is this job rejection a load of bull?

A reader writes:

I had a question about being rejected for a job. This is the first time I’ve encountered this rejection reason.

Basically, I had a phone screen with the HR person and she said she would share my details with the hiring manager to work out some times for a second phone interview and should get back to me by Tuesday with times (the interview was the Friday before). I asked it it was better for me to provide times instead, but she said no (I thought that was odd already).

I follow up with her Tuesday night and she gets back to me Thursday morning to tell me that she shared the details with the hiring manger and unfortunately, they are too far down the hiring process with other candidates to move forward with me.

To put it bluntly, this sounds like a load of crap to me.

Here is the email:

“Thanks for reaching out! I have shared the details of our conversation with our hiring manager, but unfortunately we’ve started to move forward with candidates who are a bit further down the road in the interview process than you. That said, if another BLANK role opens up, I’ll reach out to resume the process.

Best of luck in your search!”

Should I try connecting on LinkedIn? Any suggestions? I don’t want to burn any bridges but who knows, I might end up interviewing for the same company.

That doesn’t sound like BS to me.

That kind of thing happens. If they’re pretty far in the process with other candidates, the hiring manager may think she’s likely to make an offer to one of them, or simply that they have a sufficient number of strong candidates already in the interview pool. Sometimes the subtext of this is that looking at your materials, she doesn’t think you’re likely to be as strong as them, but sometimes it’s nothing more than “we’re already talking to plenty of strong people, and no more are needed.”

Or who knows, maybe the hiring manager looked at your materials and decided she wasn’t as enthused about you as the HR person had thought she would be.

There’s no way to know — but it also doesn’t matter. It’s not personal, and you shouldn’t agonize about what the “real” story is. As a job candidate, you can rarely be sure that you know the real story behind a rejection, no matter what form it comes in — but you also don’t need to, despite the fact that it would be awfully satisfying to know.

As for whether you should connect on LinkedIn, sure, if you feel like it. There’s no reason not to. You could also send a gracious note back thanking her for letting you know and reiterating that you’d love to be touch in the future.

But really, this kind of thing is pretty normal. I wouldn’t read anything into it beyond “it just didn’t work out this time.”

{ 78 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Manager

    I’ve had this happen many times as a recruiter unfortunately. Manager may either suddenly fall in love with a candidate while the recruiter is still sourcing, and the manager is gung-ho about moving forward with someone. This also happens when internal candidates pop up suddenly for a position that kind of puts a halt to an external search.

    1. some1

      It sounds like it would have been better for the recruiter to say she was recommending the LW for a second interview, instead of making it sound like the 2nd interview was in the bag. I can see why the LW is disappointed but I do believe the recruiter’s reason.

      1. GrumpyBoss

        I’ve been in the exact same situation as the LW, and I still think her reaction is over the top.

        At least she got a rejection. Show of hands, how many of us have had a conversation like this and never heard ANYTHING? I really don’t like the sense of entitlement in her letter, as if she is owed the truth (and the reason given may very well be the truth).

        1. BRR

          I also feel this could very well be the truth. There are some FALSE rejection letters out there. I’m not quite sure what the OP is hoping to get out of this.

        2. Anon Accountant

          Raises hand. I’ve heard this many times before and never heard back from the organization.

        3. some1

          Sorry, I meant I can see why she’s disappointed that she found out she wasn’t getting another interview after all, not that I can see why she’s disappointed by the reason.

          1. GrumpyBoss

            “We’re not interested in moving forward with you” = the truth.

            “But whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy not?” = entitled.

            1. BRR

              +1

              First, this could completely be the truth. It’s a lot of detail for a rejection. I feel like the OP is digging for something that might not be there. Second, does it really make that much of a difference. What if the reason was the hiring manager took a look and just wasn’t feeling it, does it make a difference?

            2. Cruella Da Boss

              THIS!!! And THIS!! And THIS TOO!!

              “Thank you for your interst in our company, but unfortunatly the job has been filled.” REALLY should be the ONLY explanation a company should have to give someone applying for a job.

          2. LBK

            Assuming that whatever explanation you’re provided with must be a lie because you’re such an amazing candidate that you couldn’t possibly have been passed over like this? That’s pretty damn entitled.

            And if you are presented with the “truth,” assuming that’s something other than what was explained, what’s the point? I don’t get the endgame with some of these questions. If you find out they rejected you because they hired the CEO’s daughter instead, what do you do? There’s no Hiring Superman you can call to fight injustice and give you the job. You just move on with your life and be glad you dodged the bullet of working for a poorly managed company.

            Stewing over a company’s assumed lies does you zero favors.

            1. AnonAnalyst

              Man, during my last job search I would have LOVED to have a Hiring Superman!

              OP – this explanation could absolutely be legit. This actually happened to me during my last job search; a recruiter found me on LinkedIn and called me about a position that they were already a month and a half into the hiring process for. I honestly have no idea why she was looking for other candidates, but the job sounded interesting so I went through a couple of rounds of interviews, only to be rejected for the candidate they were already pursuing when they reached out to me. I got the sense they were having a hard time figuring out who would be a good fit for the position (it was a new role) and were trying alternative approaches (meaning they interviewed me and were seriously considering my candidacy), but who knows. It’s impossible to tell from where you are whether they’re telling you the real reason. Your best bet is to take the message at face value and move on…although, I would connect with the recruiter on LinkedIn if you’re interested in pursuing other opportunities at that organization.

            2. Anon Accountant

              +1

              There have been times I’ve found job descriptions that I met every qualification and would’ve thought the job requirements had been custom-tailored to my background and received a job rejection. Or not been contacted for an interview at all.

              There have been 2 occasions where a much less qualified person was hired because they knew somebody in the right job with the organization. (In both cases I knew the people who were hired, knew their backgrounds and it was no secret that their relatives or close friends helped them get hired). Such is life though.

        4. Katie the Fed

          Let’s not dogpile on the LW for this though. Keep in mind she’s expressing her frustrations to a third party, not the organization, so she does have a clue :)

          And if she’s newish to the working world, some of this can come as a surprise. I agree that it’s normal to want an explanation, but the harsh reality is that you will rarely get a satisfactory one.

          1. De Minimis

            It’s just frustration, I’ve been there. It’ll be better if you just move on, although I have to admit I’m still bitter about a potential employer from years ago that flat out lied to me.

            It does seem like a weird rejection to me, but I guess they were still looking at applicants even though they were already interviewing. Or maybe the people who were further along were internal. You can drive yourself crazy worrying over this stuff, so it’s best to just let it go.

            1. some1

              If I had to guess, it sounds like the Hiring Manager already found her top pool of people and forgot to tell HR they can stop phone screens. If that’s true, the manager might not be a great communicator and the LW might have dodged a bullet.

              1. Kyrielle

                Or the hiring manager had three interviews the day HR did the phone screen, and after those three interviews the hiring manager told HR that they had sufficient candidates because they now did, and didn’t want to schedule any more interviews than were already on the calendar.

              2. PEBCAK

                This is the issue right here, IMO. The phrasing makes it sound like they wasted the OP’s time. I bet that’s not true, if the OP had been AMAZING they would have continued with her, but at face value, I could see why the OP is put off.

  2. Ash (the other one)

    Just be thankful she has told you now, before you get too deep into the process without a word. This is a much better scenario. I see no reason not to link to the HR person on LinkedIn at this point and then move on…

  3. some1

    It’s pretty standard that an employer would set the time of the phone interview, obviously with some flexibility if you’re not available for the time they propose.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      Yes. Its not up to you to offer times….they are fitting you into their schedule, not vice versa….its just the dynamic of interviews. Their convenience is more relevant than yours.

  4. Katie the Fed

    They don’t owe you an interview. I understand you’re disappointed but you’re wasting emotional energy on this. It just didn’t work out.

    1. BRR

      I think “wasting emotional energy” is a perfect way of describing this. In the world of job hunting this seems pretty polite. I feel like this is the equivalent of “they’re just not that into you.”

      1. ReenyGreen

        What does the fact that this single sentence dismissal is considered polite say about the employment process these days? The shrug-and-move-on attitude enables a culture of disrespect for the job-seeker/employee that I find very disturbing.

        1. Judy

          The company can only hire one person for the job. The company apparently got several/many applications. The company representative did phone interviews with some applicants. This OP was not chosen to do a phone interview with the hiring manager, even if HR said initially that the OP would be doing another phone interview. I’m not sure what more than a simple, “we’re not planning on continuing to talk to you about this position” is required.

        2. Katie the Fed

          What would you prefer? I’m asking a serious question. I have been on panels that had 400 applicants for one job. Anything beyond a simple “Thanks for your interest, but we’re moving forward with other candidates” risks:

          – taking a ridiculous amount of time
          – giving candidates false hope for their prospects in the future
          – giving them an opening to argue about your decision

          It’s just not worth it for the employer, and there’s little it would gain for the applicant.

  5. Chocolate Teapot

    From my own experience, I was once told there would be a second interview, then was informed there would not be because there were other, better, candidates. The only thing to do is put the application behind you and move on. And, yes, I know sometimes it can be hard.

    1. De Minimis

      I had one where I was told they’d do a second round, but then I got a letter in the mail saying I was one of the top three candidates but they hired someone else.

    2. Adonday Veeah

      Only once? Happened to me a lot during the year I was unemployed. And yes, the best (only) thing you can do is move on.

      1. Annonymouse

        When I’ve been rejected I allow myself 20 seconds of reaction:
        “What!? They DIDN’T want to hire me? Then one of the following:
        1) I’d be perfect! Their loss!
        2) I didn’t even want that job that much anyway. So thanks for doing me a favour.
        3) More qualified candidates? Yeah… Whatever.

        And then I file it in the rejected job pile and move on.

        Unless you really where perfectly suited and interviewed as well as genuinely interested in honest response when there’s was just “thanks but no thanks” then I don’t feel you are entitled to ask for feedback.

  6. BRR

    Touching on points in no particular order:
    -Scheduling an interview time. My experience has always been the company provides times then will work with your schedule.
    -Candidates need to stop following up if they don’t hear by a deadline. It’s needy and might end up hurting your chances. There are some exceptions but most of the time it’s going to annoy people.
    -I can totally see this as a legit reason. I’m one of the second round interviewers for a position. We have two great candidates. Candidates also had a first round with four different interviewers. If they brought someone else in, we would have to play catch up in order to consider the new candidate. Getting four people’s schedules to line up for an interview is tough and could take time, meantime we could lose two great candidates while we wait for an unknown to catch up.

    Be thankful somebody actually responded to you because most candidates never hear anything. Connect on LinkedIn if it will give you peace of mind and send an email thanking them for considering you and you hope to be in touch about future opportunities.

    1. Judy

      I guess I feel like candidates should be able to follow up, by email, once, at a time about a week after the deadline, to ask if the timing has changed.

      1. BRR

        I think part of it is situation dependent (as are most things here). In this case I would have given more time than the evening of the day they said (“by Tuesday” could mean either Monday or COB Tuesday). Just most of the time candidates follow up because they want to hear back from the company so they initiate the contact to achieve that contact or they don’t want the company to forget about them. With few exceptions, companies typically don’t forget if they like you.

        1. some1

          I think it’s also okay for a candidate to follow up if they have received another offer, but they just as or more interested in an offer from you. Of course this only makes sense to do at the final stages, and even then has to be handled with nuance.

        2. Kyrielle

          And if you make yourself unforgettable by following up too soon or too much – it’s not the right kind of unforgettable. I know there is a human instinct, often on display in small children, that bad attention is better than no attention – but that’s exactly the potential tradeoff there, if they were ignoring you, and that’s no good for your job search.

          1. BRR

            Exactly. If you’re following up after just sending in an application it’s going to rub people the wrong way. It might even take you out of the running when they would have other wise considered you.

    2. KimmieSue

      BRR – Agree with all points but one…candidates should follow-up if given a deadline. I’m a recruiter and I often tell candidates, I hope to have an update by Tuesday. If you haven’t heard from me by Wednesday, please don’t hesitate to follow-up with me directly. While I have the best of intentions to keep a candidate informed of their status in the process, like all busy people, sometimes my day gets away from me and I just don’t get to the follow-up.

      I will concede that some candidates go way overboard (like calling ten times on Wednesday but not leaving a message). I’m often on Webex or Skype calls and can’t pick up the desk phone. But I can see them calling, again and again and again. LOL

      1. BRR

        I completely agree with everything you said. I don’t think there’s a standard formula but candidates should give time between the deadline passing and following up. I think it’s partially because you never hear back from some places so when the employer misses a deadline the automatic response is they’ll never call me.

      2. LBK

        I think it’s slightly different for a recruiter vs. a hiring manager. This is basically your entire job, so communicating with candidates is a priority and one of your assumed responsibilities. Talking to every applicant who asks a question is absolutely not part of what a manager is expected to do.

      3. AnonyMouse

        Yeah, I think if a recruiter or hiring manager gives you a specific deadline for when they’ll be getting back in touch, it’s reasonable to give them a little time and then reach out to follow up. Not mandatory, but reasonable. I definitely wouldn’t hold it against someone if I told them I’d get back to them Tuesday and got a casual follow-up message from them sometime Wednesday or later.

  7. Adam

    I think this falls under the category of feeling like you did really well but weren’t moved forward. It’s frustrating as heck if you were excited about the position, but at least there was a firm no instead of ambiguous non-response.

  8. danr

    And don’t discount the line “That said, if another BLANK role opens up, I’ll reach out to resume the process.” They just might. Early in my career, one organization said this and repeatedly followed up with phone calls (the internet didn’t exist back then) about job openings that they felt I would be interested in interviewing for. I went to the interviews, wasn’t hired and didn’t worry about it.

    1. some1

      Absolutely. I got a job this way — interviewed, got passed over. A few months later the recruiter called and invited me to interview for the same position in another department, and I got that one.

      1. sitting duck

        This also just happened to me. I interviewed for a job I really wanted and was super excited about back in May. I didn’t get the job and was crushed but moved on. Two weeks ago I got an email asking if I was still looking for a job. I replied yes and they offered me the job on the spot. I start on Monday.
        So if you make a good impression there is actually a chance they will call you when another position opens up!
        I know its really had to let it go, I was lookin for a job for 3 years before I got this one, I have been through every frustrating situation you can think of. Once I was all set up for an interview that afternoon and I got an email in the morning that they had hired someone else that morning.
        Searching for a job is super frustrating and as the searcher unfortunately the ball is not as much in your court as you would like. Good luck in your search!

        1. some1

          Congratulations! It just goes to show that accepting rejections gracefully and thanking recruiters and managers for their time and consideration can & does pay off.

        2. Marcy

          This happens more than people think. I applied for a job with my current employer and was rejected. 8-9 months later they called and said the person they hired didn’t work out, would I please apply and interview for the position again. I did and was hired. That is the second time that has happened to me. Runner-up isn’t a bad place to be in- sometimes the chosen applicant doesn’t work out and if you took the rejection well, you may get another shot at it.

    2. the gold digger

      Exactly. My husband is quitting his job and found out that they might already have a replacement for him. His company was interviewing for Position A and found two really good candidates. They might offer my husband’s job to one of the Position A candidates because they like him so much.

  9. Lily in NYC

    I’m curious as to what LW thinks really happened. It’s not some big conspiracy – they just decided not to move forward with his/her candidacy. Sure, maybe they weren’t completely honest about being far along with another candidate, but it’s very common for hiring managers to fib a little so they don’t have to have an uncomfortable conversation.

    1. Sunflower

      Yeah I am getting this vibe as well. Does OP feel like the company knew they were going to hire the other candidate the whole time and her interview was a waste?

    2. Katie the Fed

      I will rarely tell someone the full reasons I went with someone else because they often take that as an invitation to argue. “Why did you go with another candidate?” is rarely asked in good faith – usually people want to argue.

      1. Sunflower

        I totally agree. And it kind of ruins it for the candidates who are genuinely interested in there is something they could or should be doing differently.

        1. Katie the Fed

          If someone strikes me as very sincere and wanting to learn what they can do to me more competitive in the future, I’ll help on that. Plus that makes it less “you suck in areas A, B and C” and more positive on the “here’s what you should do” front.

      2. KimmieSue

        Yep. Each time I have ignored my best practice and gut instinct AND actually gave more specific feedback, I regretted it. Lots of arguing from the candidate.

      3. Cruella Da Boss

        I have a simple form letter that basically says “Thank you but no thank you” and I leave it at that. I have had candidate’s MOTHER call asking why I chose another candidate who happened to be the friend of her child. And then she wanted to argue with my “I am not at liberty to discuss that with you. I also had the candidate that we did not choose call me every week FOR A FULL YEAR asking if “any other positions had opened up.”
        I’d rather not open myself or my company up for anything that can be misconstrued.

      4. Anon Accountant

        In my firm we use the standard line “we had a large pool of candidates but will keep your resume on file”. Or such lines. Do you use similar language? Sorry I’m nosy.

        1. Cruella Da Boss

          The “keep your resume on file” was part of the problem with the candidate that called for a year. Our verbiage is “Thank you for your interest in our company, however the position that you have applied for has been filled. Feel free to check our job line available at ##### for any future openings.”

          1. Anon Accountant

            Ooh. Thanks for the heads up. I’m going to suggest we reconsider what we tell candidates.

    3. some1

      I’m getting more of a naive/inexperienced with hiring processes vibe than necessarily paranoid &/or entitled, especially given that the LW thought it odd that she wouldn’t set the time of the next interview. Maybe she’s at the beginning of her career, or she had her last job for several years.

      1. AnonAnalyst

        Yeah, I got this sense as well, particularly from the suggestion that she send them some interview times. Maybe that is more common in the OP’s industry, but I would never think to expect that, as the candidate, it would be up to me to suggest possible interview times unless the recruiter or hiring manager asked me to do so.

  10. Sunflower

    Let this one go. Sending a thank you is a must (IMO), Connecting on LinkedIn is fine but you risk doing damage if you go any farther than that.

    This actually is not a terrible rejection. It seems like they liked you and, like they said, if another position pops up they’d like to speak to you again. I would send a thank you note and express your interest in interviewing if another position pops up.

    This seems like a pretty run of the mill, standard rejection and I don’t think anything sound particularly odd about it. I don’t think it’s weird they didn’t want you to give them times you are available- usually with interviews they give me a large time frame of when they’re available and I go from there.

  11. Stephanie

    Aw OP. This sucks, I know. I was supposed to have a final interview for a job and got the runaround on scheduling. The recruiter emailed me to say they were interviewing a candidate for a lower-level job in the same organization and if that person got and accepted an offer, they’d close the position I was interviewing for. It sucked, especially so since it was my first interview after I lost my job. All you can do is send a gracious thank-you and move on.

  12. Gwen

    Unfortunately, they are too far down the hiring process with other candidates to move forward with me.

    I think everyone here is giving great advice, but I would also like to point that this isn’t what the email said, and if you are framing it this way in your head, I could see how it sounds like BS to you. She didn’t say they couldn’t move forward with you BECAUSE they were too far into the process with other clients (ie; it’s totally out of our control, we just happen to be too far along, oh well, which feels like an abdication of responsibility on the part of the company); she said that they are further in the process with other candidates AND won’t be moving forward with you. Perhaps she didn’t realize they were so far along with other candidates, or maybe if your application was amazeballs stellar it would have allowed you to leapfrog in, but for whatever reason, they feel comfortable enough in their current candidates that they don’t feel the need to pull you into the process. (Full disclosure: I am a writer, so little word choice issues jump out at me!)

  13. You're Not Alone

    It seems like everyone on this site is being way to0 judgmental of OP. Searching for jobs is really stressful, and I think that it’s perfectly normal to feel disappointed and/or question a job rejection. That said, the job rejection is much nicer–and more personal–than I’ve received in the past. :)

  14. Haleyca

    I completely agree that OP should not be taking this so personally or dwelling on it so much. However, I don’t think the OP was necessarily wrong to ask about suggesting interview times. While it is definitely true that interviewers have more of the authority to determine the schedule, the interviewee’s input is required as well. In my resent job search many many of the interactions for scheduling interviews were some variation of this:

    Interviewer: We are conducting interviews next week. Please let us know when you are available
    Me: I am available Tuesday between 10 and 3, Wednesday at 4, and Thursday and Friday anytime afternoon.
    Interviewer: We would like to schedule your interview on Tuesday at 1. Please confirm that this works for you.
    Me: Yes, it works.

    This was usually happening on email and took a while to do. Therefore, I can see how it might be useful to suggest some times (a wide range of times) that would work for you within the general timeframe if an interviewer says “I’ll talk to Hiring Manager and set up a time for you to meet with her next week.” It would prevent some back and forth (that all has to go through the HR person), so I don’t know why everyone has such a problem with the idea.

    I do think it is strange to find it odd when HR declined the offer, because they obviously don’t need to take you up on it to save time, especially if they have a very complicated schedule to work out. And I do agree that OP is too worked up about this, but I think the suggestion about scheduling was fine (depending on how it was said).

  15. Ann O'Nemity

    I’m on a hiring committee that is literally doing this same thing to candidates right now.

    In my head, it’s working like a river. The first wave of applicants definitely has the advantage. We posted the job ad and it was like opening the flood gates! The HR manager has been helping with initial phone screening and sending any good candidates downstream for interviewing. We’ve already had several good interviews and there’s already more scheduled; it’s like we’re drowning! So we tell the HR manager to close the floodgates and stop scheduling more interviews. It sucks for the applicants who haven’t been allowed to advance because of timing and scheduling, but it’s not a conspiracy.

  16. afiendishthingy

    I don’t think the LW came across entitled – I got the impression it just seemed odd to her that they would say they would interview her and then suddenly be too far along with other candidates to see her. The email seemed believable to me especially since the initial phone screen was with the HR person who may not have had all the information. Sucks to get your hopes up, but there will be more jobs!

  17. AnonyMouse

    OP, I know this is annoying and unfortunately you’ll never know for sure whether it’s true or not. But just for your peace of mind, this definitely does happen. If they’re already at an advanced stage with a bunch of other strong candidates, they may not want to make those people wait for an answer so that they can set up an appointment with you. This happened to me once – I got referred by a friend for a phone interview for a position, and they gave me the phone interview because of the personal connection, but they were already doing in-person interviews and were up-front with me about the fact that I was probably too late to be seriously considered. I didn’t get the job and there were no hard feelings. The best thing you can do is send a gracious thank you, and connect with her on linkedin if you think it’s appropriate. That way if you do want to apply for another role later, you’ll hopefully have some goodwill built up already.

  18. Stargazer

    Once, a few years ago I actually found out why I was rejected for a job (my mother’s friend’s son was a recruiter at the company), and it wasn’t satisfying at all. I suppose it was in that I got closure, but the “if only’s” that took over my brain were torturous.

  19. OP

    OP here.

    Wow, you guys are more worked up on this than I am – I’ve already moved on once I sent my thank you letter. I just emailed Alison as I wanted to know if the rejection was legit or not as I’ve never gotten something like this before.

    The recruiter had told me on the phone that she wanted to set up time for me for a 2nd phone interview with the hiring manager. She needed to check in with their schedule and will get back to me early next week with times. Am I suppose to assume that doesn’t mean there will be a 2nd phone interview? Then, what exactly does that mean? Also, if I was to have another phone interview scheduled, then isn’t it smart of me to give my availability to streamline that process?

    This isn’t about entitlement, I don’t need answers to why you rejected me UNLESS I was really further down the hiring process and I felt strongly about the position. Any information to me is about growing as an individual – I’m interviewing for a more technical position. To me, there might be a scripting language I need to strengthen or work on in order to move into that industry; however, if they don’t respond back, then whatever. Move on. I’ll try to connect via LinkedIn, but if they don’t accept, whatever – I move on.

    Also, connecting on LinkedIn in standard for me to grow my network; however, I don’t just connect on random either. If I feel that I want to work for the company in the future, I’ll connect, especially if the conversation with the recruiter went really went.

    The whole purpose was to figure out if that was a legitimate reasoning as I’ve never gotten something like that before and it seemed like there was a lack of communication in their hiring process. If the req was closed, then don’t accept anymore applications – time is wasted between everyone.

  20. Dave Jones

    Such a double standard. You tell jobseekers not to lie but then defend a blatantly obvious lie simply because management told it.

    Disgraceful.

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