it’s easy to learn for many people. If it were a requirement of the job I wouldn’t want someone with the expectation they could pick it up. I just know too many people who can’t/don’t grasp the basics even after years of instruction.

                  Besides, office is one of the easiest things to learn he basics of before an interview. Online tutorials where you can learn without owning he software…so if someone came in with no skills it’s a bigger red flag to me.

                2. HRAnon*

                  Once again I find myself in agreement with Jaimie. Have seen many, many people who consider themselves “proficient” in MS office- but even after being sent to training classes struggle with basic formatting or anything more complicated than typing in cells in excel for cripesake. Agree it is not rocket science to figure stuff out, but for some it sadly is.

              3. Kelly O*

                Jamie is totally right.

                I have a coworker who has a Bachelors Degree she obtained online. The other day she asked me to help her figure out how to change the font on her Outlook email. She also regularly asks me how to adjust column width in Excel, or how to “do tabs” in Word.

                So yeah, not as universal as you might think….

                1. Jamie*

                  What is wih the column width thing?

                  I have to re teach that more often than anything else. I taught someone concatenation in Excel once and they remembered that…but column width the same person asked each time.

                  That is one of the great mysteries.

                2. Kelly O*

                  Jamie, you’ll love this. Every single time, all I have to do is show her how to put the cursor on the line between columns and double click. Every time.

                  I’ve done it once this morning already. I kind of want to ask which classes exactly she took online, because if she can get a B.S. in four years, then surely to Bob I can do it in half the time. But that would be ugly, and it’s still early in the week.

                3. mh_76*

                  Shaking my head and feeling sympathy for both of you… and still wondering how much of the issues with learning MS etc. are fear-based vs. aptitude-based.

                  I’m not in IT as a profession but there have been people over the years who I’ve had to show the same thing multiple times. Maybe the outcome would have been different were I an IT person but I found that making them write down the how-to helped lessen the ID10T help requests a bit…

                  Somewhere on her desk, my mom has a how-to note re: copying-pasting a link into email. It’s not that she can’t learn the how-to’s, it’s that she’s scared of screwing something up. She had to learn her work software OTJ / mostly self-taught because her colleagues are my dad and his secretary, who are also both technophobes who’ve had to learn OTJ/self-taught because the necessity of doing what it was that they needed to do trumped their fear… at least until the next new thing came around… then a bit of fear, then learning… repeat.

  18. Shelly*

    over some online application systems. I sincerely wish that all the people who design these things had to use them. When I say use them, I mean the way a job seeker might use them. I’d love to see the folks on the flip side work hard on a resume and cover letter and then try to apply to 4-5 different jobs with different online application systems every week, week after week. Lets see how long it takes for their blood to boil.

    I have a job, but occasionally I look around and see opportunities that interest me. If I have to jump through too many crazy shenanigans to apply, I just give up. All these systems do is ensure that candidates with options move on, and frustrate the heck out of job seekers who don’t have the luxury of passing on potential opportunities.

      1. jennie*

        I am a recruiting manager researching a new applicant tracking system right now. Applicant experience is super important to me but I am also accountable to other departments who prioritize data storage, reporting capabilities and cost, of course. I know what we choose eventually is going to be a compromise on all those features.

        But I’m really interested in these comments about what applicants like and what they hate in an ATS – even if I’m seeing some contradictions. Some people prefer data entry fields over resume parsing, others are insulted by that. It’s almost as if applicants are all individuals with their own preferences! :)

        Hopefully I can come up with something that fits the budget and offers all we need while still being very easy for the applicant to use. And believe me, I do test it as an applicant in a variety of browsers.

          1. jennie*

            In an amazing coincidence I actually took a call from Taleo to set up a demo while I was reading all the negative comments about them here. Now I have strong reservations. Don’t let it be said that your site is not an influencer!

          2. N*

            You cannot avoid The Evil, Omnipresent, Lord of Darkness Taleo!

            Endless fun when there is a glitch! The company refers you to Taleo, and if you get ahold of Taleo (miracle, I pulled it off once): “sorry you need to address this with the company you have applied with.” Click. Repeat as often as necessary until giving up!

            1. N.*

              Okay I know only jerks revisit posts from eons ago and then reply to what they have said in the past, but I just had the almighty Taleo retroactively destroy two applications that were pending review, when I applied for a third. The two other jobs were closed already so there is nothing I can do. I wrote a letter to the HR of the company, a nice letter, and I hope they have the applications on file. I am not holding my breath though… Really wish Taleo would revise their practices, like a poster above, one user name, one password, but… there wasn’t even room for more than one cover letter for different positions. Until they change I hope Taleo fries in the jinn fires.

        1. Jill of All Trades*

          As an active applicant, I can tell you that quality is huge. Resume parsing is fine if it doesn’t do crazy things. It’s the crazy stuff that causes rework, or the deleting information, that is aggravating.

          Thank you for caring about the applicant experience. I know it can be difficult to find a product that will meet your needs without having flaws on the applicant side. I would suggest that you test out these systems as though you were a user, with the caveat that companies have sometimes made customizations. Go to different companies’ websites and go through the application process (without going through with a submittal to their system) and take note of what the experience is like, how long it takes, is it simple or aggravating, and does it represent the company well? Then you can compare your experience to what you’re seeing in the marketing material of each software.

          Good luck with your selection!

    1. K.*

      I just bailed on an application because in every browser I tried (IE, Chrome, and Safari), it would have me create a login, use it to search for jobs, and then when I found the one I wanted to apply for and clicked on the “apply now” button, it sent me back to the “create a login” page. Round and round we went until I finally shrugged and said, well, this must not be for me.

      I sigh with relief when an application instructs me to simply email my resume somewhere – it may or may not get read, but at least I don’t have to deal with application software.

  19. Just Me*

    I got a rejection E-mail from HR. It was the standard rejection… ” Your background was impressive…. we will keep your resume on file…… ”

    I decided to ask for feedback in which I simply said thanks for intervewing me……. and could you advise as to what I could do better next time, something to that nature.

    I got an email back the next day stating I was a strong contender, I interviewed well and again, they will consider me again if something else comes about.

    I emailed a thanks for the response.

    Although I am not waiting by the phone for a call, I would not hesitate to apply again if something else comes up.

    I was left with a good impresssion of the company and I am assuming I left them with a good impression of me.

    1. Kimmie Sue*

      As a recruiter, when I tell a candidate that they were a “strong contender” I ALWAYS mean it. I also will continue to look for other opportunities for them and invite them to reach out to me if they see another suitable match. Trust that the feedback was sincere and do follow-up if you see something else at the same company.
      Just made an offer last week to a candidate that interviewed for a role in June and was not selected (but a strong contender). She accepted and starts in two weeks.

  20. Phyllis*

    I’m amazed at the folks who shoot themselves in the foot even before they send in a resume. The school district I work for was hiring for a grant-funded position a couple of years ago. The grant focused on parent involvement activities, with an emphasis on neighborhood programming and providing services during hours convenient for working parents-afterschool and Saturdays. Which we indicated in the ad. Several people called and downright grilled me about those requirements, why we had them in the ad, and wanting me to definitively quantify how many evenings and Saturdays per month. One woman was particularly pushy with her questions, and when her resume came across my desk, it immediately went into the ‘not a chance in hell’ pile. She had already showed me who she was.

    1. Lily*

      Why do people think that they can behave badly with their potential future boss and then wonder why their application is rejected?

  21. Kerry*

    I completely agree that the tone of the email was way out of line, but I so sympathise with the writer of the email to #1. I just gave up on filling out a job application form after it deleted my information for the fourth time…including *six* 500-word essay questions where it had disabled the ability to copy and paste text into the box, so I had to work on them in form. Company, you might be the best place to work in the world, but I am not rewriting those a fifth time.

  22. M*

    Speaking of shooting yourself in the foot, a friend’s ex asked her to review his resume.

    It included such gems as wedging “Sex: Male” between his name and contact information, and under skills he listed: evolveable, clutch, and intermediately versed in English (note: he’s a native english speaker) and Italian (after a week of Rosetta Stone).

    1. Emily*

      Part of me really hopes that when he wrote “clutch” under skills, he meant the slang word for “exactly right, perfect” and not “capable of driving manual transmission.” Oh, please, I hope this person exists.

    2. AgilePhalanges*

      I got a glimpse of my ex-husband’s resume once, and in the Objective section, it included the words “I am a rockstar.” Yes, it actually said that.

  23. N*

    There have been many occasions when I have been frustrated by bad online job application, and have eventually come to suspect this was a deliberate tactic on the part of the employer to weed people out. While I have never felt justified to write a nasty complaint, I have in the past, contacted HR when I have encountered legitimate glitches and bugs to have them be incredibly rude to me if they “deigned” (trust me they deigned) to reply at all. Of course at that point, I probably don’t want the job if they decline to be of any assistance.
    I am sorry that I do not consider it “rolling with the punches” if the company is not willing or interested in updating a ridiculous hiring process. No person should have to spend three hours typing detailed answers to the same questions, onto a system that does not allow you to prepare answers in advance, disallows saving as you go, shuts you out over an error, loses your sensitive information, to work at a company who is later is unable to account for anything you or anyone else has submitted. Any person, company, HR, who equates this with “rolling with the punches” does not value any one elses time, and apparently holds busy work in high regard if tolerating ineffieciency at this scale is an essential skill, especially those who do not accept feedback. If you are a large company with many resources, I have little sympathy, especially if there is no assistance provided. I especially think it is funny when I see a “great” job reposted repeatedly because the application was so bad, they never find anyone.
    Vitriol, for the record is not always useless. While I may not get the job, if I ever feel the least bit inclined to unleash a diatribe, I need to stop and truly reconsider if I want to work for this company in the first place. If I am so frustrated and ignored by HR for reasonable requests, what will happen when there is a real problem to address? HR needs to take notice too, if people are upset enough by a redundant system they are willing to burn a bridge to say something about it; how many talented people gave up after the first try and don’t bother writing for assistance at all? I learned from Lois P. Frankel’s work that feedback, whether good or bad, is an invaluable tool. I don’t think that is exclusive to job seekers, a good company will stand up and take notice, if they suspect they are fostering ill will amongst anyone, including the job seeking public.
    No matter what side you are on, you reap what you sow. Be carefull what you sow.

  24. Rachel*

    I’m glad to see I’m not in the minority here. Online application forms suck big time, AAM, whatever you may think. They’re the recruitment version of those awful automated call centre systems where you indicate your preference by dialling a number. You know, the ones that ask you the same irrelevant questions over and over again, before finally either putting you through to a human being or cutting you off, usually the latter. By using automated online applications organisations are saying one thing and saying it loudly: we don’t care enough about recruiting the right people to spend out own time on it, so we’ve outsourced that task to a machine to screw up instead.

    Anyone that uses online applications and candidate tracking systems is restricting themselves to recruiting only those candidates that are desperate enough to get any job that they’ll actually put up with appalling crud these systems represent. The complaining candidate in this instance was right on the money. The organisation involved was lucky that someone would take the time to tell them their system sucks. Most other worthwhile candidates simply wouldn’t bother, and would just apply for a job with your more clued-up and user-friendly competitors instead. Whether or not the receiving organisation liked hearing what she had to say about how awful their system is, if they had any brains at all they’d have listened to her instead of being on here bitching about her.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree that many online application forms suck. I’ve ranted about them before. But that doesn’t mean that you send a hostile email, not if you expect to still be considered for the job.

  25. Natasha*

    1. I find it hilarious that they claim they’ve generally tested the app when the problem was related to the size of the file.
    2. There was no bitterness in the first e-mail, only genuine curiosity. Perhaps just pure psychological projection from the manager’s part. ;)

Comments are closed.