a parent asks: what’s wrong with my daughter’s rude, frustrating interviewers?

A reader writes:

My daughter has a music degree (actually two) and, music jobs being impossible to find, is willing to do just about anything. So why am I frustrated?

She had an internship all last year, and applied for a job there this spring. The CEO called her into his office, told her how glad he was that she’d applied as they liked to hire from within and that he’d heard very good reports of her. Did she even get a phone call from anyone in the hiring dept? No.

She’s worked in the HR dept at her school for the past several years (work/study). She’s interviewed for two jobs there, one of which would involve doing many of the same things she’s already been doing. This was mentioned in the interview, along with the fact that everyone likes her, and that training for her would be minimal because she already basically knew the job. But did she get the position? No.

(I’ve been through this myself. I applied for job after job at a non-profit where many of my friends work. The only position I every got a call about was the one I was least qualified for.)

So, what advice do I give my daughter? She’s completely frustrated and so am I! I know she presents herself well, and she’s intelligent and articulate, so I don’t get it. Are hiring managers really this out of touch with reality??

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked:  What’s leading you to assume they’re out of touch with reality (versus just being flooded with great candidates)?

She replied:

Maybe out of touch with reality is the wrong word. I just don’t understand why, in an interview, they would tell her how great she is, how much they like her, how they know she can do the job, etc., and then toss her aside without even a personal phone call or face to face interaction. She got rejected by email from a person she’d seen a few hours before at work. Sure, they may have other great candidates, but why act this way with someone they know and with whom they have a relationship? Do hiring managers just not get the impact their words and actions have?

Why not just say “We know you could do the job but we have tons of other great candidates and some may have better qualifications than you, so we’ll have to wait and see. Although we really like you, we just don’t know if we’ll be able to hire you.” If a potential employee can be sent packing for a misleading resume or faking job experience, why don’t the hiring people have to follow the same rules? No, it seems they can say whatever they want and it’s fine.

To be fair, she was never promised the job, but she knows they did hire someone from a completely different department in the university who had no experience in this line of work and turned down two people who already work in the department and knew parts of the job. This makes no sense to me. This leads me to wonder what universe hiring people inhabit…

Sadly, what she is learning in this process is that doing a good job, being a good team player, being prepared for an interview, knowing people in the company, etc. mean nothing in the end. It’s all a complete crapshoot and the hiring people can pretty much say or do anything they want.

Well, it’s possible that there’s something your daughter is doing that’s making them less inclined to hire her. You, as her parent, aren’t especially well positioned to know if this is the case, which is true of anyone who doesn’t work with her. So one thing she might try is asking her managers for feedback on what she could be doing better, and how she might better position herself to be hired in the future. Yes, she seems awesome to you and she’s getting excellent feedback in her interviews, but interviewers aren’t always forthcoming about concerns they have about candidates, because it’s not their obligation to do that.

But it’s also possible that she is indeed a very strong candidate, but someone else was just stronger. That’s a very, very normal part of job searching. Great candidates get turned down all the time because someone else was a better fit. That’s just how it works. This is true even if you’ve already doing the work and everyone likes you. It’s dangerous to ever assume you have an in with a particular job, because you just can’t know who else they might be talking to or what they’re really looking for. (The same is true of you when you applied somewhere that many of your friends work. That’s just no guarantee that you’ll be the best fit of everyone they’re talking to — especially since hiring shouldn’t be about who you’re friends with.)


* Interviewers might tell you that you’re great and they like you because you’re great and they like you. But that’s not an indication that a job offer is coming. Thinking a candidate is great and liking her isn’t the same as deciding to offer her the job.

* It’s dangerous to feel that interviewers are “doing you wrong” when they tell you that you’re great but then don’t hire you. Not only is that a fundamental misunderstanding of how hiring works, but it can make you bitter. That’s not helpful to you or your daughter. It will make her job search more stressful, and it might make it longer, too.

* You’re right that hiring managers aren’t held as accountable for their words as candidates are. But no one lied to your daughter here. No one misrepresented anything (that we know of). They told her they liked her, that she was a strong candidate, and that they were glad she applied. None of that is proven false by not hiring her, and you’re doing your daughter no favors by encouraging her to be frustrated by this. Interest is not a promise. She’s going to be far happier — and have a less stressful job search — if she doesn’t read into this kind of thing, doesn’t take it personally, and sees it as a par-for-the-course piece of job hunting, because it is.

* You’re also doing her no favors if you encourage her to think things like this: “They did hire someone from a completely different department in the university who had no experience in this line of work and turned down two people who already work in the department and knew parts of the job. This makes no sense to me. This leads me to wonder what universe hiring people inhabit.” The fact is, you don’t know why they hired that person. Maybe that person had other skills they wanted. Maybe that person had a stellar reputation. Or maybe there was something about your daughter’s skills or professionalism or culture fit that gave them pause. You just don’t know. No good comes of speculating about stuff like this or feeling angry about it.

* You’re doing your daughter a disservice by encouraging her to think that job searching is “a complete crapshoot.” That’s the kind of belief that leads people to put forward lackluster effort in job searching and make bad decisions for themselves. It’s not a crapshoot. I can tell you from the hiring side of things that not once have I seen a hiring decision made without thought and reason. If it looks like a crapshoot to you, it’s because you’re not privy to all the reasoning that’s going into the hiring decisions — but you not seeing that part of it doesn’t mean that the process is illogical or random.

I get that this is hard and frustrating. But the advice you give your daughter should be that it’s tough to tell from the candidate side everything that an employer might be looking for, and that as qualified as she might be, someone else might simply be a better match — and that it’s not personal or something to be upset over.

If she can get the right outlook on this now, it’s going to serve her really well throughout her career.

{ 311 comments… read them below }

  1. Andy*

    It might not seem like it OP, but the kind of frustration that you expressed in your email is pretty easy to read in person.And it is not attractive.
    Chances are that your daughter is absorbing this attitude. And it won’t be attractive on her either.

    1. Mike C.*

      Why do people post things like this? There is absolutely nothing wrong with being frustrated about a situation where one or one’s loved ones are unable to find a way to support themselves despite all of their hard work to the contrary.

      It’s only human to feel this way, and yes maybe the OP needs some perspective, but I just don’t understand this belief that if you’re mad about something then it’s going to bleed into every thing you touch and every person you interact with.

      Frustration isn’t some disease like smallpox where you can see it a mile away, it’s an emotion.

      1. Lexie*

        I actually agree that it is totally normal to be frustrated. However, if you are dwelling in the frustration it can easily turn into feeling entitled. Being a hardworker, a good team player, a cultural fit are all nice things that do not entitle you to a job or even an interview. I think what people are trying to express is that feeling frustrated and feeling entitled can go hand in hand. One is a normal, understandable emotion and the other is an attitude that can further distance you from what you are “entitled” to have. Trying to focus on the positives – the daughter has gotten interviews, received positive feedback, etc.- fuels the job search while focusing on the negatives can be such an emotional drain.

      2. Hummingbird*

        I don’t think Andy is saying that the OP should be superhuman and dispense with the frustration. However, it can “bleed into every thing.” It might not come out as looking as frustration. It could come out as looking like depression. The OP’s daughter might already go into an interview thinking, “Well, we all know how this is going to end – no job!” And the interviewer might sense that.

        I totally understand the OP and her daughter. I empathize the not understanding of how managers and interviewers can say pretty leading on type talk only to go with another candidate. For example, an interviewer once told me all of the logistics of the job and benefits (it’s one thing to say what the job will give, but he was actually telling me the name of the insurance company) and even pointed out to me “my” office. It sounded pretty much a sealed deal only to be rejected a week later. And if you go through that enough times, you are going to just be a “Debbie Downer” and not trust anything you hear. But that attitude will permeate the air around the candidate. Body language sometimes we can’t control. That’s how you see it like smallpox, a mile away.

        OP, I treat each job application as if I am not going to get the job. If I get an interview, great! But then, I have to move on and continue applying and not constantly harp on the thoughts of “Am I going to get it? Why haven’t I heard from them? But he said…!” Treat each interview as practice. Eventually your daughter will land the job.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Of course there’s nothing wrong with being frustrated. But the OP wrote in asking how she can help her daughter, and so it’s directly relevant that the kinds of thoughts expressed in her letter are more harmful than helpful.

        1. Artemesia*

          Amen. I just watched my very competent daughter whose job disappeared when they closed her companies office in her town when she was on maternity leave, go through a long process of job searching. She was a finalist for a long series of jobs that she ended up not getting. In the cases where she knows who was hired, the other person was in fact great. And I bet the top 10 applicants who didn’t even make the final interview cut were great too.

          I kept my feedback to commiserating over the poor job market and applauding the fact that she was getting interviews. A person enduring the frustrations of searching really doesn’t need to have her paranoia stoked or be fed sour grapes. My daughter landed first a contract job with one of the places that hired someone else for the full time job and then was offered a full time job after a few months when business picked up. She WAS a great candidate even though she wasn’t the first choice for that job and it finally paid off.

          This is such a tough hiring market; young people searching for their first big break need a cheerleader at home not someone encouraging them to feel abused. And if advice is needed, pointing them to AAM or other resources to get feedback on resume, cover letter and interviewing skills can be helpful.

      4. Colette*

        You can choose to feed that frustration, or you can choose not to dwell on it. One is more productive than others.

        Feeding the frustration is things like “Do hiring managers just not get the impact their words and actions have?”, “…she knows they did hire someone from a completely different department in the university who had no experience in this line of work. … This leads me to wonder what universe hiring people inhabit…”, “… what she is learning in this process is that doing a good job, being a good team player, being prepared for an interview, knowing people in the company, etc. mean nothing in the end. It’s all a complete crapshoot and the hiring people can pretty much say or do anything they want.”

        Not dwelling would look like “have you considered doing a practice interview?”, “maybe your manager has some insights into what you could do to make yourself a better candidate”, or “it’s a tough market out there, but you’ll find something eventually”.

        In other words, you can make it someone else’s fault – which might make you feel better, but also means you have absolutely no control over your fate – or you can figure out what parts you can influence and take action to improve your chances.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In other words, you can make it someone else’s fault – which might make you feel better, but also means you have absolutely no control over your fate – or you can figure out what parts you can influence and take action to improve your chances.

          Yes! And moreover, not only is the latter more helpful than the former, but the former actively harms job seekers. For instance, if you decide preparing for an interview doesn’t really matter, you’re not going to prepare as thoroughly (or at all), and that will have a huge impact on how well you do.

          People aren’t calling out the frustration to be jerks. They’re calling it out because it’s doing the opposite of what the OP wants to do for her daughter.

          1. Simonthegrey*

            This. When my husband was job searching (about a year ago, but for over a year) he reached a point where he just decided that practicing for interviews was useless. Then he would come home discouraged and tell me that the interview had gone poorly and he didn’t know why. I had taught a business class and had been reading this blog for a long time, but he didn’t want to hear it from me.

        2. Mike C.*

          Writing down your frustrations isn’t “dwelling”, it’s a healthy way to work things out. It’s no different than going for a run or playing an instrument. If that’s the only thing that’s done, it’s a problem. But here, it’s a different situation.

          The thing that many here aren’t crediting her with is that rather than wallow in self pity, she wrote to a professional and asked for help. If she reads this blog with any regularity, she’s going to know that AaM doesn’t pull any punches, and doesn’t say things just to make people feel better.

          Yes, the OP is really close to the situation and needs some perspective. But that’s why she wrote in!

          1. Colette*

            Your thoughts influence your actions and your attitude. The OP wasn’t saying “my daughter is having problems finding a job, how can I help”, she was saying “my daughter is having problems finding a job, what is wrong with employers” – and then providing specific examples of ways the employers messed up, even though she has no way to know if that’s actually true. If she’s insulating her daughter from that approach, then it may not affect her daughter’s candidacy. If she’s sharing them – and encouraging her daughter to think that way as well – it will.

        3. Maurice*

          But ultimately, do you have control over your fate? You don’t make the decision, so you don’t have any control. You can improve your odds to some extent by prepping well for your interview and having solid skills and experience, but the bottom line is that you just don’t get to get to make the call.

          And I agree with the OP that hiring managers need to be very careful indeed about the impressions they give the candidates they interview. False hope is worse than no hope at all.

          1. Colette*

            You absolutely have control over your fate – not because you can make someone give you a job, but because you can work on your resume, improve your interviewing skills, develop new skills, and take actions that will help you get to where you want to be. It’s not entirely in your control, but isn’t it better to take control of the parts you can affect than to sit around moping because of the parts you can’t?

            1. Anon Accountant*

              “It’s not entirely in your control, but isn’t it better to take control of the parts you can affect than to sit around moping because of the parts you can’t?”

              This is true in so many things. Not just in a job search.

              1. nyxalinth*

                Yes this. You have control over the things which you have control over, and beyond that, there’s nothing you can do with regards to being chosen. Further beyond that, recognizing and accepting this and keeping a good attitude and still trying are what makes the difference. All you can do is all you can do.

                OP my mom, my partner, and my room mate all see me as the smart, experienced person I am, but they don’t quite get that there’s more to it than that. Awesome isn’t always enough. It comes down to fit, too, and if they’re perceiving that she won’t be a good fit with the culture, that’s a factor too.

                You mentioned her background in music. Well, for instance a violist is an awesome and talented musician, but he isn’t likely to gt a spot with a death metal band (usually) or a country musician isn’t likely to fit in with the rapper culture. that’s what the right ‘fit’ is about. She no doubt is an awesome person with a great background, but if they’re all about the chocolate teapots and she’s more with the kitten doilies, then it’s not going to work.

            2. Coco*

              Most job applicants are doing all of the things you mention. I know I certainly am. Of course it’s good to focus on what you can do, as opposed to what you can’t. But doing all those things doesn’t change the fact that someone else makes the decision that counts.

              1. Colette*

                You decide where you’re going to apply, what you’re going to highlight on your resume, and how you demonstrate your interest in your cover letter. You decide how you gather information about the company and how you prepare for the interview.

                And, if the company offers you the job, you decide if you’re going to take it.

                Yes, none of that guarantees you a job, but there are numerous decisions that you make long before the company has the chance to offer (or not offer) you the job.

          2. Revanche*

            Yep. I had one candidate come in, fold her hands and answer “well you know me” in answer to why she felt she was the right candidate for the job when she was competing against both colleagues and outside candidates. I wasn’t kidding, I needed to know what she intended to bring to the table that would distinguish her from the other possibly equally qualified candidates.
            The less experienced candidates answered with plans and proposals for what they wanted to do with the position and ultimately she didn’t get the job because she could not be bothered to even answer that question (among others). If she had answered everything articulately and seriously, she probably would have gotten the job.

      5. LBK*

        I don’t think one instance of feeling frustrated or mad will bleed into everything you do, but when you constantly experience frustration, it can eventually feed into your attitude and your overall demeanor. When you repeatedly get rejected, it’s very easy for your brain to see a pattern, so it starts protecting you by making you assuming you’ll be rejected. If you show up to an interview already assuming you won’t get the job, it will definitely influence how you act.

        This isn’t a conscious activity, it’s just part of how the human brain works. If it were easy to change these patterns and how the brain reacts to them, the entire field of therapy probably wouldn’t exist.

        1. Mike C.*

          If it were easy to change these patterns and how the brain reacts to them, the entire field of therapy probably wouldn’t exist.

          Which is why when someone comes here asking for help, we should generally be supportive of that rather than going on and on about how writing down how they’re feeling is the same thing as obsessively dwelling with the issue at hand.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            She’s not being accused of obsessively dwelling. I think this is a bit of a straw man.

            I appreciate your efforts to ensure that people aren’t being overly critical of letter writers, but I don’t think much of that is happening here.

          2. LBK*

            But the first step in breaking the patterns is self-awareness that they occur. It’s really hard to express these feelings in a productive way that doesn’t lead to long-term changes in attitude without first acknowledging how they impact you. How can you avoid being dragged down by the negatively if you don’t realize that’s what it does?

            I don’t think anyone here is saying job hunters can’t ever be frustrated, they’re just pointing out to people how easily it can impact your overall demeanor. Knowing it’s a possibility is how you combat it.

            1. LBK*

              And to tie this back to the OP’s letter, I see a lot more signs of being dragged down by the frustration than understanding of how to combat it. There’s not much of the “I get that this is the reality of job hunting due to X, but I’m still experiencing Y and I’m not sure how to handle it” sentiment. Saying the job hunt is a crapshoot and that your work experience and interview skills don’t matter definitely sounds like someone who has let the frustration become a pattern, not just a one-time blow off of steam.

        2. Anon Accountant*

          “When you constantly experience frustration, it can eventually feed into your attitude and your overall demeanor. When you repeatedly get rejected, it’s very easy for your brain to see a pattern, so it starts protecting you by making you assuming you’ll be rejected. If you show up to an interview already assuming you won’t get the job, it will definitely influence how you act.”

          Absolutely. As hard as it is, try to go into an interview with a great attitude of this will be a positive experience and the worst that can happen is you gained more interview experience. A positive attitude can really shine through.

      6. LQ*

        I would say for some people it is. I know personally when I’m frustrated people can tell. It pretty much rolls off me in waves even when I really consciously try to tone down the physical manifestations of it, everyone knows and you can see it from a mile away. You can read it in my writing, hear it in my voice. All of it.

        I generally try (assuming not malice) that people who make these comments are like me and they know that they need to change their attitude because it does come off extremely clearly to those around them even when they try to hide it.

        1. Andy*

          I did not realize for a long time how clearly I projected. And how off putting it was in some situations. My frustrations were clear as the nose on my face. Just as clear as this OP’s.
          I also used to reward my frustrations by allowing myself to ‘blow off steam’, which only rewarded my angry brain with the good feelings of ‘blowing off’…and the positive reinforcement was a nasty negative spiral and did not result in a more even-keeled me.
          To answer your question: “Why do people post things like this”: I thought it would help. Sometimes its hard to know how we look to others, the impression we give. And interviews are such a short period of time in which to make a good impression that I thought it might help OP to understand that her frustration was…palpable and not just stated.

      7. Courtney*

        I completely agree with you. And while I certainly understand Alison’s response towards the “crap shoot” comment, I don’t know if the OP meant it in that way. Maybe it’s a matter of semantics, but having been looking for a new job for months now, it definitely does feel like a crapshoot on the applier’s side. I understand that the hiring managers or HR people involved in making these decisions do so carefully, but when prospective employees are competing against hundreds of resumes – there doesn’t really seem to be a rhyme or reason for that.

        A job I just applied for, my contact inside the company let me know that it had been posted on the internal server for a week before it went public. Bear in mind I applied for it a day before it was even posted on the website, and she thinks I still might be too late. It’s incredibly frustrating and I don’t think faulting those who are frustrated is fair or reasonable. It’s a lot to ask of a person to send resumes and cover letters out into the great unknown and never hear a peep back for months (or years) on end. It takes a serious toll on your self-esteem and psyche.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But there is rhyme or reason to it, and it’s important (or at least helpful) to applicants to understand that.

          When the crapshoot assessment is paired with being prepared for an interview means nothing in the end,” that’s truly far off-base. Being prepared for an interview can mean the difference between getting hired and not getting hired. It’s not a guarantee, of course, because that’s not the most important thing in a candidate, but it can make a big difference in how you do and is something you have total control over.

          1. nyxalinth*

            Everyone including employers always have a motivation for everything they decide to do or not do. Whether or not it’s sound reasoning or makes sense is often a different story!

            For me the ‘crapshoot’ thing more means “Sometimes people have good reasons for hiring someone over another, and sometimes the reasons are silly, but eventually you’ll hit the one who decides you’re the right fit for whatever reason if you keep doing what you need to do.”

  2. Kelly L.*

    I also think the email rejection is pretty standard, and I don’t think it’s inherently rude. In fact, I kind of like it. It makes the rejection feel less personal, and I can process my emotions on my own time and in privacy rather than having to be polite on the phone to the rejector. (rejecter?) And it definitely beats never hearing back at all, which is much too common, and I think that is rude.

    1. Judy*

      Every time I’ve interviewed for a position internally within a company, I’ve received a face to face rejection. Of course, I wasn’t an intern, but an employee interviewing for other positions.

      1. Kelly L.*

        OK, internal may be different. I’ve never actually applied internally, come to think of it, so I don’t know what’s standard.

      2. fposte*

        We do emails for everything, including internal. And I think that’s reasonable. When it’s come up before here, people have indicated that they’d actually prefer not to get a rejection face to face anyway, but that they’d appreciate a personal emailed rejection that includes the offer to talk about other possibilities for the future.

        1. Sadsack*

          Yes, this is the way I prefer to receive internal rejections. It allows time to process and then be graceful when thanking the hiring manager for the update and asking for feedback.

          1. Ornery PR*

            Agreed. I once received a rejection call while I was at a friend’s funeral. I would have much rather received an email for that one, since there’s no way I would have checked my email at that particular moment. It’s never a good time to get that kind of news, but by calling, the company controls that timing.

          2. Anonymous Educator*

            I know someone who got a rejection call, and it was super awkward. Way better to get it via email, even a form email. Some employers won’t even extend that courtesy, unfortunately.

          3. AVP*

            And you don’t have to worry about looking crestfallen in front of a co-worker or potential future manager!

        2. Chinook*

          I have to agree for email rejections for internal candidates for another, more CYA, reason. You, as the hiring manager, have a record of what was said and when and you have a chance to think clearly about what you want to say. If the hiring manager talked to the OP’s daughter in hte hall or in the office, it is very possible the the daughter may have put forward some comments or questions that would require either a blunt truth (the hiring version of “we aren’t that into you” or “it’s not you, it’s me) or, if the daughter is eloquent or distraught, she may be able to turn the manager’s words into an implied promise or somethign else that would make the daughter think that this could change.

          An email is clear and concise and lets everyone know where they stand and when.

          As for the timing, it is possible that the duaghter was a second choice and they didn’t want to tell her no in case until first choice accepted the job. Then, they didn’t leave her hanging one more day but, isnteaad, freed her of the uncertainty. In my mind, that is far from rude.

          1. MaryMary*

            Yes, email rejections for all candidates are often a way for HR to ensure all rejected candidates are communicated to correctly and consistently. Some of them are even sent automatically. It prevents anyone from going off message. They don’t want to put the company at risk for a lawsuit if the hiring manager or recruiter says something that could be interpreted as discriminatory.

      3. Anonathon*

        Generally, I would prefer email. But if I was an internal candidate, then I would rather have something in-person. I applied within my organization super early in my career, and didn’t get the position. The hiring manager did a great sit-down with me, told me how I could improve my chances next time, etc. She obviously didn’t have to do that, and I so appreciated it.

        1. Polaris*

          It sounds like you had a much better experience than I did. I wish I had been rejected by email when I was rejected for an internal position early in my career. I was cornered by the hiring managers on a Monday morning. It was clear that they were unprepared for the conversation. They started in a defensive tone, which made me nervous. They told me they hired someone else because everyone in the department liked her personality better than mine. I did not take it well. I didn’t see it coming. I had several years of “exceeds expectations” on performance reviews and thought I was well-liked. The whole experience was awful and I would have much preferred an impersonal email. Worse, I still beat myself up for not handling that conversation perfect professionalism and composure.

          1. Polaris*

            I forgot to add that I later learned that they didn’t actually mean to imply that there were problems with my performance or that I was generally disliked; I hope this is an unusual situation, but even if they had done everything right, I would have preferred an email rejection for many of the reasons others have already mentioned.

            OP, the best thing you can do for your daughter is to encourage her to learn what she can from each situation, move on, and try again.

      4. Sabrina*

        I’ve gotten rejection emails for internal positions at two different companies. I’ve also had my own company never give me an update or tell me I didn’t get the job. Email doesn’t bother me at all.

    2. some1*

      +1. At a former job, my friend & coworker interviewed for a promotion and didn’t even get rejected by email — she only found out when they sent out an announcement email introducing the outside candidate they hired.

      1. Meg Murry*

        This was super common at one of my last jobs – the only way internal candidates often found out they didn’t get the position was when the “welcome otherperson to position X” email went out. Same with internal applicants who didn’t get interviews – they only found out they weren’t being interviewed when they heard through the grapevine who WAS interviewing.

        However, speaking of internal candidates and the original letter – one thing that the OP pointed out was that the HR department at her school hired a different internal candidate than her daughter, who was a work/study student in her office. Many college positions like this are unionized, and have a policy is that current union employees who are qualified must be considered before outside candidates – and even as a work/study student, her daughter is considered an outside candidate. So even though her daughter had been doing the job – she wasn’t considered an “internal candidate” like another union employee would be considered.

        Last, is the daughter giving off the “well, I have a degree in music, but I guess I’m willing to lower myself to this position until something in my field opens up” attitude? Employers don’t want to hire someone who is just settling for a position and will move on when they find a better fit – they want someone who is a good long term fit for that position, not just someone who just wants a job.

    3. Samantha*

      Normally I think email rejections are fine, but I do think if you’ve applied for an internal position, they can do you the courtesy of telling you in person. Kind of weird to receive an email rejection a couple hours after you’ve left the office.

    4. BRR*

      She should be thankful she got a rejection at all.

      And I agree about the phone rejection. I got one in my last job search and it’s like what do you say. I don’t really want to speak to the person who just rejected me.

      1. De Minimis*

        Yes, phone rejections are weird and awkward.

        Rude to me is getting no indication at all.

        1. BRR*

          I don’t see why employers can’t send a rejection email to everybody. It’s not that hard. Even if it just said Dear Candidate and didn’t include a name I still think that would be better than nothing.

      2. Lore*

        Also, if it’s an internal position, and you know the person’s coworkers/boss don’t know she’s pursuing it, perhaps don’t call and give the rejection while she’s sitting at her desk in her open office plan!

    5. Graciosa*

      I don’t think there’s anything rude in using email, and agree with the comments about allowing the rejected candidate to process the information free of scrutiny. It would be nice to think that everyone understands that this is just business – it’s not personal – but we’re all human and it’s hard sometimes not to take rejection personally.

      I will echo Alison’s comment about putting a lot of thought into hiring. This is one of the most important decisions I make as a manager, and getting it wrong has huge consequences. I agonize over this stuff. It is NEVER a crap shoot. There is always a reason for my choice, and it is always grounded in what I believe to be best for the company, the function, and the team.

      This is so important to get right that I tend to double and triple check my choices with my colleagues, manager, and HR professional. For example, I know that managers have a tendency to hire people who are like themselves – but it is not the best practice and deprives the team of diversity of thought that makes us better. If something bothers me about a candidate, I will get someone else to check me (“The candidate answered X to this question in the interview; is that reflective of [potential problem] or am I off base with this one?”). I want to guard against any hidden biases (this is also why we have panel interviews in the process) and separate out legitimate disqualifiers from my personal preferences or blind spots. I will also vet my difficult final choices for the same reason.

      That email rejection that seems so cavalier to the OP is the result of a hiring process that consumes huge amounts of my time, thought, and energy. It is never arbitrary.

      Finally, I will point out that I have rejected candidates I thought were wonderful and recommended to my colleagues. Many of them were hired into our function a short time later, albeit reporting in to another manager. I have also pursued previously rejected candidates for other positions on my own team (I have one in the works right now). However, all of these candidates (many now employees) handled the rejections professionally rather than with bitterness.

      On the negative side, I have warned my colleagues away from poisonous candidates based on my previous experience – and this has ended their candidacies elsewhere in the company. Just to be clear, this is not done out of malice, and I am very factual even internally – but this is also part of my responsibility to my employer and I take it seriously.

      OP, please do not turn your daughter into a bitter young woman who is doomed to remain perpetually un- or under-employed.

      1. Lady Sybil*

        Agreed. I pass along names of great candidates to other managers in my company. One of them was hired, had two promotions and has a very successful career with us in a leadership position. Stay classy: you never know how things will play out.

    6. Eden*

      I would actually have welcomed email rejection, given that most companies didn’t bother to get back with me at all. It really helped me to internalize Alison’s advice to apply, and then forget about it. If you ever hear back, great, but if not, you haven’t wasted lots of emotional energy on it!

    7. Artemesia*

      Agreed. Only a mother would think that rejection requires a personal phone call and a lot of attention. An applicant is lucky to get any feedback at all. Usually the way you find out you didn’t get a job is that eventually you assume you must not have because you never heard. If they are sending an email then they are in the top of the heap for providing information to applicants. I think applicants should always get formal word, but it is rare.

      And people who work with the daughter are particularly not going to want to discuss a rejection at work. No one likes those conversations and most people avoid them. She got the email; she knows.

      1. Laura*

        I’d also consider that there may be several internal applications. How large does the number have to get before a policy of personally handling them drags into the manager’s time unacceptably? Time they need to work on the further interviews (if this rejection was prior to the final round) or on-boarding the new employee (if it was final-round rejection). Which are, of course, tasks that are taking time from the other things the manager also has to get done.

    8. aebhel*

      I would actually *prefer* an email rejection, honestly. It gives me a chance to lick my wounds in private and respond gracefully and professionally after I’ve pulled myself together. A face-to-face rejection, though? That sounds like a nightmare.

    1. Rebecca*

      People in all walks of life would do well to remember this. It’s business, nothing more, nothing less.

  3. Katie the Fed*

    Aw, OP, I totally understand your frustration that the hiring world isn’t seeing your daughter and her potential the way you do. And you probably want to do and say whatever you can to lessen the sting for her.

    But really, the best thing you can do is to follow Alison’s advice and stay out of her job search woes the best you can. You can be a sympathetic ear, but the feedback you’re giving her right now isn’t really going to help her chances.

    Also be aware that her account of how these conversations with interviews go may not be completely accurate. Often times we hear what we want to hear in these circumstances and miss the part where someone says “BUT….maybe you don’t have enough experience” (or something like that).

    I would refer her to this blog to start reading about job searching and get practical tips.

    I’m sure this is very frustrating and I love that you’re such a supportive mom. But just be careful that your support isn’t hurting her outlook on this.

    1. badger_doc*

      I love this! It reminds me of when I was applying to medical school and got wait-listed. My mom was so angry at the med school for not admitting me. I remember her saying, “You’ll get in! You are smart and brilliant and wonderful and they would be fools not to let you in!”. It is absolutely true that some parents can hurt their kids’ outlook on certain situations by being blind to the dozens (and in my case thousands) of other applicants who apply to something. Parents–be supportive, but be wary of the broad “my child is perfect” claims, because every applicant is just like your child. Sometimes it is just luck of the draw, and sometimes there are better applicants out there. Such is life.

      1. anon-2*

        Back in the days when my father was a school principal – a co-worker of mine was livid, “it’s all politics”, and so forth when his older sister couldn’t find a job in the same public school system. But… BUT ….

        1) Did she actually attend the public school system (in a hardscrabble city)? NO.

        2) Where did she go to school? Parochial schools, with the nuns, she never set foot in a public school in that city.

        3) Where did she go to college? A small Catholic college not known for its exposure to the outside world.

        4) Where did she do her student teaching? In a bedroom community, not a city like the one she was seeking a job in.

        5) Not being hired – did she think of “subbing” in the city, to prove herself? No, why should she?

        Get my point ..? There actually WERE people more qualified than her, who went to the school system, learned teaching in an urban atmosphere, and if they didn’t get hired, they subbed and re-applied.

        We all want to see our children do well, but often we look through rose-colored glasses and think our kids are the best at what they do. It’s not always the case.

    2. anonnypants*

      Also, the OP’s daughter may have flubbed something and been unwilling to admit it. I once made a major misstep in an interview, but still expressed (fake) puzzlement and (real) sadness to my mother when I got the rejection email. My mother to this day thinks it’s a travesty I was rejected, and kept urging me to re-apply (since they still hadn’t hired anyone). I knew it was no good, but I didn’t tell her.

      So the OP may not really know everything going on in her daughter’s job search, which is something to always keep in mind.

  4. Elle*

    It can be difficult to fail at job hunting and it can be very hard to watch someone you love fail repeatedly for a reason you can’t see. I think the letter writer is having a difficult time watching their child struggle and that Alison’s advice is spot on without being mean.

    The economy is still terrible and jobs are hard to come by even with relevant degrees, internships, and work experience, references, etc.

    1. Jeanne*

      I think you’re right. I think it’s very hard to watch your children struggle. She knew that she needed advice. We don’t actually know how much of her thoughts that she wrote about are what she actually shared with her daughter. It is hard to get a job right now. People are assuming a lot by thinking she’s telling her daughter to be negative.

  5. Bend & Snap*

    Oh Jesus. I hope you’re not telling your daughter she’s awesome and that people are out of touch with reality when they don’t hire her.

    It’s a super competitive market, it doesn’t sound like she has a huge amount of experience and being a good candidate/well prepared doesn’t mean she’s entitled to the job.

    Unfortunately this is the real world and I think the best service you could give your daughter is a reality check that she has to hustle, learn to take it on the chin and keep plugging away if she wants to get hired. Don’t blame the employers. That’s a terrible message.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I love your user name!

      My mom’s version of a reality check when I was a recent graduate was tough love “you aren’t gonna win them all kid so suck it up and deal”. Gotta love my mom. :)

    2. Lora*

      Well, moms telling you you’re awesome when you’re feeling rejected and upset is kind of their job :) It’s right up there with “you’re a very beautiful girl, honey,” and “you were too good for him anyway”. Even when it’s a total lie. Mom’s job is being in her kid’s corner for every fight.

      But yeah, this is one of those situations where my mother used to tell me, “hey, life is not fair. Move on to the next.” My mom is a bit of a hardass.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        True, and moms are good at it! But at this juncture–telling the daughter what she’s up against is the kind of coaching that’s needed.

        Especially at the entry level, candidates need to find that one skill or trait that helps them stand out and leverage it for all it’s worth.

        1. Lora*

          Oh, I agree, I’m just saying, of course mom thinks her daughter is awesome! She’s her MOM!

          Thought experiment: What if mom’s proposal, that hard work and showing up on time and so forth do not pay off, was indeed the case. [Because at a ridiculous number of companies, that really is the case. But that’s a story for another day.] Then what happens? Daughter says, “screw it” and decides to stay in her room for ever and ever until the world starts to be nicer to her? No, she just has to keep plugging away until somehow she gets a break. Or try to get more remarkable, specialized skills. The outcome is the same, it’s just been a learning experience that living in the future is not all we had hoped it would be. Which, depressingly, it really is not. :/

        2. Jamie*

          Right – and one doesn’t negate the other.

          My kids know they are perfect in the larger sense. Smarter, funnier, kinder, more gorgeous people have never walked the earth. Of all the people ever born I got the best 3. Those are facts. I know this sounds tongue in cheek – but it’s really not. They are absolutely all of those things to me.

          They also know this perspective won’t be shared by any employer anywhere, or most of the world until they fall in love and probably not even then – so to deal with those who are blind to their awesomeness they need to play by the rules, have the right skills, understand that life isn’t always fair and even when it is fair that doesn’t mean you get what you want.

          In life you prepare as best you can, keep your options open when possible, and be open to plan B through Z because there could be an awesome path out there they hadn’t even thought of yet.

          So yes, it’s part of a parent’s job to prepare them for the harsher realities it’s also our job to make sure they know home is a place where those realities are suspended and their awesomeness is fully acknowledged. It’s a gift we can give our kids. My parents have been gone 20 years and it’s still what I miss most – knowing no matter how shitty the world got there were two people who saw me this way.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            And this is key. Some families do not teach this stuff. If you don’t learn this from your family, you either pick it up some where else or you struggle.

      2. MaryMary*

        When I was job hinting, I stopped telling my parents about every interview I had. They were wonderful and supportive, but I had a lot of interviews that didn’t pan out and I got tired of debriefing every single one.

        1. MaryMary*

          Job *hunting* If I was just hinting that I wanted a job, that would explain why it took me a while to find one.

        2. Malissa*

          Amen! I tell no one but my husband. Having to tell so many people that this or that didn’t work out gets really old really quick.

          1. Jennifer2*

            I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even like to tell my husband if I’m considering applying for a job opening. Because then he tells his parents, and they spread it to the extended family. And next thing you know, everyone is wondering why I didn’t get hired for a job that I didn’t even apply for but just off-handedly mentioned I might think about applying for.

        3. Kerr*

          +1. It turns into a debriefing session. At some point, I realized that this was doing nobody any favors.

      3. Mints*

        Yeah, I want to give props to my mom, who is nicely supportive but not prying. It’s usually like “Have you had any calls about jobs?” “Yeah, I had a call with a teapot design company in [city]” “Oh good”
        Then next week “Have you heard about that teapot design job?” “Yeah they’re not interviewing me” “Oh that’s too bad. Well you just have to keep up the job search”

        And there’s lots of “At least you have a job now”

        Realistic moms ftw

        1. anon-2*

          And, Mints – “at least you have a job now” — while it may not be “happy happy joy joy” — there’s a realistic mom for you.

          I always raised my daughter with a degree of reality — not fantasy — and — as an adult, she’s better off for it. Most prominently – she made excellent choices as an adult, even though one or two career things didn’t work out. She recovered and moved forward.

    3. Anonsie*

      I could have really gone for some of that delusionally optimistic outrage on my side when I was struggling to find a job during the recession, actually. Because normally what you get from people is the kind of thing that makes you sink into the above-mentioned despair that hiring managers will notice.

      You get either 1) complete disbelief that can really sting, “Still? After months? Really? How is that possible? You must not be looking in the right places. What are you doing?” or 2) weird anger and insults, “Well it’s because your degree is in something useless, you knew this would happen. What, you think you’re entitled to a job? Grow up, this is the real world.”

      1. Laura2*

        Yup. Or “You need to be more proactive. You should call the hiring manager/HR/receptionist and see if they have any positions open. They’ll be really impressed by that!”

        1. Artemesia*

          Have you tried sending them your resume in a bottle with a bar of chocolate attached.

          Yeah, the one thing a job applicant doesn’t need to hear is hints that they must be losers if they don’t land a job. Mom certainly can keep up the cheerleading as in ‘You are fabulous; they are crazy not to hire you.’ — so long as it doesn’t devolve into ‘You are clearly better and entitled to a job and they are just unfair.’

          1. Anonsie*

            You really *need* some of that to keep your head up sometimes. There’s a difference between honestly believing you’re better than everyone and they’re all crazy idiots and using that to buff yourself up when you really feel like you’re doing everything wrong and you suck.

  6. CanadianWriter*

    It’s not rude to reject people by email. Trust me on this; I’m kind of an expert at this rejection thing. *cries*

    1. Audiophile*

      I’m right there with you. I’ve been rejected and (not rejected but ignored instead) more times than I care to think about.
      But I keep plugging away because I know I can find something.

    2. XMIN*

      I have never received a rejection call; just form letter emails, the occasional personalized email, or (more likely than not) no response at all. I’m a fan of the email, myself.

  7. BRR*

    I also wonder if it’s hurting the LW’s daughter that she’ll do just about anything. Many entry-level jobs don’t involve in-depth aspects of a profession but if the candidate isn’t interested in that profession it can hurt them. So while your daughter worked in an HR dept and applied for a job there, does she want to work in HR?

    I can also add as someone with a music degree, employers are worried that nothing learned in college will transfer over to the working world. In interviews I have been asked how my degree would apply to a position. Music theory doesn’t really have transferable skills.

    1. Juli G.*

      Yes! I interviewed someone for a position that she was qualified for, she would do well, etc. There is no way that woman would be with our company in a year. Her work history was in non-profits, her degrees were in things completely unrelated to our company. When she got bored with this position she was probably overqualified for, what would she do? I actually doubted that she would stop applying.

      OP, your daughter may to rethink how she frames her future goals, etc. in interviews.

    2. Computer Programmer*

      I don’t have any background in music and was trying to think of a polite, non-confrontational way to ask this. So thank you for posting this.

      It’s my understanding that there’s a lot of law in HR- thorough understandings of FMLA, non-discrimination against employees with disabilities, etc. I’m curious if the LW’s daughter took classes or minored in HR to have a background companies seek for HR professionals.

      1. Grace*

        Yes. Or has she obtained any kind of paralegal training. About 50% of paralegal graduates go in to some aspect of HR.

      2. vvondervvoman*

        Ironically, a lot of musicians end up as programmers. Apparently, music and coding use similar functions/parts of the brain. But then of course you need to actually pursue/learn programming after or during music studies, it’s not something you can drop into.

    3. The Other Katie*

      The 2 music degrees really baffle me. OP’s daughter seems like a hardworking, ambitious young woman that wants to have a job. So if you know music jobs are impossible to find, why did you get not only one, but two degrees in it? I understand college isn’t just about getting a job, but realistically unless you are staying in academia track, you will eventually need to find a job, hopefully where you can apply your degree. And OP’s daughter might have a perfectly good reason why she did that, but a lot of my friends got really specialized degrees and then are always complaining about not being able to find a job in their field or anything else. I chose my degree (accounting) specifically because it was easy to find jobs IN MY AREA in this field and they paid well. It may not be my passion, but I’m able to support my family quite well and have been steadily employed since graduation. I can pursue my hobbies on my own time. I think people need to think a little bit harder about what their end goal of college is. If it’s just to grow and explore an area that interests you, fine. But if you are looking for a job upon graduating, maybe it’s best to pick a field where jobs are plentiful. Sorry for the rant, it’s just a huge pet peeve of mine. I’m not saying it necessarily applies to the OP’s daughter, but that just struck me as odd.

      1. Coconut*

        I can definitely relate to what you said. I wish someone had told me before I started college how important it was to choose a major/field where you have a realistic chance to get a job upon graduation. My university’s message to incoming freshmen was “Do what makes you happy – if that’s polka history or lion taming, you can do that here.”

        Right before graduation, I found out the brutal truth about what entry-level jobs in my major/field paid (around $20K annually) and freaked out. I opted to take a different path (a better paying one) and am so thankful I did. Like The Other Katie, I pursue my hobbies in my spare time and the extra money is nice, and I still have a steady paycheck that I can depend on to take care of myself.

        That’s the harsh reality of growing up – sometimes we have to work jobs we don’t want to. Sometimes we have to make our passions our hobbies instead of full-time pursuits.

        1. Career Counselorette*

          I wonder if we went to the same school. I had totally the wrong approach when I started, and I wish it hadn’t been enabled by my “we’re not sure this is a good idea but far be it from us to stifle you” parents.

      2. Omne*

        My wife had a choice to pursue a music degree but she knew how hard it was to find a performing position and wasn’t sure she was quite that good. She went into accounting instead, which she also loves, got her CPA and has been doing fine since.
        It’s great to follow your dreams but you need to have a solid base in order to do it. A large trust fund would also help….

      3. Anon Accountant*

        That’s why/how I chose my major too. At the time recruiters were seeking accounting, engineering, or techonology/computer science majors. Luckily I liked accounting enough to make a career of it.

        We think alike! :)

      4. Noelle*

        Yeah, I was a music major in undergrad. I don’t necessarily regret it, but I definitely wish someone had told me, “hey, this is not a marketable skill. You should think about doing accounting or math.”

      5. mjm724*

        I have a degree in music because I was offered a substantial scholarship, and at 18, didn’t really have any idea what I wanted to do with my life. I loved music, and a college was offering to pay for me to study it, so I did. About three years in, I realized that I didn’t want to be a music teacher and didn’t have the drive to be a professional performer, but I finished the degree because I didn’t want to lose all the credits or the scholarship, and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do.

        Nearly 15 years later, I’m gainfully employed in a well paying job I like that is not related to music. It will work out for her eventually, but it will likely take some time and thought about how to sell the music degree as an asset.

        1. Chinook*

          “I have a degree in music because I was offered a substantial scholarship, and at 18, didn’t really have any idea what I wanted to do with my life”

          This I understand. Having your degree paid for while you pursue your dreams is definitely a different category because, nnot only is it paid for, but you obviously show enough of something for someone to believe in you.

          I actually had my mother try and convince me to take a degree as a vet (or atleast the first four years), because our school had a scholarship that had been accruing since the first graduating class (8 years earlier) which would have meant my entire tution would have been paid for (unheard of in my part of Canada where most scholarships are $500 or $1,000 and you just try to collect as many as possible). I was eventually able to convince her that this was a bad idea by pointing out that I was the first student that our very strict biolgy teacher ever gave permission not to have to dissect frogs or fetal pigs due to the shakes I had from merely dissecting a calf heart. (I was never happier to write a 10 page essay on anything!)

          1. Windchime*

            You sound like me. I took an F in Biology for the frog dissection project. I couldn’t see killing and cutting open a perfectly healthy, living being just out of curiosity. Fortunately, my mom supported this view and let me stay home from school that day. So yeah, I’d have made a crummy vet also.

          2. The Other Katie*

            “Having your degree paid for while you pursue your dreams is definitely a different category because, nnot only is it paid for, but you obviously show enough of something for someone to believe in you.”

            +1 This is probably one of the only situations in which it makes sense to me for someone to choose one of these types of fields. If your degree is 100% paid for, go enjoy yourself and pursue your passion, as long as you are realistic about what your job prospects will be afterwards. The problem is that people are graduating with super high debt loads, and then not being able to find a job that will pay off that high of debt. Even my debt load is high after switching majors twice. I was actually going to veterinary school, before an allergic reaction derailed me from that field. Then I transferred to business administration, and then to accounting when I realized that’s where the jobs were.

      6. Anonsie*

        Because she was working outside of that and getting experience/making connections she thought would get her a job, and the study was for personal enrichment, from the looks of it.

        I honestly wish I’d done a BFA and learned some other skills (like music, specifically– learn an instrument well, when do you ever get the time to do that again?) since all the things I did that got me into my field were done outside my major anyway.

      7. Hooptie*

        I was waiting for someone to bring this up.

        I was talking to a co-worker whose daughter is a recent grad – with an Art History degree. The daughter got a nice job as a recruiter with a major cell phone company. I asked why she went for Art History when she wasn’t planning on working in that field, and the answer was very interesting.

        Basically, the daughter wanted to enjoy college and spend her time learning about what interested her instead of what could better help her get a job after graduation. The cell phone company hired her (at $40k plus) because they loved her personality. She didn’t mind working admin type jobs and really didn’t have any other direction. If you ask her what her career goal is, she will tell you she doesn’t have one.

        So the question is: Is she brilliant or extremely naïve and just got lucky? How many other people get a degree in what they love really are hoping for a job in that field or are they happy enough with just getting by and getting a paycheck? This could be a really interesting research project or article, actually.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I always had this really romantic notion of higher education, learning for the sake of learning, exploring new ideas that really interest you, etc. Needless to say I majored in the liberal arts and looked a tad askance at business administration and those types of programs, because higher education should be about the life of the mind, not finding jobs, etc.

          Now, I think young me was hopelessly naive. Unfortunately, a life of the mind isn’t something most of us can afford, and I was damn lucky by circumstance and good timing to find a good job when I did. But it was a different world and economy back then (early 2000s).

          Now, I think if I had a kid wanting to major in something like art history or philosophy, I’d want to make sure they had a pretty solid plan or goal for employment, including possibly a minor or second degree in something that would make them more attractive to employers. Because learning how to think is wonderful, but paying the bills is also important.

        2. Cassie*

          I think a large number of students in the US are in this boat – universities aren’t technical colleges so unless you’re in a STEM field, the chances of making a career out of your major is probably slim.

          For me, it’s one thing if you major in something because you enjoy it or are interested in it (like humanities, English, psychology, etc), but if you expect to make a six-figure income right out of college in one of those fields, the chances are low and you’re probably out of luck. What I find intriguing are people who go to grad school and still end up in jobs where a bachelor’s degree isn’t even required. Doesn’t it cost a lot of money? Why would you (for example) get a MA in education if you are just going to do data entry?

      8. Chinook*

        “I chose my degree (accounting) specifically because it was easy to find jobs IN MY AREA in this field and they paid well.” and even then, stuff happens and now people look at me oddly asking why I can’t find a job teaching despite having a my degree and certification in multiple provinces. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one who earned their B.Ed because they will always need teachers for as long as their are children to teach. What none of us figured was that the univerisities in the province would double in number (when I graduated, there were 4, now there are atleat 8 institutions pumping out B.Eds and we have been through 2 rounds of layoffs in the last 15 years), dollars for teachers would stay the same as the population rose and retirements would drop as people’s savings shrank.

        Now, if I can’t get a job with a “blue collar” degree in a “have” province, I am not sure what my friends who earned B.F.A’s or B.A’s in textile design thought they were going to do to earn a living. (sorry, I tend to get a little ranty on this subject).

        1. The Other Katie*

          In my area, we are seeing this a lot with teaching degrees. The schools have been making cuts across the board in teaching staff, and yet there are still a ton of students graduating with teaching degrees that have no hope of finding a job in this area, whatsoever. My best friend is one of those students. She graduated with a teaching degree with an emphasis on special ed, which is actually one of the only types of teachers still in slight demand. After subbing for a couple years and not making any progress in finding a job, she started waitressing and now works in a bank. The problem is that she has the student debt associated with that teaching degree, and she could have been working in the bank with no degree at all. She’s doing fine, but her expectations were not realistic at all. It’s true that stuff does happen; fields that are in demand now may not be in 10 years. But students should make the most reasonable choice at the time, which is usually not textile design!

      9. StillLAH*

        I think some music schools are bad at expressing the realities of finding a music job (be it performing in an orchestra/opera or something else) and let kids major in performance without really considering if they could win one of the few positions that open for their instrument any given year. Some schools are getting better, or are teaching transferable skills at least. Even if you go through school as the best at your instrument, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a job, but that’s the expectation. And so you get a master’s (and then maybe a doctorate) but STILL you haven’t landed that orchestra gig or a teaching gig. And now you’re simultaneously over- and under-qualified for whatever non-music job you’re applying for AND you seem uninterested in the field because you spent 4, 5, 9 years training to be a professional musician.
        Sorry to tack my rant onto yours, I have a lot of friends auditioning for orchestra jobs who are really great musicians, but never winning and going back to school to delay reality for another few years. I just wish music schools would be more up front with students when they’re starting school.

    4. Noelle*

      I also have a music degree. I think you’re right that the daughter needs to focus more on why she wants to work in certain areas, and not just blindly applying.

      And while it’s true that employers won’t necessarily see how music skills can transfer over, that doesn’t mean they’re NOT useful. When I was looking for jobs after college, I emphasized that being a musician had taught my discipline and accuracy, and practicing several hours a day on top of coursework helped me to be a better manager of time and get the most out of it. Employers seemed to respond pretty well to that. That might be useful to OP’s daughter if she’s looking at entry level jobs.

      1. BRR*

        I completely forgot about those studies that say music majors often can manage time better. I tried once in an interview for a position that required heavy analytically skills to say how my teacher told me I play analytically. Your way is much better.

        Side note, we don’t know what the degrees are in. Not all music degrees are performance degrees. That’s to a lot of other commentors as well.

        1. Noelle*

          That is true, music degrees can be radically different (although it’s all hard! It may not be a useful major, but it sure isn’t easy). But there are definitely better ways to present it. I worry the OP’s daughter is coming across as, “I can’t find a job in music and I am desperate,” instead of something like, “My piano skills have really taught me attention to detail and commitment, and as an added plus I’m also a great typist!”

      2. Chinook*

        “And while it’s true that employers won’t necessarily see how music skills can transfer over, that doesn’t mean they’re NOT useful.”

        I agree 100%! When I made the transition from teaching to the office world, I put full emphasis, in both my cover letter and in interviews, on how my skills are transferrable. I mean, if I can track who has handed in what for 100+ students (knowing that atleast 2 of them have lied about handing it in but not sure which two), organize and run a field trip with minimal budget and a defined goal and strict legal liabilities and be able to give a presentation while still monitoring the room to make sure everyone is still paying attention AND learning and keeping an eye on the time, dealing with paperwork for a president of 5 man operation while working as a receptionist for an office with minimal visitors is a snap.

        1. Noelle*

          Exactly. There are tons of skills you develop that aren’t necessarily the primary aspect of your job. You can’t expect employers to know that though, you have to tell them!

      3. The Other Katie*

        It’s not that it isn’t useful; music skills are useful for a variety of circumstances. However, with the job market the way it is, a music student with a cover letter emphasizing their discipline, accuracy, and time management applying for an HR job isn’t going to fare well against a lot of other applicants that either have relevant experience in HR or related coursework. It’s just setting yourself up at a disadvantage. Now if you have a scholarship or something similar and it really is your passion, then I can understand pursuing that in college. But if you are incurring debt just to satisfy that passion with no hope of finding a job, then you should be prepared for having a hard road when you pursue a job in a different field. Unfortunately, students aren’t going into these types of degrees with a realistic understanding of what the probable outcome will be.

        1. Noelle*

          I agree that it’s not a super useful major (and I commented upthread that I really wish someone had told me to major in something more practical before I went). My point was that there ARE ways to relate skills you learn in music to skills you’d need on the job. And while the OP mentions HR, she also said her daughter would take anything so my advice was more aimed at that statement.

          1. The Other Katie*

            I think we are saying the same thing. :) I can see how it would be useful & semi-transferrable, but that when you are going up against other applicants that have experience or schooling that applies to that specific job, you are going to be at a disadvantage if you only have transferrable skills from a non-related degree. Now this doesn’t necessarily help the OP’s daughter, since it sounds like the people getting the job don’t have that either, but in general it is true. We have an admin position soon to be open. If I had 100 applicants with a business administration degree or experience as an admin, I wouldn’t necessarily hire a music grad that just says she is disciplined & accurate.

  8. fposte*

    “Sadly, what she is learning in this process is that doing a good job, being a good team player, being prepared for an interview, knowing people in the company, etc. mean nothing in the end.”

    That’s absolutely untrue. What’s she’s learning is that they’re not a *guarantee*, because nothing is a guarantee–the job market is not a machine in which you put credentials and that then pops out a job for you.

    Everybody I interview meets the employment standards you describe, so nobody stands out just by meeting them. And I too have applications for positions who are already involved with my unit, and I can think they’re great and still consider other people stronger applicants. I understand that it’s frustrating on the other side, but “great” is not a zero-sum category, while a job offer is.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I pretty much always agree with you, and have to +1000 this. What the daughter is doing is what’s required to be in the running.

    2. Kelly O*

      I agree with this. What she’s learning is that there are all sorts of factors that go into hiring decisions, some of which she really can’t do anything about.

      What I hope she’s learning is that you just have to keep going. It’s okay to be frustrated and upset, but it’s not okay to let that completely derail you. You learn what you can, take the interview as “experience” and go on to the next thing. She’s making connections, meeting people, and who knows what might happen a year or two or five or ten down the line. Someone she interviews with now might not hire her for this position, but might remember her in four months when they’re hiring for something different.

      Also, and this probably goes without saying, but I hope she’s not actually saying “I will do anything” in her interviews. I got really good feedback from an interviewer about how that comes across. For me it didn’t come across as willing to do whatever it takes – it came across as a bit desperate, which was a turn-off for the interviewer.

  9. Anon Accountant*

    Has the OP’s daughter considered a mock interview with a skilled interviewer at her college career center or a job search center? (ours is called CareerLink). Or a neighbor/relative/family friend that has hiring experience that can offer honest feedback on interviewing skills?

    You can apply for jobs that have descriptions that seem almost like they were custom-tailored to you- almost a perfect match to your background and have a great interview then receive a rejection. It’s unfortunate but happens.

    1. fposte*

      And especially in the earlier career years, if it’s a perfect match to your background it’s probably a perfect match to many other people’s. It’s just that we don’t hear everybody else who says “That’s me exactly!” at the same time we do.

    2. Elysian*

      I would second the recommendation to find a career center or job coach to do a mock interview or discuss her application materials. It can be really hard to see room for improvement when we are very invested in a person’s success, so you might be giving her her best shot by letting someone disinterested evaluate her skills and guide her toward positions that she might be well-suited for.

    3. Lamington*

      This is very helpful, in my law school career center they would even tape you. that’a how i discovered i moved my hands a lot when i talk.

      The best advice is to be patient and keep applying.

  10. VictoriaHR*

    I have 7 years of experience in HR, have my PHR (Professional in Human Resources) degree, write articles on HR best practices, volunteer (on 2 different committees) on the board of directors in my local HR professional organization, and teach HR-related classes for free at the local public library.

    I have been sending out my resume with everything above, and if I get a rejection email I’m lucky. Usually I don’t hear anything at all. Even from the job that my uncle is in management at.

    I consider myself a very qualified candidate for any HR related position, and the truth is that there could be a lot of reasons that I’m not being selected to interview. As mentioned above, it’s not personal – it’s business. How could they possibly be rejecting me personally if they’ve never even met me?

    The OP is doing herself and her daughter a disservice by assuming that a living person sees their resumes for every position they apply for. If it’s a large organization, chances are they use an applicant tracking system (ATS). If you’re not tailoring every resume and cover letter to each job position, including key words and phrases from the posting in your documents, the possibility of the resume getting through the ATS goes down.

    Granted, the positions at the daughter’s university that she knows the people personally, that’s not the case. But they did do her the favor of giving her an interview. Most candidates never get that – she got that because they knew her and liked her. She wasn’t guaranteed a job.

    And she’s been working in the HR department for 2 years – how many hours per week? If it’s only 1-2 hours/week on a work study program, that’s not going to be as highly considered.

    It is a really tough job market out there. It’s a 4% unemployment rate where I live and it’s tough to get noticed. Luckily I have a job that is ok, and that I’m fine hanging at until I find something better. I feel badly for those who don’t have that. But showing frustration and desperation to hiring managers is not going to endear your daughter any.

    1. BRR*

      Thank you for saying how most candidates never get an interview. For entry-level positions there can easily be over 100 applicants (I know the job I have now had 150). If 20 move on to a phone screen, that still leaves 80 people who just got rejected. If you make it to the interview stage, let’s say there are 5 people, your odds are only 20% and they might not offer the job to anybody. It’s just a super tough market for job seekers.

      1. ser4ph1m*

        In our area most job postings (especially anywhere near entry-level) are receiving 500+ applicants, minimum. That can help with re-framing the ‘rejection’ of not hearing back. It’s exhausting and frustrating, but Allison’s advice to not get emotionally invested until there’s an offer on the table is very helpful. Perseverance is truly necessary to make it through this job market right now.

        1. Alex*

          I can top that!

          For a recent entry level HR position I internally applied for, there was 879 candidates.

          For the position I’m in right now, admin in title but more of an Office manager, we had 1500 candidates apply for my 1 year maternity leave replacement.

          To get noticed, it takes a lot!

          1. Sal*

            I once hired for a position with around a thousand candidates. We did 10 interviews and hired 1 person. The interviews only went to the tippy-top. Many, many awesome resumes and applications got an insta-reject.

            1. MR*

              When you get to those types of numbers, it really is a crapshoot to get hired, unless you are utilizing pre-determined qualifiers (internal candidates or specific words/phrases on a resume).

              With 1,000 resumes, assuming 10 seconds to look at a resume (and you likely aren’t retaining much information and as a result, looking for one or two key things only), it would take nearly three hours to get through the whole pile, assuming no stop time.

              Once the applicant number hits the triple digits, then luck does become a greater factor in at least reaching the interview stage.

              1. fposte*

                “Luck is a factor” isn’t the same thing as “It’s a crapshoot,” though. You still had to be qualified to get there. That’s the difference I’m hoping the OP gets–being qualified isn’t in itself enough, but being unqualified is enough to rule you out.

          2. Omne*

            We had an attorney position open a couple of years ago. They got over 3000 applications. Talk about a glut in the field.

            1. anon-2*

              Yeah there are several fields probably NOT to get into-

              0 Broadcasting
              0 Newspaper writing
              0 Attorney
              0 Computers IS/IT

              The openings for entry level are few and far between. There are EXCEPTIONS, however –

              – If you are a graduate of a top-tier university – and – have interned professionally — you have a shot at an entry-level job.

              If you didn’t — well, you are competing against those who graduated from those top-tier universities, and may have interned professionally in the field of endeavor.

    2. Charlotte*

      Sounds pretty much like the boat I’m in. I’d love to connect and share war stories, Victoria.

      1. Ali*

        Sounds a lot like my field. Even though I’m trying to break away from sports, communications/writing/PR as a whole is very competitive. Honestly, if I thought I had what it took to freelance, I would…just because job searching is brutal.

  11. some1*

    I totally agree with AAM that you really aren’t in a position to judge your daughter’s work performance.
    At a previous job, two receptionists had moved up to other positions. The present receptionist could not figure out why she never got moved up when positions were available. She was skilled and likeable, but she also had poor attendance and a lack of professionalism and none of the other managers in the company wanted to deal with her.

    I’m not saying your daughter has these issues, but I do agree with AAM that it would be a good idea to ask her current managers for feedback

  12. Dan*

    “Great” is becoming such an overused term that it is meaningless. What’s it supposed to mean, anyway? It’s becoming such a “lip service” word that without further elaboration, I think I’m getting blown off. It’s almost a way of avoiding any sort of confrontation without saying anything substantively positive either.

  13. Dani*

    Yikes! I’ve done a lot of hiring for entry level positions and I’ve had to turn down a lot of candidates I really liked because they didn’t have a skill that was needed, or I just felt they weren’t as good a fit as a stellar candidate I interviewed later/earlier.

    What really helped me early in my career as I wrapped up grad school was a mentor. I was working full time in publishing which was where I wanted to be, but I wanted to step up out of my entry level position.

    I had a very kind, very intelligent, boss-above-my-boss who was great about coaching me, checking in, and encouraging me to come by his office to ask questions. He was just very, very encouraging to younger staff and LOVED talking shop about our industry.

    His experience and coaching was invaluable at the early stages of my career and even though we’re 1,000 miles away in different companies, we still do the occasional lunch when we’re in the same city, and he’s still as helpful as ever.

    If your daughter is really well-liked and talented, I’m sure she has someone in her office she can talk to about skills she should learn, or who would be happy to talk to her about how they got their foot in the door. She just has to ask! Make a professional connection; join a committee or organization in her industry.

    Lots and lots of bright, easy-to-get-along-with students are trying to enter the job market right now. It’s not personal – really. The best thing to do is work on something she can control. That’s not prospective employers; that’s her skill set, interview skills, presentation, etc. That takes it from “this is a crapshoot, I have no chance in hell,” to “Hmm, how can I better myself so I can get the job I want?”

    1. fposte*

      So nicely put, Dani, and that’s a much more resilient and sustainable choice as well.

  14. H. Rawr*

    To be fair, as an internal candidate I’d be really put off by getting an email rejection minutes after talking to the sender. They really should have had that conversation with her. And, if you’re pulled in an office to be thanked for applying, expecting a follow-up is completely legitimate. I think the advice is spot-on (don’t read into everything, no one is taking this lightly, etc.), but I think we’re writing off the concerns kind of quickly because they’re being presented by a parent.

    1. H. Rawr*

      Also, the concerns are wrapped up in an overall bad attitude about the process, but I just wanted to point out that some of the specific examples she gave really may be in bad form on the hiring manager side.

      1. Colette*

        Even if we assume that all of the problems are on the potential employer’s side, that doesn’t help the OP or her daughter, because that’s outside of their control.

    2. fposte*

      I take your point on the CEO thing–I doubt he realizes how eager applicants are taking his statements–but I don’t see any problem with getting an emailed rejection hours later (especially since we don’t know what happened in those intervening hours). Rejections happen through official channels, not unofficial ones, and a hallway conversation isn’t the place for that information; as noted above, most people weighing in have said that they’d prefer not to hear face to face anyway.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, I’d really rather not have a conversation that goes like “Hi, lovely weather we’re having, oh by the way, we didn’t hire you” and be standing there trying to keep my facial expression poised right there in front of the person.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I get the initial impulse of “She could have told me!”, but I think when you think it through you realize that though this may feel like a brushoff, it’s actually better for the recipient.

        2. BRR*

          The phone rejections I have gotten were awkward, I can’t imagine having it done face-to-face.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            I once got two phone rejections from the same company a couple of weeks apart. Talk about awkward.

            1. BRR*

              I got an email and snail mail rejection for a grad school I had applied to. I was like I get it, I didn’t really want to go there anyways.

                1. A Non*

                  I have participated in the ritual stomping-upon of grad school rejection letters. It’s very cathartic.

                2. Lora*

                  One of my colleagues was applying to grad schools last year. He got into Harvard, but was subsequently rejected from several “safety school” type places much lower on the prestige list. I’m not convinced grad school admission officers are an awful lot better than hiring managers when it comes to who gets in.

          2. anon-2*

            Two of the “best” rejections I ever had were done by telephone. And they were very professionally executed, and I was left with a very positive impression.

            It just depends on how it was brought through.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I had a telephone rejection for a job that I thought had my name written all over it. It was so me. (Others in the hiring group agreed. “Yep, hire NSNR.”) The way the lady handled giving me the bad news was exemplary. I learned so much about having that difficult conversation.
              Like you are saying, anon-2, I had a positive impression of this person and the group she represented.

              (When I realized I was not getting the job, my intuition kicked in and I felt there was something on the horizon that was bigger/more important. So I really did not take the news that hard. I was sorry to hear it, of course, but it did not upset me.)

      2. BRR*

        In my own experiences, I can see the CEO thanking her for applying, forgetting to tell someone, not be involved in the hiring process, and thereby not notice she wasn’t included on a short list of candidates.

  15. some1*

    Also, sometimes interviewing internally as a known quantity can hurt, not help. When you interview with strangers, you are going to be on your best behavior — when you are interviewing with people you know it could be easier to be more comfortable, thus, more casual and less prepared. Also, when the interviewers are strangers, they don’t know about any mistakes or shortcomings in the past. Your daughter may have been an adequate (or great) work study worker but just didn’t wow them. Standards are different for work studies and internships.

    1. Elkay*

      I was coming to say something similar. The biggest mistake I ever made was assuming that the interview was just a formality, looking back I didn’t interview well so I looked like a really poor choice to the outsider in the interview (HR).

      The best thing the OP’s daughter can do is pretend she’s never met or worked with the people who are interviewing her.

    2. Graciosa*

      I once had the opposite experience – I prepared very hard for an interview for an internal promotion and took it very seriously. I sat down to interview, and was immediately told that I had the job! I was pretty flabbergasted, especially as the next question was about my plans now that I was in the new role. I was utterly thrown by this and had a hard time absorbing the news and switching gears.

      In retrospect, I’m sure that this is much better than presuming I had the job and being disappointed, but it was still a shock at the time.

      1. F.Lo*

        This happened to me, too! I came into the interview and right when I sat down there interviewer said, “Well, F.Lo, I know you have the job. You know you have the job. So let’s just talk about when you can come in on your first day.” My interview for my current organization involved me coming to meet one of my future clients, and the client’s house calling the organization and instructing them to hire me. I don’t think I even had an interview for my current position. However, on the other side, I’ve had 2 great interviews where I was told I had the job and they’d call me to schedule my training, only to never call me back and not answer my calls. I knew much less about the hiring process then than I do now, and I felt much like OP about it. I’m glad that I refined my interview technique, and things smoothed out so quickly after that.

      2. MaryMary*

        I had this happen once, but instead of telling me I had the job, the hiring manager started right into transition planning. “So we’re in the middle Project X, that will be our priority for the next few months. You’ll want to meet with Lisa, the head of the ongoing team, as soon as you can. She can be intimidating, so don’t let her push you around…” I sat there for a little while trying to figure out if this was a hypothetical before realizing I’d gotten the job

  16. Brett*

    Often universities have unusual hiring practices for staff. Work-study students are probably not considered internal applicants, and internal applicants might have strict priority if they are in the same position series.
    (e.g. a Clerk III in accounts payable gets strict priority for a Clerk III position in Music, even if there is a work-study Clerk III already working in Music)
    My personal example, I once worked as a temp worker in a university accounts payable office for 18 months. Multiple times, a full-time position opened up for exactly the job I was doing. Every time, I did not even get an interview for the position because a full-time university employee from another department applied (accounts payable was considered a prime department to work in). They actually were perfectly willing to employ me as a temp for as long as I wanted, but it was pretty clear that with a whole university full of employees with hiring priority over me, I would never be more than a temp no longer how long I did the job.

    So, it might be good for your daughter to find out how the hiring process at her university works. The process might be structured in a way that it is nearly impossible for her to get hired, and if so, she has to set her expectations accordingly no matter how well she interviews.

    1. Lizzy Mac*

      This! Every university I’ve encountered has very strict hiring practices and the union contracts for staff are written so that any internal candidate has preference over an external. Work Study would not count as internal even if it mean more direct experience. I’ve never applied for a university job with an expectation of anything because I know that as an external candidate its so unlikely I’ll be considered. Sadly, your daughter is likely up against that. Its not that they don’t like her and its not that she’s bad at her job (because if that was the case, they probably wouldn’t keep her around at all) but there are rules to be followed.

    2. Laura*


      I really hope the OP reads this because it’s utterly fantastic advice; the ultimate “pro-tip”. When I applied to work at the local university, it was probably a year or more before I was hired into a position. The hiring process had very specific requirements for your resume that were counter intuitive and often the exact opposite of current conventional wisdom, but by putting the time in, doing the work, following their exact instructions and applying for positions that my resume supported eventually it paid off.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        So how did you get someone to cue you in on this i dotting and t crossing type stuff?

    3. Schuyler*

      I think this depends largely upon the university and their HR department. Where I work, any current student, staff or faculty member is considered an internal applicant, whether they are currently working on campus (work-study or non) or are unemployed. On the other hand, a temp would not be considered an internal applicant because they are an employee of the temp agency. Our university has had several hiring freezes in the last several years, where they’ve only allowed internal postings, so a temp wouldn’t be considered for those either.

  17. Young Professional*

    I have a creative degree too and have been turned down from many full-time positions in which I was a serious candidate because of it. I think my desire to “settle” for stable employment shows in my interviews. I wonder if that’s what’s going on here?

  18. Coconut*

    It goes without saying that rejection in the job market can be very difficult for new graduates, especially for those who are overachievers and perfectionists. I’m saying this as someone who had a hard time myself when I first graduated nearly 10 years ago. I would go on a ton of interviewers, get to the finalist stage and then not get the job. I would hear that I was “great,” that my experience was “awesome” for a new grad, etc. I totally didn’t understand why it was happening.

    Instead of bellyache about how tough the job market is, I decided to take it upon myself to use every rejection as a learning experience and really examine what I could have done differently. I read tons of books and blogs about how to improve my resume, interviewing skills, and professionalism.

    In my opinion, learning how to get a job on your own is an essential life skill and the sooner you learn how to do it, the better off you are. I had many college friends whose parents hooked them up with jobs after graduation and never learned these skills. Believe me, they are struggling to learn these skills now. For example, I have a friend who recently lost their job – he never learned how to effectively job hunt because his last two jobs were essentially handed to him on a silver platter. Needless to say, he’s freaking out now.

    It’s important to understand that sometimes other factors are in play. Maybe it’s a culture fit, maybe politics or nepotism is going one. It doesn’t really matter, because if you keep pressing forward and constantly working to improve yourself and skills set, you WILL eventually land a job. Every “no” brings you closer to a “yes.”

    1. MJH*

      Rejection is another life skill that is really, really valuable. If you can couch someone’s rejection as simply, “Okay, that wasn’t a fit. Sad, but I’ll be okay,” you can move on from job rejections, dating rejections, and all kinds of other disappointments.

      Learning that rejection does not reflect your *worth* as a person is really important, and has taken me about 30 years to learn.

      1. BRR*

        “Rejection is another life skill that is really, really valuable.”

        I really like that. It sounds pessimistic at first but rejection is inevitable.

      2. Chinook*

        “Rejection is another life skill that is really, really valuable”

        In my mind, this is why we need competitive sports/activities when people are children because then they learn that not everybody gets what they want even if they work really, really hard and even deserve it. Learning that life is not fair and that stuff outside of your control will sometimes mean you don’t win should be something you learn to deal with in a mature way long before your reaction can cause life long issues.

        I may have prefered to play cards with my grandmother (who always seemed to let me win) but my mother refusing to do the same thing is what makes all of her children and grandchildren learn how not to be sore losers.

        1. Vera*

          “not everybody gets what they want even if they work really, really hard and even deserve it”

          This is a great analogy.

          1. JM in England*


            I believe children need to be taught that life is unfair as early as possible. Then they will be better adjusted to face the working world (and the real world in general) when the time comes.

        2. LQ*

          My grandma was just the opposite of that, not only would she not let you win, but she played hard. (If you missed points she’d happily take them from you.) But when you won you knew you really earned that win. Much more satisfying than a thrown game.

          1. Jamie*

            I still prefer a thrown game.

            Not as a metaphor for life, because I’m all about hard earned wins – but just cards? Let me win.

            My dad would let me beat him at poker for money and it was awesome. My mom would play to win at Gin (and for no money – so…why?) and I’d usually lose.

            Dad had the far better method as far as I’m concerned. I think there is a part of me that is very happy being humored.

            1. Chinook*

              “Not as a metaphor for life, because I’m all about hard earned wins – but just cards? Let me win.”

              In my family, cards is serious business. Once we were old enough to count, we joined the adults in “penny a point” games, so there was real money on the line. I am pretty sure, though, that part of my grandmother throwing the games was that she had a horrible memory since the same thign would happen when we were adults.

              Speaking of pennies – I have a completely off topic story. Canada stopped using pennies last year but they are still legal tender. I ended up paying 12 cents at a coffee shop (because my card wasn’t fully loaded) and, when I handed a dime and two pennies the clerk, she just looked at them amazed, mumbling “their red.” Turns out she had arrived in Canada a few weeks earlier and never seen them before. I couldn’t stop laughing so hard (with her because she smiled when I explained they no longer make them) with the other staff because none of us had ever seen anyone amazed by two cents before.

            2. Bea W*

              My dad would let me win when I wanted to have running races with him. He swore up and down he was not doing this, but even at 5 it made no sense to me how I could be faster than him. He was big with long legs and won races in school. That quickly became not fun for me.

          2. Simonthegrey*

            My mom played backgammon like a SHARK. I was 10 or so before I ever beat her. She never gave help. But the first time I beat her, she cheered for me and I felt a real sense of accomplishment.

      3. AJC*

        “Learning that rejection doesn’t reflect your worth as a person is really important!!!” (emphasis added)

        Rejection is the bad and ugly part of life, but I suppose it makes us more apt to cherish the good when we experience it. I can certainly relate to the daughter’s frustration, as I have a MFA in dance, without a teaching certification (of course many schools don’t even offer full-time to dance teachers). I’ve been juggling part-time teaching gigs for a little over 7 years. I’m burned out from shuffling around town and drained from working with kids who have short attention spans…not to mention the financial strain. I haven’t had any interviews, and my networking efforts haven’t yielded much either.

        Nevertheless, I’m not giving up! I’m at my volunteer job now trying to strengthen my skill-set for the job I really want–Academic Advisor.
        Other than changing her outlook, brushing up on interview techniques, seeking help from a mentor, and expanding her professional network, persistence is really key.!

  19. Once Anon a Time*

    Not sure how many of you are Seinfeld fans, but this post reminded me of a scene where Elaine goes on a job interview.

    Interviewer: Thank you for coming in. We’ll be making our choice in a few days, and we’ll let you know.
    Elaine: I have no chance, do I?
    Interviewer: No.
    (they smile and shake hands)

    There are some interviews I’ve been on where I really wish I could ask them straight out and confirm that I didn’t have a chance. I know it’s in poor form, but it would save so much time and stress.

    The only time I’ve ever been given a heavy indication that I didn’t have a chance was one interview several years ago, where the interviewer just said “Excuse me” and left the room. Then his secretary came in and said “That will be all, you may go now.” I was shocked. I wasn’t even thanked for coming in, and I didn’t even realize that the interview was over! That office was very informal though so it probably was a blessing in disguise.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      Wow how rude of the interviewer!

      I’ve straight out asked where I stood as we were wrapping up an interview, and startled the interviewer into an honest answer. Might be worth trying.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Oh and the answer was “there’s one candidate that has more relevant experience than you do, but you’re second.”

        I got the job.

    2. anon-2*

      I have been told right out — “your skills set isn’t what we’re looking for” … I would rather have THAT happen then to be dragged through a cycle where there’s no interest and both sides are pretending that there is. In the IS/IT world, that happened to me a few times , albeit many years ago.

      Then use the remaining few minutes to inquire “well, is there any area that you might use my skills, now or in the not-too-distant future?” … it could happen.

  20. A Nonymous*

    I’ve had this same thing happen a few times and every time have had the last laugh.

    My favorite was the company who was given my resume by the outgoing person in the position. The outgoing person told the CTO, “Here’s my replacement. Go hire them.” I spent two days interviewing with the company. Everything seemed great. More importantly, I knew the ins and outs of every one of the half-dozen niche things they used (the kinds of things where there are less than 100 experts out there in *each*). They didn’t hire me because I had no experience (yet) in a fairly common skill that I simply hadn’t had the chance to learn.

    In the end they decided it was more important to have someone with that common skill and have them learn the niche things, than the other way around. It turned out that they wanted the new person to absorb a second job, and to do the second the common skill was required.

    I later learned, through the person who left but kept in touch with his former coworkers, that the person they hired drove everyone nuts. They were very good at the second job but took months to learn all the niche stuff, which was mission critical, causing productivity to slow down so much that people were job hunting. The best part is that after six months the new person said he was tired of struggling to do the second job while having to learn to do the first, and told the CTO to either hire someone else to do the first or they would quit. The CTO did so. Fortunately for me, by then I had moved on to a better job where my niche knowledge was appreciated. Not long after that, the company was bought out and *both* those jobs were effectively eliminated.

  21. L*

    Do you truly know all of your daughter’s qualifications? My mother is all over me every time I have been through a job search. She seemed to think that a BBA in management would make me a CEO earning a Big Salary straight out of college with no work experience in our small town.

    It does really suck to be turned down for something you think you’d be perfect at when people are telling you you’re doing a good job, but it’s part of the job search. Let her vent her frustration and then encourage her to get back out there and apply again.

    1. CanadianWriter*

      +1 My mother has this delusion that I’m going to become a lawyer… I went to hotel school!

      1. Windchime*

        My mom was outraged because my previous employer had me in a cubicle in the basement, rather than in an office because she felt I practically ran the place. Um, no, Mom; I just process payments.

  22. annie*

    Wait, your daughter has two music degrees and you’re wondering why she’s not being hired for an HR job? Surely it is because there are many other candidates who have HR degrees, no?

    1. NavyLT*

      Those other candidates probably wouldn’t be able to set the employee handbook to music, though.

      I agree that the issue is probably more the two music degrees than any issue with the interviewers. It’s a risk you take when you go for a music degree (or art history, or philosophy, or classics, or any of the other liberal arts degrees that people love to pick on).

      1. Laura*

        The best advice here though is to figure out how your music degrees help you excel at the jobs you’re applying for. There must be transferable skills, right? Never count on the employer to make those connections for you – you have to make them known and sell it. And sidenote: I went to school with WAY too many business majors who hated it but “wanted to be able to get a job” after college. Generally they were mediocre students and hard to work with.

        1. NavyLT*

          Agreed. It doesn’t have to be a question of using the facts you learned while obtaining a degree. It’s more about the skills you developed along the way.

        2. Del*

          Absolutely! When I interviewed for my first office job, I wound up drawing heavily on the soft skills I’d learned while pursuing my religion degree, and flat-out told the interviewer so when he asked about my skills and responses. Here’s what I learned in classes that focused on ministry, here’s what I learned in classes that encouraged close reading and attention to nitpicky detail, here’s what I learned in classes that crossed over between religion and psychology… It was pretty surprising how much it all prepared me for, but that was absolutely something I had to highlight.

    2. StillLAH*

      I’ve also got 2 music degrees. If the OP’s daughter is interested in HR but having trouble getting HR jobs, has she looked at jobs (HR or otherwise) at arts organizations? My arts org doesn’t have a specific HR person (just a finance/HR guy), but some do, and in my experience, it’s helpful to actually BE a musician at work at an orchestra/opera/chamber/something else group.

      1. sophiabrooks*

        I have a theatre degree, and I got my first office job as a admin/marketing asst/box office manager at a theatre. This was after every entry level office job did not hire me. When I left, I was able to then use that to get an office job at a university, where I have been promoted/moved departments several times and I also still am able to keep my hand in theatre at the University. So I think that is good advice!

      2. Suzanne*

        LOL on that one. The organization where she interned and the CEO told her how great she was WAS an arts organization!

        1. Colette*

          “She might have more success in arts organizations” does not mean that she will have success in every arts organization. Like all other businesses, they hire based on what they need, not based on who would like to have a job.

        2. StillLAH*

          Arts orgs are notoriously bad for promoting from within and I do not know why! (Blanket statement, but the ones I’m familiar with are and I feel like I read an article in ArtsJournal about that some years ago.)

          1. Sharm*

            Hmm. I would say this depends. I spent the bulk of my career in the arts and was promoted twice. Many, many people on my team came up through the ranks.

            We were big, though, which I think is the critical factor. Small nonprofits don’t have the luxury of hierarchies that people can grow into. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, now that I’m in a small market and no longer working in the arts :-\

      3. A Kate*

        This is a great idea! This girl’s problem reminds me of Alison’s advice on grad school. Degrees can hurt in some instances. Having not 1, but 2 degrees in music surely sends the message that she’s not serious about a career in HR or ultimately wouldn’t be happy in one. Might be less of a problem at a cultural organization.

  23. Senor Poncho*

    I’m not sure, but, given the job market of the last ~6 years, the credential inflation over the last ~20, and the mass un-/under-employment of young people in recent years, I’d imagine that mom’s experiences in job hunting did not resemble the market conditions faced by her daughter in any way.

    Then again, I’m a young lawyer, so I may be biased by my own brutal-job-market experiences.

  24. StillLAH*

    One thing I’ve learned from some recent stuff at my husband’s university job is that it can be very hard to fire non-teaching staff but can be easier to transfer them out of one office and into another. While the school might have to post the position and interview candidates because it’s a state job, they may already have someone else in mind for it. From the outside, you can’t know everything that’s going on in a hiring process.

  25. Nodumbunny*

    I’m the mother of a kid going off to college next year and he has been making choices lately – where to go to school and what to study. He’s dealt with disappointment along the way (didn’t get into his first choices despite working very hard, having a good GPA and having very very good test scores and good extracurriculars.) So I’m on the same track as you, about four years behind you, but thinking about the same things.

    Here are my thoughts:
    1) Learning to deal with disappointment is an important life skill. When he first got the not-so-good news, my first thought was to fix it and to beat myself up about what we could’ve done differently. Then I realized, he’s got to learn to deal with disappointment. We all do. I get disappointed regularly. (He’s actually been more mature than me about the whole thing.)
    2) In parenting, my job is to tell my kids they are beautiful and smart and awesome, and I do that. My job is to mama bear when necessary, and I do that too. But my equally important job is to help them steer while they are busy developing a frontal cortex and part of that means telling them, as gently as possible, the uncomfortable truths. When my kid didn’t want to apply to x,y,z school on the west coast because he’d already applied to school A on the west coast, I had to gently tell him his chances of getting into that school were nil, so if he wanted to go to school on the west coast, he’d better apply to others. When he was a freshman and not getting any playing time on the baseball team, I had to gently point out that he hadn’t practiced nearly as much as the “stars” on the team even though his dad had told him that was what was necessary if he wanted to keep playing. When he was fifteen and talking about putting all of his eggs in the basket of becoming a music star, I had to gently point out all the ways in which that wasn’t the best plan and encourage him to find other things that were interesting to him while continuing to enjoy making music.

    It is hard to transition from being your kid’s biggest supporter and cheerleader to helping them to face truths, get through disappointment, come up with a Plan B and make good choices. I know – I’m struggling with it all the time. I hate it. But your daughter is not entitled to a good job. She’s not even entitled to a fair shot, as difficult as that is to hear. She’s going to struggle starting a career with two music degrees, even though she’s smart and beautiful and has worked very very hard. That’s the truth. So help her come up with a Plan B, help her deal with the disappointments of not getting the job, and bring her Alison’s advice to focus on what can she do to make herself a better candidate. Best of luck to you both.

    1. Senor Poncho*

      Kind of feeling opinionated today, and, though I’m sure opinions on this will differ…

      “where to go to school and what to study”

      Re: where to go, my general thought is that your high-ivy (HYP), MIT, Caltech, Stanford, etc. type schools are much more likely to open certain very specific doors (i.e., high end consulting, finance, etc) that other schools just can’t. Other than that, though, I think the vast majority of schools are pretty fungible w/r/t objective job outcomes (with the exception of, e.g., certain for-profits, “trap schools,” etc.), and the goal should be to keep debt low and have an enjoyable experience.

      Re: what to study, I’d push pretty hard for him to study engineering, nursing, accounting, or something like that (maybe stats? compsci?). Those majors aren’t a panacea, but they’re sort of like a safety net. Career-oriented degrees like those still give you access to jobs that require a generic bachelor’s-of-anything, but also give you a fallback set of credentials and skills for better-paying entry level work that you just can’t get without the specific credential.

      1. Lora*

        Regarding eng, nursing, compsci–not anymore. Nursing majors flooded the market a couple years ago and now they can barely get anything full-time. Engineering, depends on what exactly you’re engineering: petroleum and shale gas, geology majors are hot right now, but when I was graduating it was ChemEng. For a while it was MechEs and EEs who were willing to travel to Asia to transfer the manufacturing jobs there and build out manufacturing plants. Accounting seems like a slow growth industry–you’re relying on new companies opening up for new jobs, or specializing in something new-ish or really boring/obscure (my uncle specializes in tax code).

        Honestly, if I had to do it again? I’d probably do MechEng with a trade school degree in diesel/engine repair and all the classes taught by Maersk. Shipping has increased dramatically, and that’s a lot of trucks, boats, planes, etc. that need designed and repaired. But when I was in college, Amazon was brand new and they only sold books, and pharma companies had just come out with blockbusters like Lipitor, were paying big bucks. Plus, when I was picking majors, I wanted to be a doctor but I didn’t know at the time that I don’t like sick people vomiting on me at 2am.

        1. Senor Poncho*

          Yeah, I mean, I think the supposed STEM shortage thing is a myth, but that wasn’t really what I was getting at. My point was just that a generic BA (e.g., like my own polisci degree) can limit your options unless you went to a hyper-elite school. I can’t think of many fields where having an engineering/accounting/nursing/compsci degree would be a disadvantage in getting hired, but I sure can think of several where a polisci degree would be prohibitive at worst and would make no difference whatsoever at best.

          I guess my basic point is that college affords an opportunity to develop hard skills that make you more employable, and that students should take advantage of that opportunity.

          Heck, it doesn’t have to be specifically in school — I know a guy who used his time during college to go work for a brewer, learned how a brewing operation works, and now makes beer. Even something like that has plenty of utility over a random BA.

          1. Lora*

            Yeah, this is true. In terms of what seems to work for me and makes me more employable in multiple fields:

            1. I can do math. Fairly complicated math.
            2. I can program in a few languages.
            3. I’m really, really, really curious about everything. I like finding out all kinds of things. One thing leads to another and suddenly I’m learning about aniline chemistry at the turn of the century in Basel.

            That’s it. But if math and computers are not your jam, I can see that being problematic.

            1. Daria*

              I don’t know- I majored in English and I’ve done okay with it. My husband in an engineer and he got a graduate degree during the TWO YEARS it took him to get a job. He rolls his eyes whenever he sees those “OMG WE NEED ENGINEERS” reports. (He went to a decent school, had an amazing GPA, belonged to professional and honor societies, and has been published in several major peer reviewed journals, so it’s not like he was last in his class or anything.)

              1. Lora*

                Engineering kinda comes and goes, depending on what kind of engineering and what is booming at the time. There are definite lulls where nobody is doing much infrastructure type work and just sort of doing their daily thing.

          2. Cat*

            I think there are plenty of fields where a nursing or accounting or engineering or compsci degree wouldn’t be helpful unless you could show you had developed the skills needed for that field another way.

            1. Cat*

              And I’ll add there are employers who would look more favorably on a poli. sci. or history or English degree than on a nursing or engineering or comp. sci. degree; for instance, my firm hires paralegals right out of college and we hire more of the former because we’re looking for people who understand and are rigorous about language and research.

              1. Senor Poncho*

                Yeah, I get that, and – to play devil’s advocate against myself – there’s a signaling function too (i.e., “i am interested in politics”).

                On the other hand, anecdotally, most of the lawyers at my small firm like to joke about how useless our polisci degrees were.


                1. Cat*

                  Heh, well, as a lawyer at a small(ish) firm, I really believe my anthropology degree makes me a better lawyer. Which isn’t to say that some of the engineering and science folks don’t have a leg up in some ways (we deal with a technical field), but, well, it’s nice to have a mix; it gets you different perspectives.

                2. Senor Poncho*

                  I did really like the one anthro class I took, so maybe you’re onto something.

      2. Student*

        My answer to the question of what to study has always been, “The hardest, most meaningful thing that you can do well.” It’s not about the exact major, because you can’t reasonably predict which fields will be hot in 4-5 years of time any more.

        You can always maximize your odds for success by going for the hardest thing you are capable of doing. This minimizes your job competition to the smallest pool without requiring super-specialization.

        You can ensure your skills are always in some level of demand by striving to do something that is meaningful. Pick a mission that people care about, that makes a difference, and go with it as far as you can. Individual trends come and go, but fundamental values take a lot of time and effort to shift.

        1. Cat*

          But what’s hard to you isn’t necessarily hard to the general population. Foreign languages have always been ludicrously difficult to me; possibly I could have done well majoring one had I devoted incredible amounts of time to it, but there are other people for whom it comes easily and, on some level, they are always going to have a comparative advantage there even though it’s not difficult for them.

      1. AGirlCalledFriday*

        Er – That was meant for Nodumbunny, though you also wrote well Senor!

  26. E.R*

    Speaking as a daughter for now, I used to share my disappointments (with school, interviewing, and then work) with my mother. But where i found them to be off-putting and occasionally funny (like the time an interviewer told me he just didn’t like me, and couldn’t imagine how anyone ever could – true story) , my mom would really internalize it and get upset. She was “taking my side”, of course, but it was not helpful. I actually felt much worse after. I don’t tell her about these experiences anymore, I go and tell my friends and colleagues who will help pick me back up off the floor with reassurances (that people do in fact like me, for example. haha), and encourage me to keep at whatever it is I’m doing. Because that’s what I need when I hit a setback.

    I’m not saying this is the kind of mother that OP is, I just wanted to share this in case it’s helpful.

    1. Felicia*

      I think we have the same mother. I’d tell her about something that would make me a little upset/frustrated, and then she’d really internalize it and I felt her reaction was extreme. She tended towards anger to anything that upset me and would just go on and on (very loudly) about the injustice of it all. I don’t like extreme reactions and they made me feel worse, so I don’t tell her anything anymore because I knew she’d fly off the handle in what I felt was a disproportionate way if she did. Not saying the OP is necessarily like that, but it did make me think of my own mother and how she reacts to my problems as well.

    2. Tinker*

      Oh wow, yes — not so much with the career sort of thing, although that has happened, but my mother has “taken my side” several times with regard to my friends when something has happened in the relationship that has been frustrating or annoying or whatever.

      The catch is that she doesn’t interact with them, so there’s not the friendship or (in this case) the “human I’m actually talking to” to counterbalance the negative aspect that’s being related — the matter is 100% “bad thing that happened to my baby” and as such the person involved is to be completely condemned (and rejected from friendship, if applicable).

      It does often get better though — a lot of this sort of thing gets worn down through assertive repetition. I think it’s kind of a natural part of developing the “adult peer” relationship.

      1. Felicia*

        My mother is like that with everything, not just work stuff . That’s the main reason we no longer have meaningful conversations.

      2. E.R*

        I have to actually say, “I’ve already figured out how I’m going to deal with this , so please don’t stress about it, it will only make me feel bad. But in case you’re interested, (bad news).” Then I had to coach my sister on how to do this, too. Glad to know other folks deal with this , too!

  27. Vera*

    It could be a fit/culture issue. It didn’t matter how much training was needed for the new candidate. They brought someone in from another department because they wanted to shake things up a bit.

    In my current department, I *love* it when we interview and hire external candidates or people from other departments and am a huge fan of making sure we are not just handing positions to people where it seems obvious. There is a lot of “business as usual”- when someone new comes in they ask really important questions like… “Why?”. Why do we do it this way? Why did we let this agency go? Why don’t we have a tool to automate this? Without have someone asking these questions, business just keeps getting done the same way and sometimes without reason.

  28. Janis*

    I remember an interview, many years ago now, where the hiring manager was just THRILLED with me when I first walked in. She liked me, my resume, my experience…it was actually a little overwhelming. She spoke in a way that I could not help but think I had the job already. However, by the end of the hour, she had gone from that to completely non-committal, cool, and mentioning all the other candidates she had yet to talk to. Talk about confusing for a young(ish) person, esp. one who really wants a job!

    I can only assume that my interviewer realized she was being too effusive and reined herself in because I never heard from her again. Or she was a nut and I dodged a bullet.

    In any case, OP, people say all sorts of things in interviews due to nerves and poor judgment, and not just the interviewees.

    1. Celeste*

      I agree with this, and especially where interns are concerned. I think some people have a little bit of difficulty with how little interns are paid (if anything), and they feel that kind words are something they can offer that is of value. I’m not sure they make the connection that it can sound like a promise. For this reason, I totally get where the OP is coming from. A difficult job search has a ripple effect on the family of the job seeker.

  29. Anonathon*

    I totally agree with all this advice, but as someone who has been an intern and now manages interns, I want to add a quick note. Managers also should be mindful about how they discuss an intern’s future employment prospects. In many cases, said interns are recent grads and unaware of the realities of hiring. For example, don’t imply that great work at an internship could lead to a full-time position when your company doesn’t have that pipeline. During my intern days, my manager would periodically say, “Maybe we can do XYZ next year, and hopefully you’ll be here in a full-time capacity!” I now know that she meant that as a (very nice) compliment, not a promise. But I was young and new-ish to the working world, and I didn’t quite realize that a mid-sized nonprofit can’t just create a job for you because they like you. Now, I don’t think this exact thing happened to the OP’s daughter. But interns may read different things into our words/behavior than seasoned employees would, and I try to keep that in mind.

  30. BadPlanning*

    OP/OPs daughter may already know this, but the music/music ed majors that I went to school with all work several jobs. One is a music leader at several churches, one works at several schools and one works at one school but is involved every music activity at the school (pep, jazz, marching, etc). If she doesn’t already, has she looked into picking up some smaller gigs to round out both her resume and “go getter” skills? Teaching private lessons? Performance playing (doesn’t have to be big and fancy — could be dinner music at small weddings, singing at funerals/wedding services/etc)? Is she in any local music groups? Community choir or band? Theatre? Especially if she’s trained to direct — most bands and choirs need subs.

    1. Celeste*

      I like this advice, too. My daughter’s band teacher is always talking to them about how to make money in music. He worked weddings while he was in college and still does that, he has been in a band, and if he has interest in his off hours he can give lessons. However since he has the summers off he also picks up construction work.

      I think we have an idea that if we have a degree or two, we’ll have a 40 hour week M-F. But lots of people find they have a mix of ways to earn money with the skills they have.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Really great advice. Those seemingly small activities help to fill up an interview, too. Interviewers can pick up a lot of insight into a candidate.

  31. MusicNewsPolitics*

    I had a phone interview last Thursday and I thought it went well. Today, I get an email saying “While you have a strong background, we have decided to pursue other candidates whose skills more closely fit the requirements for this role.” Mind you, I have over 10+ years in Inside Sales working for major manufacturers and distributors and I know I have the skills. I have mainly worked for Fortune 500 companies my entire career. Oh well, I guess that’s life. I think they googled and saw that I am in my 50s.

    1. Colette*

      Or maybe they were looking for additional skills you don’t have / couldn’t demonstrate, or someone else had the skills you have, plus a couple more, or they don’t want to pay you what you were making at your last job, or you were rude to the receptionist, or ….

      Why are you choosing to believe that it’s something both outside your control and illegal?

      1. LQ*

        I would also say that this sounds like more work than most employers will do to reject someone on the first step. They might have had 10 candidates with exactly the skills required including the super rare piece of software that they just cannot take time to train someone in even if it is only 15 minutes.

        I’d guess they just had people who they thought were better qualified, I doubt they went through the trouble to google.

      2. some1*

        She probably didn’t speak to the receptionist since she just had a phone interview, but +1 to the rest of the sentiment. Even in this thread people are saying they have literally hundreds of applicants for some positions — instead of being of getting frustrated about not getting the job, be happy you made the cut for the phone screen and got interview practice.

  32. Allison*

    Job hunting is frustrating, and interviewing is frustrating, we all know this. I rarely do well getting jobs the “conventional” way (applying, going to interviews, competing against other candidates for one spot, etc.). I also see this frustration from a recruitment perspective, and I’ve seen it breed some serious resentment in long-term job hunters. I feel their pain, but the attitude of “the system sucks and I’ll never get a job because of THESE AWFUL PEOPLE” is really unattractive. It can come through in interviews, and if a hiring manager or recruiter looks someone up and sees it online, that negativity can be a huge turnoff. So if she’s posting or tweeting about her job hunt frustrations, she may want to shut it down or make her profile as private as possible.

    Futhermore, I’d suggest that sometimes hiring managers change their minds about what skills they want, how much experience they want, or how much they’re willing to pay. Or, maybe she was *this close* to getting a job as an external candidate, and someone referred their friend at the last minute who had an identical skillset. It’s not always fair, but referral candidates often get bonus points since someone in or close to the company is willing to vouch for them.

  33. Anne*

    No offense, OP, but this sounds like something my mom would write. And I would never ask my mom for career advice because she is woefully out of touch with the realities of the job market. I’ve been a recruiter and a hiring manager and much as we’d like to do the kid-glove treatment you are suggesting, the realities of volume and deadlines are far too heavy for this to happen. As a job seeker, I’ve learned to keep going relentlessly no matter what happens. Ego or sensitivity are not strengths here. It may also be worthwhile for her to do a mock interview and get feedback from a professional career counselor, perhaps at her alma mater.

  34. Cautionary tail*

    I’ve been on both sides of this:

    Job seeker: I have been so perfectly qualified for positions that it’s mind boggling. I’ve done the exact same role for a different company in the same industry in the same department and done so well that my work product was used by the vendor I worked with for them to show to prospective customers. People came from all over the world to see it. I wrote papers on the topic and presented those papers at technical conferences. A company posted for this exact position and I applied knowing they would be thrilled to get me.

    I couldn’t get any response at all from them. No thanks for applying, no phone screen, nothing. Three months later when they were still searching for a candidate I applied again, using my middle initial so it wouldn’t flag me as already in the system. Again nothing…ever. I let it drop and moved on and to this days scratch my head as to what could have happened.

    Hiring manager: As a hiring manager I had to abide by my company policy which was to only contact the people who would be phone screened, interviewed and hired. Nobody was to ever be contacted to say they were not selected to make it to phone screening, interview or successful candidate. One time I only interviewed two people and I was not allowed to contact the unsuccessful candidate to say they were not selected or to wish them well.

    1. LQ*

      When you were restricted to not communicating with unsuccessful candidates (which is a really awful restriction) did you communicate that to them in the interview? Like a I’ll follow up with you if you are selected for the next round? Or did you tell them you’d let them know and then not?

    2. nyxalinth*

      Oh god, yes! I know your pain. There’s a call center position here in Denver where we would be mutually awesome for each other. I have sent my resume in three times (they run an ad every few months instead of every few weeks, so as call centers go, they’re pretty damn good) and get blown off every time. I have every skill and experience they ask for. I write an awesome cover letter telling why I would be great for them without going overboard–in other words I try to use guidelines learned here. I tailor my resume. and not once have they ever called. What the hell are they looking for that I don’t have?

      I have no idea, but I finally took the point and quit sending them resume.

  35. Anon 1*

    I think one thing AAM’s answer addresses without directly saying, is that when there is silence or an unknown factor in a situation we tend to create a story to fill in the blanks. Whether its in our personal or professional lives, the unknown is scary and frustrating. When we are being evaluated and judged, its hard to not get a full explanation. Its only natural to try and answer those questions ourselves, but this is not always helpful, especially when we create a negative narrative. I find its better to try and not go down the rabbit hole of “what ifs.” Rather, as AAM suggested, ask for feed back or compartmentalize. Tell yourself that you did the best you could and it just wasn’t the right fit.

    I sympathize that the economy is hard, and job hunting is demoralizing. And I have to disagree with AAM on one point: hiring is never a crapshoot, but applying for jobs can be a roll of the dice. Applying for and getting a job is a delicate combination of being the right candidate, at the right time, with the right company. If any one of those factors are off, then you are back to the drawing board. But its important to remember that in order for all those things to line up, you always need to be your best. Its perfectly natural to feel discouraged, but try not to let that effect the effort you put into applying for jobs. Because at some point the right timing and company will come along, and you need to be at your best in order to be the right candidate.

    1. Colette*

      Applying for and getting a job is a delicate combination of being the right candidate, at the right time, with the right company. If any one of those factors are off, then you are back to the drawing board.

      This is so true. Most hiring managers make rational decisions, but you can’t tell from the outside what they really need, so you can’t tell whether you truly are qualified for the job.

  36. CarDen*

    I have the opportunity to interview a lot of individuals who are considered internal applicants. Many I know, many I don’t. Some I know personally, some professionally.

    The biggest mistake many of the internals make is assuming I 1. know exactly what their job is, and 2. know that one special thing in their work history that makes them different/perfect/etc.

    The best advice I can give to any internal applicants is to act as if it is NOT an internal interview. Explain duties in detail, don’t hesitate to explain things your interviewers may already know… take your queue from them on how detailed to be, but don’t just assume they know the answer to “Why should we hire you?” is “Because I already do this, and am excellent.” They might now realize it, because they don’t usually spend all day studying you.

  37. Seattle Writer Girl*

    “Sadly, what she is learning in this process is that doing a good job, being a good team player, being prepared for an interview, knowing people in the company, etc. mean nothing in the end. It’s all a complete crapshoot and the hiring people can pretty much say or do anything they want.”

    This is a lesson best learned now, rather than later….

    1. Sam*

      I have to disagree. Doing a good job, being a team player, being prepared, etc. are definitely important in getting the job, but they are not the only factors in the decision. It’s not a crapshoot, and “hiring people” have to take in to consideration other things as well, such as the strength of the overall candidate pool, what skills or experiences are needed to round out the overall team, hiring budgets, corporate policies (explicit or implicit) about internal vs. external preference for hiring, etc.
      Perhaps the daughter is a good chocolate teapot maker, but they have several people with this skillset, and hope to hire someone with some background in vanilla who can add a different perspective. Maybe the cinnamon coffeepot division is going through a reorganization and several of the qualified people there need to find new roles in the company, and were given preference in the teapot candidate pool. Far from a crapshoot, there are a lot of complicated decisions that are happening when hiring decisions are being made, and I think that’s a more important lesson to learn than “hiring decisions are based on the whims of idiots, so hard work doesn’t matter, it’s a crapshoot anyway”
      If you don’t work hard, present yourself well, etc. you won’t even be up for consideration for the hiring decisions, so all of that is still really important, but it’s just not a guarantee.

    2. Laura*

      I’d have to disagree, also. Like AAM said, managers likely tell you that because its true, but it doesn’t automatically mean you get the job.

      To use a relationship parallel, when your partner tells you “you’d make a great husband/wife”, that doesn’t mean they’re proposing marriage, but it also doesn’t mean the sentiment isn’t true.

  38. Snarkus Ariellius*

    When I was your daughter’s age, I went through something similar.  One example comes to mind.  I went through two intensive interviews for an entry-level job.  Along the way, everyone gave me positive feedback.  

    My last interview was with the CEO.  It lasted two minutes.  Her feedback to me should tell you why.

    “Thanks for coming in today.  I just wanted to let you know [pause] that we do have an internal candidate in the running for this position.”  [another pause while she cleaned her glasses]  “We’re required by our organization’s charter to always recruit externally for all positions so…[pause]…thanks for coming in today.”  She left the room without another word.

    I was just as frustrated as you are.  But I didn’t dwell, and I eventually did get hired.

    That incident not only allowed me to see that that organization wasn’t worth giving money to but I also tell a lot of people that story, not out of spite but more as an FYI.  If there are shady things going on, it will hurt them eventually.  Maybe not tomorrow but eventually.

    1. anon-2*

      Which re-inforces the point that some people are brought into interviews for some silly purpose – either to fulfill a dumb by-laws requirement — or, to set a standard “this guy is good, someone who we would want – let’s do better, he is the yardstick of comparison”, or merely for the amusement of the manager doing the eventual hiring.


    you can keep screening my comments if you want, but it doesn’t make it less true :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have no idea what this is in reference to. If you’re having trouble commenting, please email me and I’ll see if I can figure it out.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh wait, yes, I do. You’re the person who has shown up here and called people assholes and other names. That’s why your comments go to moderation, and that will continue.

        1. nyxalinth*

          That’s too bad, because as a elder scrolls fan, the name caught my eye. Bah!

        2. Chinook*

          Allison, I woudl like to kiss you (in a completely platonic, non-sexual harrassment way) but I don’t think that is appropriate workplace behaviour. Thank you for monitoring comments and still letting Zenithar’s comments through as long as they aren’t insults. You have made a nice balance.

  40. Chris*

    At CurrentJob we have a severe problem with employee morale at the moment; administration has a fun new habit of cutting FT jobs into PT jobs whenever someone leaves or moves up (hooray for not having to pay for affordable health insurance!). This is then exacerbated by frequent external hires for positions that are only slight “promotions” for lower level employees. That kind of thing, the implication that promotion will never, ever come, is toxic to the employees (I would be more upset, but I’m leaving in a few months). So I completely understand the frustration with dealing with internal positions, believe me.

    But, unlike like the recent Onion article talking about people walking into an office and demanding a job in the “good old days,” dealing with HR is kind of like sacrificing to a fickle god. It may work, it may not. It may be unfair, it may be loaded, it may be the worst thing ever devised by man. But it is what it is, and while venting can be good, this is what we have to deal with in this job market. So improve yourself, and your presentation of yourself, and keep applying. That’s all any of us can do.

    1. Lora*

      Can I just tell you how much I love this:

      “dealing with HR is kind of like sacrificing to a fickle god. It may work, it may not. It may be unfair, it may be loaded, it may be the worst thing ever devised by man.”

      I’m sending the hearts and livers of seven flawless white bulls in with my next resume. And a pound of frankincense. I will totally stand out, you guys!

      1. Chinook*

        “I’m sending the hearts and livers of seven flawless white bulls in with my next resume. And a pound of frankincense. I will totally stand out, you guys!”

        And just remeber that all burnt sacrifices go NEXT to the servers and NEVER on them!

  41. UniversityDrone*

    I work for a large university, and I have been both the candidate and also sat on hiring committees for various positions. I’d like to make a couple points about how my university (and I’d imagine others) does hiring:

    – all positions must be posted publicly, even if there are internal candidates who are going to move into that role. A number of candidates will be called in and interviewed, even if a viable internal candidate has already been selected. Departments often have their own hierarchy of people who are “in the pipeline” for certain positions.

    -internal candidates almost always have some amount of priority, especially if it would be a lateral move or promotion for that person. The only time I have seen positions filled by outside applicants were: very high level positions, very low level positions (where all internal candidates would be taking a step down or there was no one to promote), or new positions where no internal candidates fit the skill set required.

    – work study students do not count as university employees and are not considered internal candidates.

    – I supervise work study students, and while I have certainly had a few standouts, having held a work study position does not necessarily mean someone would be in a position to step into a full time role, even if that person was a solid performer. Work study positions are very different from full time positions, even if some of the work overlaps. I actually got my first staff job in the same department where I had held a work study position, and the training was definitely not “minimal” when I took the full-time position.

    A final note: university jobs are highly sought after, and it is not unusual to receive 50-100 applications for one position. While some certainly can be discarded immediately, the most recent position I helped hire for had at least seven very solid candidates, who all had resumes, skills, and experience that matched or exceeded what we were looking for. Someone who had only had a couple of internships or work study jobs would not have even been considered. This is not unusual for these kinds of jobs.

    Others in this thread have made great comments about university hiring, and I hope this sheds some light on these kinds of jobs and how not getting called back for an interview is not necessarily a reflection on the candidate or the institution, but rather a very tight job market with few positions that are highly sought after.

    1. Snarcus Aurelius*

      Here’s a question. If you already have an internal candidate in mind, then what’s the point in posting externally? I’ve never understood this requirement. Maybe that’s because I’ve been on the receiving end of filler interviews that do nothing but fill a quota. (See above.) It hurts because I take my time to prepare and study the employer, while the interview is checking his watch and doing the bare minimum.

      1. Anon.*

        My understanding, having worked at a large public university and in government positions, is that they need to be posted publicly and there typically needs to be a minimum number of candidates interviewed in an effort to be fair, even if there is someone that is pretty much a ringer for the job.

  42. fractal*

    I completely understand OP’s frustration. As in her daughter’s case, one can feel like they’re doing all the right things, checking off each item on the list, and therefore deserve to get the job. The reality of the current job market is that a lot of people are doing all the right things. Qualified applicants for a single entry-level jobs are in the triple digits. Strong candidates might be in the double digits. Instead of thinking, why did they reject me? It could be more helpful to think about why the candidates who are receiving the offers receive them. That’s not to say that the OP’s daughter should track down the hiring manager and demand some answers, but rather to follow AAM’s advice and reach out to past managers and find a mentor. In other words have someone with a fresh perspective offer pointers about how to make her candidacy stronger.
    Look, rejection stinks. We all know that. IMO it’s one of the worst feelings in the world because it makes you feel powerless and unworthy. But that’s if you allow it to make you feel powerless and unworthy. Wouldn’t it be so much better to view rejection as just another one of life’s ways of protecting you from unsuitable matches?

    1. Mrs. Lovett*

      Posting a job and going through interviews when the internal candidate has already been selected is one of my all-time pet peeves. I feel that it’s dishonest (because there is not in fact a job actually available to an outside candidate) disrespectful (because it puts people through the work of applying and interviewing with no chance of getting the job) and wastes everyone’s time and effort. At least let people know the score: say something like “strong internal candidates exist, but external candidates are also encouraged to apply to learn more about our organization.”

      1. anon-2*

        Yes, Mrs. Lovett — but you have to remember, sometimes people interview candidates for “insurance” reasons — and, sometimes, they do so strictly for their own amusement.

        I have been through a few of those myself … one clown manager seemed to have no interest in my professional skill set but only called me in “your resume is interesting, I just was curious to see what you are all about.”

        There was another guy who interviewed at least three candidates for a job — we were all external — and kept asking tech question after tech question until we flubbed one and then turned his nose up, icily. Funny thing is , I applied for a job years later – and heard his name called over the PA system — I picked up my resume and said “excuse me lady, I’m DEFINITELY in the wrong place…” and got the helouta there.

      2. fractal*

        I just don’t see how making that known would be useful at all. Here’s a better idea: stop interviewing external candidates when you have absolutely no intention of hiring them. Heck, that can apply to any kind of candidate. I’m sure these rules exist for good reasons, but too bad I can’t think of any.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Those rules exist because their intent is to ensure that hiring managers truly look for the best candidate, rather than just handing the job to someone already working for them. The problem, though, is that too often employers end up heeding the letter of the law but not its spirit — meaning that they just go through the motions even though they intend to hire the internal candidate — which is totally counter to what the rule is intended to do, is a huge waste of time for everyone involved, and is incredibly rude to other candidates.

  43. Laura*

    That happened to me all. the. time. when I was that age. I would get so, so frustrated the same way: “If I’m so educated/personable/great, then why won’t they hire me?!”

    My dad would tell me the same thing each time: you are great, but in a job market flooded with great post-grads like you, experience trumps all.

    Although I’m in a wildly different field, I 1) echo AAM and 2) advise your daughter to just keep trying. There are some employers willing (and cheap enough) to take on an untried grad, you just have to keep applying until one of them hires you. In the meantime, keep being a strong candidate.

  44. Suzanne*

    The OP here. Thanks for all your comments, most helpful, some the same old “well, she should have studied something else…”

    The daughter has been applying for mostly music/arts related admin jobs and she does have some experience through the arts organization where she interned, as well as another internship. She applied for the HR dept jobs at the request of her current HR supervisor, who also did mock interviews with her, which makes the decision not to hire more baffling to me. At least they interviewed her; the other gal who is currently in the department and did not get hired is a full time regular worker. I know things go on behind the scenes, but as someone who has spent many years in the world of work, I still don’t get why you wouldn’t hire at least one of the people who already know a good portion of the job. But that’s just me.

    She had planned on performing but had a bad bout of sickness earlier in the year which knocked her music studies flat right during audition season. All along the way in her music studies, she was urged to continue by her mentors, and she realizes that she needs to refocus at least for now. Few of the people making a living in music performance have “practical” degrees. Really, the music profession is no different than other professions. Those in the position of hiring will look at your credentials, and if it doesn’t contain tons of background in the field your trying to enter, they assume you aren’t serious about the profession and pass you over.

    She keeps trying and will eventually find something, hopefully. I still maintain, though, that landing a job really is pretty much a crap shoot. You show up prepared for a chocolate teapot company interview with all your chocolate and patterns, only to find out that you are expected to write a 500 word essay on the spot about the history of cocoa beans. How would you know?

    It’s often not logical, either. My son’s first job out of college was secured (his boss told him) mostly on the basis of a funny story he told. His degree got him past the computer application process, but beyond that, it was his story about a pie that got him the job. If somebody else had interviewed him that day, there may have been no job offer. So, you never know.

    As a job seeker, you can prepare, practice, network, and do anything else you can to get a heads up, but in the end, you really have no idea what the employer wants, they usually won’t really tell you, and you can only hope you are it, but with the bad economy, there is a very good chance you aren’t. As Chris above so aptly said: “dealing with HR is kind of like sacrificing to a fickle god. It may work, it may not.”

    So thanks everybody! I do recommend this blog to anyone I know who is job hunting. Most find it helpful, although scary (“is that REALLY how hiring people see the whole process?”) I’ve learned a lot from the proprietress and the commenters.

    1. music employee*

      I work in the music area, though I am not a performer, I am behind the scenes. Some honest advice from the type of person who would be potentially evaluating your daughter’s resume if she was applying for a music company/organization –

      If your daughter’s focus was mostly on performing, and she no longer wants to or can perform due to sickness, she’s really starting over in many ways. It may vary due to her specific degrees (what was the second one?) and talents, but generally employers who want someone with performance background want someone who can perform or at least teach a little bit. You’ll often see this with let’s say a job where you are hired as the program director at a children’s music nonprofit, but also may need to step in and teach a class on occasion, or interpret sheet music. If she can’t or doesn’t want to do that anymore, her performance background is not adding as much as you think it is to her candidacy. She may need to go back and take some more classes in arts administration or education and think about a different direction.

      Next, two internships is not enough when you are in the arts field. Fair or not is irrelevant, the reality is that many new graduates will have had at least one internship every year of school, as well as relevant extra-curricular activities – for music jobs I often see resumes with people who were involved with the college band, concert committee, wrote about music for the college newspaper, worked at the campus radio station, etc. I also would frequently see other volunteer type of experience with community charities outside of regular campus activities, such as a local music education charity. This is another area where I’d say her candidacy is not as strong as the other resumes I generally see.

      Next, you only mention an HR part time job as her work experience. While I like to see new grads who do have some work experience, I would not weigh what sounds like a work study job (I think?) as heavily as I would a more robust part time job, even something in retail or food service. Work study jobs are notoriously pretty low level in terms of hours and responsibility, and they are just simply not taken as seriously as other jobs. Has she worked over the summers? Again, this is a situation where she is just simply not as strong a candidate as my typical applicants.

      Surely you know that for every arts/music job opening, there are hundreds of applicants. If I were looking at your daughter’s resume versus the typical resumes I see, she would not make the final cut. So as far as music/arts jobs go, I think she needs to get some more experience on the paper.

      Also I just want to mention – just because I like an intern or recommend them for something or offer to do a mock interview with them does not mean that I will hire them for a particular job I may have open in my organization at that moment. Right now there is a student intern I have been mentoring, and I am not going to be hiring her for an opening I have because I want someone with more experience for this particular role. I will continue to recommend her to others, give her advice and help her when I can, but that does not put an obligation on me to hire her.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is good information. I have a couple friends with music degrees and I see what they have gone through. The field is wildly competitive. If you do not eat, drink, breathe, and sleep music you are going to have difficulty. And if you do eat, drink, breathe and sleep music, you still will have difficulty.

        From the stories I am hearing there is much more involved than what we have covered here. It’s intense in unforeseeable ways.

    2. Senses*

      Since you’re daughter works/worked in these organizations, did she ask for feedback after getting the rejection? Like you said, you can’t know exactly what companies are looking for while you’re interviewing, but you can try to get feedback afterwards, especially when you have a relationship with the people hiring. If patterns start to emerge, such insight could certainly be useful in future job hunting efforts.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      OP, Alison covered the logical side of the “crap shoot” scenario but there is one thing I wanted to mention. If your daughter sincerely believes that getting a job with a particular place is a crap shoot, the luck of the draw, etc, is that really a place she wants to work? Some companies/organizations are pretty crazy in how they operate, that is true. But a lot of places aren’t. If I thought a place was engaging in poor hiring practices then I would have serious doubts about wanting to work there. (I mean if hiring is slipshod, uh, what is going on the accounting department? Is accounting done half-baked, too? You get the idea.)

      I went through a tough spell in my life with employment. I was really down in the dumps.
      Several thoughts helped at that time. The common thread in all the apps was that I had chosen these places. This meant I had to ask myself if I needed to broaden my choices. Was I being too narrow in choosing where I applied? I challenged myself to apply for jobs that I had been rejecting without any consideration.

      And, as mentioned above, I had to ask myself about these employers that did not know how to hire (theoretically). Why was I pushing to get hired there if I thought that they had marginal skills in picking out employees? (I challenged my dual thinking.)
      And finally, I had to constantly refine and hone in on where my actual skills are. I applied for jobs that I prayed I would not get. What a waste of time. I started applying for jobs in the areas of my natural skills and abilities, as opposed to something that I would get into the swim of later on. This also meant sometimes I took on jobs with tasks that I did not care for but I could do the task well.

      I do understand the sensation that getting a job is just the luck of the moment. I also know for a fact that there have been a few jobs I applied for that I will be eternally grateful that I did NOT get the job. The person who got the job did not make out well with it, at all. So I would also suggest that not every rejection is a bad thing, but it takes time to find out why. Sometimes it takes years to find out why being turned down was not a bad thing.

  45. Student*

    I think you need to put some distance between yourself and your daughter’s job search. It’s great to be supportive of a difficult process, and that is someplace where you can make a meaningful contribution.

    It’s not helping to get so deeply involved in your daughter’s life that you are asking for job search advice on her behalf. She has to seek that information on her own, or it won’t make the same impact. Maybe you need to ask her to give you less detail about the process so that you don’t get as emotionally hooked into the job search, or maybe you have other coping options that will help you buffer yourself from her job search without disengaging from your daughter. You’re getting angry at people you don’t know over incidents you aren’t involved in, and that’s compromising your ability to help your daughter with what she really needs during a job search: emotional support, someone who will help her stay positive and keep trying.

  46. MM*

    I have supervised work studies over the years. Can feel the frustration with the parent’s frustration along with her daughter; but I wish to state something that she might not know. Things I have seen over the years that hinder a student when they leave college; or help. Many places will not require “professional” behavior of their student workers because they are doing minimum duties; that require minimum supervision in many aspects. I feel that this is the time to call students on poor work behaviors’ so that they do not keep doing something that has been accepted in the university setting. These are behaviors’ I will address with a student worker: are constantly late, some will pull a no-show, inappropriate dress, talking on the cell all the time, browsing on the internet, will ask the same question over & over; versus taking notes or looking for the answer for themselves on the internet (example: when is the next pay day ?– I direct them to the website), do not transfer or answer phone calls appropriately, use the office as their social hour, talking on the phone throughout their shift, will not pick up after themselves, loud, use of foul language, etc. Complain when I ask them to run an errand across campus, hint about using my car, unable to enter their hours worked into the system or turn their time card on time, play music, etc. If I have nothing for you to do; you are free to do your school work, play on the internet, or text on your cell phone. Use the time to your benefit, but work hours and not distract others in the office.

    I have had students that have done the following, and I have even written them excellent reference letters for employment and graduate school. They research on their own before coming to me with questions when the answer is on the school website. They are polite, neat, listen to answers to questions that I have given, than remembered the answer for future reference, ask if I have anything for them to do, volunteer to learn the filing system, how documents are processed when coming into the office, willing to switch hours if I need additional coverage on a different day. The big thing for me is the willingness to learn and now use my as their all purpose reference person. If a student proves to be trustworthy, self efficient, willing to learn, and take on more responsibilities’ … they will get a reference letter from me upon their graduation if not before.

    The HR department that the daughter worked for may have seen quite a few behaviors that they didn’t like. Instead of addressing them “they are just students.” They kept their mouth shut, and failed the young woman; because the behaviors’ they failed to address probably left a bad impression on her co-workers and/or supervisor.

    Right now I have a young woman that works for me that prefers to call me with a ? wanting me to look it up, versus looking it up for herself. Today I told her where to find it on the financial aid website; but she was like I am not good with computers. When she returns in the fall, I am going have a talk to her about that statement; and unwillingness or possibly intimated by computers. She needs to “drop that comment” from future conversations with me now.. before she it costs her a job when she leaves the university. That’s my role as a supervisor of work studies in the university setting… I am here to teach them how to be a good employee when they leave.

  47. Recent Grad*

    “Although we really like you, we just don’t know if we’ll be able to hire you.” This is implicit in any job interview that they like you. Assuming that you have the job because you know someone is a HUGE error.

    “They can say whatever they want” seems to mean that you would prefer if they did not react positively in the interviews towards your daughter? If they really like three people and think they’re all great fits, two of them are going to be disappointed. That’s just how hiring is. There is nothing misleading about being friendly or complimentary towards someone in an interview- it’s absolutely not on par with lying on a resume.

    Clearly they did not want the qualifications the people in the department had for this position, as they turned down three of them. If you try to see it from the hiring side, it might be a little less frustrating. It’s not a crapshoot- they’re trying hard to find exactly the right person out of the pool of applicants. You can only apply, try and do your best. And hey! At least she got a rejection email. Most places won’t do that.

  48. soitgoes*

    I have a music degree. I didn’t see any decent job prospects open up until I got my master’s in English (a bizarre fluke allowed me to be qualified for an English grad program). This woman is wondering why her daughter is losing jobs to people who are “less qualified” than she is. I gotta say, the person with a music degree is the less qualified person in most of these scenarios. And I say this as someone with a music degree! Someone who holds a music degree is really only qualified to teach music. If the daughter wants better job opportunities she needs to either embrace the notion of teaching and possibly get her master’s in education, or she needs to get a degree or certification in something else. A music degree looks really lousy if you’re not trying to get a music job.

    1. fractal*

      Hey, I wouldn’t jump to such conclusions re: “I gotta say, the person with a music degree is the less qualified person in most of these scenarios.” People say that all the time about anyone with a liberal arts degree and that’s simply not true. EXPERIENCE trumps everything. And I say this as someone who attended a school famous for its engineering program and witnessed a large percentage of my fellow graduates struggling to find jobs for months after graduating.

      As an aside, I think it’s refreshing that the OP hasn’t been trying to force her daughter into pursuing a master’s degree (at least by the looks of it). As if grad schools are jumping at the chance to accept applicants who are simply applying because of the crappy job market.

      1. soitgoes*

        This girl is trying to get office jobs even though her degree makes her look like a bad fit. Experience doesn’t matter much in these instances, especially if they’re internships. Unless you have a music degree too, you really don’t know what it’s like trying to get an entry-level job when your academic credentials make you look the opposite of committed to a 9-to-5 lifestyle.

        And it really is a mixed bag with the education vs. experience thing. I doubt Allison would tell use to lean too much on one side of that debate.

        1. fractal*

          Except she’s applying to admin positions, which rarely even require college degrees.

          “Unless you have a music degree too, you really don’t know what it’s like trying to get an entry-level job when your academic credentials make you look the opposite of committed to a 9-to-5 lifestyle.”
          Again, people might have the same view of liberal arts majors in general. But in most cases they don’t.

          “I doubt Allison would tell use to lean too much on one side of that debate.”
          You must be new around here.

            1. Felicia*

              Although admin positions probably don’t require a degree to actually do them, most that i’ve seen require a degree to actually get the job, according to the job description. Not any specific degree, just any degree. The job descriptions for admin jobs seem to place more emphasis on experience too. I mean it sucks that most seem to require 2-3 years experience, because how are you supposed to get that experience in the first place? But it’s way more about experience.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, I definitely don’t think the work requires a degree (which is something that I think about many jobs, not just admin ones) — I just meant that it’s not uncommon for employers to require degrees for admin roles.

  49. ADE*

    The one thing I’d add is that contribution to/attending events run by a professional organization (SHRM for HR?) could help this candidate stand out IF the field is. HR. Having contacts in a field is great. Making contributions to the field by volunteering to run events=also great. Attending lectures to learn about the industry, reading trade publications….

    … Whatever the chosen field, get some skin in the game and show commitment to learning more about *that* field. It’s the only thing that had differentiated me as an entry level candidate.

    1. Editor*

      In some areas, SHRM chapters seem to mostly do continuing education programs, and meetings with networking opportunities and general programs don’t seem to happen regularly. The opportunities offered by SHRM vary a lot by region, apparently.

  50. Saskiatt*

    Hi OP, I was in your daughter’s situation a few years ago and I vividly remember thinking and feeling the same things.

    I absolutely agree with Alison and others that you need to make sure the thoughts you wrote about, and the frustration and resentment don’t spill over into the job hunting process. But please don’t think that means you CAN’T think/feel this way (hello, we’re human!)

    If it helps (and I know this isn’t a ‘therapy’ blog, but I think techniques to help you keep going during this job market, and not let your frustrations ruin your chances, are very relevant!), I found the only way I could stay sane/optimistic during the job hunt nightmare, and not let my frustration/desperation spill into the actual job hunting process, was by having a safe space to get out that frustration.

    This became my ‘staying sane on the job hunt’ ritual that maybe you can help your daughter create:

    1. Find the right platform (a letter to Alison is not the right platform. I had my private journal, boxing class and a trusty friend that was willing to be part of this- perhaps you could be your daughter’s safe space?)

    2. Know that whatever you say or think during this vent doesn’t have to mean anything or be at all reasonable (and if venting to a friend, make sure they know that too – perhaps have an opener, “hey are you free for a vent?”) – it’s just a process that I had to do BEFORE I could look at the situation with any perspective.

    3. Vent. Rant. Uncensored (this is why it needs to be the right platform, and private!). Say all the Hiring Managers are idiots, they’ll be sorry, that you give up on the crapness that is the global job market, that clearly being a model employee counts for nothing these days, that you are going to shave your head and start your own cult because there’s no point in bothering when the whole world’s an imbecil.
    Ruminate on how worried you are you’ll never find a job and end up [insert whatever your worst nightmare is no matter how outlandish].
    Whatever comes to mind that feels true right then. Don’t analyse, make decisions, try to see the other point of view, or anything sensible. This is an adult tantrum, and it’s very important.
    If you’re doing this with someone, their job is pretty much to egg you on (“what jerks!”), but not interrupt you if you’re on a roll.

    4. Don’t stop until you feel done.

    5. Make a cup of tea.

    6. NOW start thinking constructively and with perspective – see Alison’s response! (and if you have a friend in the process, they can help here too. Alternatively, now is the time you write to Alison for advice.) What can you control in this situation? What might you be doing that’s stopping you from getting hired (or who might be able to help you figure that out? What can you do to improve your chances of being hired?

    7. Do that.

    8. Repeat as needed.

  51. MrO*

    Job searching is often a crap shoot. You get hired because they like your shoes or alma mater. They screen for basics: education, exp. and degree and then hire who they know, who they can pay least, who they liked most, who interviewed last. AAM is one opinion of someone who worked in the non-profit world, just like mine. Sometimes admitting we can’t be perfect enough or do more or jump higher is…..freeing. There are many factors we cannot control, look at your commute every day for example. Life like hiring, often makes no sense. Good luck.
    And I think it it is great you care about daughter and her career.

  52. JCC*

    Think of it this way — would your daughter have really been happy working at an office where the workplace culture considered all these things to be normal? Maybe not getting the position is for the best… would you be frustrated if she had applied for and been rejected from a position at Initech, the disfunctional company from the movie Office Space? :-)

    1. anon-2*

      I dunno… Peter Gibbons did OK, once he figured out the system at Initech… and managed to snow the Two Bobs…

  53. Anonymiss*

    And once more, it appears to be that it’s not us Millennials who are inherently self-absorbed and entitled… it’s our parents who think we are, and instill it in us by doing these kinds of disfavors to us. They are the ones who believe that their (only) spawn is so special, they deserve special treatment. And if there’s no one to keep said kid out of the clouds… we get your stereotypical trust-fund hipster.

  54. Chris*

    You’re doing your daughter a disservice by encouraging her to think that job searching is “a complete crapshoot.” That’s the kind of belief that leads people to put forward lackluster effort in job searching and make bad decisions for themselves. It’s not a crapshoot. I can tell you from the hiring side of things that not once have I seen a hiring decision made without thought and reason. If it looks like a crapshoot to you, it’s because you’re not privy to all the reasoning that’s going into the hiring decisions — but you not seeing that part of it doesn’t mean that the process is illogical or random.

    In fairness to the OP, the job hunt can be a huge crapshoot. Another way to put it; if you have zero power in the job hunt, the hiring process most certainly is a crapshoot. Look at it this way: a job hunter has to assume that 40 – 300 candidates are applying to the same position. Now, if you are a candidate with power (i.e. years of relevant work experience, someone that did something great (i.e. developed an algorithm to interface with STK 9 to generate a sequence of reentry orbital trajectories with respective delta V’s &, on day 1 of a project, developed a complex CFD code for a supersonic nozzle with a GUI, then had to TA 95% of the class in how to do that because the actual TA also had no idea how to do it either), you are going to have options [low Resume / interview rates, multiple offers]. If you are someone like that, then it’s a not a crapshoot; you don’t even need to be “good” at resume writing or need to know anyone special because everyone wants you. And if everyone wants you, you will be taking 1 of the 10 or whatever interview slots there are for each position you apply for, which means that 1 person other will not be taking that slot.

    Now, not everyone is going to be that guy above*, but that guy above makes things difficult for everyone else when he reenters the market simply because he’s going to get 1 interview slot every time he sends a resume. For people that aren’t that guy, you are going to have to compensate somehow, which means:

    – having a well-written resume (which, again, is difficult to do since, it turns out, there’s about a 2.5 – 1 split in career counselors / unemployment officers that have no idea how job hunting works vs those that do)
    – finding someway to compensate for lack of experience / talent if you can’t get any / weren’t born with any.

    [This is the part where you watch a video link of Dean Hardscrabble’s speech at the exam scene in Monsters University. ]

    But even then, doing all that raises your odds of getting the interview, but it’s no guarantee since people who have more natural talent and experience are going to be higher on the rung, and there’s no way as a candidate you can control how good everyone else is going in. What makes this even more unfortunate is that talent and experience are not only 2 of the most important credentials, but they are also 2 elements beyond candidates’ control if they have them or not. Talent is something you are born with. Experience, if you have none or little, someone has to give you.

    tl;dr: In all fairness to the OP, ff you have no experience and /or talent, then yes, it can be a crapshoot simply because, even if you have the best cover letter and best written resume of the 40 – 300 candidates, you cannot control the other candidates’ talent levels and experience (which, in my opinion, but based on what I’ve seen in my life, are the two most important criteria regarding who gets the interview and who doesn’t). If you are the guy who has both experience and talent, then it’s not a crapshoot since everyone wants you.

    *hell, our aerospace department had 60 Jrs, 60 Srs., (and 60 Jrs when we became Srs.),some grad students and 12 – 15 professors or so. I think he and the main CFD prof. were the only 2 people in the 2 years I was there that “knew” computers.


    is this how you quote? or
    is this how you quote?

    1. Jen RO*

      That is, blockquote tags :) Let’s see if this works:

  55. anon-2*

    “having a well-written resume (which, again, is difficult to do since, it turns out, there’s about a 2.5 – 1 split in career counselors / unemployment officers that have no idea how job hunting works vs those that do)”

    I just went through that, in helping a friend out — he was relying on the good people at the unemployment office to counsel him on his resume. They gave him a very bland, generic one, that did not highlight any of his relevant experience, but just that he was a computer programmer looking for opportunities.

    He also was applying for one job at a time, waiting, then applying for another… I advised him – you should have 10-20 applications out there at any given time….

    1. Vancouver Reader*

      And even if you think you have a good resume and cover letter, it depends on whether or not the HM agrees with your view of it.

      (I say this as Alison is reviewing my resume thinking dear god, I should’ve charged way more for my services).

  56. Suzanne*

    Yes, Vancouver Reader, resumes are something that I struggle with because it’s like taking a test for a class you never attended and aren’t even sure of the subject matter. Unless you have some very good inside information, you have no clue what the hiring people you are sending it to consider a good resume or cover letter, so it’s a crapshoot. You may have people look over your resume, critique it, change it, and whatever else, but the hiring person you send it to may only take resumes on green paper with italic font, and there is no way you could know that.

    1. Vancouver Reader*

      I always studied and memorized the wrong things for tests. That could be why I suck at resume writing as well.

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