can I ask for a second chance to interview if I feel like I didn’t get a fair shot?

A reader writes:

I have a question about an interview I had recently.

I applied for a position that I seem well-qualified for as a well-rounded potential employee. I was asked to set up a short 10-minute phone interview with a recruiter, and it went okay. Nothing good, nothing bad, the guy conducting it basically seemed to tell me details of the job more than asking questions about me. At the end of the interview, he said that my information would be forwarded to a hiring manager in 24-48 hours. I was so happy after I hung up the phone, only to open my email almost immediately after the interview ended and see that I had gotten a letter stating they are looking for other candidates.

I feel that I am a really good candidate for the job. Would be acceptable to try and find someone else to speak with and possibly get a second initial interview? This is a large Fortune 250 company, so I imagine it could get tricky trying to find the appropriate seniority of the hiring department. I literally cannot think of a single reason of why the guy wouldn’t want to forward me, as I have enough work experience, and education for the position, or why he would lie to me like that. I’m not the person to ever have complained, but I don’t really feel the phone screening was fair at all, as I didn’t really get a chance to talk about myself.

The job is still open. Should I update my resume some and reapply? Should I try to call the local site HR manager (as this was a national call center)? I’ve never asked for a second chance like this, and I’m uncertain of how to handle this.

Nope. The put you into a process that they believe works for them, and they decided not to move you forward.

It’s possible that their decision isn’t really about you at all and is just about having stronger candidates who they want to focus on. Keep in mind that whether you move forward in a hiring process isn’t just about whether you’re qualified and didn’t do anything to disqualify yourself; it’s also about how you compare to the other candidates they’re considering. You could be very good, but if other people are great, you’re probably not moving forward. Or, you could even be great, but if 15 other people are great too, they’re probably not going to interview all of you.

That said, I don’t want to mislead you and tell you that’s the only explanation. It is possible that it’s about an impression that you made in the phone interview. You noted that you didn’t get a chance to talk about yourself much, but there are ways to become a definite no in just a few minutes of conversation — such as if you seemed too low-energy, or unenthused about the job, or unprepared for the interview, or arrogant, or all sorts of other things that can move you straight to a rejection. And actually, your description of the interview as “nothing good, nothing bad” may be a clue — employers are usually looking for “great,” and if other candidates are wowing them, they’re not going to move forward the “nothing good, nothing bad” candidates.

Now, did the recruiter lie to you when he said that he’d send your information to the hiring manager in 24-48 hours? What’s most likely is that he said that on auto-pilot without thinking it through, and that when he hung up and processed the conversation, he realized that didn’t make sense to do. That’s pretty common in hiring, and so is thinking you’re going to advance someone in the process and then having stronger candidates come along and knock the person out of the running, or learning some key detail that changes your opinion (for example, the hiring manager might tell the recruiter “we realized the person we hire needs to be stronger in X than we originally thought” or “we now have two really great finalists, so at this point let’s only move forward new candidates who are unusually stellar”).

It’s frustrating when you feel like you’d be a great candidate for a job and don’t get a chance to demonstrate it. But you’ve got to remember that the employer knows far more about what they’re looking for than you do, and they know far more about what the other candidates are like. And as much as you might want them to give you what feels like a fair shot, they get to figure out the process that’s most effective for them.

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. Kyrielle*

    OP, I totally understand being disappointed, but please take Alison’s advice – move on to the next job opening, don’t stay focused on this one. This ship has sailed.

    Trying to follow up with them on this one will probably make you memorable, but not in a good way. And the fact that the job is still posted doesn’t mean much; some places keep jobs posted and refreshing until someone signs the paperwork (or after that, if the communication between the hiring manager and the person who handles job postings isn’t great).

    Step back, take a deep breath, and work on figuring out what (if anything!) you’d like to do differently the next time. This is useful whether “the next time” is another posting at the same company, or an entirely different posting.

      1. Joseph*

        There are also a fair number of companies which just keep a job posting open forever, in case they need someone X months from now. It’s also not unheard of for companies that are in a growth spurt to just leave a job posting open regardless, on the theory that they will always have room for a superstar since they’re continuing to grow.

        1. Honeybee*

          And some jobs simply forget to take them down! The job posting for my job was up for at least a month after I was hired; we weren’t hiring any more positions, but HR simply didn’t take it down and just let the ad expire.

    1. GH in SoCAl*

      [blockquote]Step back, take a deep breath, and work on figuring out what (if anything!) you’d like to do differently the next time. [/blockquote]

      This! You mention that you didn’t have much chance to talk about yourself or why you’d be a good fit for the job. I’ve had that happen to me, and after the fact I realized I really should have found a way to steer the conversation to give me a chance to explain my strengths, instead of just following the interviewer’s lead.

      This could be a turning point that you look back on later as the missed opportunity that made you better in your future phone interviews, and wound up being key to your future success.

        1. Honeybee*

          You gotta use the regular arrow-y tags > and < instead of the brackets. AAM uses regular HTML instead of the BBcode from messaging boards. I get them confused all the time!

  2. BRR*

    This is a time when it really helps if you have been on the other side of hiring. Hiring is sort of like grading on a curve in that your candidacy is largely relative on others’ qualifications. But it also could be they didn’t write their job positing well and so you didn’t match what they were actually looking for, that other candidates had connections, or the recruiter was dumped by someone with the same name an hour before your interview.

    1. Triangle Pose*

      “Your candidacy is largely relative on others’ qualifications.”

      This is so important to remember but when you’re searching, it’s nearly impossible to take this perspective.

    2. Glasskey*

      BRR, I came here to leave that exact same metaphor about being graded on a curve! Being graded on a curve for an ESSAY, I would add, meaning that even if you meet all the basic requirements, there are a multitude of subjective points that may tip the scales in your favor or not.

    3. Psychdoc*

      I also think of it like the olympics. You can be on the good edge of qualifying or medaling, until the person after you does better and knocks you down a slot. As you said, it doesn’t mean OP is bad, just that someone else is better.

  3. Ell*

    Yeah, I think the key to thinking about getting hired is that it’s not just about your qualifications or experience. It’s about how that experience stacks up against other candidates. You can be perfectly qualified for every single job requirement and a great fit interpersonally but that doesn’t mean you’ll get an interview or be hired.

    It’s frustrating as a job seeker for sure, but that’s the reality.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Twenty horses and their jockeys are set to run the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. All of them are qualified. Some are stronger contenders than the others, which is reflected in the odds. But it all comes down to what happens in a couple of minutes on that track.

      1. GH in SoCAl*

        +100! (For the hundred other perfectly fine horses and jockeys that won’t even be at the starting pole.)

  4. LQ*

    So I saw you mentioned this was a call center (not 100% sure but that it what it sounds like you were applying for a job at). A couple things. Your phone presence for a job at a call center is huge. What do you sound like, how do you come through, etc. The other thing that might be very big for a call center is schedule (see the earlier post today!) so if you answered that you were only available during times that wouldn’t work that might be it as well.

    1. irritable vowel*

      I think the LW meant that her phone interview was with someone at a national call center (ie. first-tier HR functionality) for this large company, not that the position she was interviewing for was at a call center.

      1. LQ*

        Yeah I’m not sure, but if it is a call center those things stand out pretty quickly and aren’t education or experience.
        If it is a outbound first tier HR thing then yes, that absolutely could just be standard scripted language, but it is still a rejection.

  5. College Career Counselor*

    I agree it’s frustrating when they tell you one thing (your info will be forwarded in 1-2 days, leading you to believe that you’re at least getting another review) and do another (rejecting you almost immediately after the phone call). Especially if you’re qualified. But Alison is right–it may not be about you; it could be about them and their process, the politics, the rest of the applicant pool, etc.

    Something similar happened to me a while back, and I expected to be contacted for a formal interview. Never got the call, and the organization went with candidates who were very much unlike me in terms of their experience, largely due to the influence of other stakeholders. Could I have walked in and done that job with very little acclimation period because of my knowledge and background? Yup. Turns out, they wanted to think outside the box that time around so they selected the non-obvious candidates.

    But, it is annoying to feel like you’ve been building your experience your whole career to be competitive and then feel like you’re not getting a shot. I wish you good luck–there are other opportunities out there.

  6. TootsNYC*

    Alison’s answer here is such a lovely example of why I love her blog so much! She could give the same answer in a short, cursory, or dismissive way.

    Instead, she takes advantage of the opportunity to educate our OP, to explain things that people with (I’m thinking) more experience have already thought out. And to do so with a great mix of realism and sympathy.

  7. Gandalf the Nude*

    As Jean-Luc Picard once said (/will someday say), “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.”

    And as Queen Elsa once sang, “Let it go!”

  8. TootsNYC*

    Another thought for our OP:

    “the guy conducting it basically seemed to tell me details of the job more than asking questions about me.”

    anytime this happens, it’s a bad sign.
    It can mean a few things, and none of them are good, from your point of view:
    It can mean they don’t much care about you, and are really only interviewing you because they sort of feel they need to.
    It can mean you haven’t been participating thoroughly enough, or giving good enough answers, for them to make it a conversation. They’ve floated a few questions, your answers were sort of cursory, or closed-ended, and they just give up trying to find out more about you.
    It can also mean that the interviewer is a crummy interviewer; that he (in your case; or she) doesn’t know enough about interviewing to do a good job. But that still doesn’t help you, because the interview is now a waste of time, or maybe worse, it’s tainted by his screw-up, or his feelings of not having done a good job.

    It’s a bad thing for a job candidate is to leave an interview thinking that they didn’t really get to talk much.

    So: Your takeaway

    Have stories to tell. Sit down and think about your job, your experiences. Where did you stand out, and why? Be ready to tell those stories; practice them int he shower. Figure out how to make the point quickly yet interestingly.

    Understand what your interviewer wants to see. Pretend to be her; imagine what the tasks of the job would be, and what sort of personality type would be good at them, what would be the hard parts of the job, and the easier parts.

    Then, look at your stories–do some of them match up? Can they match up if you tell them a little differently?

    And, if you’re stuck w/ an interviewer that doesn’t ask questions, then you should grab hold of the conversation, and MAKE it be about you.

    If nothing else, literally say: “I would imagine you’d want your admin support for these executives to be able to juggle priorities among them. I’ve been in the position of doing something similar, because I had to decide which was more important–answering the phones, or filling out the order forms. I was able to handle that by automating the order forms, so that they could be done quickly in between handling the phone calls.”

    Or, “If I could tell you a little bit about my skills and achievements now? I have strong skills in organization…”

    1. some1*

      Or it could be that they conducted most of the phone interviews already and were 99% decided who was moving on, but didn’t want to cancel the LW’s interview.

    2. Kate M*

      It’s not always necessarily a bad thing – I’ve had several phone screens where the HR/recruiter person reaches out and speaks mostly about what the job entails, a little about the company, salary, benefits, etc. Then they ask maybe some clarifying questions about my experience, and ask if I’m still interested in the job based on what they’ve told me. It seems that this is making sure that the applicant and company are aligned on what the job is, whether they’re in the same ballpark for salary, and whether it makes sense to move forward to an in person interview. Sometimes that’s just the way the first screening is set up – it’s more fact finding/clarifying rather than a traditional interview.

      1. some1*

        that’s a good point. I once had an impromptu phone interview/discussion that I (politely) ended once I found out the salary was much lower than I could accept.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah I was also thinking this was a phone screen rather than interview but it sounds as if the Op didn’t get a chance to speak about herself at all. I think this was a bad or inexperienced interviewer.

    3. Ms. Didymus*

      I cannot disagree more. This is how we conduct our first rounds.

      Because we are in a field where a lot of people have (we’ll call it) strong disagreements about the work we do, I tend to talk more than they do in the 1st round. This gives me valuable details on how they react to information about the company, our industry and work.

      I let others do the questioning and I ask question in Round 2. It has worked incredibly well for me. It isn’t always a bad sign.

        1. Annonymouse*

          Let’s say they work for a gum manufacturer. Their products are shipped around the world and used every day for their intended means and you working here would help in their continued growth and success.

          Knowing that, would you still be interested in working for them?

          Yeah… I think how someone reacts to that would tell you enough.

      1. TootsNYC*

        And note that I didn’t say the interviewee should do all the talking. But they shouldn’t walk away from it thinking that they really didn’t say anything.

  9. Engineer Girl*

    One problem with being the candidate is that you really don’t know what the company needs. You’re going in blind so can’t really ever know what they really want. Only the hiring manager knows for sure.
    I once made a statement that getting hired is like the Olympics. Only one person gets the gold, even if the others are world class and best of the best.

    1. Gabriela*

      That’s a really great analogy. I have had a handful of interviews in my life where I thought, “yep, killed it- that job was made for me” only to lose out to someone who I recognized as also really fantastic.

  10. The Engineer*

    Sometimes I hate that HR/recruiting people are doing the pre screening. As an engineer, I have witnessed a HR person saying that a candidate bombed the interview as they said um a lot and was ultra nervous. They were willing to write this person off but they ended up getting hired after a few of us vouched for him and his work (he worked for a contracting company that had done projects for us). HR types tend to be people persons, friendly, more out going while engineers not so much. I think a lot of candidates (who would do a way better job) get rejected just because they are not as bubbly and outgoing.

    1. TootsNYC*

      It is really something that sets good HR recruiters apart–that they are able to look into skills, and not stick w/ some generic “perkiness” quotient.

      (Of course, someone who’s ultra annoying? I’m glad HR screened them out!)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — and it’s really, really incumbent upon the actual hiring manager (the person who will be managing the new hire) to push back on HR if they’re sensing that HR isn’t extremely tightly aligned with what the hiring manager wants/needs. I realize some organizations make that harder than others, but too often people don’t push on it enough.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I had an issue with our internal recruitment team pushing too many candidates through to me and getting frustrated when I refused to do an interview. All it took was a 15-minute phone call where we shared and *really* listened to each other reasons, for us to come together for the search.

          It really pushed me to think outside the silo of job duty with each hire. Because all of my posts go out under one generic title (writer or designer), I have found sending her an email with a little more detail ahead of time really helps us work better together on searches.

    2. hayling*

      The other problem, especially at a large organization, is that HR often doesn’t know a lot of the details of the job past what’s in the job description.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      HR is utterly unqualified to hire engineers. They can’t know what makes a great engineer. Only a technical person can really filter on qualifications.
      We had to push back hard on our HR people. They wanted to filter out a candidate that only had a 2.7 GPA (unqualified!) They failed to see that the candidate was married, supporting a wife and kid while in school, and working 40 hours a week while they were in school. Well, yes, that does affect the GPA. They also ignored the fact that the guy had been left in the lead position installing some new technology overseas. Hmm, if his old company trusted him to do an installation overseas then maybe the guy had some qualifications? But HR filtered on GPA only because that’s all they understood.
      HR should stick to what they understand. By all means check to see if the required salary and education requirements are there. But please leave the decision on job qualifications for the people that actually understand the job!

      1. Engineer Girl*

        BTW, This particular candidate was a minority from a working class background. Just the kind of person you want to improve your diversity. HR used GPA and School (preferably upper tier) as their main filter. By making this kind of distinction HR was actually biasing the hires for white middle class.
        My manager fought for the candidate and he was hired. The candidate ended up in management in our company after we got him into one of our fast track programs.

        1. Juli G.*

          That’s so funny! I do HR in a STEM field and have the exact same issue, with hiring managers not looking at some of the nuisances of a candidate’s background and dismissing a candidate based on school and GPA. I always have a hard time pushing because I know I’m less qualified to make a technical assessment but I feel like their filter is too narrow.

          We would probably team well together!

      2. CMT*

        I don’t see how in this example family status affects school performance but wouldn’t affect job performance? That doesn’t make sense.

        1. Juli G.*

          I think that he would no longer be going to school while working. So one less thing on his plate.

        2. Undine*

          He was also working another job at the time, so that would have a huge effect. In addition, some engineering schools, particularly public schools (as opposed to private universities) are very low graders, with C really being about average.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            This. Grade inflation is much more prevalent in private schools. So you can’t compare GPA only.

        3. Duncan*

          The point (as I see it) was this individual had significant responsibilities outside of school, including family and employment obligations, so a case could be made that their GPA should not be expected to be as stellar as someone that may not have a family to tend to at home or may not be working full time (or may not be doing both at the same time.) Family and job likely take priority.

        4. Engineer Girl*

          Because going to school AND managing a family AND working at the same time would affect the GPA. When the candidate was hired they only had to focus on their job and family. So if a candidate does OK in a double work load situation they should do very well under a single work load.
          Most privileged kids are single and only have to focus on getting through school. They only have to worry about themselves. It’s pretty easy to get a good GPA under those conditions. The candidate still had acceptable grades even with a severe handicap. On a level playing field they could (and did) outperform the privileged candidates that never had to face adversity.

        5. Anna*

          Either way, it shouldn’t matter because that is a bad way to make a hiring decision.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Anna, the decision isn’t based on family status. It is based on the fact that the candidate could handle 3 high priority and competing issues at the same time. Family status was ancillary to the actual situation.

      3. Recruit-o-Rama*

        Is its every single HR employee who is “utterly unqualified” or just the ones that you personally know?

        1. Juli G.*

          To be fair, she said “utterly under qualified to hire engineers”. I would say “alone”. I think we HR people can add some pretty valuable insight, especially if the idea is to hire someone who may not be on a 100% technical track but I’m not able to assess someone on their technical skills alone because I have no training and little exposure to those skills.

          1. Recruit-o-Rama*

            Ok, is it every single HR person who is “utterly unqualified to hire engineers” of just the ones she personally knows?

            1. Juli G.*

              As an HR professional, you feel qualified to hire engineers completely on your own? Because I don’t and I don’t know many HR pros that do.

              1. Recruit-o-Rama*

                HR shouldn’t be hiring anyone for any position in a vacuum. what I can do as a recruiter when I am hiring for a technical positions is to work very closely with the hiring manager to understand what technical competencies are the most important and screen for those things and provide a list of potential hires. The hiring manager can then conduct their interviews and assessments and make a decision.

      4. Michele*

        My dad had the same example. A well-qualified IT candidate submitted his resume through HR for an opening at his company. HR received it, but never followed up on it. Their reason: despite his extensive work experience and software knowledge, he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. From then on, my dad had to ask HR to forward all the resumes to him for consideration on how to call in.

        1. Recruit-o-Rama*

          For every anecdote a person can tell of a missed candidate, I can tell equally frustrating stories about hiring managers who have made bad decisions.

          No hiring process is perfect; good candidates are missed all the time at many levels for many reasons. Bad fits are brought onboard all the time too. There are many things I don’t know about the jobs I hire for. There are an equal number of things that hiring managers don’t know about “how” to hire. HR and department managers should work together in a partnership to fill their vacant positions. The “us vs them” attitude is, frankly, “utterly” unhelpful and a huge part of the problem.

          There is a general (and accepted) attitude that HR is pretty useless particularly among hard science types and I find it insulting, having dedicated my entire professional career to HR and recruiting. YMMV.

          1. Christina*

            +100. Very well said.

            The partnership is so, so important. Its easy to say that HR is to blame, but the responsibility lies both with HR and the Hiring Manager. When they are able to effectively partner together it can be a great thing!

            1. Recruit-o-rama*

              Absolutely; our team provides interview training to our new managers. One of the best exercises conducted is when the newly minted hiring manager and their assigned recruiter sit down together and talk about the job and create both the screening process for the initial recruiter sourcing part of the process and the interview form that the hiring manager will use to provide feedback from the interviews back to the recruiter.

              In this way, we are aligned. We all sometimes still miss good candidates despite this. However, our retention rate in the last two years since we’ve started doing this has increased double digits, in all departments.

              1. Christina*

                Wow, that is excellent! A great example of partnering.

                I agree- we may sometimes miss good candidates, but those initial conversations with the hiring manager make all the difference. HR *does* add value to the process. Are all HR teams good at this? Heck no, but i would like to think that most of us are trying to continually improve and welcome feedback from our internal partners.

            2. Engineer Girl*

              I agree that it absolutely must be a partnership. I think that there is some Dunning Krueger going on that HR doesn’t know what they don’t know when it comes to technical things. That’s what drives the hard science people crazy. What I see happening many times is that HR filters on technical competencies when they really don’t understand the competencies. They filter incorrectly or give weighting to the wrong things (like GPA or degree). It isn’t a matter of missing some hires. It is a matter of missing superstar hires. Under the IT Michelle gave, HR would have rejected Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg as “unqualified” for IT.
              I do believe that HR is highly useful for admin type things like training how to interview, how to negotiate, what the company can/can’t do with salary bands, how benefits are actually administered, what needs to happen to stay within the law, etc. They should not do technical assessments.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                BTW, the reason I’m fussing on good hire Vs great hire is the productivity factor. In software engineering a great software engineer is 10 times more productive than an average software engineer. That’s a huge difference! Filtering out the wrong people has drastic consequences.

                1. Recruit-o-Rama*

                  I understand. However, if HR is just willly nilly screening candidates out, there is no relationship between the departments and the process is broken. With confidence, I can say that my technical hiring managers have trust in my screening process and I am certainly qualified to do my part of the hiring process. If I run into a hiring manager who just doesn’t trust me, it is incumbent on me to work on that relationship but if they refuse to meet me halfway and declare me utterly unqualified, the fault lies with them. Unfortunaeately, this can frequently happen when people are unwilling to be respectful of their colleagues skills and expertise. It works both ways though.

  11. BetsyTacy*

    I really feel for the letter writer here. Things happen and often you’ll get no explaination ever for why things turned out differently than you expected.

    I, like many, recall having a great phone interview for a job right out of grad school. It went so well that I was forwarded to a second, in person interview, which ended up being an HR rep doing a pretty basic interview. The program staff who had interviewed me by phone excitedly came down and met with me. They asked about my availability for another interview with the big big boss who was out of town that day. I happily gave them that info and awaited the promised scheduling phone call. The next day, I got a form rejection letter via email. I was crushed, but just tried to take it in stride.

    Two weeks later, they re-posted the job. I sent a very polite email saying I had enjoyed my interview process and learning more about the Teapot Education project and was wondering if this was a new position or the same, and if my application would be reconsidered or if I should submit a new application. I never received any response. Ever. To this day, I have no idea what happened.

    Learn from me. Let it go (this took me too long, probably) and move forward.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      You know, I’ve learned those rejections sometimes go out accidentally, but it’s odd no response. Could be they knew the app system messed up but they had already moved forward with someone else and didn’t want to admit it.

      1. BetsyTacy*

        I thought of that, but then realized that it was on them to call and schedule another interview anyway.

        I’m fairly sure that they were somehow convinced they could get someone with a teaching license, a master’s in public health, 10 years of experience, and willing to travel for mostly evening events 4 nights a week by car in a large state for $25,000/year. I had 2/4 and was willing to work for $30,000. Luckily I’ve moved on to better things, including moving into a more lucrative segment of my field.

    2. MK*

      My best guess would be that the staff member was very excited about you and offered the interview without input from the boss, and was later too embarrassed to explain.

      1. BetsyTacy*

        Sounds very reasonable. It was a small, grant funded program who employed a director, two central/core staff and looking to hire an education/outreach professional. The ‘staff’ that came down to meet me were the two central/core employees. Like I said, I think they really just misjudged what they could get for the salary they were offering.

        Also on this job-search (a terrible, terrible one). I had a director of a small non-profit interview me 2 times and talk with me about when I would meet with the board, etc. One day, she just stopped corresponding. I continued contact for a while and then again let it go. I found out a year later that she (early 40’s, 3 very young kids) was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer and basically had been diagnosed on a Tuesday and by Thursday was across the country for treatment. Never have I been so glad karma-wise that I gave her the benefit of the doubt!

        To readers: Sometimes, the interview process just doesn’t make sense.

  12. Original Poster Here*

    I submitted this question two weeks ago, so an update of what has happened since then,

    It really bothered me about how I was handled during the interview. It took a while to actually find how to contact the correct office, I kept getting bounced back and for to national and regional offices. I finally get with the correct office and asked for a manager, as I felt like I had issues with the recruiter and it helped! The recruiter has been having a high number of complaints in the recent months. On the initial phone interview I could tell that he did not read my resume, and also didn’t listen to my responses, and I honestly don’t think he had a clue to what some of my past experiences even where. The manager said sorry, asked me various questions about the experience. She didn’t set me up with another phone interview, but went straight to a face to face scheduled for next week. If I get the job or not is another question, but I thought it was pathetic to not even be considered after a lousy phone interview given my qualifations.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Agggh, and here we have proof that there are no absolutes in job searching or hiring.

      I think this is tremendously frustrating for candidates — here I am telling them not to bother doing this and it will make them look bad, and here’s the OP doing it anyway and (maybe) having success with it … which has to leave candidates wondering why they shouldn’t do it too.

      So for people thinking about that, I’d say that the answer is that because there aren’t absolutes (some hiring manager will always love what 99% of others hate) you’ll never be able to take a totally risk-free path. The best you can do is to try to get a good understanding of what’s going on on the other side of the process and what will give you the best chance at a good outcome. It doesn’t mean it’ll be right in 100% of cases though, as this apparently shows.

      I’d still give the same advice, and I’d still advise the OP not to do this in the future — because in most cases it’ll be the wrong move. But I’m glad it turned out to work this time.

      1. Original Poster Here*

        I appreciate your response, as well as all other responses here. I would say, that in most situations I probably would not have tried to get a second interview. If there is a better person, or something else they are looking for, that is fine. If I have a bad interview, I have a bad interview, but this was just different, everything was off.

        Interesting enough, throughout the time that it took to finally get in touch with the appropriate HR reps, I’ve been asked to come sit and talk with some people for a project starting in June. I also have another interview in a week set up with a company in a position that looks many times better than the job that I just couldn’t get over originally.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Sounds like your gut instinct was right about this recruiter. We were just talking here recently how job searching can really mess with your head sometimes, but that gnawing feeling you get can actually be right at times too.

    2. S0phieChotek*

      What an interesting update.
      The fact that the recruiter had many complaints and was still working might not be a great sign…though maybe recruiter had been given feedback and not improved.

      1. Random Lurker*

        See, this just doesn’t seem right to me. What kind of company would share this info with a disgruntled candidate who didn’t move past the phone screen stage? If a company does share that an employee has received complaints so candidly, that’s pretty messed up, and a huge red flag.

        What my gut tells me: OP got ahold of someone sympathetic who was going to tell her whatever she wanted to hear to make the situation go away.

        1. F.*

          I am thinking that the OP will receive a perfunctory in-person interview designed to legally cover the company’s backside, especially if the person the OP talked with who shared so freely caught even a whiff of a hint that the OP might claim some sort of discrimination (NOT saying that the OP did this). OP, don’t expect to be hired. You have already sent the company a red flag indicating that you will argue with any decision you don’t like or think is “fair”. (Yes, this is harsh, but in many companies, this is reality. Yes, Alison, you can tell me again that I’m too cynical.)

    3. anoning*

      I thought it was pathetic to not even be considered after a lousy phone interview given my qualifations

      This is sending my hackles up because it’s very well that in some cases you couldn’t be considered after a phone interview despite your qualifications. I really hope this isn’t something you’ll make a practice of in the future.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh, good point — I meant to address that too and then got caught up in my point above. OP, please do read what I wrote in the post about all the reasons you might not move forward despite meeting the qualifications in a job posting, just so you’ve got the right mental positioning on this stuff going forward!

      2. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Yes. Not everyone is selected after a phone interview, or why would they bother having one? And most of us are rejected for most of the jobs we apply for. It’s hard to deal with, but it’s inherently part of the process.

      3. Chocolate lover*

        Agreed. As Alison already mentioned in her response, there could be a variety of well-qualified candidates. Managers can’t (and usually won’t) interview every candidate that meets the basic qualifications, and phone screeners are often used to narrow it down. They’re not going to move everyone forward.

      4. BRR*

        Same here. I’m happy the LW was able to get a fair shot but this is by far the exception and not the rule. I’m thinking of how often applicants can have different perceptions of interviews than employers.

      5. Kelly L.*

        Well, it depends on if you read “lousy” as a general epithet or as a specific description of this interview, i.e. “not even be considered after a gol-durned phone interview” vs. “not even be considered after a badly handled phone interview.”

        All that said, I think I’d have taken it as more of a red flag on the company myself–I’m increasingly annoyed with companies that farm out random things to call centers where nobody is trained on the specifics of the business.

        [This may be partially inspired by my most recent doctor’s visit, where all of their appointments were set up via call center and I had to explain the whole situation about four different times, or by a call I got at work recently from a pushy background-check call center rep who kept trying to get info out of me that I wasn’t authorized to give them. (I know why–if she’d gotten an answer from me, it would have gone down as a completed call in her file, while if I gave a message to the actual correct person, the correct person would call back and possibly get a different rep and help that person’s numbers. But still frustrating.]

  13. Artemesia*

    You don’t get a ‘fair shot.’ You don’t necessarily get a shot at all.

    1. Your Weird Uncle*

      This is so true! I moved to another country a few months ago and was on the job market for a few weeks when I saw a job open up that was *exactly* what I’d been doing for the past six years. My references were all top-notch, my previous employer was an immediately recognizable name in my field, and I’d done really well in that job. I kept applying to other jobs and going on interviews, but kept holding out hope for the to be asked to interview for this job. It never came. I got a rejection letter instead.

      Who knows what happened? They maybe had someone in mind already. Maybe I’d been at my job too long. Maybe what I thought were outstanding qualifications were just the opposite of what they were looking for. Disappointing, but you just have to move on when that happens to you.

  14. Lizzy*

    The reality is that people make snap decisions about other people all the time, and hiring is no exception. Plus, people do not share the same perception of you that you have of yourself.

    I once had a 30-minute phone interview end after 4-5 minutes. I was being interviewed by an owner of a small wealth advisory firm who was looking for a bubbly, outgoing type to be his first marketing person on staff. I admit that my nerves caused me to give a stilted delivery when I was asked to tell him about myself. He decided he didn’t want to continue the interview. Harsh, but ultimately no one’s time was wasted.

    I had been working with a recruiter beforehand (plus he called me after the interview with feedback), so I was aware of what was expected. Had I not, I might have failed to recognized how stilted I sound. Further, if this guy was not so straightforward and allowed me to continue – even though he knew in the first minutes he was not going to hire me – I might have perceived my interview performance as good otherwise.

  15. teapot*

    A related question: Why would a recruiter say multiple times in a phone interview to expect an invitation for an in person interview and that the employer wants to move quickly, then go dead silent for the next week and a half? I get it that I most likely wasn’t selected (more qualified candidates/turned off by employment gap/?) given the schedule which she outlined, but why was it necessary to lead me on like this? You should be totally non-committal unless I can actually expect an interview invite. I followed up and was given the polite cold shoulder.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Employers don’t usually deliberately and explicitly lie about this kind of thing. I think a lot of times when that happens, they meant it in the moment but then something changed afterwards (like the sorts of things I talk about in the post). There’s no excuse for them not getting back to you, but that part of it is unfortunately really common, to the point that it’s not even worth wondering why (the why is that they think inexplicably think that’s an okay way to operate).

    2. Recruiter*

      As an in-house recruiter, a lot of manager stress to me how they need to move quickly, and even that candidates need to be able to interview ASAP… and then other priorities arise, and the search gets dragged on for months. I’ve learned not to use the phrase “move quickly” with candidates since (a) that can change and (b) “quickly” is open to interpretation.

      1. Recruiter*

        Other priorities arise for the manager, I mean. I’m still cheerfully checking in every week asking if I should schedule interviews or reject the candidates I’ve phone screened.

      2. starsaphire*

        — Recruiter quoth: ‘(b) “quickly” is open to interpretation.’

        I once got hired for a job that I had forgotten I’d applied for. (Yes, government-related.) Seriously — I had filled out the standard application *years* earlier. I finally made it to the top of their call list, and it was pure luck that I had the same phone number as I’d been using when I applied. In that particular agency’s case, “quickly” probably meant “in six months or less.”

  16. Stan*

    I see that the OP posted an update, but I’d like to offer another view for anyone facing a similar situation:

    When I applied with a large national corporation (main office on the east coast, regional offices in almost every state, 1000s of remote employees), I had a solidly mediocre phone screen with a recruiter that ended with a promise to forward my information. Later that day, I got a canned rejection email. I basically just shrugged and moved on. Almost a month later, I got an invitation from the hiring manager to interview with her. It turns out that HR deactivates applications in the online system when they’re flagged as potential candidates for specific jobs so that they aren’t inadvertently screening the same people multiple times. (They hire for the same job at various regional offices on a fairly constant basis.) The deactivation triggers the canned rejection email. The end result is that I ended up being hired for the job.

    (Of course, the complete disorganization of HR in not being able to keep track of who they had screened without removing them from the online system should have been a huge red flag, but that’s a tale for another day.)

  17. Jane*

    When I first read this letter I was going to say that the some interviewers are just not good interviewers. Then I saw the update, which confirmed it. Unfortunately, sometimes a poor interviewer can tank a perfectly good candidate’s interview. There are tips and tricks to squeeze in information about yourself when the interviewer is talking too much or not asking appropriate questions, but at the end of the day some interviewers are terrible and come out of an interview not knowing anything about the candidate and just going off how they feel after the meeting which is usually nothing at all if they have done a useless interview or perhaps they are in a good mood that day and the candidate was OK so gets pushed forward in the process. The fact that the company is aware that this is not a good interviewer and has not bothered to move him out of this position or retrain him boggles my mind but perhaps it is just laziness and an abundance of good candidates that are able to get through that makes them not want to take any action.

  18. Bibliovore*

    I think the take-away here is that there are no “absolutes.” Alison’s advice is best practice and norms. My own anecdotal evidence in being hired for my “dream job” (sorry Alison) would raise a lot of “oh, no you didn’t?!!” and they hired me anyway, despite my numerous faux pas during the interview process. (that lasted from January to final job offer in August)
    On the other hand- in my own hiring here, I pushed up against the HR screening and it turned out that they were right in every instance.

  19. Christina*

    The OP mentions that they received an email almost immediately after the phone interview. This almost makes me wonder if that email was sent by mistake? Good applicant tracking systems* should have some sort of delay built into their notification emails to candidates. This way a candidate isn’t receiving a rejection email immediately after submitting their application or a phone interview.

    *Note here that ‘good’ is the key word. Not all ATSs are built this way and so accidents do happen. We happen to have a crappy ATS (IMO) and have had something similar happen. (Luckily I caught it and could call the applicant to let them know they received an email in error).

    Either way, it’s hard to know definitively what happened. I’m glad the OP commented above with good news for their situation!

  20. Bryce*

    On a related note, here’s something a sports-loving colleague shared with me when I was last in job search mode:
    “The Pirates (we’re from Pittsburgh) have to win 82 out of the 166 baseball games this season just to finish above .500. We’re not talking about making the playoffs, let alone winning the pennant…we’re talking about just finishing above .500. And the Penguins need to win 13 hockey games in the postseason to get the Stanley Cup. You only have to win once at a job search.”

    What I’d also consider is that if this organization considers you a “second best” candidate, it could make your work life unhappy there. As a “second choice,” you’d likely get less-than desirable assignments, a less capable boss, a less-than-desirable working environment, and be among the first to be let go when cuts are made.

    1. MK2000*

      This is a great point, but your colleague isn’t great at math… 82 out of 166 is less than .500, and you need to win 16 playoff games to win the Stanley Cup :)

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