how to reject an internal job candidate

A reader writes:

I was just promoted at work, into a position that comes with an assistant. The hiring process for the assistant was already underway. I really like one of the candidates and I was ready to hire her. But at the last minute, the person who is temporarily in the assistant role applied. I like her, too, and she has done a good job. But she is out-competed by the other candidate, who has better technical skills and seems more adept with software. The other candidate is also much more personable and it is a job that involves a great deal of interaction with people; the internal candidate seems brusque until you get to know her. My preferred candidate also has relevant work experience that is not required, but is an asset to the job…we provide services to a particular group of people, and she was previously in that group, so she has a very good idea of how to deliver those services in the best way. She also generally seems more enthusiastic.

I hate that one of my first acts as a new manager is to turn down someone I work with, and the guilt is increased because I myself was promoted from within. But I think it is the right thing to do. Any points on turning down internal candidates for those of us with little experience?

You can read my answer to this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. janice*

    Great answer to the person whose staff member could no longer cover agree upon shifts because of a second job. I wish I’d had that answer when I was managing retail! Instead I kept accommodating people … I was not a good manager.

    1. kms1025*

      If this was an otherwise good employee, why penalize her? She seemed to have done the extra shifts for a short period of time (or am I mis-reading) and now she can’t. If she gets upset and quits, now you have to fill those extra shifts as well as any other work she was doing. We are small employers, so I know how frustrating it is to try and accomodate everyone’s schedules. But, the reality is if the person’s work is worth your effort, everyone is happier. If not, go ahead and take a hard line but you’ll probably have more scheduling to do as a result.

      1. Sunshine*

        I definitely see your point, the issue is the shifts that she’s trying to give up will then be left uncovered. So for those 2-3 shifts a month, the OP would have to hire someone else? Aside from the challenge of finding someone who would take that small number of hours, she’s adding an extra person to the payroll and more work for herself on the back end. Makes more sense to replace with one person who can take all the hours needed.

        1. nicolefromqueens*

          Still, she’d be making more work for herself by hiring someone new altogether.

          And I wonder whether or not this is a FT job, because to me it doesn’t sound like it. Working a PT job should be someone’s priority? When I had jobs like that, they were horrible places to work, and two of them were (and still are) straight up abusive.

          1. Charity*

            It might not be possible to find someone who would want to work every other weekend like that. It might even be easier to find someone who wants to work all of the other employee’s hours. I agree that accommodating people is often a good idea but sometimes it just isn’t, and it’s important to communicate that in a fair and respectful manner instead of bending over backwards and growing more and more resentful.

            Sometimes you just can’t make it work, and it’s not anyone’s fault.

      2. Chriama*

        I think a potential middle ground could be letter her know that you’ll need to hire someone to take those 2 shifts, and it means you’ll likely need to give some other shifts to the newbie. If the employee isn’t happy with that then they can choose to leave the job entirely, but maybe they’d be ok with half the shifts they currently had if it means they get to take that new job. But I understand that it can be harder to hire for 1 or 2 shifts than for 5 or 10, because nobody wants such sparse hours. Maybe you could also try asking the other employees if anyone wants to take it on. Maybe those 2 shifts could be rotated amongst 4 employees.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      But…it’s odd that the employee asked for those shifts previously, so how were they being covered before??

    3. Student*

      I’m wondering if she is the only employee being penalized for not being available those two shifts, while all the other eligible employees are also unavailable for those two shifts.

      Out of your employees, is she the correct one to terminate in order to hire someone who can cover those shifts? Or are you basically penalizing her for taking the lousy shifts temporarily and then changing her mind, but not penalizing anyone who never bothered to help out with the lousy shifts in the first place? It could be that she’s the only employee doing this function, or the most expendable of your shift-covering employees, but you should at least consider the broader issues.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. It seems lousy to have someone step up temporarily and then have that be their make or break requirement in perpetuity.

  2. 12345678910112 do do do*

    I once found out that I was rejected as an internal candidate when the hiring manager announced the imminent new hire’s name in a meeting. I had to work very hard to keep a straight and composed face during the meeting, and then when it was over I went to the bathroom and cried. I had interviewed and thought I had a really good chance. DO NOT DO THIS TO YOUR INTERNAL CANDIDATES. Very bad for morale.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        I agree. I once had my redundancy announced in a team meeting. It was a horrible workplace but this was big even by their standards. I thought I was going to throw up over the table.

    1. LQ*

      I’ve seen this happen when both the accepted and rejected person had this in the same room. And I think the person doing it thought it was The Right Way To Do It. Which just feels like an alternate universe.

    2. Wow....Just Wow*

      It happened to me too. Worse yet, the person who got the role was on my own team and was incredibly braggy the rest of the time she was there. Our area of the company was going through major changes at the time, and she kept saying things like, “OMG, I’m soooo glad I don’t have to worry about this stuff anymore! I’m getting out! Yay for me.”

      She was just a crummy person in general.

    3. M. S.*

      I got a call while I was home on vacation (not going anywhere).. During the beginning of it.. To tell me someone else got the position (that I’d been working at for 8+ months)…

      And the kicker ? I had to train the person.. (the 3rd time I had to train my supervisor in what we do).

      1. Colette*

        That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. If they were going to announce it at work, it’s considerate of them to tell you beforehand so that you don’t find out when you run into a colleague at the grocery store – and they can’t always wait a week before telling people.

    4. Msquared*

      The same thing happened to me, except I found out through an all-staff email. A month later, and the Friday before the new person was to start, the executive director called me into her office to tell me I hadn’t gotten the job – as if I didn’t already know!

    5. Witty Nickname*

      YES! For me, it was a job I pretty much knew I wouldn’t get (and would have turned down if offered), but it still stung a bit when a new person’s name tag went up on the shared desk in my cubicle and a director on my team saw it and told me it was the new person for that position. The hiring manager (who was in another state) didn’t call me until 2 weeks later.

      (Joke was on them though – the new person backed out the day they were supposed to start. This was during the recession or shortly after, and I believe they accepted the offer but it was a lower level than they were really looking for, and had been offered something better. They decided to move the position to the same location as the hiring manager after that and it took them a long time to find someone).

    6. NJ Anon*

      This happened to me years ago. I met with my supervisor afterwards and said, “really?” It wasn’t him who made the decision but he knew about it and could have warned me. Nice guy, lousy manager.

    7. Student*

      I had the same thing happen to me once. It was extremely demoralizing.

      I had the gall to complain about it. Big mistake. How dare I expect to be given some professional courtesy notification that a job I’d been promised (and partially fulfilling) for the last two years wasn’t going to me? Lesson learned – people who are discourteous professionally are also not open to feedback about how not to make your staff feel like trash. I didn’t even try to argue the point about my qualifications being far superior than the person who replaced me. I just wanted some courtesy notice, one-on-one, that I wasn’t getting the thing I’d been promised for a long time, instead of finding it out in a big meeting where I had to try really hard not to cry. An email would’ve been better than getting the in-meeting surprise.

    8. Soupspoon McGee*

      I found out I didn’t get interviewed for an internal position when they brought candidates through our office to tour and meet the staff. This, of course, violated internal policies because the hiring manager was supposed to talk to me (even if they chose not to interview). Luckily(?) their four top candidates all withdrew. It didn’t bother me that they chose someone else, since some of the candidates had great experience, but the person they hired did not.

    9. Artemesia*

      I found out when the person who did get the job (another internal candidate) called me and told me because she was concerned I would be resentful. I actually had mixed feelings about the position and it later was totally kneecapped by a new administration and her life was miserable in it — so I wasn’t heartbroken. BUT the person who got it thought I might be and wanted to make sure I wasn’t embarrassed by the announcement. The person doing the hiring never informed me they had chosen someone else. I always appreciated her sensitivity in giving me this heads up.

    10. Felicia*

      This happened to me too! I hate how it sounds like this is an epidemic. This is exactly the wrong way to reject an internal candidate

      1. Felicia*

        To add, it made me want to find a new job elsewhere even more because of handling it that way, so if you do it that way, you might loose your internal candidate from whatever job they are already doing

    11. PK*

      This vaguely happened to me, except that they TRIED to tell me but did it in such a way that I totally didn’t get it. They held a meeting with me telling me how much they valued me and asking what my future interests are. My brain did not translate this as “you didn’t get the internal job” because those words were never used.

      1. Kikishua*

        That actually happened to me – the other way round! Boss spent ages explaining why I didn’t have the right experience yet, and what a risk it would be. About 20 mins in he said something about when I would start, and that was the first I’d realised he’d given me the job! Fast forward 20+ years later at his retirement, and he was STILL saying “I took a big risk on you!”

    12. Stan*

      I had worked for a medium sized nonprofit for six years moving up from intern to assistant director. When my dept. director left, I served as the interim director for about 5 months. I had the best year-end review I had ever had with the organization. I applied for the permanent job and had two interviews (one with the ED, one with the board). Things went well. Then, 15 minutes before our gala/auction event (for which I was in charge of running check-in/check-out), the ED pulled me aside to tell me that I hadn’t gotten the job — they decided to go with an external candidate — and she had to let me know because they would be introducing the new director at the beginning of the gala.

      I had to work for hours that night and keep it together while watching the new director get congratulated over and over again. I couldn’t even take advantage of the open bar because I had to do all the money handling at check-out. Thankfully, I was able to find

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you’re outside the U.S. or using an ad blocker, Inc. may ask you to register in order to read more than one article there. That’s because they otherwise aren’t able to earn any revenue from those page views, which they’re of course dependent on (and which is what gets me paid!).

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      It asked me to at first (I’m in the US and do not use an ad blocker), but then I hit refresh and the article loaded just fine. Very weird!

  3. Laura from Tampa*

    I found out I was moving from an office to a cubicle via a group email that demanded all people who are moving get their stuff together before that Friday. My boss never approached me about it even though she knew those plans were in action 2 weeks in advance. It hurt my feelings. I’ve been a contractor with this company for 1 year and have never felt more like a contractor than I have them. Basically,”hey move your stuff because we need to make room for real employees under salary”.

  4. Daisy*

    I interviewed for a position at a previous company and found out I didn’t get it when the new person was brought around and introduced to everyone around me. She skipped my desk and wouldn’t look at me but I could hear it all happening. Don’t be that person.

    1. Vulcan social worker*

      I was the team leader though not management at my long-ago toxic job. Someone on my team told me that the director had offered her my position and she was deciding whether all the hassle and stress she had watched me handle over the previous year was worth the extra money she had been offered to do it. I did not cry in front of her. I also had a new job and had the joy of quitting five months later since I was only being removed from being team lead, not fired (which actually never did happen while I was still there and I wasn’t even put on a PIP though I did get a less than favorable evaluation that year).

  5. Generic Username*

    I was rejected for an internal position, but they phoned me up to a few days after the interview to say I interviewed well but that they offered it to someone with more experience in that position. No harm done and no hard feelings. (In fact, I think I dodged a bullet following some of the things I now hear about that department…)

    1. Artemesia*

      What they don’t get is that not getting the job is sometimes not as awful as not being properly informed. It is understandable that you don’t always win. It is not understandable that you be treated with such complete disrespect by the organization. Sometimes losing out means you should get another job e.g. the person who has been acting whatever and doing well and then is bypassed, but often it is a stretch and no harm no foul if you do’t get the promotion. But learning about it in a meeting or through a group email or having to infer when newguy moves in — that leaves people bitter and looking to move on.

  6. Bee Eye LL*

    I once applied for an internal position and wasn’t even granted an interview because they intended to hire the nephew of a higher up manager from another department. Less than a year later, I landed the same job at another employer making $10k more per year, so I guess things worked out.

  7. KimmieSue*

    For the internal candidate, I’d also suggest making some training & development goals. Be sure to suggest & support their efforts to improve (for example, if they want to take a course in the software – give them the time to do it)!

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I would often get applications from internal candidates for graphic design positions that had no real design background.

      One of the things I would do is sit down with the candidate and explain why they weren’t being given an interview, and then share with them some local resources to build out their portfolios.

  8. wanderer*

    I once applied for an internal job along with my co-worker (and others in different departments). I found out I didn’t get the job when my co-worker, whose desk was directly next to mine, received a phone call that I quickly came to realize was HR offering him the job. Of course when he hung up the phone it was obvious to him that I had heard his end of the conversation, and I very quickly had to compose myself and tell him congratulations and good luck. The rest of us got our PFO letters the following week. In my place of employment, we jokingly call the rejection letters ‘Please F#ck Off’ letters. Takes the sting off, I guess, if you can manage to have a chuckle about it….

  9. Recruit-o-rama*

    op#1- HR Departments should have a very specific process for internal candidates. Everyone who applies internally should either be interviewed (if they qualify) or they should have a career progression meeting. For me, as a Recruiter, I see not quite ready to promote internal applicants as part of our succession planning. If an employee expresses an interest in moving up in the company, the company should express an interest back. If the candidate needs improvement, they should be given specific, helpful and kind advice, feedback and guidance.

    OP#5- have you considered that it may actually be one of your references that is the firewall for you in this situation? I ask that sincerely- give some thought to who your references are and think about what they might say about you if asked nuanced questions.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I was so glad to see your “if they qualify” note. I have had some epic battles with our recruitment stuff on not interviewing really unqualified internal candidates.

      To me, it just seems cruel to grant someone an interview when they actually cannot do the job.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I have been around and around with some people on the topic of “courtesy interviews” when it is clear the person getting the “courtesy” of the interview is way under qualified compared to the external candidates and therefore has no chance of being hired. That’s not a courtesy – that’s wasting everyone’s time. A family member was on a hiring committee for an open position in a local government – they originally wanted to narrow the number of candidates they interviewed to 4, but there were 3 people that had to get courtesy interviews – so then the committee had to go round in circles about whether that meant they were still only doing 4 interviews (basically meaning they were only actually interviewing 1 person that they would actually want to hire!) or whether they would still bring in the 4 most qualified outside candidates, that were waaaaay more qualified than the 3 internal candidates or the ones with connections.

        Career progression meetings for internal candidates makes sense. Interviewing Bigwig’s brother-in-law’s neighbor’s cousin as a “courtesy” does not.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          It’s so crazy, how attached some companies get to the courtesy interview policy.

          I finally told our recruitment manager that inviting an unqualified candidate in for a courtesy interview was the equivalent to inviting someone to homecoming as a joke. They finally made a dispensation because I was hiring for “specialized” fields.

    2. Doriana Gray*

      I like the career progression meeting idea. Ideally, that would be happening throughout the year between the employee and their manager anyway, but if the employee is trying to branch out to something unrelated to what they’re currently doing and don’t quite match up to the other internal candidates and external candidates, then having HR and the hiring manager sit down with that person to give them some development goals would be a really nice gesture.

  10. Granite*

    I once found out I wasn’t moving forward when I was invited (in a group email) to come to the presentations of the finalists. I declined to attend.

  11. Oy*

    I once worked for a company as a contracted admin assistant and receptionist. A full time position finally opened up and I applied, as I had already been doing the job for nearly 2 years. They interviewed me 4 times, brought in a handful of outside candidates too (who I had to let in the door) and then made me wait 3 months to hear anything. The recruiter finally asked me to call him on a Friday afternoon (can you see where this is going yet?) and let me know I did not get the position. Which was fine, no hard feelings, other people are better candidates, it happens. What I didn’t expect is that my badge would stop working as I left the building. At home several hours later, I get a call from my agency saying my contract was cut. I called my supervisor and he had nothing useful to say so I hung up on him. Shittiest weekend ever.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      I am so sorry – this is horrible. :( Has your job life gotten better since? I can relate to the badge thing sadly…

    2. Snazzy Hat*

      Holy crow, I was not expecting that either. “You didn’t get that job. By the way, you no longer have this job.” You have my sympathy.

    3. Oy*

      Yeah… My situation is somewhat better, but not really. I was on unemployment for 6 months or so as I was finishing up my Master’s degree, so at least that freed me up to do an internship. I’m currently in another temp job, but even now – 10 months later – there still has been no action to bring me on full-time. So the search continues…

  12. Jill*

    I worked one place in my “younger and dumber” years. FOUR times I walked into my work area only to find out it was now someone else’s work area and my personal belongings had been boxed and moved to a new work area. None of these times did anyone bother to tell me I’d be moving or give me the chance to box my own things. I mean don’t you know at least a few days in advance when a new employee will start?

    In my current job, I’m a public servant. I found out I wasn’t the chosen candidate by reading it in our Board agenda – which is made public due to open records laws. So the entire City, essentially, knew someone else got my job before me. Crappy Boss tried to blame it on HR, the process, bla bla bla. Really, she should have told me herself but just didn’t like delivering bad news. Needless to say, I was really resentful and of course got off on a really bad foot with the new hire. Unprofessional on my part, I know. But OP, really, you need to soften the blow by telling your employee yourself and being candid about what she needs to work on in order to have a chance at a future opportunity. You don’t want her hurt feelings/anger to create a rift with your chosen candidate.

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      In my last job, both my boss and I traveled quite a bit. We five times discovered our desks had been assigned to other teams by showing up and seeing people sitting there… With our stuff shoved to the side.

      I also had to put a post-it on my monitor asking people not to steal it to set up non-IT-authorized dual display workstations, because it had a particular kind of connector and when it would go missing, IT or I would have to walk the floor looking for it.

  13. NJ Anon*

    #2 I had a similar issue. While I only had 2 direct reports I would say I supervised the entire organization when it came to money/finances! (Which was true.)

  14. Emmy*

    The one time I was rejected as an internal candidate, I knew it was a bit of a reach. My boss sat down with me, told me that they loved me but just needed someone with more experience, and committed to investing in my professional development so I could get that role when it opened up again. It was a little awkward, but made me feel so much better.

    1. Snazzy Hat*

      I had something similar when I was rejected. Gretchen’s position (in my department) was opening up, but it required several years of teapot lid making. I had experience in making teapots, not lids, so I was hesitant. Gretchen encouraged me to apply & assured me I’d be great at her job. After almost a month of no response at all from higher-ups, I asked her if she knew how things were progressing. She didn’t, and suggested I ask her supervisor, Karen. On a friday, Karen and I set up a meeting for monday afternoon to just talk about the status of my application & the hiring timeline. Monday morning, I received an e-mail from the department head, Cady, saying HR would not advance me to interviews because I had no experience in making lids, although Cady loved my teapots. I was disappointed that I wasn’t being given a chance, but understood that it was indeed my lack of lid-making experience that did me in. A couple of weeks later, there was an announcement that Gretchen’s replacement was Regina, a woman with over ten years of experience making teapot lids during her vast career in the teapot industry. I respectfully accepted my rejection at that point.

  15. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    When passing over an internal candidate – do – whatever you do – MAKE SURE that

    a) the internal candidate applying does not have the qualifications
    b) the internal candidate applying is not capable of learning the job quickly.

    I say b) — because many managers justify “going outside” if the internal candidate is only 80%, say, of what is needed. Can your internal person pick up the job requirements in a couple months?

    Then don’t play the pass-over dance. In decent economic times, the one passed over may leave and you’ve got TWO jobs to fill.

    And the external candidate may not be as qualified as her resume says she is. Another shockeroo. That happens quite a bit!
    What happens if the passed-over person decides to leave, but you need her to keep the ship afloat?
    And – if you do have to let the external candidate go, and the internal candidate is still around (and qualified, probably) — how do you mend that relationship?

    Do you eat a little humble pie and admit you made a mistake, and offer to fix it and offer her the slot this time?
    Do you just “go outside” again?

    Before you pass over an internal candidate , make sure you’re doing the right thing.

  16. Carolina*

    I was once rejected as an internal candidate, and I thought my company did it really, really well. The HR person called me and told me, very kindly, that I was a great candidate, they valued my work, but there was a better candidate. Then the hiring manager called and chatted with me about it.

    Then, the VP of the department met with me and told me they would find ways to advance my position in the coming year. I felt valued, actually, and came out of it feeling not terrible.

    A year later (last month), I was offered another internal promotion, one that is such a better fit for me. So, it can be handled well, I think.

  17. Min*

    I was one of four internal candidates and I was the one who got the job. Days later, after I had been given the go ahead to talk about it because everybody had been spoken to, I was answering a coworker’s question about the promotion when a voice behind me said, “I guess I didn’t get the job then?”

    It’s turned out that they had only told 3 of the 4 candidates. I felt about 2 inches tall when I turned around and saw the look on her face.

  18. SouthernBelle*

    As someone who has been the external candidate who received the position and then had to work with/manage the internal candidates who did not get the position, my only addition to the comments would be to be sure that if you’re the one rejected, you don’t take your frustration out on the new person.

  19. Something Clever*

    In my agency, nearly all management positions are from internal candidates, so you’d think that they’d have a good system down by now and that hiring managers would be sensitive about how they treated those not selected. Oh, how I wish. The first time I applied for a management position, I approached the hiring manager, who enthusiastically replied that I would be a great candidate. After a 2-month process, designed to be impartial, based on specific management anchors, etc,, all candidates found out by an all-office email (which is still typical). The person selected was someone with half the experience and who had no significant achievements in the organization. That isn’t the hardest part. The part that still sticks in my craw is that, when I asked the hiring manager for feedback, he tersely replied that I am “too edgy.” So it was a popularity contest, after all.

  20. G*

    This is click bait. This is the third time I’ve made this comment. I love your column, but this kind of thing (removing valid comments) makes you look bad.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      All you wrote was “click bait” — literally nothing more than those two words, so not really what I’d consider a valid comment — so I assumed it was a spam comment. I don’t understand what you mean if in fact it’s a legitimate comment — that it’s click bait to link to my articles on other sites? That’s not what click bait is; click bait is where content is sensationalized for the purpose of drawing traffic.

      I link to my articles on other sites and have for years. You’re free to pass them over if you don’t want to read them; other people choose to. I will continue to post them.

      For what it’s worth, I am getting more aggressive about simply removing comments that are rude or hostile to other people here, which is a reflection of my decreasing patience with that kind of thing.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        Disgruntled worker has a problem. You won’t *believe* what this manager tells her!

        Five Questions To Ask A Manager (I Totally Asked #3!)

        Dunce Caps? Dunce Caps! Seriously, *Dunce Caps.*

        When I heard THIS being crinkled loudly during a Chocolate Teapots conference call…

      2. G*

        I apologize for being more eloquent to start with. (I thought I was getting my point across, but obviously not! Sometimes I forget that this is the internet.)

        However, you are clickbaiting. It doesn’t have to be “sensationalized”; you’re setting this post up in a way to drive traffic elsewhere. You’re presenting a full question, but I have to go to another site for the answer. This is your site and you can do that, nor do I expect you to change because I’m speaking out about my displeasure. I also find it frustrating that the comments are hosted *here*. If I wanted to reread a question a commenter is specifically replying to, i can’t just scroll up: i have to change sites. It’s a minor thing, but I respect you and your site (and love your advice ) enough to voice my opinion.

        I wasn’t rude or hostile (short, maybe!) You should absolutely remove comments that are, but remember that it’s a fine line between removing what is truly offensive and what is simply negative. (Although you respond to the negative beautifully for the most part)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah, I think I understand better what you’re saying — thank you for elaborating!

          I post a link to my work on other sites nearly four to five days a week. That writing — and in many cases, being able to drive traffic to it — is part of how I earn a living, and in turn is part of how I support this site.

          Are the Inc. ones bothering you because they’re a full letter and then you get to the bottom expecting an answer and see that, ugh, you have to go to another site to read it? I totally get that if so. I don’t have a great solution to it because there’s no easy excerpt for me if I don’t do it this way. I hope that makes sense!

  21. Didididi*

    From my own experience, I think it’s important that you emphasize how the internal candidate is still valued (talk about a career path, be honest about why she didn’t get the role, talk about what she could do to increase her chances next time). Basically, she should feel like there are still places she can grow in your organisation, and that it’s not just lip-service.

    That said, I think there are exceptions to the rule: if your internal candidate is on a contract or part-time, generally competent, and is expressing interest in a permanent entry level role which can be picked up fairly easily or is something they are qualified for, and you hire someone external over them, I think you’re basically saying that you don’t value that employee — at all. Also, if this is the third+ time you’ve rejected someone, I think you need to be certain your external hire is worth losing your internal employee over.

    This happened to me a few jobs ago — I was working part time in a shitty job, but I was well regarded by my boss. A full time job shelving books in the college library came up (different department, but I was working with them on a daily basis) — it was permanent, minimum wage, and anyone could have done it. I didn’t get an interview, but they couldn’t find anyone they liked in the first round. They then asked me to participate in the 2nd round of interviews — but I was passed over. I was a bit demoralised, but I picked myself up. A job to run writing workshops opened up in the library — I was actually called and told to apply — and despite having taught English in Japan for three years, I was passed over. It was a big blow to my self esteem, and the fact that the external hire had a slightly better qualification wasn’t enough justification to hire him in my eyes — we were evenly matched more or less, and I was a known quantity…I was really angry.

    A few months later, one of the department heads organised a few hours of teaching for me because he’d thought I’d be good, and my own manager was great and shuffled around my main job hours. The same jerk who rejected me from the library then decided to go find an external candidate for reasons never explained to me, and I was left to go beg my manager for my hours back. There was another entry job after that from which I was rejected as well.

    At that point I realised something — four rejections for entry level roles meant that my workplace didn’t value me whatsoever, and no amount of ‘but you’re great’ could change my opinion. I ramped up my job search. Now I make more money than those roles ever offered, and I have a boss who gives me opportunities to grow when they come along. If he rejected me for a promotion, I know there would be some care involved with how he informed me.

  22. AthenaC*

    Re: #2 –

    I had a situation in an interview recently that may help you. Long story short, I was hired into a large international teapot production company right out of college before being laid off after 5 years. I ended up at a smaller teapot production company, and 3 years later I find that I really miss the more challenging, fast-paced large company environment. So on a whim I applied at a few of the large international teapot production companies – don’t know if you don’t try, right?

    During an interview with one of the companies, I began with a definite courtesy interview vibe. I had to break through an initial attitude of condescending dismissal and lots of questions like, “So what projects do you do NOW? How large are your teams NOW? What technical issues do you work on NOW?”

    And I’m thinking – uh, nothing exciting. That’s why I applied here.

    So to get past this wall, I chose to hear (and respond to) not the literal questions being asked but the subtext question of “Explain to me why you are qualified to work here.” To that end, I milked my small company experience for all it was worth and blended in some elements of my previous big company experience – elements that could plausibly have happened at a small company.

    I did get good feedback from the interview (success!) but I didn’t get an offer because of some internal shuffling that happened between when I applied and when I interviewed (oh well).

    So maybe something like that might help going forward.

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