should you put a failed project on your resume, the mystery of keywords, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I put a failed project on my resume?

I am a software tester trying to branch out into project management. As my first PM assignment, I was put on a very high-visibility project which was spiraling out of control, very late into the project. I worked on it over a year. Unfortunately, I was not able to save it.

I’d like to continue into project management, but since that fiasco, I’ve not been allowed on anything else. Since it was my only PM experience to date, I want to include it on my resume. Should I include it on my resume? I certainly learned a lot but I’d imagine that would be fodder for an interview. If it is to be on the resume, how should it be listed? It’s not exactly a positive accomplishment.

Ooof, this is tricky. I’m leaning toward no because it failed. Depending on the details, it’s possible that you could use it to talk about what you learned from the experience — and who knows, maybe you did everything right but it was already too late to save it and you’d be able to explain that in a compelling way. But it’s a risky move because usually when employers don’t just want experience, they want a track record of success.

2. Do I need to integrate keywords into my resume?

I understand being filtered through ATS systems is a necessary evil when it comes to job searching. However, I am a bit perplexed as to how to integrate the necessary keywords into my CV while maintaining my “show don’t tell approach” and avoiding sounding like a robot.

For instance, say one of the keywords is “hard-working.” I have a few descriptions of achievements from my previous positions where I show that I am “hard working” without explicitly using the term itself because I feel like that would sound really awkward and obvious to any human with two brain cells reading at.

Am I wrong to avoid saying, “this shows how hard-working I am” or “for my next trick I am going to show you how I am hard-working”? Wouldn’t it come across as patronizing and be a poor use of valuable words/space to explicitly state “this demonstrates that I am hardworking”?

Yes, definitely do not do that.

“Hard-working” isn’t going to be keyword that any employer puts into their ATS to screen resumes. Keywords are more about hard skills — particular software programs, experience doing X or Y. They’re not going to be about soft skills. “Hard-working” is something that you demonstrate by having accomplishments on your resume that make clear you have that trait. You definitely don’t need to say anything like “this shows how hard-working I am”; they will figure that out on their own.

Also, if you’ve written a clear resume that coherently describes what your past work experience has been, making sure that it speaks to the requirements outlined in the ad, you really don’t need a special formula to get by an ATS. Kerry Scott has a good post here about this.

3. Should I bring up my disability at my year-end review?

I am hard of hearing and wear hearing aids. I work in a small office, and I believe all my coworkers and supervisors know of my hearing loss (having seen my hearing aids and a caption phone I own).

I think they forget this fact and just generally don’t understand the sheer effort and amount of concentration that hearing requires for me. I don’t blame them, of course, as I imagine I am the first hard of hearing person they’ve dealt with at work. But, I feel like they are also judging me harshly for being “too quiet,” particularly on conference calls, during group dinners/social hours, and with the inter-office chatter. These are all situations which are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for me to participate in.

I am worried that my quiet nature is seen as a lack of assertiveness, comprehension, or care and that this might come up during my year-end review. Should I try to explain how my disability interacts with these things, even if not mentioned in my review? I am just starting to feel like I have a reputation for being aloof, when really it is because I struggle to hear.

Yes! But bring it up now, before it’s review time so that lack of knowledge of this doesn’t end up influencing (consciously or unconsciously) your manager’s evaluation of you. Say this: “By the way, I wanted to mention to you that my hearing loss can sometimes make it hard for me to hear clearly on conference calls and at things like group dinner and social events. I end focusing so much on hearing that I’m often not able to participate as much as I would otherwise. I wanted to mention this because I don’t want you to interpret it as me being less engaged or not interested in being there! I am — they can just be tougher situations for me.”

A good boss will appreciate knowing this, not only so that she can check any wrong assumptions she was making, but also so that she can think about ways to change up those events in ways that might be easier for you to participate in.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Company rejected me, then changed their mind

My question is about an organization I have interviewed with. Prior to an in-person, I had a very comprehensive phone interview. At the in-person interview, the interviewer did not have a list of questions. They explained a lot about the job, asked a scant few questions, but said they’d mostly rely on the notes from the phone interview. The whole thing, especially that last part, seemed a little odd, but not unheard of or egregious. It did sound like there would be a lot of forthcoming (chaotic) transition and dealing with a lot of big/difficult personalities, which were other points of concern since I’ve ridden that particular ride before and want to avoid a repeat if at all possible.

I didn’t hear back right away, and started to suspect I was not going to move forward. Sure enough, I got an email to that effect. Until … I got another email saying they did want me to come back for round two after all. It sounded like there may have been a miscommunication between HR and the interviewer, or a change or heart, or maybe someone else just backed out — who knows. But between the interview and no-then-yes, I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this job. I’m not sure how much I am even interested anymore. Am I reading too much into this? Should I bother going in again? Should I ask for an explanation about the flip-flop? I’m confused and exasperated!

I wouldn’t let the flip flop put you off. It’s possible that another candidate dropped out, or they ended up having more interview slots than they thought they would, or who knows what. That on its own isn’t a big deal and I probably wouldn’t ask about it since ultimately it doesn’t really matter.

But if you’re concerned about the other things they’ve described, those are reasonable things to worry about it. If you know based on what you’ve already heard that you don’t want the job, it’s fine to decline the interview based on that. But if you’re not 100% sure, I’d go and make a particular point of gathering more information on those fronts.

5. How to reject an internal candidate

I am the manager of a group of technical people. I am near the end of the hiring process for a new position. After the first round of interviews, I had one internal candidate and one external candidate who rose to the top. The external candidate had scored a good bit higher than the internal candidate, which generally isn’t the case. (Internal candidates generally do better due to their knowledge of the job and the organization, and they tend to be more relaxed in their interviews.) Anyhow, I decided to have a second round of interviews with a new panel and more focused questions. The external candidate was the best candidate at this round also, and if negotiations are successful this will be my hire.

So, what are the best things to cover in the meeting I’m going to have with an obviously disappointed internal candidate?

The fact that you’re planning on doing it in a meeting is good — with internal candidates, you don’t the news to come via an impersonal form email.

The best thing that you can do is give the person feedback. Tell her where she was strong, but why she ultimately didn’t beat out the other person. Help her see what would make her a stronger candidate in the future. If the answer is really just “you were really good but the other person was just a stronger match for the role,” it’s okay to say that too (and if you, be specific about the ways the other person was better matched so that it doesn’t sound like BS).

If you’re her manager, you should also tell her how much you value her — and be specific about why and what she’s doing well — and offer to talk about other ways you can work with her to support her professional growth.

{ 69 comments… read them below }

  1. CoffeeLover*

    I would put the project on your resume. I’ve found most interviews focus on your specific role in the project anyway. I have almost never talked about the success of a project because I was never asked. It’s always stuff like “tell me about a time you had to engage stakeholders.” If you can weave a good (true) story about your role on the project, it’s worth having it on. Some experience is better than no experience. It can help you find the next thing, and then after you get some more experience, you can take it off your resume.

    1. MK*

      I would think it’s different if you are the project manager, though, when your “specific role” is making sure the program succeeds.

    2. Kdt*

      I think the answer about how to game the ATS is missing the bigger point. Why are you depending on randomly submitting your resume to a system in hopes of getting a job?

      The best way to get a job is by networking and getting connected to the hiring manager or through a referral. The next best way is using a recruiter. Then only submitting your resume to an ATS as a formality. I have never submitted a resume to a company blindly in 20 years.

      1. the gold digger*

        I have never submitted a resume to a company blindly in 20 years.

        And that is the only way I have ever gotten a job. I got my first three corporate jobs though job postings at the University of Texas (where I went to grad school) and my next two jobs by responding to online job boards. I would love to get a job through networking, because it seems so much easier.

        1. Koko*

          Same. I’ve always just applied to job postings on Craigslist and Idealist.

          I applied to one job when I finished grad school and got the offer. (I didn’t go into academia.) When that company had layoffs a year later I applied to 16 jobs, was interviewed for 4, and offered 1. After I’d been in that job a few years and was growing unhappy, over the course of a year I applied for 8 jobs one or two at a time when I saw an interesting ad, eventually getting interviewed and offered one with my current employer.

          In my last job I hired a researcher, a fundraiser, an office manager, and four interns. In my current job I’ve hired an assistant. I didn’t know or have connections to anyone who knew any of them. They responded to my job ads and I evaluated their applications and thought they were the best fit.

        2. Amadeo*

          Yup. I’ve also never gotten a job offer through networking. I mean, I’ve known some people who knew some people and the association between them helped one or twice, but all of my resume sending has been through job boards. Careerbuilder, listings that show up on Indeed, and online job boards specific to companies.

        3. CC*

          I have never submitted a resume to a company blindly in 20 years.

          And that is the only way I have ever gotten a job.

          And once past the university’s internship program, the only way I’ve gotten a job is to send a resume, cold, to a company that doesn’t even have any jobs posted and where I don’t know anybody there. (Which I don’t recommend as a primary strategy, by the way. The rate of no response at all is depressingly high. But I have lucked out twice now and had my resume reach the company right about when they were talking about hiring somebody with my particular skillset.)

          1. Annoyed*

            That’s how I got my current job. I sent in my resume cold and accepted an offer three days later.

      2. Kate M*

        That is definitely not going to work for most jobs, unless you’re in a very small niche field where everyone knows each other. If you’re actively searching for a job (and not just waiting to hear about them), you’ll probably be applying to multiple jobs a day or week at least. Do you really think that you’ll have contacts through your network with the hiring manager at each job? That seems like a reach. One or two, maybe, but not every job. And then if you start networking and meeting people specifically just to meet a particular hiring manager for each job, then 1) people are going to realize that you’re just using them to get to the hiring manager, and 2) it’s going to take way too long, as a lot of jobs don’t collect resumes for an extended period, depending on the competition.

        If you have a contact, great. But don’t expect that’s going to be the case for most jobs. I’ve gotten plenty of interviews and jobs just by applying to jobs that I fit the qualifications well, and had a good resume and cover letter for.

      3. Hard Worker*

        Comment to ATSer: I got one job through networking one time only (former boss was hiring manager) and it turned out to a very poor fit. I have gotten jobs by getting through an ATS, but my point is that HR has abdicated any responsibility in attracting talent. Companies feel people need to be perfect for them before they hire them and at then as soon as someone becomes an employee the company feels he or she is expendable.

    3. SystemsLady*

      That would apply in a case I was in – the project was a technical success, but a huge political failure that lost us a lot of clout with the client. However, my (and another department’s) technical successes kept a strong thread to the client we wouldn’t have otherwise had.

      But if you were the top-level project manager and the project as a whole bombed, even if you were thrown at the edge of a cliff with a stampede approaching, I’d be careful about listing this.

      If OP can come up with something external to the project they were able to salvage, then by all means, find a way to mention that.

  2. MsChanandlerBong*

    I really empathize with OP #3. Before I started my own business, I worked in a small office with four cubicles in the center of a large room. It was difficult to hear to begin with, but then they stuck me with a cordless phone while everyone else had multi-line office phones with nine different volume levels. My phone had two levels, neither of which allowed me to hear. I would end up in tears sometimes because people would be talking to me on the phone and I had no idea what they were saying. I got my doctor to write me a note requesting a regular phone, but they hemmed and hawed about buying one until I ended up quitting. It’s especially hard for me to hear in group settings, as any background noise (music, people talking, silverware/glasses clinking, etc.) makes it difficult to hear the person speaking.

    1. LoFlo*

      OP you should get your hearing loss documented and ask for accomadation. When you can’t hear well your brain goes into overdrive trying to understand what people are saying. Let your manager and coworkers know what you need to do understand them better, and your methods of coping. A lot of people won’t want to IM or email you when you are sitting close to them, because it is too much work for them. However, you need to be sure you understand what people want from you. If they feel that you are being difficult requesting communication in writing, ask them if they are OK with you only hearing part of his or her message.

      Also, I don’t get why people have the attitude that one must be chatty all the time to prove that they are engaged.

      1. ali*

        Yes, please get it documented with HR or at least with your manager. It doesn’t sound like you necessarily need accommodation, but you definitely need to make sure you aren’t being penalized. If you have things that work better for you on calls or in social situations, be sure to bring them up and let your manager know of those. It’s not entirely on you to make things work better for you – it should be a dialogue between you and your manager. But if your manager doesn’t know (by which I mean they don’t know how difficult it is for you, not that they don’t know you have a hearing loss), they will have no idea how to help you.

        I have had profound hearing loss the majority of my professional career. Some companies and managers deal with it better than others. I just got a cochlear implant this summer (I’ve been activated for a month) and I’m very lucky my manager has a relative who has one, so she knows. But auditory fatigue is real. There’s been some really great articles posted online recently about both auditory fatigue and about requesting accommodations for hearing loss. I’ll see if I can find some of the ones I’m thinking of and will post them here. If you manager is open to it, I would suggest sharing these with them. The majority of normal hearing people have NO IDEA what hearing loss is really like.

        1. OP*


          The term “auditory fatigue” is new to me but makes perfect sense! I go home and just crash most days and take off my hearing aids to enjoy the silence:). I sincerely appreciate your advice and I do believe my manager would be open to hearing about work accommodations beyond my caption phone.

      2. OP*

        LoFlo, thanks for the advice. I do have documented hearing loss and a caption phone as a work accommodation, but you are right that I should speak to coworkers about best communication practices. It is a good reminder that it is a two-way street.

        And YES, chatty = engaging?! Drives me crazy too.

    2. Chocolate Coffeepot*

      OP3, yes, make sure everyone knows about your hearing loss and remind them when necessary about what you need to be able to understand them. Such as, “When you turn your head away it’s much harder for me to hear you. Could you look at me while you’re speaking?” (in a face-to-face meeting). Or ask people to speak into the receiver instead of using the speakerphone when on the phone (although may not be practical for conference calls). I have a family member who is hard of hearing and she has to remind me at least once a week to look at her when speaking. So it’s easy to imagine that others who don’t live with anyone with hearing issues to forget what you need. If they are decent people, though, your colleagues will want to make an effort.

      1. Elfie*

        If they’re decent people though! My husband has hearing loss (amongst other things), and his manager deliberately mumbles so that hubby can’t hear what he’s saying!! Anyone in a position of authority (line manager, HR, Occupational Health, etc) refuse to write things down in emails or letters instead of discussing in meetings (hubby suspects so that they can never be tied to anything). But he works for a horrible, terrible company (if you have disabilities, or need anything out of the ordinary – they have so many ‘commodity’ workers that they just feel that everyone they employ should be grateful to have a job, it seems :(

  3. Miss Elaine E*

    Item #5: Please, OP, be very careful when scheduling the meeting with the unsuccessful internal candidate. I can imagine how humiliating it would be to have the hiring manager come to him/her to set up a meeting with the candidate thinking, “This is it! We’re probably working out the details! Yay!” and then have the walk of shame back to the desk afterward.

    1. Trillian*

      I was rejected for an internal position, and after internal discussion they did it via email for that reason. I preferred it that way. That way, when I went to them for feedback, I’d processed the disappointment and could take in the information.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        I agree with this – maybe an email explaining the situation along with an offer to meet for feedback? I have also experienced being an internal candidate, getting my hopes up when the hiring manager (who was also my boss at the time) set up a meeting, and then struggling to have a neutral reaction when I was told I didn’t get the job.

        (Actually, it was worse, because she used the same meeting to say that not only did I not get the job, but that the position I did have was being eliminated, and she wanted to move me into another position with much less desirable responsibilities and lower pay because I was “a really valuable member of the team and we don’t want to lose you.” In theory, I appreciate that sentiment, but doubling down on the disappointments wasn’t exactly how I wanted to start my day. And the job I had at that time was full time but only paid $27,000/year [In Boston! Within the last 5 years!], so offering me a cut from that really stung. Within a day, I said thanks but no thanks and let her know I was job hunting.)

    2. Legalchef*

      I definitely agree with this. Better to send a really nice email saying that they didn’t get the job and offer to set up a feedback meeting.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yep. From the perspective of someone who got the brush-off (probably for good reason, considering my performance hasn’t been the best, but still):

      All I got was a rejection from the internal recruiter–“This is just to let you know you will not be moving forward in the process. There were stronger candidates in the pool.” That was it–nothing else.

      My thought process at the time:

      Well okay then. Didn’t really want to stay here anyway. At least my resume looks better–that’s all YOU were good for. Thanks for that. :P I’ll look outside now. Considering I have to work around an LD and every single office job I can find anywhere has accounting, budgeting, payroll, or the like, I don’t expect I’ll ever get out of this hellhole of a town. Though the fantasy of riding out of here on clouds of glory is the only thing keeping me going right now. While you all choke on my dust!!! I cast Fiendfyre on all of you suckers!!

      I know a recruiter is different from say, your own manager–but the advice to be careful has merit. No matter what, the rejection WILL sting. You really don’t want the internal candidate thinking like this, especially if you want to keep them. They might think themselves right out the door.

    4. Chocolate Coffeepot*

      ^This. I applied for an internal position once and the hiring manager told me in person that he’d chosen another candidate. But he didn’t explain why, and I was not in a place to ask good questions at that moment. I would have preferred an email with an offer to meet the next day, to allow me to process the disappointment and come up with some good questions.

    5. Mom of cats*

      I was once passed over for an external candidate when I had been *doing the job they were hiring for* (along with my own, lower pay grade, position) for the previous four or five months. My boss told me that her boss said they couldn’t hire me because she didn’t want to hire “another white woman.” So yeah, whatever you do, please don’t tell the unsuccessful candidate that she wasn’t hired because of some illegal reason.

    6. copy run start*

      Rejecting an internal candidate is really tricky.

      My worst rejection story was finding out in a morning staff meeting announcement that they’d made a hiring decision and just need to notify those who were unsuccessful. Guess who hadn’t heard anything? Cue everyone looking at me with pity in their eyes (they all knew I’d applied because management had announced it!) Then I had to sit through the rest of the stupid meeting, have boss call me into a conference room and explain that I didn’t get the job. Then put in the rest of my day. Never applied for another internal opening there again… and they were so mystified as to why!

      1. Curious*

        Ouch, that had to suck. I agree with everyone saying to give the rejection by email but offer to give feedback in person. I applied for an internal position at my last company and the way I was rejected was humiliating, to say the least. As part of the interview, I had to do a demonstration, but had a miscommunication with the hiring manager about what she was looking for in the demonstration. Basically, I was working in a department that dealt with X and her department dealt with Y. I knew she had observed me interacting with clients, since she told me that when I first said I was interested in the position, so I assumed the demo was to show that I knew about Y. Turned out, all she was looking for was to see how I connected with clients. Since there were no clients at the demo, I was doing the demo as if I were talking to her, the hiring manager. She decided from that that I couldn’t connect with clients because I don’t have the right personality, basically not extraverted enough. So being called into her office, thinking that I’m getting the job, then being told that I’m not because she didn’t like my personality, was not fun.

    7. Not really a newish lurker anymore...*

      My boss stuck his head in my shared office and basically said “you got the letter, right?”
      Me: “No. What letter?”
      Him: “Crap. Well, we’re moving on with 2 people out of the 4. You were #3. IF you want to move on/up, you need to refresh your skill set.”
      And my office mate was present too.

      Except I found out a few months later that the guy they hired did have any of the skills they wanted either. Or certifications. Or had finished his AAS. Thanks boss. And their hire isn’t working out so hot either.

  4. Cat steals keyboard*

    OP 3: I was struck by the fact that you are talking about what you imagine people are thinking, and wondered if you’ve seen any evidence that this is the case or if your anxiety is causing you to ‘mind read’?

    Also, are you really worried they think this, or are you actually feeling left out and not acknowledging this so converting it into perceived negative perceptions by others? Might be worth trying to work out whether you are actually unhappy and needing more support somehow?

  5. Jessie*

    OP #1: I agree with not putting on your resume, but it might make for an excellent “tell me about a time when you failed and how you overcame it” type interview question. Because then the interviewer is expecting the negative result and the “here’s what I was up against” and “this is what I didn’t know then that I know now” statements will sound insightful rather than like excuses. If you put it on your resume then you really can’t use it as an answer to a “failure” question.

    1. HumbleOnion*

      Definitely this. My company is big on asking about a time interviewees made a mistake. We want to know how they handled it & what they learned from it. One candidate said ‘mistakes are important because they help us learn’. That stuck with me.

  6. Just Another Techie*

    Also OP2, not every company uses keywords in an ATS. We (large tech company) have one to keep track of applicants and where they are in our process, but every resume gets read in full by a human, if not the hiring manager then a member of the team he’s hiring for (ie, not someone in HR but a technical person who understands the field). Yes, there are some key skills we are looking for, but there’s a brain looking for them, not a machine. I would know, since during our last hiring round I read about 300 resumes!

    1. Mike C.*

      At the same time, there are plenty of companies that do, and the attached search engines are complete garbage. My company doesn’t even let hiring managers read all of the applications anymore, they are filtered by an outside specialist first.

      1. Koko*

        See, that would make me so mad. Fine if you want to hire a specialist to review resumes. But there’s no need to go so far as to lock me out of my own hiring process. If I want to read all the applications, I should be able to decide to do that within my professional capacity as a manager. Maybe they think it’s not the best use of my time, but I’m salaried/exempt/at a level where I am trusted to make decisions about what is worth spending my own time on and not compromise my work output.

        If I’m really slammed and the position is entry level and we need them in a hurry, sure, I’m thrilled to have someone else who takes some of the hiring work off my plate. But if it’s a high-level position and especially if we are taking our time to find the right person, it’s going to be worth it to me to be able to at least skim every application myself just to make sure the outside person didn’t miss someone that I think looks promising, even if only because I know what I want so much better than the outsider that I might recognize it in more forms and variations while the outsider will be more rigid in their interpretation. Being actually prohibited from doing that would feel like it was completely undermining my authority as a manager and senior professional.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Usually you can still do it yourself if you want to, if you’re willing to push back. It’s a rare company that overrules hiring managers on that if they press the issue.

              1. AnonNurse*

                I actually kind of took this to mean “how would you know if they were filtering the applications you were able to view and there were more that were not being sent to you?”

                I know all applications go through HR at my employer before the hiring manager ever sees them. I could see a new hiring manager not know this and not have any idea to ask and push back. I could be way off base on Khaleesi’s comment but that was my thought process.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Oh, ha, if so I read it completely wrong! Sorry, Khaleesi.

                  I could see a new manager not knowing to ask, but I think once you’ve got some experience at it, you’d know you could/should ask.

    2. Mom of cats*

      In my most recent graduate degree program, I had two professors who graded as if there were a machine scoring the paper. One had a very precise rubric and if you didn’t use the words in the rubric, he took points off. The other was for an independent study. The professor reviewed an early draft of my paper and commented that I really needed a literature review. In the next draft I submitted, I put the words “literature review” as a heading between the introduction and the following paragraphs–without making any changes in the substance of those paragraphs. Her feedback was glowing. When I submitted the final paper, I deleted the heading “literature review,” again not making any substantive changes, and her comments included “what happened to the great literature review?”

      All this to say–sometimes humans are looking for the key words too. :-(

  7. AmyH*

    #1 – I think it depends on the circumstances. I worked a big project that involved a well-known company that ultimately failed bc the other company went out of business. I keep it on my resume.

  8. Jubilance*

    #1 – I think it depends on the scope of the project and the failure, and if you had success with the things that you owned.

    I worked on a VERY high visibility project 3 years ago – my company was attempting to expand, and due to decisions made at the highest levels (C-suite) it was a failure from the very beginning. My team was brought in to make the best of a bad situation and we did – we did a ton of great work and I learned key skills in the process. And our part of the project got better, but due to decisions made by other people, we were never going to save that project. But I do put the success that we had on my resume because it demonstrates some new skills I learned and while the entire overall project wasn’t successful, my portion was.

  9. Murphy*

    5. Do it at the end of the day. And try to gauge the employee’s reaction. When this happened to me, I didn’t want to hear all the reasons why just then. I wasn’t able to process it at the time, I just wanted to get out of there.

  10. Annoyed*

    #5: I have not gotten internal positions and was notified be email, in-person, and once by being introduced to the person who was hired. Definitely don’t do it the third way. I think the manager genuinely just forgot to tell me. It was clear during the interviewing process that she wasn’t interested in me and was just interviewing me because she had to, but it still really stung.

    I much preferred being told in person than by email. I didn’t consider it to be a walk of shame back to my desk. I appreciated the time the manager took to talk to me. The email rejection was from a manager that I worked with quite a bit and would continue to have to work with, so it was more hurtful that he wouldn’t take the time to tell me in-person.

  11. NJ Anon*

    #4 I agree with AAM. I interviewed for a position, did’t get it and then got called in a few weeks later and was hired. The first person didn’t work out. I was told the only reason she was chosen over me was because she had nonprofit experience and I did not. I ended up staying in that job for 11 years.

  12. Queen Anon*

    OP #5, thank you for letting your internal applicant know you’re hiring someone else. As someone else mentioned, finding out by being introduced to the new external hire is just the worst.

    1. Chocolate Coffeepot*

      Or finding out by overhearing the phone call offering someone else the job! This happened to a person in my department at OldJob. There was not a lot of privacy there (one big open space), but there were two offices and the person making the call should have borrowed one of them.

      1. NJ Anon*

        Or having your supervisor announcing it in a meeting without talking to you first. I mean, really?

    2. So Very Anonymous*

      Or having people come up to you at a conference and congratulating you on your new colleague!

    3. Unanimously Anonymous*

      Or finding out via the group e-mail announcement that another applicant got the job…when you didn’t get even the courtesy of your application being acknowledged. True story.

  13. JaysonHFI*

    Regarding #1 Failed Projects the reader could definitely cherry pick the positives to talk about. I’m sure along the line there were area in which he/she have positive impact which are relevant to their future job applications.

    On #4 rejection, I mean, it all depends on how much the candidate wants the job. If you really want it, you would probably be ecstatic to find out that you are back on the leading candidate track. Should always avoid getting too emotional about the process. Granted, it might be confusing, and the reader probably have a better sense of situation from the first interview, but I see this as a good sign. Again, if you really want the job, there’s absolutely no harm in going forward with the application.

  14. ModernHypatia*

    OP#3 –

    A good friend of mine is hearing impaired (and lip reads) and finds group conversations *so* exhausting. I think it’s definitely worth mentioning in your year-end meeting. Is there anything like an internal office IM system or something like a Slack channel that your department could set up or use?

    That would let you suggest an alternative, and it’s one a lot of hearing people like too (because you can go back and look at what someone mentioned a couple of days ago when you suddenly need it, or because some people find it much disruptive to their flow of thought than stopping to be asked something directly.)

  15. Milton Waddams*

    #1: It depends on how many degrees of separation you are from the project manager. A common (if someone disgraceful) move in Blame Judo is for a parachute PM to hire a fall guy for a failing project; that way they get the credit for the illusion of early project success while avoiding blame for the failure it ultimately caused. It sounds like you were hired as the fall guy. Someone who is familiar with those sort of tricks will easily recognize what happened, but before getting access to that person your resume will likely have to go through a few levels of risk-averse administrators. If you think that your project management experience is scanty enough that you wouldn’t make it past the “not enough experience” barrier, put it in — but if you think you can make it through to the next round without it, leave it off.

    #2: The problem is that many companies do their best to turn their people into ATS robots as well; a lot of keyword mistakes are actually junior level HR staff who are so worried about their own job stability and promotion prospects that they’re not willing to be anything other than literal in their interpretation of job descriptions, even if it means leaving good candidates in the trash pile due to minor wording differences. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about that, as it is often an organizational culture issue.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      Yup. If the job posting requires “experience in SQL”, I make sure the resume says SQL. Assuming junior HR staff would of course know that Oracle and Postgres are types of SQL is… not a good assumption.

  16. JoniKat*

    If I was her, hearing the feedback about what would make your employee a stronger candidate next time would be crucial as it would emphasize to me that the impression that you truly want to see them succeed. If the reason was simply a lack of experience, could she be placed on any tasks or projects where she could get that experience she needs?

    Just an unrelated story that makes me so happy you are telling your employee: For the last internal promotion I applied for, I was told in person and email by three different people that the only reason they chose another staff was because they had several years of experience I didn’t have. I think management was amazed at how well I took it; I congratulated the person who got it, and worked with them with enthusiasm.

    I didn’t tell them that the reason I was so cool with it was because I was just happy the organization actually told me personally. The last time I didn’t get a promotion, I found out when I was invited to attend, as a guest, the week long in-depth new employee training created especially for employees who were newly hired (knowing I wasn’t one of them because their names were listed).

  17. Augusta Sugarbean*

    #2 Just a heads up/trigger warning. The Kerry Scott link goes to an article headed up by a photo of a giant bottle of snakes. Allegedly it’s a bottle of snake oil. Yuck. So fair warning.

  18. Moonsaults*

    OP #4, I was also the “second pick” for the job at my last position that I held for over a decade. The only reason they chose the other person was because she had more formal education. A week into it, they found out that she had no desire to answer phones, which as the only person in the office, you kind of have to answer the phone >_<

  19. Project Manager*

    OP3, if you want to try to get the difficulty across to them, I’ve had good luck with comparing it to speaking a language you are not yet fluent in. Like, before you’re fluent, when someone says, “Wie kommen wir auf Hauptbahnhof?” you have to think, “OK, there was the question word that means ‘how’…and they are talking about the main train station…and there was the verb ‘to come’…ah! They want directions!” It’s like that for us. But with every sound, not just speech. Hearing people will usually get this comparison.

    Anyway, good luck. I’m at the hairy edge of what hearing aids can do myself (I have an 85% loss) and reaching the point in my career where I have to spend a hefty chunk of my day in large meetings, on the phone, and in conference calls. I’m not a fan. But this is an intermediate step on the way to my goal of becoming the big cheese who sets the rules for all the meetings. (You know, rules like, only one person talks at a time. Pretty outrageous, huh?)

    1. ali*

      Just curious, when was the last time you looked into hearing aids? A power plus model actually makes a pretty huge difference with an 85% loss (assuming the standard higher frequency loss). I was told they wouldn’t help me either, but then I got one – so glad I did. I spent 15 years completely deaf on one side and about 85% on the other, then with a power model hearing aid. Just got a CI in the completely deaf ear and it has completely changed my life. Work and meetings are SO much easier than before.

    2. OP#3*

      Project Manager, when you become the “big cheese” let me come work for you! I would love to work for someone who makes meetings more accessible for everyone!

      And the foreign/fluent language suggestion is very helpful and I will definitely use that analogy. Thanks!

  20. #2*

    I’ve been wondering if ATS keywords are standardized and if there’s a way to look them up. I know some are obvious, like software, but what about other things?

    1. Judy*

      In a recent job search, something someone told me, which makes sense: Read the job ad. I’m in a technical role. If the job ad says “experimental design” then at least one place where I say “design of experiments” or “DOE” or “D.O.E.” I should replace it. If the job ad says “8-bit microprocessors” and my resume says “microcontrollers” or “processors” or “Freescale HC08” or “Atmel AVR8” I should replace one or change the wording. “Implemented projects using Freescale HC08 and Atmel AVR8” would become “Implemented projects using 8-bit microprocessors such as Freescale HC08 and Atmel AVR8”.

      My guess would be that the keywords would be in the job posting, if they are using keywords.

  21. Daisy Grrl*

    OP3, one thing that I found worked for me was to approach my boss during a quiet time and explain what my hearing loss meant in concrete terms, followed by a discussion of what could be done to help mitigate my difficulties. For example, meetings in my office are often full of whispered side discussions, shuffling papers, etc. After a particularly difficult meeting, I approached my boss (who chairs these meetings) and said, “when people are allowed to carry on side discussions and talk over each other, I can’t understand what the presenter is saying. This makes it difficult for me to contribute and I worry that I will miss key points of the meeting. Can you help me by enforcing a ‘no interruptions’ rule?” We also worked out a signal so I could alert her to the types of sounds that were problematic, and meetings have become much easier for me.

    Another idea is to remind/explain that hearing loss is different than vision loss. Unlike glasses, hearing aids do not provide “perfect” hearing, and that you still have difficulty in certain situations because using your hearing aids requires energy and concentration. So it would be helpful if your boss reminds people at the start of teleconferences that they should have their phones on mute unless speaking, etc.

    For social events like meals, are there local restaurants that are better or worse for you? There’s one place in my community that is very echo-y and I cannot carry on a conversation there, but there are other places with better sound absorption where I’m fine. So another idea is to say, “I’m fine with Restaurants A, B, and D, but I find Restaurant C is very noisy and I cannot hear. Can we skip that place from now on?” This will work best if you are weeding out one or two of the worst places for you (and aren’t otherwise super popular with your colleagues).

    Best of luck.

    1. OP#3*

      Again, thanks for all the extremely helpful suggestions. It is comforting to know others have dealt with this situation in the past successfully and that I shouldn’t be shy about trying to address my concerns. Most restaurants seem to be going towards an “industrial” interior these days with high ceilings and exposed metal workings, which drives me insane! But I definitely know some better places and will be sure to suggest those in the future. Thanks!

  22. Donald Coomer - resume writer*

    No need to explain at length why a company failed on your resume. Stay focused on what you achieved at the company. Don’t ever, ever gloss over anything, but stay focused on what it is you’re selling: you as an adaptable, smart, risk-taking talent.

    When you meet a person face-to-face you can weave a personal story around what you learned from failure and why the company went down, but it’s tough IMO to do it justice in only a few paragraphs. It takes too much context and depth and you don’t have the right medium in a resume to do this right. I don’t think anyone expect you to either.

    Remember, the resume is about you, your skills, your experience. Explaining why you left a job or why your company went down is best left to personal interaction.

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