why can’t I get feedback after I’m rejected from a job? (3 letters, 1 theme)

Three letters, one theme —

1. Did I burn a bridge by demanding feedback from a company that rejected me?

I’m worried that I unintentionally burned a bridge for an organization that I would really like to work for. Recently I had a job interview for a dream job that I wanted really badly. I felt that the interview had gone really well, but I still failed to get the position. I asked for feedback regarding the interview and I got vague stuff, like the successful candidate had more experience or was closer to what they were looking for. I sent an email back to the hiring committee saying thanks for the reply but I would have liked to have some more specific feedback. Specifically, what kind of experience should I be getting more of? What did the successful candidate bring that the other candidates didn’t? How did I present myself in general in the interview?

While I tried as best as I could to respond politely, when I look back on it, I was probably too pushy in soliciting feedback and complaining too much about my frustration with preparing so hard for the interview and still falling short. (I expressed to them my frustration in preparing long hours for the interview and not getting hired and also that I’ve been rejected numerous times in the past by other places and not given an explanation either. I remember saying that I wasn’t challenging their decision but that I wanted to better myself in the future because I was getting discouraged at all the rejections.)

I have had a series of rejections recently for similar positions elsewhere, so I’ve been discouraged and frustrated and could have really used the feedback even though I know they are not obligated to give it to me.

I’m worried that the hiring committee will think I’m being overly pushy and whiny. I’m worried about this affecting my future prospects with this organization. Anything I should do to address this? Should I reply back and apologize to them? Or should I just let it go and not bring it up again as they may have forgotten anyway and why stir the pot?

Yes, it was too pushy. Employers aren’t obligated to give you feedback when they don’t hire you, and many, many employes will fall back on vague statements like “we went with someone with more experience.” Sometimes this statement is true. Other times, there’s a reason that they’re choosing not to share it — because it it would be an awkward conversation, or because they’ve had candidates get defensive and argumentative when they’ve been candid in the past, or because they simply don’t have time to give you the sort of nuanced answer that would truly help you, or because they have a blanket policy of not giving feedback to rejected candidates (usually put in place by an HR department afraid of a lawsuit when a hapless manager tells a candidate something that doesn’t sit right — for example, “we were looking for someone more junior” getting interpreted as “you’re too old”). And all of those reasons are their prerogative.

I know it’s frustrating not to know why you’re not getting hired, and to feel like the only people who could tell you are refusing to. But they’re not obligated to, and sending a message making demands of them is going to make them less likely to. People help people out when they want to do them a favor, not when the favor is being demanded of them. And then add in that you told them that you were frustrated that you spent time preparing for the interview — well, there’s no better way to shut them down. You’re now the unreasonable, somewhat hostile candidate who felt entitled to the job after interviewing for it, and no sensible employer wants to get into that.

As for what to do now, I don’t think writing back and apologizing will smooth this over — I think the damage is done here. That said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to write back with a short apology, so it’s worth a shot. (But I wouldn’t expect a response to that, so don’t get upset if you don’t receive one.)

2. I’ve had 85 interviews and no job offers and no one will tell me why

I lost my job in February of 2013. Since then, I’ve landed a couple of short-term contract positions at Fortune 500 companies and I’ve been getting freelance work fairly regularly. I feel lucky, but my goal is to land a regular full-time job and I have never had such a hard time landing one in my 10 years as a professional.

I’ve used my network to its fullest extent, and I tailor my resume for each position I apply for and almost always land an interview. In fact, I have been on 85 interviews in the past year and have yet to receive an offer. This is frustrating. I know I am not a terrible interviewer – I was able to land contract positions very quickly at large companies. I dress the part, do my research, and can’t really pinpoint what is going wrong in these interviews. If only it were obvious!

When I get a rejection email or call, I always ask for feedback. I usually get something along the lines of this email: “I thought you were enthusiastic and certainly presented yourself well. I can’t think of any suggestions I would make. You have a lot to offer. Keep at it and good luck.”

Obviously, this is not the answer I am looking for, but this is what I consistently receive. Is there another way I should ask for feedback upon getting rejected for a position?

I did a mock interview at a staffing agency and they also claimed that I interviewed “perfectly” and didn’t have any suggestions. I have asked friends and family to give honest opinions about my appearance and personality. I have spent large amounts of money on haircuts, manicures and clothes to minimize any superficial reasons I could be rejected. I am running out of ideas!

Well, first, stop spending lots of money on haircuts and manicures. No one is getting rejected because they don’t have a perfect manicure or expensive haircut. You want to be well-groomed, yes, but that doesn’t mean you have to pour money into it.

In any case, if you’re getting this many interviews, the problem isn’t your resume or cover letter. It’s either your interviewing skills or your references.

I’d try to do another mock interview — but not with a staffing agency. Their interviews are sometimes surface-level and don’t really go beyond that. Try to find a hiring manager who does a lot of hiring (and note that hiring manager doesn’t mean “manager of hiring,” but rather the manager of a team who does hiring for her own staff) and see if she’ll mock-interview you. You want someone blunt and relatively insightful.

You might also think about whether you had a particular rapport with any of those more recent interviewers, and ask one if you can buy them coffee and pick their brain for 20 minutes about what you can do better. There’s some suggested language in the next answer that you could modify for your situation.

And if you haven’t already, I’d have a trusted, professional-sounding friend call your references and just make sure there’s not something there that’s holding you back.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Why do employers give such vague feedback?

When I was interviewing for jobs recently, I found that when I was not selected for a second interview, the interviewer (or HR screener) would not give me a clear answer as to why I was not selected. These were positions that I was qualified for (sometimes over-qualified) and felt I nailed the interview and left feeling very positive and hopeful. When they called or emailed me to tell me I wasn’t being considered anymore, I used the opportunity to solicit feedback but I got very evasive and canned answers like “Thank you for your interest. We decided to pursue applicants that were more qualified”. It didn’t seem personalized or real and left me with a very bad taste in my mouth about the company and the staff they employ to screen and hire people. This happened a few times.

Why would companies do this? I realize they’re not obligated to give me any feedback but if you’re a HR professional, why wouldn’t you take a minute to help someone and avoid burning a bridge with a potential applicant? Are they exposing themselves to legal action if they give me an honest answer about my interview performance or skills?

There are a ton of reasons that some companies don’t give feedback, or don’t give it to everyone:

1. They don’t have time. Interviewers are busy, and they’re not job coaches. Providing thoughtful feedback takes time, and it’s not what they were hired to do. Some will give advice anyway—but it’s a favor when they do it, not an obligation.

2. Too many candidates will argue or debate if they get feedback. Ask any hiring manager who has taken the time to give a candidate feedback, and you’ll hear stories of defensive and even angry reactions. Since providing feedback is a favor, many interviewers would just rather not deal with this.

3. Their company prohibits it. Some companies won’t give feedback in case a candidate doesn’t like the explanation and decides the “real” reason must be discriminatory. Plus, if they tell you they’re looking for more experience in X, but they ultimately hire someone without that experience (because she comes highly recommended by a trusted client, or because she just blew them away in the interview, for instance), you might feel lied to. They don’t want to deal with that.

4. They’re not comfortable sharing awkward or personal criticisms with you. If you chronically interrupt, or seemed vaguely angry, or looked unkempt, or just didn’t seem smart enough, or you creeped out the receptionist, most employers aren’t going to want to have that conversation with you. (It’s hard enough to get employers to have tough feedback conversations with the people who actually work for them.)

5. The answer has nothing to do with you. It’s often about another candidate—the person who got the job simply dazzled everyone in her interview, or had amazing experience with widget making, which wasn’t mentioned in the job description but happens to be an area the company is expanding into next year. Or they just liked her better. These don’t make for helpful feedback to you.

That said, some interviewers will give feedback. Your chances of getting it go up if you (a) ask it of people with whom you had a particular rapport with, and (b) do it in a humble and particularly personable way. Most of the time when candidates ask me for feedback, it sounds like a perfunctory request — close to an automatic response that they send everyone. I’m much more likely to take the time to give a nuanced response when someone makes a real connection with me and asks in a genuine way. Look at the difference between these two requests:

What I usually get: I would appreciate any feedback you can give me about how I can be a stronger candidate in the future.

A better approach: “I really appreciated the time you spent talking to me and the insights you gave me into the ___ field. I wonder if I could ask you a favor. I’ve been having trouble getting beyond the interview stage for jobs similar to this one, and I would be so grateful for any advice you could give me on how I’m presenting myself. Are there weaknesses I could work on, or any way I might be tripping myself up without realizing it? I’m really passionate about working in this field and respect your achievements enormously, and I’d be so grateful for any insights you can share with me.”

Try something more like the latter and see if that gets you anywhere. Good luck.

{ 212 comments… read them below }

    1. AH*

      I AM! Trust me, it’s some kind of mental torture. There have been some days where I had multiple interviews. I’d leave one to go straight to another. Everyone thinks I’m lucky to be landing so many interviews, which in some ways is true, however, it’s incredibly frustrating when they don’t get you anywhere. I didn’t think about the fact that a reference could be badmouthing me. Especially since I usually make it pretty far into the process. (2nd, 3rd and 4th interviews) I’m trying to line up someone to call them for me right now!

      1. kyley*

        When I left graduate school, and was looking for a job, I worked with a career coach who was fantastic. My mother had gone to him with help for her resume (and saw immediate results from the new resume) and I went to him for help managing the salary negotiation process, which went perfectly. I’ve since sent other friends to him through out their job-search process, and they’ve all spoken highly of the experience. See if any of your friends have worked with and would recommend someone like this; I am sure there are a lot of people who don’t know what they are doing in this “consulting” work, but a good person is a great asset. Maybe doing a mock interview with someone along those lines would be beneficial as well. (If you’d like, I can share my contacts info, as well.)

          1. Sara M*

            AH, any chance you’re giving off a desperate vibe? People pick up on this subconsciously and sometimes they don’t even realize why they’re bothered.

            I used to train salespeople and as soon as they got desperate to make a sale, they mysteriously stopped selling. It was kind of amazing. What I taught them was: totally screw up the next pitch you make (we made tons of pitches daily, low rate of return). Have some fun. Don’t offend anyone of course, but just start by trying to sell them a fish treadmill and see where it goes.

            Usually that pitch would fail, but it would relax them enough to start selling again. Actually, sometimes the fish treadmill pitch would work because it would warm up the relationship enough for the sale to work.

            If you’re getting this many interviews, next time you get one that’s not the greatest job in the world but would be okay, try relaxing. Give some imperfect but honest answers to questions. Accept that you’re not likely to get the job, but have some fun in the interview. While you may not get this job, you’ll at least have some fun–and perhaps what’s missing is that you’re so stressed out that you’re no longer being yourself.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              I have no idea if this will be effective, but I love this advice. It’s so useful to get advice that’s different from anything else – maybe this is the track that will change things!

            2. Emma*

              Reminds me of the scene from Tommy Boy where Tommy gets the waitress to make him chicken wings despite them not being offered. He finally relaxed, was personable and DIDN’T try to just be a mimic of his father (the whole “Take a good look at a T-bone” line). Then when he actually needs to pitch to Dan Akroyd and reflexively launches into his dad’s routine, David Spade slaps his shoulder and says “chicken wings!”

            3. Elizabeth West*

              I always do MUCH better if I don’t give a rip about whatever I’m doing. It’s like talking to someone really famous, where you only get one shot at it and you’re scared spitless you’ll say something stupid. I just imagine them doing something really mundane, like brushing their teeth (something we all do), and it keeps me from being so nervous that I gabble idiotically. Worked great when I met Ernie Hudson recently (aka Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters.) The idea is to reduce the stakes, mentally at least.

              I supposed that would work with interviewers too, unless you started laughing at a vision of them in their PJs leaning over the bathroom sink!

              1. Jazzy Red*

                I am a HUGE fan of Ernie Hudson! Every movie he’s in is the better for it. I would have babbled incoherently for the rest of the day if I met him. Maybe for a few days, even.

            4. CTO*

              I’ve experienced this in both sales and interviews, as well. There’s a fine line between seeming earnest and excited or seeming anxious and desperate. Sometimes, the less I care about the sale/job the better I do at it.

            5. AH*

              Sara, I have definitely considered this and try to keep it my mind when I am interviewing. Thanks for the advice!

            6. MissD*

              #2 Could it be possible they think you only really want the “freelance” or “consulting” type work or to be self employed?

              I’m a designer who freelances inbetween full-time jobs and get that sometimes. It’s like they think you don’t really want a secure/stable position.

              1. AH*

                I’ve definitely considered this and have even been asked questions like “Do you enjoy being self employed?” My answer is that of course I enjoy working on my own schedule, but what I really want is a permanent position and to be a member of a team. I also explain that I actually do not qualify for unemployment benefits and simply need to do something to survive. I always hope that people would at least understand THAT, but I guess you never know. Sometimes I wonder if it is really somehow “better” to do nothing.

      2. Laura*

        I’ve had nearly as many interviews as you this past year – 68 and counting, and no job. I’ve also had an agency tell me I interviewed perfectly, and most of my interviewers have prefaced my rejections saying how well i presented myself , or how they found me articulate, professional, enthusiastic etc. I usually don’t get to the point where they check my references, but I guess it could be that. It could be that I’m entry level in an extremely competitive field (though I do have internship, volunteer, contract experience). But 68 times there just being someone better than me is hard when they keep complimenting me. I meet all the qualifications in the job ad, and they must see promise if they ask to interview me. And then I get nothing but compliments when I ask for interview feedback. So I totally empathize with the “wtf is wrong with me” feeling, even though I guess at least i know it’s not my resume or cover letters.

        1. AH*

          Laura, it’s nice to know that I am not alone! Looking for my first entry level position was tough for me too. I didn’t get nearly as many interviews back then though, so you must have some awesome experience. Hope you find something soon. I am rooting for you!

          1. Laura*

            Thanks! I’m rooting for you too! The awesome cover letter advice here certainly helped. But knowing that you’re doing everything right (e.g everything any expert recommends) and yet are still failing is super discouraging. I’ve also come to hate all the compliments I get from interviewers – I mean ok, it’s nice that I’m great but that makes me feel powerless to ever get a job, because I can’t figure out what (if anything), i’m doing wrong. At this point I can’t even remember what it’s like to not have at least one interview a week. I hope one of your many interviews ends up being the one!

            1. Esther*

              So how did it go? Did you ever land a job, Laura? I’ve been in the same situation for three years now except I was a college student when I started. I went to something like 15 interviews (including some group ones). My only hope is to go back to school.

              I did meet with a career counselor. She wasn’t very helpful. I tried practice interviews, but I seem to be doing fine except slow response time (which I improved).

              My references tell me that no company ever calls them. They’re more than well-prepared if they do, anyway. I’ve basically been living off my father. He’s frustrated, needless to say. My dream was to become a writer or journalist of some sort. But it doesn’t pay the bills, and very few make it. Even one of my undergrad professors had pointed out that 98% of us settle for the same (some side job ex. waitressing or staffing Wal-Mart). That, teaching or trade school. I spoke to the Dept of Rehab. I guess more people have this problem than I thought.

      3. Anon @ Work*

        AH, are you ever able to figure out who got the job over you? I was runner-up for two positions last year & was able to figure out who got the jobs from LinkedIn. Both were men in their 50s, while I am 35 (and female, although it shouldn’t matter, it is a male-dominated industry). I did feel better knowing I didn’t lose out to someone with comparable experience.

        1. Laura*

          Not AH, but sometimes I find out the person who got the job has 6-7 years of relevant experience, while the job description only asks for 1 year experience. That makes me feel a bit better

          1. fposte*

            That’s an interesting point–it could be that you have a kickass application package that makes people interested in meeting with you despite having more experienced candidates, but that ultimately the experience wins out.

          2. Lili*

            I do the check too. Last time I found out that the person who got the job was a lateral hire. They wanted someone who could be operative from Day One. No time for learning.
            Fair enough. I understand that.

          1. annie*

            It’s definitely useful to google this if you truly thought you were a finalist. Sometimes you see the person who beat you out had a certificate or degree, or connections that you don’t have, and you can target working on those things.

            I’ve also had it happen to me twice where the job is advertised as mid-level or senior, and I say they’ve hired a right out of college early twentysomething, and it makes me feel better thinking I was overqualified or too expensive to hire. It also makes me roll my eyes at the company a little because why advertise for someone who “MUST HAVE 7 years experience or else the sky will fall OMG no exceptions!” if you were willing to hire someone with only an internship, if that?

      4. Meg Murry*

        Or your references could not remember you, or have moved on, and if the interviewer calls 3 different people and either gets no response or 3 wrong numbers they may assume you are faking your references and go with the other candidate. Reach out to your references YOURSELF and make sure they are ok with being references for you.

        Also, any chance you are overpricing yourself out of the position? Especially if its not coming up until the last interview? Not suggesting you cut what you’re asking for, but you may want to do some research and make sure you are in the right ballpark.

        1. AH*

          Thanks for the advice, Meg! All of my references are recent. I did recently remove one reference, simply because I was concerned that his brusk personality may have been rubbing people the wrong way. He was a great boss and a smart guy, but didn’t have people skills and I was worried his personality would have a poor reflection on me.

          I’m definitely in-market, if not below. Did my research on that!

      5. CAA*

        AH — would you mind giving your industry? Obviously there are a lot of openings if you’ve had 85 interviews, but I wonder if there’s some other industry specific thing going on that we could help with.

        1. AH*

          I’m applying in several industries that I have experience in – technology, software, start-ups and publishing. Applying for marketing, writing/editing and administrative position. All of which I have extensive experience.

      6. Puddin*

        Background checks are usually made after the offer (I think). But, have you considered that something like that could be holding you back? Low credit score, outstanding debt, tickets/police type stuff, blog, facebook twitter postings that would raise red flags… You might want to Google yourself and see what pops up.

        1. Mark*

          If the feedback involves some sort of discrimination or other illegal basis, how could the job seeker ever prove this? If either party to a telephone conversation is in a two party consent state, the recording thereof is inadmissible. There mere assertion that the employer said something is not sufficient without proof. The job seeker could never even prove that the employer said this or that, much less that discrimination occurred. I highly doubt that the feedback would occur in person or in written form.

      7. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        OP#2 I’m really just guessing here, but is it possible you’re too polished and your answers are too practiced? Lots of interviewing can leave you giving answers that seem overly rehearsed – it can be hard to find what’s wrong with them, but it can also lead to a situation where the interview feels less like an authentic conversation. I would guess that the people who did your practice interview are used to seeing very basic interview mistakes, and have little practice working with someone who’s already good at it. Of course, I have no way of knowing if this is what’s going on, but I’ve certainly passed people over myself when I felt that they gave lots of perfect, stock answers and as a result, were too hard to read, never expressed unease, or gave me clues about where they really felt stronger and weaker – I start to wonder if they are just really well-coached interviewees and not much more! Any chance you’re mentioning how many interviews you’ve had? If so, stop! while it’s possible that you are just losing the hiring lottery each time due to sheer bad luck, something is probably going on, and they might feel like they’re the only ones missing it and pass you over for that reason alone.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m not OP2, but after getting many interviews and no offers, I did some mock interviews with friends, who said that I sounded like a robot, and that I should pause and answer more slowly even if I knew the answer immediately.

        2. AH*

          Definitely not mentioning how many interviews I’ve had! I’m sure that would blackball me. It is definitely a possibility that I sound rehearsed. Most interviewers ask the same questions over and over again and if I get positive reactions, I typically use the same answers. I always feel like I better if an interviewer asks non-stock interview questions. I will definitely try to vary my answers so I don’t sound rehearsed.

        3. A.Y. Siu*

          Having worked in admission and been involved in hiring, I think a lot of applicants are under the mistaken impression that all their responses have to sound perfect or be perfect, whatever “perfect” means.

          Interviewers are human, just like you are, and they want to see that you’re human. Sure, they want to be impressed, but they want to also feel that what you’re impressing them with is pretty close to who you really are. You want to be the best version of yourself, of course, but it should be who you are.

          85 interviews is a lot! I think you would probably have to make a deliberate effort not to sound rehearsed or canned in your responses if you’ve had to answer similar or the same questions over and over again.

          Be polite and friendly, but at a certain point in the interview, you have to let your guard down a bit, let the interviewer see you for who you are–ultimately, you are going to be that person when you work there.

  1. KarenT*

    The answer has nothing to do with you. It’s often about another candidate—the person who got the job simply dazzled everyone in her interview, or had amazing experience with widget making, which wasn’t mentioned in the job description but happens to be an area the company is expanding into next year.

    As a hiring manager, I find myself in the scenario above all the time. I work in publishing which is a highly competitive industry filled with wonderfully passionate people. It’s also a struggling industry, and there are just more candidates than jobs. The last time I hired, I would have been happy to hire my top four candidates, but ultimately had to go with just one of them. There wasn’t anything the other three did poorly–they were also very impressive.

    1. anonymous*


      I have been in the interviewing-twice-a-week-for-months-on-end position and I know how frustrating it is, but for every job there will only be one who gets it and however many (dozens to hundreds) who don’t. So odds are that even if any one candidate interviews extremely well, someone else might edge them out by interviewing slightly better, having a skill or experience that fits with what they are looking for, having a personal style that seems a better cultural fit for the team, having a life experience that resonates with the hirers, or anything else.

      I think it’s good to evaluate your performance critically and somewhat objectively and ask others to do the same. But it can also be that in this market there are so many people who meet basic, and even advanced, qualifications for jobs, it falls to more nuanced/subjective decisions because employers are able to pick from a group of very qualified candidates.

      I know it sucks.

    2. straws*

      +1 I’m currently hiring and having a hard time choosing between 5 (5!) amazing candidates. I wish I could magically come up with the money and tasks to hire all 5. It’s going to be painful to reject any of them :(

    3. Sunflower*

      I think candidates are also frustrated by this fact which can cause them to lash out like some people below mentioned.
      Because we are still going through a rough economy, there are so many great candidates to chose from. For job seekers, it’s a lot easier to comprehend ‘we were looking for someone with more experience’ rather than’ you were great, we just went with someone else’ It’s super frustrating as a job seeker to not get any offers and hear that it’s not you, it’s just there was someone better. We’d rather you tell us that we need to work on a certain skill, at least we would feel like we’re making progress.

      And it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just hard as a job seeker to feel like you aren’t going to fit in anywhere :(

      1. KarenT*

        Believe me, I’m sympathetic! I’m on both sides of the issue, as I’ve recently been hiring and interviewing at other companies.

      2. Marcy*

        I agree with you, Sunflower, but want to add that it isn’t even that someone else was better. We can only pick one and if I pick someone because they happened to have five months more experience in something than you, it doesn’t mean they are better. We just have to go by something when there are so many great people to choose from. Honestly, if you are getting an interview, you are a great candidate.

    4. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Agreed! While I normally e-mail rejections, I actually called someone last week to tell her I thought she was truly amazing and that I just had to make a decision between two excellent candidates. I gave her a few leads and even made a couple of calls to colleagues on her behalf. She was really great- but so was the other person!

  2. anon*

    I had been a senior associate at a major law firm (now defunct for reasons that are now obvious) when I got laid off in Feb 2009. This was not only the height of the financial crisis, but a point in time that saw a major paring down of legal jobs in NYC and nationally. I spent 2 years unemployed and interviewing (I finally landed on my feet, thankfully).

    I would add that you’re not just against other “real” candidates, but also the “mythological” candidate that some hiring folks have in their heads. The biggest issue for me was that, during that time (and I imagine this is true for other fields), so many people were looking for work that the people in charge of hiring assumed they could get candidates that meet 100% of their criteria, so even if they had someone who met 90% or 98% of what they wanted (something they would have jumped at in a less terrible market for job-seekers), they would hold out for even more.

    Needless to say, it was incredibly frustrating (particularly when 2 of the three interviewers would think you were absolutely the bee’s knees, but the third one would want someone with “a little more XYZ experience”).

    1. AVP*

      Ugh, I work in an area very different from the law, but we’re similarly flooded with applications and it’s very competitive to get in at the entry level. My boss is constantly on the lookout for the perfect candidate who not only has 100% of the disparate requirements, personality quirks, program expertise, and 100 other random skills (many of which, 5 years ago, they would have been trained for on the job) – but when I find someone who’s 98% of the way there, he wants to pay them significantly less than the posted salary because they’re not 100%. And negotiation is seen as rude.

      In the end I try to remind him that low-balling people just because you can just leads to resentment and turnover (and I’m the person who has to deal with the eventual mess!) but I feel like I start over at zero every single time.

  3. Leah*

    I have a friend who is in a similar position; lots of interviews but no offers. I have some ideas of what she might be doing to turn off interviewers but she brushes off unrequested feedback (e.g. “Oh, I’m totally different in interviews.”) and sometimes gets angry at the person trying to help. I’m just hoping she asks or even semi-asks for feedback.

    1. fposte*

      It sounds like she doesn’t receive feedback very well, though, which may be clear from her interview and feedback requests.

  4. AndersonDarling*

    It frustrates me when a company knows the job is going to an internal candidate, but they interview outside applicants anyway.
    They are wasting my time and their own time because policy states they have to interview 2, 3, or 4 external candidates.
    A candidate may be interviewing for a job that they have zero chance of being offered.

    1. AH*

      I worked for a company that did this ALL THE TIME. Needless to say, I don’t even bother applying for jobs there!

    2. Sunflower*

      UGH I hate that! Once I walked out of an interview and as I was waiting for the elevator, I heard the girl next to me talking to her co-worker about how well the interview for the position went and they told her she could start next week. I actually find this to be extremely rude. Working interviews in around a work schedule is really difficult and knowing I went through that trouble for no reason is just frustrating.

      1. fposte*

        Our university has it–I believe it’s a state governmental policy, period. Given that it’s Illinois, it makes a little bit of sense to at least slow patronage down.

      2. Kelly*

        It’s very common in government jobs. I got hired in May at a state university as an outside hire. In my area, it’s more common to hire outside people than in other departments because of the skill set. Almost all of the recent hires for my job title in other sites have been outside hires who have experience in both education and private companies. I was surprised that some of the higher up positions that were filled this past year went to outside applicants, especially when the strongest on paper was from another school in the system.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          yes – this is annoying, and also I hate it when candidates ask me about this. TONS of people have asked if any internal candidates have applied, and if so, if we’re just interviewing external candidates as a formality. For the record, we’re not, but it usually comes across as “did you just call me to waste my time?”. Probably not a great question at the start of an interview process. Also – small town- and I’m totally not going to give out this type of info because there’s no such thing as maintaining confidentiality by speaking in generalities.

  5. Lamington*

    #2 mock interviews can help, i did them on my career center at school and it help with my nerves and practice so all your answers sound natural. Also take the advice with a grain of salt. One interviewer didn’t like my purse and other said it made me memorable.

      1. Lamington*

        It was a regular black tote with a subtle crocodile pattern (fake of course) nothing flashy or too big. However she liked my shoes and pantyhose.

  6. first-time hiring manager*

    Just as one data point – we got over 200 applications for a new position reporting to me. I looked through them all. If one or two who seemed thoughtful but didn’t make the cut asked nicely for feedback, I might try to give it, but half the cases the only feedback would be “The other candidates were stronger.” So I’m not sure how helpful that would be.

    A bit less than half didn’t move forward because they simply didn’t meet the qualifications or follow the instructions.

    And then there is a small slice where I might be able to give productive feedback, but in most of those cases the applicants seemed so far off-the-wall that I don’t want to engage with them.

    1. KarenT*

      And then there is a small slice where I might be able to give productive feedback, but in most of those cases the applicants seemed so far off-the-wall that I don’t want to engage with them.

      Agreed. When there is something specific, it’s usually because someone was late, rude, dishonest, and those are the people I feel less inclined to help.

    2. AVP*

      The one time I tried to give feedback to someone who didn’t pass the initial resume screen, it was because he asked and because he had made a kind of boneheaded mistake so I figured someone should point it out. (He must have had different resumes on file for different types of jobs and he sent in the wrong one – it was the difference of like, a bike messenger resume vs a video editor resume or something major like that). So then he sends me the right one, but it’s still not really what I’m looking for and I don’t offer him an interview. The #1 most important part of this job is attention to detail, so it didn’t sit well either way. Anyway, of course, cue 7 different emails from various stages of the grief process, bargaining to anger to WHHHYYYYYY.

      I did not hire him. And now I only give feedback if it’s to someone I’ve interviewed and had a good rapport with.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I would love to give feedback to one of those people who sends a resume called “Mom’s resume”. I want you to know how to name documents in an appropriate and organized fashion. I wouldn’t eliminate someone for this reason, but I’d have more questions about their tech skills.

  7. Abby*

    I recently interviewed seven individuals for a job opening I had and honestly, I think every single one of them could have done a good job. There were about four that were above the others and two I really wanted to hire. I couldn’t not possibly quantify why I chose the person I did because none of them did anything clearly wrong (such as show up late, give rude answers, not have the right experience). Sometimes hiring is just a gut feeling and while I would never condone someone using that as an excuse to not hire a woman, minority, or someone else in a protected class, it is true sometimes. I was hiring for a communications person and the market is flooded in my town.

    1. Leah*

      Also, hiring people have their own unconscious biases that are entirely out of the job applicant’s control. I met someone socially and couldn’t shake the feeling that she was particularly untrustworthy. I later realized that it was because she somehow reminded me of an ex-friend who betrayed me. Once I recognized that, I moved past it.

      However, when choosing from among otherwise-equal candidates I doubt a hiring person will go through that but will instead pick the person who was neutral or even gave positive associations.

      1. some1*

        This can totally happen! You remind the manager of a former coworker or friend that they just didn’t like.

  8. recruitergirl*

    2. Too many candidates will argue or debate if they get feedback.

    This is the reason I no longer give extensive feedback. I have had so many candidates who try to take the feedback I’m giving them and “prove” to me how we’re wrong. Okay, well I was giving feedback based on the impression given during the interview process. The polite thing to do would be to say thank you and I would probably consider you for future openings unless you did something crazy.

    1. some1*

      This. I used to send rejections (not for jobs) in a former position and most people were polite in response but a few people got really defensive to the point of name-calling or told me we were missing out.

      9 times out of 10 the defensive crowd submitted work that was either not up to par or the content was in no way related to what we were looking for.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      This. I’m amazed by how many people think they can convince you to hire them by arguing with you. By the end, you just want to say “Well, now the MAIN reason is that you seem like a nightmare to work with every day.”

    3. Joey*

      This isn’t typically true in professional positions- they just stick out more so you remember more of them.

    4. Sunflower*

      This seems to come from where I feel most bad job advice stems from. Somewhere along the line the idea of ‘If you show you want the job more than anyone else, you will get the job’ came around and people will try to weasel their way into a job through any small crack.

  9. EngineerGirl*

    #2 – in other postings people have suggested that a professional sounding friend call up references and find out what they say. Also, are they enthusiastic about you or merely warm? It makes a difference.
    Get a copy of your credit report. These are available for free once a year. It’s. VERY easy for sloppy companies to tag the wrong person for negative credit.
    Google yourself and see what comes up.

    1. some1*

      I seriously doubt companies are looking up candidates’ credit reports without getting consent or at least informing them first.

      1. recruitergirl*

        Correct, companies will generally have you sign a consent before pulling this information. Also, it doesn’t sound like she’s making it that far in the process. Most companies (not all) typically do background checks only after a verbal offer has been accepted.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          The key word is “generally”. And since looking up a credit report is free, it’s worth doing.
          Actually, it’s worth doing anyway.

          1. some1*

            I would imagine a company not getting a consent form is a good way to get sued, though, since just having a certain number of parties looking up your credit report can have a negative impact.

            1. KJR*

              Can you even pull someone’s credit without a consent form? We only check it for financial positions, but there are hoops to jump through.

            2. Dan*

              Those should show up as “soft” inquiries, which won’t have a negative impact on your credit score. Same as pulling your own.

              1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                I don’t think you could get the report without a social security number, which I doubt they’d have this early in the process.

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            And you can actually get it three times a year for free (once each from the main reporting companies).

            #personalfinancenerd #notthatyoudknowitfrommypersonalfinances

            1. Dan*

              They’re actually three different reports, and most of the time don’t line up perfectly. So it’s slightly misleading to say that you can get your report for free “three times a year.”

              Likewise, there’s really no such thing as “your credit score.” Since each bureau has slightly different data on you, when it goes through the scoring algorithm, you will get different results.

              Most lenders will just pull from one credit report, so “your score” is really the score from that particular bureau. Sometimes it’s worth knowing this kind of thing.


          3. Liz in a Library*

            As a hiring manager or as an applicant?

            I completely agree that as an applicant (or just, you know, a person), it is a really good idea to check your credit at least annually (when it is free).

            As someone who has done hiring, I disagree strongly with pulling a credit report for applicants to any position that doesn’t have a direct financial tie.

            I think you meant the former, but I didn’t want to misread.

    2. Anon @ Work*

      Yes, Google. . .There could be another “AH” in your town who has a checkered past. : )

      1. kdizzle*

        Good point! This acutally happened to a friend of mine. He had a name that wasn’t common or uncommon, but of course, there was a creeper with his same name in his home town who liked to flash women at shopping malls.

    3. Malissa*

      Sign up for credit karma. It’s free, you can check it every day if you want. It gives you your transunion and vantage credit scores.

  10. Andrea*

    I’d be more worried about the fact that you keep getting contract work without those firms seeing if they could bring you on. I’ve used the contract/temp route as a way in throughout my career and would consider it a bad sign if I weren’t getting offers to come on full time, or offers to fill a position once it came open. Contract work allows them to test you out and see if there is a fit. What is happening that they don’t want to go beyond this stage with you?

    1. some1*

      Good point, unless all of the contract positions were for roles with specific end dates (i.e. covering for mat leave).

      My dept has grown a ton in the last couple years, and we use a lot of temps because we have mutiple positions we need filled ASAP. Almost every competent temp gets invited to become permanant unless they don’t fit in well.

      1. Pseudo Annie Nym*

        I’m dealing with this right now–I was a temp for one department and they told me they had positions coming available soon. I loved working with them; they loved working with me; everything was sunshine and roses. After the temp job was over, they immediately contacted me for two contract jobs (still waiting to be able to post the full-time job). When the full-time job came up, the hiring manager told me that I was so good that the job was too low for me and I was totally overqualified–sorry!

        It was like someone punched me in the gut. Really–I’m SO good at this position, you can’t hire me for it? I’m already trained and you know you like me, but you’ll hire some untested intern? Then THEY’LL get to learn and move up? But I’m so good that I have to go back to under-paid temping and table waiting? Uggghhh. I hate this job market so much.

        1. Chris*

          It could be because the intern is much cheaper, an intern works for peanuts if they do get paid at all because a lot of interns are right out of college and work for FREE just to get experience on a resume! Which is BS for you, sorry that happened to you. That’s probably the real reason why.

    2. Mary*

      I have had contract jobs. There are many reasons why permanent jobs aren’t offered. One was the job transferred to India. Another big one is that budgets get cut and the first to go are the contractors. Also managers change and they want to bring in their own people.

    3. AH*

      The contract roles were for specific time periods and specific projects with end dates. For one of them, the manager worked so hard to get it extended, but it was ultimately rejected at the last possible second by HR for budget reasons. It was SO disappointing, especially since it looked like it was going to go through the whole time!

      1. Andrea*

        So all of the projects that you are hired for never turn in to full time jobs at the end of your contract period, nor in the future? Also, the good work you’ve done doesn’t gain you advocates who want you either 1) hired permanently or 2) recommend you to colleagues in the field who would also want to hire competent people? That doesn’t ring true. The hiring pool may be a mile wide, but it is an inch deep. Maybe there are reasons that you are not seeing why you are not getting traction 1) when you work somewhere or 2) when you interview.

        1. AH*

          Andrea, I’ve had 2 project-based contract positions with clear end dates. At the end if the period, there simply weren’t any openings. At the end of both contracts, I was praised for my work and am currently still in touch with the managers and colleagues. They give me leads and recommendations often. Unless everyone is lying to me, I’ve found both contract positions to be very helpful, especially since they are both with well-known companies.

  11. Betty*

    I am a manager of a small staff (20 people… as compared so some other companies) and at times I could have a few very qualified candidates that I meet with, even go through 1st and 2nd interviews. However, sometimes it just comes down to who will fit best with everyone else. A lot of people here work side by side, day in and day out with the same people and I have seen my fair share of personality conflicts, so I do take in consideration how the candidate will mesh with everyone else.

      1. Betty*

        Well no one has asked me, so I haven’t really been put in that position.

        The job here is with a lot of customers so hospitality is a main job requirement and some people just don’t have it. That’s when it is difficult. They could be qualified for the job and have good customer service, but we really need people who are “bubbly”, outgoing and welcoming. I would hate to tell someone that they aren’t that way.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          or sometimes it’s about the right mix of people on a team – any qualified individual could potentially work, but you’re looking for a balance between people.

  12. Christy*

    Wow. I wrote in awhile back about having 10 interviews and no offers. I can’t imagine doing 85. 85! I basically gave up looking a month ago, but am forcing myself to search again. Job hunting is so demoralizing and makes me feel anxious, insecure, depressed, etc. It got to the point where I was crying every day and snarling at my kids. I’m not sure where I’m going with this other than I admire your tenacity and mental strength. Good luck!

    1. AH*

      Thanks, Christy! I’m trying to keep my head up! In the mean time, I’ve been documenting the experience. Might start a blog or write a book or something. :)

      1. MandyBabs*

        I hear that! I keep comparing it all to dating life and then sometimes auditions . If anyone else is a Musical Theatre Geek – it’s living out Chorus Line with these interviews – “God I hope I get it!”

  13. Laura*

    I interviewed recently for a lateral transfer at the government agency where I work, and was not hired. I did approach the hiring manager for feedback, and we had a great conversation. I made it clear when I made my request that I didn’t want to know why I wasn’t hired. Other candidates have other things to offer, and that has nothing to do with me, and is none of my business. Instead, I asked for tips on how I could improve for my next interview. I left all defensiveness at the door, focusing on really listening to his feedback (even if I didn’t agree with all of it). And I made sure to thank him for being generous with his time.

    I really didn’t think I’d flubbed the interview–it was fine but not great–but he did have some specific suggestions that helped me prepare for the next interview, which went MUCH better.

  14. Joey*

    My wife does that and it drives me absolutely nuts- get manicures, a haircut, color, and wants a new suit, new shoes everytime she interviews with a new company or new person. I told her none of that stuff is going to make a difference, but I don’t know if she doesn’t believe me or is just using it as an excuse.

    1. KarenT*

      I sincerely hope you don’t mean this comment the way it is coming off. Your wife doesn’t need “an excuse” to get her hair done, coloured, or a new suit. This really comes off like you expect her to justify these things to you, which implies she needs your approval or consent.

      1. AJ-in-Memphis*

        Whoa. I don’t think that was the intention of his comment.

        I took it as she’s spending a lot of money every time she gets an interview for a job that she probably needs using money they may or may not have.

        **As a side note, I think some of commenters on this site take this stuff way too seriously and are a little too snarky — leaning towards just plain mean.

        1. Sunflower*

          I took it as she does this because she wants to use not being put together enough as an excuse for why she wasn’t hired

          1. Joey*

            Nope. We just don’t like our own wants clouding our judgement on spending. Same thing if I think about buying a new golf club. she will be my reality check.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Agreeing with AJ here — I would appreciate it very much if people would let stuff like this go unless it’s truly egregious. We are a hugely varied group here and not everyone will see things the same way you do. I’d like people to be able to discuss workplace issues without worrying about getting jumped on because their wording rubbed someone the wrong way or their politics are 10 degrees left or right of someone else’s.

          (And I don’t mean to pick on you at all, Karen! AJ just gave me the opportunity to mention this.)

          1. KarenT*

            I’m happy to avoid this kind of discussion, and in fact I usually do. However, I really don’t think I was snarky or mean.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s cumulative (from everyone as a group), definitely not targeting you specifically. I’m speaking up now because it’s starting to become overwhelming in quantity (from the group as a whole).

              1. KarenT*

                I will happily abstain going forward, and I’ll drop the issue after this, but I think these types of comments are posted because people are speaking up when they find a comment truly egregious. The problem is not everyone has the same barometer. I’ve been commenting here for a couple of years now and I don’t think I’ve ever made a comment like that before. In fact, I’ve kind of rolled my eyes before at comments like mine, and there have been many things I’ve found a bit alarming and let go. Just as a random example, in a short answer post someone said “the female.” That did not bother me at all, though it did stand out to you and to many of your commenters. In my eyes Joey’s comment (which I realize he didn’t mean the way I took it), was much worse.
                I hope I’m not coming off as argumentative, because that isn’t my intention, but just trying to point out that asking people to only comment when they find something truly egregious may not reduce these comments very much.
                I would say, however, the piling on is not helpful. Once one, or two, or three people have expressed the same opinion additional people chiming in is just piling on.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Fair enough! It feels like it’s increasing to me and becoming a place where people are more likely to get jumped on, and I want to ward that off as much as I can. (And again, so sorry that your comment was the one that prompted me to say something — really wasn’t intended to tie it to you in particular!)

      2. Joey*

        Give me a break. Don’t twist what I’m saying to make it sound like she needs the mans permission. We consult each other on purchases. And yes I consult her if I plan on spending over a certain amount.

        1. KarenT*

          I may have your intentions wrong, and it sounds like I do, but I didn’t twist your words. I used the words that you did, which is why your comment reads that way.

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s your inference, though, because his comment didn’t read that way to me.

            “An excuse” doesn’t inherently mean “an excuse to somebody else”–it’s a pretty common locution to say “an excuse to get out of the house,” for instance, and that doesn’t mean that you’re needing to excuse your exit to anybody.

            1. KarenT*

              I would agree it’s an inference, but I think it’s a reasonable one. I wrote in both of my comments that Joey may not have intended it the way I’m reading it, and I can see from his responses that how I read it is not how he meant it. However, as I re-read it, it still reads that way to me.

              1. Joey*

                I’m curious. Why would you assume she needs to give me an excuse over giving herself an excuse?

                1. KarenT*

                  It was the wording, “I told her none of that stuff is going to make a difference, but I don’t know if she doesn’t believe me or is just using it as an excuse.” Because of the first half of the sentence is a conversation with you, it sounds like the excuse is to you.
                  Again, I can see now that’s not what you meant, so I’m not trying to pile on, that’s just how it came off to me.

              2. Dan*

                Then you’ve got some personal biases in there, that you might want to re-examine.* One of those biases may be that you don’t think that husbands and wives should discuss finances and purchases with each other, or for that matter, that other couples shouldn’t manage their finances different than you do.

                FWIW, I have an ex who doesn’t care about how much money is in the bank. She would fabricate any excuse she wanted to justify spending money. The only thing that mattered was whether or not there was enough left on the credit line so the charge wouldn’t get declined.

                *These kinds of things are why I hate reading comp questions about things that aren’t math or engineering text books. Most answers seem subjective on the part of the person writing the test.

                1. KarenT*

                  That’s possible, I’m certainly interpreting this conversation through my own experiences but I’m not alone in that.
                  I don’t think I’m biased on how couples handle their money (I generally couldn’t care less if spouses discuss it with one another or what not
                  –I don’t consider it my business) with the very strong exception that anyone contributing to the households bottom line (either by working or by running the home so someone else can work) should get a say. It’s possible Joey’s comment triggered that because to me it came off that his wife needed to justify to him (again, I realize now that’s not what he meant).

              3. Jake*

                This is the most frustrating aspect of comments on this site. Everybody wants to act all liberal and pro-freedom (pro sex workers, pro gay marriage, pro etc.), which is great because I feel the same way on all those subjects, however, when somebody mentions off hand that their family manages their finances by consulting each other, it is automatically interpreted by somebody as “wrong.”

                Even if he was saying that she needs his permission to spend the money, why is that a problem? It is a mutual relationship. Unless he is forcing her to be a part of the marriage, why don’t they have the freedom to manage their finances however they want?

                By jumping in and trying to defend this grown woman from her marriage, you are being just as judgmental and mean as the people that get lambasted for being bigots.

                1. Anonymous*

                  “Everybody wants to act all liberal and pro-freedom (pro sex workers, pro gay marriage, pro etc.)”

                  I don’t act it. I am.

                  Just sayin’.

                2. Sharm*

                  100% agree. There’s so much good content here, so I keep coming back, but this is so frustrating. And like you, I’m generally in that camp, but get so turned off at the overreactions and over-dissecting.

          2. Dan*

            I didn’t read it that way either — many spouses have an arrangement where anything over $X has to be “approved” by the other. There’s no point in that arrangement if the other doesn’t have either veto power or some other serious influence of some sort.

      3. Colette*

        I didn’t read it like that at all.

        In fact, it sounds to me like she’s grasping at things she can’t control, because there are so many things she can’t control (the other candidates, the interviews, what they need in a role, the budgeted salary). Totally understandable, and yet also completely something that someone close to you should point out.

      4. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Many couples make all kinds of financial decisions together, and there’s not always tension involved in communicating about every day purchases. Of course, there are also couples where each prefers a greater degree of independence in how some money is spent. Either is fair.

        1. KJR*

          My husband would be saying the same thing, and I wouldn’t think twice about him saying it.

        1. some1*

          Nice sarcasm. There’s a big difference between “making finacial decisions together” and having to ask your husband if you’re allowed to buy something.

          Barring my/us having an overspending problem or us being in a bad finacial place, I would expect my husband to trust my judgement on when and how much to spend on myself. Though I have got my nails professionally done less than ten times in my entire life and have never spend more than $200 on an entire interview outfit.

          1. Jake*

            Your implication that any arrangement differing too much from your own is wrong, is very disturbing.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m surprised by that and wonder if you’re picturing something different in your head than the rest of us. For example: a couple keeps their money jointly and agrees on a monthly budget, where each has a $X for their own personal stuff. All the rest of the money is allocated to other categories (bills, savings, etc.). One of them wants to make a purchase that is 3 times X, which means that there will be less money going to the other categories that month. Surely that person should check with the other person first.

              2. Joey*

                Disturbing that she wants my opinion on whether going over our self imposed discretionary budgets to make non essential purchases is worth it?

    2. fposte*

      I’d say there’s a third possibility, which is that it makes a difference to how she feels, and therefore quite possibly to how she performs.

      1. Jen RO*

        But for someone unemployed, getting a manicure and a haircut and a hair coloring and new clothes for an interview is money thrown out the window! One, as long as you are put together, employers won’t give a shit if you have a French mani or just clean trimmed nails. Two, you’re spending money you don’t have on something you might not get. From a personal finances point of view, it makes no sense. It sounds like a large sum of money and it’s irresponsible to spend it just to get a bit more confident.

        1. fposte*

          We have no idea how much money this woman has, how much money she’s spending on any of this, and how often it happens. We definitely don’t know enough to call it “irresponsible.”

          1. Joey*

            Want an idea?

            $200 hair/color
            $4o-100 mani/pedi
            $50-100 shoes
            $300-400 suit

            We can afford it, but that’s not the point.

            1. fposte*

              What I’m saying is that whether it’s irresponsible or not is between you and her. There would be families where that would be a weekly expense with no problem, families that would never dream of it ever, and families where somebody’s using the money they’re making from quitting cigarettes to do it so it all evens out. Given that we don’t know where you all fit and it’s none of our business, it’s not for us to say it’s irresponsible.

            2. Jen in RO*

              Wow. Does she seriously do this for every interview or were you exaggerating to make a point? (I’m just curious at this point, because it sounds extreme to me.)

              1. a guy*

                If I was starting a job search I’d probably get two or three new suits and a few new pairs of shoes to re-fresh my wardrobe. Using the interviews/search as “an excuse.”

                After that, I’d stop as I only need so many.

              2. Joey*

                Depends. Hair nails toes have to be freshly done. Suit shoes have to be recently purchased and can’t be used twice for the same company.

                So it seems probably like for every interview, but in reality that’s not quite accurate

                1. Jen RO*

                  Thanks for the explanation. That doesn’t sound extreme anymore – I don’t reuse the same items for interviewing with the same company (thank God I don’t have to wear suits, that would get expensive!) and, well, I would love to get my mani done so often. My inner cheapskate won’t let me use job searching as an excuse, unfortunately, and I can’t convince it that “yeesssss pretty nails are GOOD”!

            3. MissD*

              Joey, for what it’s worth, I sometimes feel much like your wife. When I have a big interview coming up, I “feel” like I need to have a new suit/haircut/shoes, and that somehow it will HELP me to feel more put together, confidant and professional.

              Of course, it really doesn’t. At least not beyond a certain point anyway. And based of this accounting (I wouldn’t spend that much for the whole shebang) it probably is not an expense she really needs to get the job. I would be concerned as well if she is thinking her “look” is holding her back.

            4. Lili*

              Joey, I think you wife is just trying and compensate for the stress of the event (job interview) with an extra “pampering session”.

        2. Anon @ Work*

          I do think it depends a little on the job & other factors as to whether the employers care.

          Gray roots look sloppy. Outdated clothes & an unpolished look are a no-no in some industries, positions, and regions.

          IMHO, from a personal finance view, it is a good investment, depending on the position. If it’s a six-figure client-facing consultant role, get your damn nails done. If it’s an admin position at a manufacturing company, no, don’t worry about it. But, you don’t want to lose out on the great job because you wouldn’t spend $40 on your nails.

          1. Joey*

            Trust me, I’ve never met a manager that said “did you see her nails? Oh hell no we’re not hiring her.”

            1. Anon @ Work*

              No one is going to SAY that. I don’t even know if it’s conscious. Like people are saying in these comments, some candidates are just a better “fit” than others.

              I will give you this: I work for one of the most OCD people on the planet who notices everything. He gets up in arms if the paint on the walls has flaws. (Like normal people-are-occupying-this-space flaws, not big gashes and dirt.) This may color my opinion.

              1. Anon @ Work*

                Also: The UBS dress code that was going around a few years ago. Nail maintenance and hair was strictly called out. Not that it matters to me if you go to a salon or DIY it, but to say there aren’t times & places where this matters isn’t quite right.

              2. Joey*

                But is that someone really worth working for? Someone who cares that you haven’t done your nails for a few weeks or someone who obsesses over the way you look. This is the risk you run when you go to such lengths for an interview.

            2. K Too*

              Late to this posting, but stuff like this can happen. I’ve heard stories from co-workers about superficial bosses they worked for and the reasons why they didn’t hire a candidate. A few years ago, I interviewed at an ad agency and I was dressed nice – heels, blouse, Ann Taylor slacks, etc. Went through a 6 rounds of interviews and never heard back from the employer.

              One year later, I ran into one of the interviewers at an event and we connected. She confessed the reason why I didn’t get the job after apologizing profusely.

              Apparently, one person out of the group of interviewers made a comment about my appearance and that was the reason why they didn’t offer me the job. The main person who influenced everyone’s decision, no longer works at the company. Go figure….

        3. Joey*

          Sort of. For me its more when it disrupts the discretionary spending limits we set for ourselves.

      2. Dan*

        But that’s not a carte blance “excuse” (oops, pun not intended) to spend money willy nilly. In fact, that’s why a lot of people end up in financial trouble — they spend money because it makes them feel good.

    3. NK*

      I don’t believe that stuff necessarily makes a difference in how the interviewer perceives me on appearance, but I do it (to a lesser extent, at least) because it makes me feel more confident, which comes across in the interview. If I feel like my suit is dowdy or not perfectly flattering, or I have bad hair, I feel like I’m presenting less of a professional image, which can negatively affect my overall appearance.

      Now, I’m not advocating spending tons of money for image-related things every time an interview comes along. But sprucing a few things up to feel like you look more polished can have a positive impact on your interview performance.

      1. Joey*

        Yeah I get that I just can’t understand why those things should make a difference when I really can’t tell the difference between before and after.

        1. Jen in RO*

          Well, if the interviewer is a woman, she will probably notice. I don’t think it would influence her decision, but manicured nails are pretty obvious.

          1. a guy*

            I think men notice too, but on less explicit level – not every detail but a sense of the total picture.

            And along those lines, nails not being manicured doesn’t matter if most everything else in is good. If the person seems sloppy in actions or communications style, sloppy appearance may be more noteworthy.

            I recently interviewed three women for a job reporting to me. I don’t remember any details other than that one was very slightly less formally dressed than the others. All were dressed nicely and were great candidates, so I don’t think it mattered and think (hope) it didn’t affect my judgement.

            One really sloppy aspect of dress, or many slightly sloppy aspects would have stood out.

        2. Dan*

          My ex could spend an hour in the mirror, and I could hardly tell the difference between the before and after. She claimed she was doing it to look pretty for me. Where she got that idea, I donno, ’cause I never every said anything to her about makeup and hair.

          Once I asked her what she would say if I told her she looks beautiful the way she is, and I don’t really care if she puts on makeup for a random dinner out. I told her that if skipping the makeup session means we can leave the house on time, I’d love that much more than her having on makeup but being late all of the time.

          Boy was she dumbfounded.

      1. Mimi*

        I agree – it could be the “ritual” of buying new clothes, getting her nails/hair done, etc., that makes her feel more confident.

    4. AH*

      I have to invest a bit more in my appearance than the average candidate. I am short, have a child-like face and a child-like voice. It’s REALLY difficult to get people to take me seriously. I have to do it all. I can’t give anyone an excuse to judge me on my appearance because I already have a lot working against me in that department.

    5. Kelly*

      I think for many people, men and women, going to get a haircut or a new tie for their upcoming interview is a psychological boost. It makes you feel better and provides some armor for the interview.

      I know when I was interviewing recently before any interview that was full time or out of town, I got a haircut. I cropped my hair about 3 years ago after wearing it long for over a decade and it requires more upkeep to keep the layers even. It’s also less aging and requires less use of product. It wasn’t cheap but it was less expensive than buying a new shirt or pair of shoes for each interview.

    6. Anonymous*

      A comment on dressing up for interviews, not directed at Joey’s wife but more as a general comment.

      A few years ago I started dressing much nicer at work for no particular reason. We’re business casual most of the time, but I started wearing a suit more often, and ties much more often.

      And I’m convinced that right now I’m far more comfortable in a suit and tie than many people who don’t wear that regularly are.

      I think if you’re going to be interviewing much, it’s worth raising your clothing game far in advance, and getting used to feeling good that way.

      1. fposte*

        Additionally, it’s less obvious when you are wearing a suit because you have an interview elsewhere at lunch.

      2. MissD*

        That is such a “What Not to Wear” sentiment! LOL!
        Dress for the person you WANT to BE.
        By the way, I just LOVE Clinton Kelly!

        1. Jen RO*

          Haha, I love What Not To Wear (and How Do I Look). I don’t always agree with their suggestions, but they did convince me to dress a bit more polished. Not much, but I actually have more than t-shirts in my wardrobe now :o

    7. Susan*

      Yeah, I do this too. I think I feel more put-together or self-confident if I’m in a new suit, but really it’s hugely irresponsibly because I have no expendable income due to being unemployed and I can’t just keep putting this type of thing on a credit card and rationalize it as an investment in getting a job when I have plenty of perfectly good clothing I can go get dry-cleaned.

  15. Labratnomore*

    I had an interview recently where a former boss (at a completely different company) was on the interview panel. She was not the hiring manager, but was in a similar position as the one I was applying for. After I didn’t get the job I sent her a follow-up asking for feedback. She didn’t even e-mail me back. That really surprised me, since we have seen occasionally meet up at social events with other former employees since we both left the other company.

  16. Joey*

    You know this is one of those areas where this blog has changed my behaviors. I don’t give out interview feedback to external candidates unsolicited, but after seeing how few people actually get any sort of useful feedback I now make a deliberate attempt to give out something really helpful to the folks that genuinely sound like they’re open to hearing some constructive feedback. That is- if it seems boiler plate you’ll get something back boilerplate, but if it seems a little more genuine I’ll give something genuine.

    1. Dan*

      I got unsolicited feedback from a banking interview once, and in one sense I hated it, and the other sense I appreciated.

      Hate it: Personality traits that I’m not going to change without a lot of effort. Sort of feels like a personal attack.
      Appreciated it: Personality traits that I’m not going to change without a lot of effort, which confirms the culture fit won’t be that good.

      “Being me” has always gotten me jobs where the culture fit turned out to be really good.

  17. Anonymous Too*

    I used to give constructive feedback when asked. Then I got hung up on, argued with, and threatened to be sued. So I stopped, and now I give the vague answers everyone is hearing. I guess a few bad apples was enough to turn me off. And trust me, I was very nice about it, not insulting or mean.

  18. Ali*

    I have not had as many interviews as this person, but I have had some experiences recently wondering if I am the problem and why I am not getting offers. Since I was trying to break into the sports industry, which meant starting over as per a contact of mine, I don’t know if I was assumed to be overqualified or if I really am that terrible of an interviewer. I couldn’t even get a game day/seasonal job for a baseball team here! When I asked for feedback in the past, I was mostly told it was about experience (I have closely related experience, but not the kind some places wanted) or a local candidate. The local thing I get even if it’s out of my control. But the experience thing…ugh I can’t get any if no one will give me a chance! Other times I have been told I’m strong and will be an asset to a company.

    Another time I vented on a forum for help and someone snapped at me that I am obviously not qualified and should stop thinking I am some amazing person. I really don’t think I am “amazing,” but I have gotten good reviews at work, my current colleagues all said good things about me when asked for my self-evaluation and when I write, I get compliments on my work. Am I supposed to think I am a terrible person who doesn’t deserve these jobs I am going for? That seemed like a silly response!

    1. KJR*

      It was silly. You are supposed to highlight your strengths in an interview! As an interviewer, I like to see confidence.

    2. Sunflower*

      For 2 years after college, I interviewed and interviewed and interviewed with 0 job offers. I probably went on around 40 interviews in 2 years. I also went to a school that was very highly recruited so I couldn’t comprehend why I wasn’t getting any jobs. I constantly asked for feedback and usually got 1. We went with someone with more experience or 2. You were great, we just went with someone else. Those 2 things felt completely out of my control and therefore I felt completely out of control of whether I got a job or not. I decided to just go out and get any job I could. Then I freaked out because I realized I didn’t even think that was possible and I had no idea how to do that either. I was so confused how ANYONE got jobs and I still kind of am TBH.

  19. HR Lady*

    #2 – I agree with Alison’s advice to practice interviewing with someone who can give you honest feedback. That might be a career/job coach – if you can, consider paying someone for a one-time session (more than one session would be even better, so that you can get to know each other a little) so that they can give you honest feedback.

    Be very open to their feedback, and tell them that you’re open. Practice saying “thank you for telling me” instead of getting defensive or arguing. It might be very hard to hear, but if you really want a job, you might need to work on something that you didn’t realize was a problem. And in the long run, you’ll be very glad to be notified of something you could work on.

    In fact, honest feedback can be very hard to give, so you might not be able to get it. I’d suggest you consider videotaping yourself (maybe with a webcam??) or at least practicing in front of a mirror. But being able to hear and see yourself is better. I wonder (and of course I’ve never met you so I’m totally guessing) if there’s something like a weird facial gesture you make or a particular word that you often mispronounce or something.

    Good luck!

    1. AH*

      I tried the web cam thing, actually! I changed my make-up a little bit to make myself look older – my appearance definitely works against me, but I already know this. I am short and have a child-like face and voice. It’s really difficult to get people to take me seriously. I know some scoff at the idea of buying new clothes and spending money on hair and nails. The average person probably doesn’t need to do this, but if your appearance works against you, have to do EVERYTHING you can to minimize the issue.

      I am definitely open to feedback and am finding everyone’s comments and suggestions so helpful. At this point, I’m tired of compliments from interviewers. Like Laura said, they actually make me MAD now just because I know that I am doing something terribly wrong. It makes me happier to hear actual, honest feedback.

      1. Celeste*

        I have no idea what your field is, but is it possible that there is an employer for whom your unchangeable characteristics (short height and childlike face and voice) will be an asset? This is honestly something that jumped out at me. I wonder if it’s as simple (and maddening) as being rejected over the idea of a poor fit for these physical reasons? If that’s the case, then it seems like there may be a venue where those would be thought of as assets rather than liabilities for fit. I’m even wondering if you would have a better chance looking for work in some regions than others.

      2. Andrea*

        I feel for you, AH, and I applaud your attitude—it’s really hard to keep job searching when you’ve faced so much rejection! I’m rooting for you and hoping that luck turns your way soon. But since you mentioned having a childlike voice, I wonder if you have considered a session or two with a voice coach? I only mention it because this is also something I used to struggle with, and I sought some help altering my speaking voice, and I do think it made a difference—if nothing else, it helped me feel more confident because I thought I sounded more like a professional adult. I mean, it shouldn’t matter, and it sure sounds like you are an experienced professional with a great record—you’re landing lots of interviews, yay!—but I think something like this might help, too. (I hope I didn’t offend you by mentioning that. I don’t think there is anything wrong with sounding young, of course, but I thought it was possible that interviewers hear that and then, maybe not even consciously, think of you as less experienced. I know that’s what I was afraid of!)

        1. AH*

          Andra, thanks for the advice – I hadn’t considering a voice coach. I usually try to make it work for me by applying at companies that typically hire younger people, like start-ups. I typically try to steer clear of “old school” places because I feel like they’d most likely make judgements against me.

          1. Puddin*

            Might also consider joining your local Toastmasters, if there is one. This group can help with speaking in public with careful attention to your non-verbals, tones, and nervous habits that you might exhibit while interviewing (as it is a form of extemporaneous speech).

      3. Jen in RO*

        I was against buying new things for *every* interview – I am totally on board with buying whatever you need to look more professional.

      4. some1*

        FWIW, I have always looked young and I’ve had a lot of success wearing interview clothes that are “classic” in fit and style, instead of anything remotely trendy.

  20. tango*

    Do you think some of the multiple interivews but no offers is due to not currently being employed full time in a permanent job? I know there is a bias towards those unemployed, especially long term unemployed. So on paper an applicant might look great, and even interview well, but lose out ultimately because a hiring manager has a pre-concieved notion about the applicants past performance. Or think if they were that great, with really good references, they’d already have a job?

    1. AH*

      I’ve actually wondered if it’s because of the freelance work I am taking on. Is that some kind of red flag for employers or something?

      1. Sunflower*

        Are you stating on the resume that it’s contract work? or does it look like a bunch of short job stints

      2. MissD*

        AH: Too much freelance work can make you look like a job-hopper and/or that you’re self-employed (and therefor a bad risk for leaving or that you just are in it for benefits).

        Are you being very clear that you want a full time, permanent and stable position and that the freelancing was just for need/experience?

        I’m asking because I also get this quite a bit in my field. After a layoff in 2008, I had 3 freelance jobs I worked while I was in grad school that I always tend to get questioned about.

        1. AH*

          MissD, I definitely understand that the freelance work can make me look like a job-hopper, but in my case it is a “do or die” situation. I don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. I do wonder though – is it really better to do nothing? Due to the freelance work, I have no resume gaps. What is worse to hiring managers? Freelance work or resume gaps? I’d be interested to hear what they have to say!

  21. Tara T.*

    I agree that there is bias towards people who have been out of work for awhile. Just look at how the Dept. of Labor calls anyone who is is out of work for more than 6 months “long-term.” That is NOT long-term. I have read that it takes an average of 7 months to find a new job even for an applicant who is currently employed. But the Dept. of Labor looks at it that way because there are 26 weeks of benefits, which is about 6 months. So, anything else is “long-term” to them. Of course, when it reaches a year or two, then it really is “long-term,” and yes, there is probably going to be prejudice and the employer will hire someone else who is currently employed, because of prejudice against the currently UNemployed.

  22. Cheryl*

    About #3:

    Oh wow, I definitely would not say that I’ve been having trouble moving past the interview stage. As someone doing at interview, if I got an email like that, I would think, ‘Whew! We dodged a bullet with that one.’ Thinking, you know, all previous interviewers AND I probably were not wrong. I think the response Alison provided sounds really great except for that one part which actually made me wince at my computer.

  23. Ash*

    Perhaps I’m odd, but I’ve never expected to really get feedback. In fact when I got rejected for the job that came down to between me and one other person the hiring manager called and wanted me to ask for feedback, which I found weird, but did and he just told me that the other candidate and I had different skill sets and it came down to them deciding the other skills were going to be more useful for the position. Not sure how that helped me. I also got a call yesterday to get turned down for a job and was told the other candidate had “more experience,” okay, again, I didn’t ask and this isn’t useful. I guess I just don’t expect to get useful answers from people rejecting me?

    1. MissD*

      I only asked for feedback once, and that was because I didn’t get a job after I was “recruited” by someone. I got the “you were great, but we went with someone else” response. Later, I found out they hired some really young kid for $25k less than I would’ve asked for.

  24. Ruffingit*

    #1 – It can help sometimes to put what you said in another context. That can help you see how it comes off. We use the dating context around here to make comparisons sometimes. So look at it like this. What if you went on a first date with someone and afterwards they decided they didn’t want to continue dating you, but you see them out with someone else. Would you then send an email that said something like this: “I don’t understand why you chose someone else. What does she have that I don’t? What do I need to do to be with you? I spent hours preparing for that date and I just don’t understand. Please give me some feedback so I can do better in my dating life in the future.”

    If you did that, you’d be seen as a whiny psycho and everyone would buy new locks for their bunny cages. I get that interviews are not the same as first dates, but I’m saying to look at this in the context of doing this person-to-person. The desperation and bizarre vibes will become more clear.

  25. LadyTL*

    My mother had this same problem for the longest time until she tried applying at a company she had worked for before. Apparently they had lost her employment records so when her references were called, the company said they had no record of her working there. Since this was the longest and most recent of her work history (left to be a stay at home mom/ self business) you can see why that would have been a red flag.

    Sometimes it is as simple as a bad reference depending on what they are saying.

  26. Mena*

    #1: You asked for feedback, didn’t like what you heard (too vague), and pushed for more? I am thinking that no more feedback was shared because you’ve already demonstrated that you are pushy by asking again, and there was fear of opening a door into a dialogue of why you were not hired.

    You need to take whatever feedback you receive and move on. Try a mentor in your industry or role for further feedback. Expecting more time and attention from a company that isn’t hiring you isn’t realistic.

    And if you invested a lot of time preparing for the interview, perhaps you were not the best fit. Of course you want to research the company, its offerings, marketplace and competitors, but if your skills and experience are a direct fit, youre preparation doesn’t go beyond orienting yourself to the company.

  27. Relosa*

    Thank you for posting this. I’m still stung after a rejection the other day where I didn’t even make it past the first round. It’s especially difficult because I was granted the interview just a few hours before I found out one of my best friends died, but I still attended it a few days later as scheduled. So losing her, and then having a good opportunity arise, and then still fall short has just been a particularly nasty blow. It makes it so hard to keep trying to find anything better, because apparently life really thinks it’s hilarious that I’m passionate, extremely good at (called “a natural” by literally all of my superiors, current and past), and well-experienced in my field, but apparently just not good enough to make a measly $35k and hoo-boy, benefits.

    I also think that city/government jobs should disclose that there is an internal candidate for consideration. Obviously not who or what or anything, but just to say, “HEY by the way, we’re really only doing this as a CYA mission!” Just that one caveat would reduce so much disappointment when I get the “We were impressed by and LOVED you, but you’re still just not good enough” letter. Like I’d just walk in with that IDGAFudge attitude that other commenters talked about, instead of trying to be exactly right for something I was pretty much already DQ’d for.

    …yeah I’m still bitter. But I’ll keep this post as a well-timed reminder for when I do get my head out of my derriere. Thanks again.

  28. Tara T.*

    What AH posted (March 14 at 9:45) – you wrote: “MissD, I definitely understand that the freelance work can make me look like a job-hopper . . . Due to the freelance work, I have no resume gaps. What is worse to hiring managers? Freelance work or resume gaps?” No, AH, you will NOT look like a job hopper if you put freelance work on your resume as long as you GROUP the work. You would put the dates and “Freelance Work”: and then have a list under that, or put, “Worked in several companies” and make sure to write that you are doing it “while looking for permanent.” Most employers want to know that you are doing SOMETHING, so it is better to have it on there.

  29. Stacy M.*

    This is a weirdly different comment on my experience. I worked at a grading system place where I grade student’s work. I am known as one of the fastest person to grade student’s work with accuracy AND I am familiar with the material. I worked at this place for about 5 months. Randomly, out of the blue, my manager told me that she is no longer need me. I got really confused stating to myself “wow, I got fired… but for what???” So I decided to visit her and she said that she was overstaffed and the newest employees (which is me) should let go. However, a month later…my manager hired two new people!! Now I am really confused. I asked her for a review on why she let me go because her reason previously was unclear and it was not true because she is clearly not overstaff. She was not clear again and said the same reason. She was saying “You are great employee and you were doing well but I prefer these people” although I performed really well in the job… and there were no complaints…

    I was wondering, could she let me go because of my looks or did I bring bad luck to the business?
    My appearance is not skinny and I have super long wavy hair. This is one of the most ridiculous way to get fired because I did absolutely nothing wrong. I am always confused when I think about that horrible day!!

  30. Chris*

    You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. If you do ask, you must word your question well, otherwise it could come off as rude or angry that how dare you didn’t pick me kind of attidute. Let’s face it, the recruiter is not going to be honest. They almost always will give you a pat answer, that they went with someone more qualified, or some BS. That’s it. Or if they have more job openings in the future, they may suggest you can reapply in the future, but they most likely will ignore you because they will remember that you weren’t the best candidate anyway. The only reason I believe they would call you back is if they cannot find anyone, or they have multiple openings for a lower ranking position.

    But 99% of the time the people who interviewed you won’t EVER be completely honest with the REAL reasons why you weren’t selected. I have interviewed about 50 people over the past few years, and some of these people are doozies. If those people had asked me why I did not select them, I of course, would not be honest because it would also make me look bad and would backfire.

    Example: One man I interviewed showed up to the interview and during his schpiel whips out his 4 letters of reccomendations, but I slowly realized that they were all faked because they all had the same font, same paper, with no headnings, nor any company letterhead. Plus he seemed nervous and sweaty and unsure of himself. If he asked why I didn’t hire him, and I was open and honest with him I would hae to tell him it looked like you faked those letters, plus you were sweating and uncomfortable, and that’s it’s gross. But who really is going to say that if are the recruiter???? No one!!

    I had another experience with a lady I interviewed as a part-time tutor. I asked her before we started the interview if she would like a coffee or soda, on me. So she orders an expensive froo-froo type drink, and then acts very strange and snobby during the interview. Total turn off.

    But as a job seeker in the past 9 months, I do wonder if my AGE is something. I did get asked a couple of weeks ago if being supervised was a problem since I was a manager, however, the ladies interviewing me were about 30 years old, and I am 50. I told them I have no problem because there were people supervising me as well! But I wonder if the age bias is starting to come into play here, since they have younger candidates I have seen in their 20’s looking for the same jobs I am. Makes you wonder. Which is total BS because I know it’s out there, just people won’t admit it.

    Interviews are not a good way to truly find out what a loyal, excellent employee would be like anyway. It’s like interviewing your future spouse for 3 hours and then you will have to marry him in 2 weeks. You don’t know until you work with the person what they are truly like.

Comments are closed.