someone who was rejected for my new job reached out to me

A reader writes:

I recently went through 6 rounds of interview stages for a telecommute position. The stages included a resume and phone screening, a questionnaire, multiple phone interviews, and finally an in-person lunch. It took almost 2 months, but I’m happy to report I was offered and accepted the position.

I enthusiastically updated my information on LinkedIn and sent out new contact information to those in my network. I received a request to connect on LinkedIn, and it was from another planner who participated in many of the same groups I do. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary so I accepted the request. She immediately sent me an email congratulating me on my new position and mentioned that she was the other finalist in the last round. She asked if I knew of any other opportunities and I responded back with some suggestions, said thank you, and moved on. She then responded back with another message, noting our “similar backgrounds,” and at the very end said that she understood why the hiring manager selected me…it had to have been because she had less experience working for nonprofit associations.

Needless to say, I was a little taken aback. It’s one thing to reach out to congratulate the selected candidate for a position, it’s quite another to speculate why someone else was selected over you. It’s okay to be curious and compare backgrounds, but where does a candidate draw the line, suck up a “rejection,” and move on? What are your feelings on job candidates that contact the selected candidate?

I think you’re right in finding it odd. Frankly, it would be odd for her to reach out to you even if she weren’t openly comparing your background to her own, but it’s additionally graceless for her to openly speculate on why you were hired over her.

It’s possible that she meant in a complimentary way, of course — “look at your fantastic experience!” — but it’s still a little off. And what are you supposed to say in return — “sorry you didn’t get the job,” when you can’t possibly be sorry?

Besides, it might not have been about your experience versus hers at all. It might have been your smarts or your judgment or your rapport with the interviewer or your amazing reputation or how you impressed everyone in the interview or the fact that you’re the owner’s cousin. There’s no way to know from the outside.

I understand that when you’re rejected for a job, it’s natural to go looking for the reason why … but you can rarely know the real answer, unless you get feedback directly from the hiring manager (and even then, it often’s not the whole picture). So she’d be better off not speculating and simply moving on.

That said, I wouldn’t put it in the category of crazy behavior or anything like that … just not the smoothest.

{ 63 comments… read them below }

  1. Aj-in-Memphis

    It’s weird and frankly, one day, you could be in a position to interview her for a job or should she ever get hired at your company, have to work with her. I think you handled it right and would be okay to ignore any further communication with her. Maybe you could send it to your boss and let them know what’s going on as well and for advice on they’d like you to handle any more communications from her as well. I’m sure they’ll be weirded out too…

    In any case, congratulations on the new job!

    1. some1

      “Maybe you could send it to your boss and let them know what’s going on as well and for advice on they’d like you to handle any more communications from her as well. I’m sure they’ll be weirded out too…”

      I’m not sure about this, though. I don’t think the employer can do anything about former candidates contacting their employees through LinkedIn, and they should not be in a position where they have to justify hiring choices to the LW or rejected candidate.

        1. Jessa

          Unless the contact says something that might specifically need to be dealt with (and I can’t imagine what that might be,) but maybe something that would clearly absolutely rule them out of being considered for a future opening (as they were number 2 on the list when OP was hired and might again apply,) I would leave it alone. And by that I mean something really awful.

          1. Aj-in-Memphis

            I suppose I was thinking that this is close to stalker behavior… I don’t know that it would be a bad thing to tell someone that I reported to about the multiple emails and continued communications that person is sending me. Who knows what else they’re up to… Just my opinion and how i would handle it.

  2. Amanda

    I don’t think checking out the skills and experience of someone hired instead of you is terribly weird–I’ve done this before, on LinkedIn, and it was a good learning opportunity. I didn’t reach out and have conversations with anyone, but looking at their backgrounds made me say, huh, that’s interesting, I should consider doing XYZ too since it seems to have served these folks well. Granted, sometimes the hire is more about personality/fit than specific skills, but it could still be a chance to get a sense of what you might be missing that you can address. I think we’re being a little harsh to a person who seems genuinely just interested in getting as much information as she can to improve her options, and to connect with people who have similar backgrounds but have been successful where she hadn’t. I definitely don’t agree that the OP should alert her boss. I can’t see that its such a big deal.

      1. Blue Dog

        I think she was TRYING to be gracious and flattering. She just didn’t do it very well and it came off a bit awkward.

        I don’t think is all THAT weird in the bigger context of the stuff we see out there. I wouldn’t worry about coming home and finding a bunny cooking on your stove or anything.

        1. Shane Watson

          I agree that I wouldn’t worry about a horse head in my bed, but that message was just too close to creeper territory for my comfort. If it goes much farther, I’d remove the connection from LinkedIn.

          1. Anon

            Hahaha @the animal references. My husband told me to remove her because it was too close for comfort LOL. I did remove her and told her good luck on my last message.

      2. Nancie

        Her communication with the OP almost sounds like she’s digging for a “hidden” reason that the OP was hired instead of her. Anything from nepotism (aha, you’re the niece of X on the hiring committee!) to some flavor of discrimination (you got it because you don’t have kids / are 20 years younger / of race Y.)

        That’s not paranoid speculation — I’m sure most of us have known of rejected candidates who talked about things like this (though they didn’t contact the person who was hired!)

        1. Elizabeth West

          That was my thought as well, at least regarding the second message. The first could be put down to networking. I thought maybe she was trying to see if the hiring manager/HR said anything about her to the new hire.

    1. Felicia

      Yeah, I look all the time, though I’ve never actually connected with anyone or sent them a message. I think even connecting with them and the first message isn’t that weird. The message comparing their experience (and more than one message in general) was what I thought was weird.

    2. CathVWXYNot?

      When I got my last job, I met two unsuccessful internal candidates within the first couple of weeks. It was, needless to say, awkward – but I now work with one of them in my current job, and she said it was useful to her to learn about my background. (It was a grant writing / project management job in academia, which was a pretty big change for me, and would have been for either of them, too. The reason I got the job was that I had a couple of years of non-academic experience on my CV, which neither of them did, and I obviously did a good job in my cover letter and interviews at explaining why that would help me in the role).

      1. tcookson

        We use temps from the HR temp program to cover admin positions when we’re doing a search to fill the position permanently. Many of them are hoping to transition into the job permanently (that’s how I got my job!).

        We used one temp to fill in at the front desk while we hired for that position, and ended up hiring someone else permanently. Then we moved the temp to an open, higher-level admin position, which she, the temp, applied for.

        The newly-hired front desk person also applied for, and got, that position. So that made the second job in a row that she had “taken from” the temp, and the temp started commenting on it in a harmless, but awkward, way (calling the other person her “job nemesis”, “job doppelganger” etc.).

        The reason the other person got both jobs was that she was very personable and presented herself well; she was someone who we would want to have greeting our guests and representing our unit to the rest of the campus. The temp was kind of socially awkward, really inflexible about how she preferred to do certain things, and was generally not the person we would want representing our unit to the rest of the campus.

        The reason the

        1. Anon

          I actually did something almost identical except it was two separate temps I replaced. The hard part for me was that I was much younger (think 15-20 years younger) and more inexperienced then both temps… it just happened that I had more technical skills and was more personable.

          I STILL feel kind of guilty over both temps and it’s been a year since I replaced the last. I imagine they both wondered what the hiring manager was thinking in hiring such a young, inexperienced person.

  3. Seal

    During a stint on a search committee, after the in-person interviews were over but before the candidate we chose had accepted the offer, the other candidate sent me a LinkedIn request. Turns out HR had not yet sent this woman a rejection letter, since their policy is to wait until the first candidate accepts the offer. Since there was no intention whatsoever to hire this candidate (she came off as an absolute nutjob at the interview and scared the hell out of everyone who met her), I thought it was odd that they would wait. Needless to say, I ignored the invitation.

    As a side note, some people really do look better on paper. This woman’s resume was great – in person, not so much.

    1. KarenT

      Totally agree — a lot of people look better on paper than they do during interviews. I think it’s a big part of why interviews are so important. I’ve narrowed down resumes to the top candidates, and scheduled interviews with a sense of who the top contenders were and who were near the bottom. Many, many times ‘bottom’ candidates rise to the top after an interview and top candidates sink to the bottom.

  4. edj3

    I’ve been in my current job for about 15 months. Recently we had another opening on my team. One of the candidates we interviewed for the new position had been in the running for my position. While he was completely gracious in the interviews, I felt a little weird.

    ::awkward turtle swimming away::

    1. Anon for this

      I’m on the other side of this: I interviewed at my current company initially for a position in a different department, which I didn’t get. A couple months later, I was contacted for the same (newly created) position in my department, I interviewed and got the job.

      I am actually really glad I got the position I did instead for a number of reasons. I do see the woman who got my position in the building from time to time, as well as two of the hiring managers who interviewed me. It’s a little awkward, but I do my best to just nod hello and not appear as though I’m holding it against anyone.

      1. Tina

        I was also on the other side of this. I interviewed, lost out to a more experienced candidate, and the hiring manager actually facilitated me talking with the candidate they hired, because he thought I might be a fit for the job she was leaving. I did actually interview for the position she left, with advice from her.

        Fast forward a year, and the same office that turned me down, called me because they now had a new position open that was more suited to my skill level. I did get the second position, and that person who got the previous job actually became one of my mentors.

        Interestingly, I found out after the fact that the next person we hired had actually been a finalist for the job I did get, and I had beaten him out for it. I guess that’s a trend in our office? Though I don’t think it’s happened again.

        1. KarenT

          I find that fascinating! It’s a very full circle networking experience.
          Out of curiosity, are you in a specialized or small industry?

          1. Tina

            I work in a college career center. Honestly, I never expected to even get called to interview for the first position, because I knew I have the level of experience they wanted for the specific position. So I was disappointed, but not surprised, when I didn’t get it. The second position was a slightly lower level, and a better match for my level of experience.

          2. Tina

            I work in a college career center. Honestly, I never expected to even get called to interview for the first position, because I knew I didn’t have the level of experience they wanted for the specific position. So I was disappointed, but not surprised, when I didn’t get it. The second position was a slightly lower level, and a better match for my level of experience.

            1. Tina

              Ooops didn’t mean to post twice! Wanted to correct a word and thought I hit stop fast enough, but didn’t. I meant I “didn’t” have the level of experience for the first position.

        2. Kate

          This happens a lot at my work (higher education development and alumni relations). Most people interview for a few positions in the division before finding the right one. It’s common for hiring managers to suggest that finalists be interviewed for a different position. There’s not much awkwardness around it.

  5. Sam

    Awkward is beating out an internal candidate for a position, which she had been temping in, leaving her without a job while I moved in from out of state. Her husband still works here. And she visits a lot. Awkward turtle to the extreme.

    1. some1

      Yeah, I guess I’ve never understood why you’d want to visit a former employer at all under these circumstances, let alone often, even if your husband does work there. At my old employer, a couple of co-workers who were let go made a habit of dropping in and it’s weird for everyone.

      1. Sam

        Yeah, it makes everyone feel awkward, especially when she ignores me, yet asks my coworker quite blatantly how everything is going and how things are running. Added job stress…thank god for wine.

        1. LizNYC

          Not that it helps in the moment, but this is clearly something that’s “her problem” and not yours. Don’t let her hangups become yours (and when you figure that out, let me know ;)

          1. Sam

            Part of me wants to be like “look, here’s my resume, I didn’t STEAL this job from you, I earned it!”

            But that wouldn’t be mature or professional. So I just do it in my head.

            1. KarenT

              It’s always awkward beating out an internal candidate, since they are usually still there when you start work.
              I once got a job as an external candidate, and the internal candidate who was rejected was furious. She complained to HR, my manager, her manager, and anyone who would listen about how I stole her job. She also spent her time giving me death glares in the hallway. When she found out I was recommended by a co-worker of hers, she brought in chocolates and wouldn’t let that person have any.

              1. Chinook

                “When she found out I was recommended by a co-worker of hers, she brought in chocolates and wouldn’t let that person have any.”

                My snarky side wants you to tell her that the key to getting the job was to bring in the chocolates to the hiring manager BEFORE the decision was made, not after.

              2. Tina

                It seems kind of funny that she complained to your manager and HR about how you stole her job. Considering that THEY were the ones that GAVE you the job! But I guess she didn’t have enough nerve to criticize them to their faces?

    2. Rana

      It’s also awkward being that internal candidate, especially if the hiring committee had been blowing smoke up your butt about how much they loved working with you, and how the larger search was just a formality, and oh you shouldn’t really bother looking for other fallback options because you won’t need them (yes, this actually happened to someone I know). I can’t wrap my head around wanting to hang out around a place that treated me like that, though. That just seems like an exercise in rubbing salt in a wound.

      1. Anonymous

        I just completed an interview for an internal position and have heard all of that stuff and more. Plus, I’ve been doing the work and excelling at it for nearly a year now. I will be very disappointed if the position goes to one of the two external candidates I am competing against. However, I plan to be gracious, helpful, and pleasant as I look for a position elsewhere – lucky for me, I had to update my resume as part of the process.

      2. BeeBee

        This is currently happening to my husband. When the new CEO found out my husband was a licensed engineer, he immediately wanted to interview him for a new engineering position, and everyone was telling him what a shoo in he was for that job. Fast forward about 4 months, and someone else got the job. The way my husband found out was when the guy was introduced during a planning meeting.

        The icing on the cake is that there is now another engineering position as well as a quality control position they’re dangling in front of him. He’s getting the same line from everyone: he’s a shoo in, they’ll definitely hire him because he’s already doing parts of these jobs, etc. I’m not holding my breath.

        1. Anonymous

          I am “Anonymous” from immediately above. I feel for your husband. If I were him, I would think long and hard about pursuing either of those two positions. I only say this, though, because there is a huge back-story with my situation and I sure would not go through this again.

    3. Smiles

      Awkward but not unheard of. I’m assuming she wasn’t a temp-to-hire but just a temp. She should have known that there was a major possibility that she would be out of work once her services were no longer needed. I have been in a position like this before (temping for a position the company is looking to fill permanently) and I understand why a company would rather hire an outside candidate–they do not want to pay a fee to the temp agency in order to bring her on permanently.

  6. Anonymous

    The oddometer is reading “slightly odd”. If there’s another email, it jumps to “highly odd”.

    1. FiveNine

      Yeah, but also setting off the oddometer here for me is the OP’s characterization of this as the person who was rejected needing to “suck up” that rejection and move on. Just saying.

      1. Anon

        OP here – I’ve been searching for a position like this for 2 years. Have been laid off twice and had to piece together contract work after a 5 year stint with a great organization. After sending well over 300 resumes I’ve had to “suck up” each rejection and kept it moving. Who knows, there could be a reason she didn’t get this job. If I didn’t get a job, I can’t dwell on it. I’m big on networking so I accepted her request and sent her contact info from recruiters hiring for her background. Pretty sure I did way more than required in this case. So, yes, we all have to pull up our britches and move on to the next opportunity.

  7. A Bug!

    Maybe she wasn’t selected because she has bad interpersonal judgment and that came through during her interviews.

    (I can’t help but wonder if she ‘reached out’ to the hiring manager or other current employees during the hiring process.)

  8. Anon

    Thanks for the response! I love the feedback. I’m getting my daily laugh with some of them!

    I don’t think it was terribly crazy that she initially contacted me…bold more than anything. I’ve looked up the selected candidate of a position that I didn’t get. I would never contact them though.

    It’s the messages that followed asking me where else I interviewed, if I knew of any other opportunities, stating we had similar backgrounds (when in fact I carry more credentials/experience), then making the blunt comment “I know why [the employer] didn’t select me…it’s because I have less non profit/association experience and more corporate and government.” It was so matter of fact. Judging by her multiple grammatical errors I’m sure I can find other reasons she may not have been selected. She overlooked the fact I have 4 more years of experience not listed on LinkedIn, so it doesn’t help making a comparison based solely on a profile.

    After the 3rd message and trying to be nice, I ignored her.

    1. Tina

      She also asked you where else you interviewed? I can sort of see asking you if you knew of other opportunities in general, but asking w here else you interviewed is a bit intrusive!

      1. Anon

        Exactly. Our industry locally isn’t huge so many of us compete for the same jobs. I’m guessing she wanted to compare notes. It crossed the line IMO and I cut off contact.

  9. Kara

    I was out of work just under a year back in 2012. For every job that I interviewed for and did not get, I checked LinkedIn a few months thereafter to “compare” between myself and the selected candidate. But I would NEVER contact them!!!! Checking was insightful – sometimes they just had more years experience and sometimes an exact background as myself. Sometimes you don’t get a job from “fit” or personality. But LinkedIn is a great spy tool.

    1. Jesicka309

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does this. I feel like the biggest stalker…once, I even had to do it to find if the position had been filled, because they never rejected me (or gave me any means to contact them grrr).

      It’s certainly insightful, but also depressing.

      1. KarenT

        I’ve never done it, mostly because it’s never occurred to me, but I’m so on board for next time this happens to me!

        Stupid question: how do you do it? I thought LinkedIn only showed you your connections and their connections profiles?

        1. Anon

          Simply type in the organization/company name and title or position and you can usually determine who got the job if they are even on LinkedIn and updated their title info. You can also go to the company website and if they have a staff listing you can then look up the person’s profile on LinkedIn.

  10. Anonymous

    I lean toward giving her the benefit of the doubt. She’s attempting to network, kind of doing it wrong, but she’s trying. I never ever burn a bridge unless I really have to. After all, she might be the hiring manager you are waiting to see, someday.

  11. Tara T.

    I believe she meant it as complimentary and only expected to hear, “Thank you” when she said she saw why they picked you instead of her. She must have asked if you know of other opportunities because she probably wanted to send her resume in for those also.

  12. Mena

    Several years ago, I was offered and accepted a position. When I started I learned that an external contractor had been fulfilling a large portion of the role and had wanted the full-time position. She was told that she wasn’t a candidate and wouldn’t be considered.

    I start my new job and she is still here, transitioning projects to me and generally helping me get oriented. She was hugely helpful to me in those early weeks, and amazingly graceful. I immediately saw value in her skills and admired her ability to separate me from her long-term, full-time temp position disappearing.

    I hired her as a contractor and she continues to assist me part-time. She deserves huge credit for how she handled my entrance and her departure – and in return, I didn’t let it be a complete departure.

    1. Ruffingit

      Now that right there is a reason to behave gracefully in such situations. She didn’t burn the bridge, which meant she was able to cross over it again when you needed to hire someone.

  13. Anonymous

    If I don’t get the job I move on. From what I’ve learned through employment coaching, the interview process has to do with a personality fit. Most of the candidates who make it to the interview have the skills and experience. I trust the employers’ judgment on this one for one reason only. If they go with someone they “like more,” then it is better for the candidate who did not get selected. I’ve been through hell and back with a former employer whose staff at the time all liked me and talked him into it, but he didn’t. Once they were gone, it was horrible for me. I never want to go through that again.

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