I’m frustrated that my interview got canceled because the employer found better-qualified candidates

A reader writes:

A friend told me about a job opportunity at a local chorale group in my area, and I applied for the director of donations position. I did not have much experience, but I wrote an awesome cover letter and applied. I got emailed the next day for an interview for the following week.

However, the Thursday before my interview — which was for the following Monday — they contacted me by email saying they found other candidates with more experience and that they were cancelling my interview. Is that normal? I feel like that was so unfair and wrong to cancel the interview after scheduling one with me. Then, they asked me to reply in the email that I received their email cancelling my interview. I was so upset and I did not write back because each time I tried to respond, I felt upset and decided I do not owe them anything.

They called me yesterday 30 minutes before the interview to make sure I knew it was cancelled. I played dumb and I said I had not checked email but thanked them for telling me.

If I cancelled an interview, then I would not even get another chance, so why is it fine they can cancel like that? I know legally they can but I feel like it was so unfair to me. What do you think?

I think they did you a favor by being up-front with you and canceling it!

It sounds like they knew that they absolutely weren’t going to hire you, and so they would have been wasting their time and yours by going through the motions of the interview.

You might wonder why they hadn’t figured that out earlier, but it’s not unusual for particularly strong candidates to show up later in a process (especially since it sounds like they’re reviewing applications on a rolling basis, as they emailed you the day after you applied). Sometimes it’s not clear at the start of a hiring process exactly what the applicant pool will look like, and it’s reasonable to consider candidates with less experience. But if you start getting an influx of highly qualified candidates, then you can realize that those candidates have raised the bar high enough that realistically it doesn’t make sense to consider the less qualified ones anymore.

You might think that they should have interviewed you anyway, since the meeting was already set up and maybe they would have been surprised by how qualified you turned out to be … but you acknowledge that you don’t have much experience for this particular job, and it’s very, very plausible that when comparing you to other top candidates, they were confident that an interview wouldn’t change their assessment.

They asked you to let you know that you’d received their email because they were being considerate — they wanted to make sure that you received their message and weren’t spending time preparing for an interview that wasn’t happening (or, worse, showing up for it — which is why they finally called you). Deciding that you didn’t owe them anything is an odd reaction to that — they were being respectful of your time. That’s not something to be upset by; it’s something to appreciate.

You’re looking at this as if they’ve somehow wronged you — that once the interview was scheduled, you were entitled to it. But you’re not entitled to it (no more than they would be entitled to expect you to interview even if you accepted another job, which would be ridiculous — more on that in a minute). This is a business meeting between two parties deciding if it makes sense to work together, and once they realized that it wouldn’t, the courteous thing for them to do was to explain that, and the courteous thing for you to do was to be gracious about it.

And last, it’s absolutely not true that you couldn’t have canceled an interview yourself and still expected to be considered in the future. Sensible employers appreciate candidates withdrawing from the process if they realize they won’t take the job (for example, if they decide to stay at their current job or if they accept a new one somewhere else). That wouldn’t preclude you from being considered for another job down the road.

{ 231 comments… read them below }

  1. Lily in NYC*

    OP, would you rather they wasted your time when they knew they weren’t going to hire you? I’ve seen more than one letter here from people upset that they went on an interview when the company already knew exactly who was going to get the job. You should be happy with yourself instead – they liked your cover letter enough to give you a chance to interview even though you had no experience. Then they got candidates with more experience which made them realize that they were going to end up going in that direction. It’s nothing personal and it was nice of them not to lead you on. Even if you thought you deserved a chance to interview and wow them with your personality, many places prefer to hire someone who will need less training or onboarding. I was heartbroken when my dept. didn’t hire our former intern, because he is just such a great dude. But I had to live with it because we needed someone more seasoned for that role.

    1. Annonymouse*

      I agree.

      OP I know you had your heart set on this job and are of course disappointed you didn’t get it or an interview. However I think that disappointment is also mixing into your feelings of how they treated you when they have gone above and beyond to be respectful and considerate of you and your time.

      If they had interviewed you when they knew with 100% certainty that they’d go with someone else – well that’s just cruel.

      I can’t remember if I read it here or on not always working but this could have been the scenario:

      Guy is out of work for a while but scores an interview for a great position in local big city about an hours drive from where he lives.

      Spends ages doing interview prep.

      Drives the hour to the city and has to pay for city parking ($20+ an hour for casual parking where I’m from, so I imagine it’s comparable) – a pretty big expense (plus gas) when you don’t have an income.

      Goes in for interview. Only goes for 10 (maybe 20) minutes. This is for a manager / mid level job. Not entry level.

      Asks if he has questions.
      “What’s your expected timeline for the next step / getting this position filled?”

      “Oh, we filled it 3 days ago. But we figure it’s good experience for unemployed people to interview.”

      He was livid. Not only that but when he came out THREE MORE people where waiting to be interviewed for the same position.

      He told the others there was no position of course and asked the company to take him off their records/destroy his resume.

  2. Joseph*

    Honestly, this is the kind of behavior we should be *encouraging* from employers.
    >They were honest about their own needs and actually know what they need in the position
    >They cared enough about your time and potential other commitments to keep you from showing up to a going-nowhere interview
    >They let you know several days in advance – notably before a weekend when you probably would have spent a lot of time preparing.
    >They followed up with you when you didn’t respond rather than assuming you knew – removing the possibility that you’d missed the email or they’d failed to send it or whatever.
    As I’m sure others can chime in, this sort of courtesy and caring about the other side of the desk is sadly missing from many (most?) companies’ interviewing processes.

    1. Lance*

      The advance notice, and subsequent follow-up (as Allison notes, I can perfectly understand wanting a response from the e-mail making sure it was received; wouldn’t want someone wasting their own time and showing up to a cancelled interview, after all) are my biggest stand-outs here. It definitely lets someone know that this is a company that seems to know how to actually work with people, and communicate.

      Shame about the lost interview, sure, but there’s plenty of time to gain experience that could be valuable for something else down the road, where you’d be able to confidently fit in.

    2. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Yes it’s disappointing to have the interview canceled. These folks were really nice about it though. Don’t hold it against them. In fact, keep them in mind down the road. If they’re that considerate dealing with interviewees then odds are they are a fantastic group to work for. Too many places these days would have dropped you and drove on.

      1. Jessie*

        It would have been appropriate for you to ask for an informational interview at their convenience.

    3. MashaKasha*

      Yes yes yes. My favorite interview lasted five minutes. A recruiter arranged a meeting between me and two managers from the prospective employer at his office downtown. I took off work, they had to leave their work, we all drove downtown (separately) their first question: “Why are you looking to leave your job?” I said “I’m looking to get away from the 24/7 on-call support”. They: “Then they sent you to the wrong company, we have that too” and that was it. We made small talk for another five minutes and I drove home. I still wasted my time, because the recruiter set me up with a company he knew I wouldn’t want to work for, but at least the employer saved me an hour of my (and their) time by not going through with the interview itself. I’m sure they would’ve canceled in advance if they could. I was very thankful and impressed. (Not impressed with the recruiter though!)

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed on all points, and particularly to Lance’s added comment. This is close to the gold standard of how an employer should behave with applicants who reach the interview stage—I honestly don’t know what they could have done that’s better than what they did.

      OP, I think some reframing might help. Being rejected sucks, but it’s helpful to try to put a little more distance between the process of applying and how emotionally invested you get in that process. It sounds like you became kind of attached to the promise of an interview, even when it turned out that it probably wasn’t the right fit for you or the employer. There are certainly bad employers out there, but at least in the context of hiring, these folks don’t sound like they fit that description.

  3. Venus Supreme*

    Rejection stings. I’ve had my fair share of job rejections.

    I think it was a blessing in disguise that the job told you upfront– otherwise they would’ve wasted your time and energy in an interview, falsely keeping your hopes up, and either rejecting you weeks or months later. I totally understand how you felt crappy getting that “nevermind” e-mail. I haven’t personally experienced something like that (but I’ve had one instance where I thought for sure I was getting the job and they never contacted me back), and unfortunately it is a double standard that employers can get away with stuff like this and candidates can’t.

    I think the best thing moving forward, OP, is to refocus this energy on new perspective jobs. Also, I think it’s great that you applied for this position knowing you didn’t have all the relevant experience/skills. Congrats on being considered for an interview- I think it shows you have a strong resume and cover letter!

    1. neverjaunty*

      Great advice. OP, it sounds like you’re displacing your disappointment about not getting the job.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I completely agree.* I would probably feel devastated if this happened to me (I’ve been job searching for a long time now), but I’ve had at least three interviews where they clearly weren’t going to hire me no matter what I said, and they were all miserable wastes of time to a greater or lesser degree. Coincidentally, one of those interviews actually was for a choral director job. When I showed up I was at least ten years younger than the people interviewing before and after me, the only one not wearing a suit, and when I sat down the interviewer spent a few seconds just staring at my resume with a “WTF” look in her face. It was not a load of fun, trust me.

      *Except for the double standard part. I agree with Allison that an applicant absolutely can get away with withdrawing from a scheduled interview, assuming they do it considerately and the company isn’t absurdly vindictive or something.

      1. Venus Supreme*

        You’re right, there isn’t a double standard when it comes to withdrawing from a scheduled interview. I was thinking of Alison’s response on a question this past Friday about a job candidate taking too long to respond with references, that’s where I had the double standard thing in my head. I’m still learning myself that the employer doesn’t hold all the power during interviews!

        & yes! The “dream job” I wanted so much (yes, I cried about it) took me on two interviews within a week, lots of back and forth in e-mails, then radio silence for three months, followed by a robotic “This position has been filled” e-mail. If they had told me the day after my second interview I wasn’t getting it, I would’ve saved myself SO much stress.

        I like to think most things happen for a reason and I’m still learning to trust that the sidewalk doesn’t end.

    3. Sherm*

      I once had an interview cancelled on me, not because they found better qualified people but because layoffs were just announced, but yes it was a crappy feeling. I had been looking for a long time, and then finally I had a shot at a place I really admired! So yeah it stung. But I got a phone call for them in which they were sympathetic and acknowledged that it must have been a disappointment. An all-business e-mail (if that’s what the OP got) would have left me cold. And I’m not sure what I would have made out of “please confirm e-mail receipt” with explanation of why they wanted it. I definitely wouldn’t want to interview if I had no chance, though.

      1. Taylor Swift*

        I would so much rather receive this information by email than a surprise phone call! It would allow me to compose myself and my thoughts before having to respond.

      2. Koko*

        I think it’s pretty obvious why they wanted her to confirm receipt. They didn’t want her showing up there to interview, which would have been extremely embarrassing for her. Asking her to confirm receipt of the email means they don’t have to call her to make sure she’s gotten the message, either, and a lot of people don’t like a phone call where they have to respond in the moment to rejection without a real opportunity to collect their feelings. It was a very kind thing to do.

  4. Amber Rose*

    Small side note: ridiculous employers will get mad if you cancel an interview. At which point you should be grateful you missed that “opportunity.” Speaking from personal experience.

    Interviews are a huge time sink normally. It’s much better for everyone to cut off that process early if it’s already obvious things won’t work out.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, my reaction to a cancelled interview is generally “Woo-hoo! Free hour!” And actually, we might well give you another chance, depending on the reason for the cancellation.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Not if you’ve scheduled a vacation day to go there, and they pull the rug.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            Possibly from the OP’s point of view or from an applicant who has had it happen to them.

            1. Peter the Bubblehead*

              I’ve never known an employer who forced you to still take the day off (as a paid vacation day) if your plans changed and you could work your normal hours.

    2. Tau*

      I still remember the interviewer who told me, when I cancelled an interview a few days ahead of time, how that sort of behaviour came across as really unprofessional and reflected badly on me. I mean, I didn’t handle it perfectly*, but… dang.

      * I was already feeling uncertain about the job due to terrible Glassdoor reviews, then had a health crisis come up that had already forced me to reschedule a different interview the week before. I’d still been hoping to make it to the interview, for practice if nothing else, but then my interviewer called me a few days before and asked what I’d been doing to prepare. I realised the honest answer was “nothing, and it will continue to be nothing, because I’ve been a bit busy huddling in a ball crying about the scary things happening to my body,” and decided it would probably be better to cancel the interview after all. Apparently, this was worthy of a scolding.

      In contrast, the place where I had to reschedule with less than 24 hours’ notice the week before was nothing but lovely and understanding about it.

      1. Kira*

        That’s so weird that the interviewer called you pre-interview to ask about your preparations. Very odd.

        1. Ted Mosby*

          Yeaaa that seem’s really weird and like some kind of red flag on it’s own?

          I don’t know why they would scold you. From an interviewee perspective it’s a huge bummer and rejection, but most hiring managers have at least a few options lined up. Would they rather you have come in unprepared and wasted their time?

  5. Nervous Accountant*

    I’m sympathizing, I remember feeling VERY frustrated over a similar situation a few years back and I wrote in to AAM. OP sounds new(ish) to working, just as I was. It is unfortunate and does feel unfair, but it’s better to have ti this way than how things typically go!

    Best of luck!

  6. Triangle Pose*

    OP, I’m sorry this happened to you. It sucks to get rejected before you “get a chance.” Alison is absolutely right though, I recommend you don’t think of this as the chorale group doing wrong by you and move on.

    1. Annonymouse*

      I hate the idea/concept of “getting a fair chance” at a job when someone doesn’t get an interview or selected to move onto the next stage.

      Did your application go through? Was it seen by people who select the next round? Then that’s your fair chance.

      This concept paints a picture in my mind that all these applicants are equal and each have the exact same chance of getting this role.

      This completely ignores that people have different skills, experience and training which make them unequal.

      I’d like to think of it as the “Hunger Games”.

      Sure in theory any of the 24 have an equal chance to win but in reality the 12 year old from a weak-ase district (like 12) is going to be taken out by the 17 year old with military training from 2.

      1. Annonymouse*

        Not to be harsh on OP!

        Just try to reframe this to a positive.

        1) your cover letter and resume where good enough to get you an interview when you didn’t have experience

        2) from how they’re acting they are showing you that they are an employer you’d want to work for – keep an eye out for a more junior finance position with them in the meantime

        3) you haven’t done anything that would burn a bridge with this employer

        I’ve had it happen to me too. I apply for a job I KNOW I’d be perfect for / is perfect for me and nope – no interview or I don’t get it.
        It sucks, but it frees me up for other opportunities and gives me a chance to reevaluate how I’m presenting myself and what I can do to be stronger for the next perfect for me job that comes up.

  7. LoiraSafada*

    This is so, so preferable. I know it sucks in the moment, but you will be so glad they did you this favor in the long run. I actually think the courtesy displayed here is pretty great.

  8. Dealtwiththis*

    I’m so sorry that this happened to you in the way that it did. As someone who works in fundraising, I just wanted to point out that a Director of Donations position typically requires someone with many years of experience and consistent experience bringing in large gifts. Of course it varies between organizations but if you are looking to get into the fundraising world, you may fare better by applying to development assistant or development coordinator positions. Hope that helps!

    1. Malibu Stacey*

      Yeah, I was kind of thinking it’s a job where getting rejected or having someone change their mind is something you need to get used to! Some people or going to decline to donate or ultimately decline after showing interest at first.

    2. Karen D*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. From OP’s description (“local chorale group”) this is probably a small operation, and the position advertised – director of donations – is completely essential to their survival. They might not have expected a chance to hire someone who has a track record of success in that role, but if such a person came along, they’d simply have to make hiring her their priority — barring some obvious deal-killer.

      And I agree with everyone else who says that the choral group was actually demonstrating courtesy and consideration in the way it communicated with OP. I got the benefit of that same courtesy about 10 years ago when I applied for a fellowship. Instead of waiting for the end of their application cycle (keeping me in suspense as to whether I would get the fellowship) they contacted me right away, explained that I didn’t fit all the criteria they were seeking for their fellows, acknowledged that their published criteria didn’t make it clear enough what they were looking for, changed their website immediately to keep others from making the same mistake, and thanked me very warmly for applying. It was by far the nicest rejection experience I ever had.

  9. Slow Gin Lizz*

    I understand and completely agree with Allison and commenters saying that it’s very courteous of them to not waste your time and energy when they knew they wouldn’t hire you. I do think that the choral group could maybe have waited a little longer for more resumes before scheduling interviews and avoided this problem altogether. Am I the only person who feels this way?

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      (I think my point here is that it’s okay for OP to be a little annoyed at them even if they were being mostly courteous.)

      1. Chriama*

        I think it’s ok to feel frustrated and annoyed while thinking “well am I good enough for an interview or not?” But you have to acknowledge that your frustration with the situation is different from believing the other party behaved badly. I don’t think it will serve OP well to frame it that way in her head or operate on the premise that the company was in the wrong here. It sucks, but sometimes sucky things just happen.

    2. Leatherwings*

      This is a double-edged sword though. Because then you’ve got people very upset that hiring processes take forever and why can’t they just hurry up already?

      And besides that, it makes sense sometimes to want to hire someone quickly and get a jump start on interviews.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Sure, sure, but the timeline here was very quick. She sent in the resume, got asked for an interview the very next day that was scheduled for the next week, and then later that same week they cancelled the interview. They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had waited even just a few days before scheduling the interview, could they not have? I am looking for new work at the moment and I don’t get some interview requests until a couple of weeks have gone by. I think the choral group jumped the gun a bit on their interview scheduling.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Eh. It’s really hard to say they jumped the gun from the outside. We just have no idea what their internal needs, timeline and budget looked like. I don’t think that’s a fair criticism.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I think it’s a perfectly fair criticism. It might not be a correct criticism but it’s fair to point it out as a possibility.

            1. Leatherwings*

              I mean, I just don’t think you have the information to make that judgement. Sure, it *could* be that they jumped the gun, but it’s just as likely that they didn’t or that they really needed to (because they need to onboard someone quickly).

              Because we don’t have that data, I don’t think it’s right for the commentariat here to criticize the company based on information we don’t have.

                1. GraceW*

                  And she can feel any way she likes, but her emotions don’t have to rule her actions. Not acknowledging the email seems self-defeating and childish.

          2. GrandBargain*

            It’s absolutely fair to point that out as a reasonable possibility. Email submitted Monday. Response on Tuesday, scheduling interview for following Monday. Interview cancelled on Thursday. WTH!

            To me it sounds as though a number of different people may have had their fingers in the pie. One looks at OP’s submittal and says, “Okay.” Someone else with more authority over the hiring process looks at it later and says, “No.” Total speculation on my part.

            SGL isn’t saying she has more information than anyone else or encouraging OP to blame the chorale group, just positing a possible scenario in which this played out. Nothing wrong with that.

            1. TL -*

              Or they were thinking for the budget they offered, they were only going to be able to get X type of candidate, so they scheduled interviews with X candidates, but then for some reason, a bunch of Y candidates applied and they were pleasantly surprised but had to cancel on X candidates.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          We don’t actually know the time line, though–we don’t know how far into the process they were when they contacted her. It could well be that they were close to the date that they wanted to hire someone. And it could be that by the time they contacted her, she was one of the stronger candidates and they thought she might be among the best they could hope for. Then, at the last minute, they got an unexpected influx of better candidates. As an employer, if they thought she was among the best applicants they were going to get, why would they wait and take the chance that they were lose people to other jobs?

          I totally get how disappointing and unfair it would *feel* to have an interview scheduled and then canceled. But we don’t have enough information to say that they jumped the gun on scheduling. Maybe they did, but we don’t have enough information to make a good guess about that.

        3. Rick*

          Time is always the enemy in hiring (on both sides). Positions get filled by responsive hiring managers. I can’t possibly fault a company for being _too_ responsive.

      2. Lance*

        That last point could be key; maybe they need someone soon (judging by an above comment, Director of Donations is a big and important role), so they’re trying to get potentially qualified people in for interviews as soon as they can to hopefully speed up the process a little.

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      We don’t know from the letter how long they had been accepting applications. I think it’s equally likely that they canceled the OP’s interview after meeting with candidates who had applied earlier than OP did.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Possible but I feel like they would have known if other candidates had more experience than OP just by looking at the other candidates’ resumes. The way their email was worded seemed to me that they hadn’t interviewed the more experienced candidates yet.

        1. Zombii*

          But we also know that “moving forward with other candidates who are more qualified” (or other variations) is very commonly a polite lie in hiring to cover for any number of things. It could be anything.

          1. purpleangel*

            Agree 100 percent. This is the only rejection/feedback I receive. Some of the jobs I have 17 years experiencing doing, and they are asking for 5 years!

      2. MegaMoose, Esq*

        It’s also possible that someone just made a mistake scheduling an interview with her. I mentioned in another comment that I’ve had at least three interviews where it was immediately clear they weren’t going to hire me – at least one of those I’m almost positive my resume ended up on the interview pile on accident.

    4. PhillyPretzel*

      No, I had this thought as well, even though I completely agree with everyone else that the organization’s decision was absolutely the right thing to do and shows a lot of consideration for the candidate. I do think they probably acted prematurely by inviting the OP to interview so quickly. In the fields I’ve worked in, no one would expect such a quick response to an application, and while I can understand that you might have reasons to hurry a search along, if you invite people and then end up not interviewing them, it just creates more needless work for whoever is running the search.

    5. Over Development*

      Having been on small arts orgs boards and consulting during a wreck of a hiring process for a small arts org, they may have truly thought she was the best candidate when they scheduled the email. Also, depending on who was doing the hiring, they may have been more swayed by her passion than her experience.

      When I consulted, we sat in on the third interview process for a new development person. The first time around they had hired someone and it was a disaster, the second time around they had no qualified applicants and we came in to rewrite the position and the hiring rubric.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      No, the timing didn’t bother me at all—plenty of organizations move quickly, and I don’t think we should discourage organizations from timely processing and responding to job applicants. First, we don’t know how long the process had been open, and it’s also possible they were moving on an expedited basis because the position is crucial for them to fill.

      But also, I don’t think it’s helpful to speculate in order to substantiate/validate OP’s feelings—OP is entitled to feel how they felt. But because OP asked for a gut-check, it’s also fair for folks to empathize and explain why this is not a situation where OP was wronged (and then offer advice on how to regroup). Speculating about what the employer did or didn’t do isn’t really helpful to OP in this context.

  10. Newby*

    This seems like one of the scenarios in job hunting that is like dating. Not getting a date is disappointing, but getting one and then having them cancel stings more. Doesn’t mean it was the wrong thing to do, but it still stings.

    1. MoinMoin*

      To continue that analogy, I get why OP would feel like if someone was interested in her enough to accept the date in the first place, he should follow through with it even if his interest is now waning because they might find there is a spark in person. But it would really suck to go to that date and hear him say, “I accepted the date because you were okay and I didn’t have anything else going on, but now my ex wants to get back together and I’m still in love with her and know I want to pursue a relationship with her, but I thought I should see you too just to keep my options open.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Except it’s not a date. I think the analogy has value, albeit limited value.

        It’s really unhealthy for folks to approach offers to interview as analogous to someone saying “oh, you were the best I had but I’m getting back together with my ex.” First, let me note that if someone cancels a first date with you, it’s not rational to be offended or think they owed you that time. There’s no real relationship between the parties before a first date, and getting fixated on a canceled one would be weird (not saying people don’t do it, but it’s not a realistic/healthy way to view relationships with strangers).

        It’s very fair to rescind an interview offer for someone less qualified (or with less on-point experience) than a better-suited candidate, and I think it’s reasonable to explain why you’re rescinding the invitation. Saying you found someone more experienced is suuuuper normal. The very essence and purpose of hiring is to do just that—identify the best candidate for that organization and for that role. Just as you’re not entitled to a first date, you’re also not entitled to an interview.

    2. Allison*

      And I’ve canceled a date for a similar reason. At first I said yes because eh, why not? But I had recently started seeing someone else, and the more I thought about it the more I realized I didn’t want to complicate things by seeing both guys when I really liked the guy I was already seeing, so I canceled the date and told him why. If I had gone through with the date, it would have been harder for me to reject him after, because it would have gotten his hopes up.

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        I once canceled a date for that reason! The guy I canceled on was quite hurt, and his friends thought I was a huge jerk, and I was afraid I had screwed up. (I married the guy I had just started dating, by the way.)

  11. Jeanne*

    I think you’re looking at the reply differently. They weren’t looking for your opinion or reaction which is the part you were having trouble with. They were looking for a reply saying “appt cancellation received.” I understand you didn’t want to say something you shouldn’t.

    1. MillersSpring*

      Right. An appropriate reply might have been, “Got it. Thank you for letting me know. I’m disappointed, but I hope I have an opportunity in the future to apply to your organization.”

      Due to your actual behavior (if you had a peeved tone during the phone call), they might not think favorably of you now.

      Sorry, OP. I know it’s frustrating.

      1. Interviewer*

        This is what I was coming here to say. From the interviewer’s side, your behavior shows you might be hard to communicate with, and your radio silence started right after they sent the note to cancel. I’m sure that timing did not go unnoticed. What does this behavior say about you as a potential candidate for employment?

        You could have shown them that you can be gracious and professional. You could have given them an opportunity to remember a positive experience with you, in case there’s an opening in the future.

        1. Zombii*

          I hope your interpretation isn’t standard.

          While I understand wanting to make sure the OP received the message, and I understand most people do check their email at least daily (a better lie may have been never received/might be in the spam folder?), holding it against someone that they didn’t check their personal email for four days (if you believe the lie) seems a bit excessive.

          1. Chriama*

            Eh, I would think that someone who doesn’t check their email for 4 days is not that organized. What if they had needed to contact her about something else? I think that with most business correspondence there’s a 24-48 hour expectation.

            I probably wouldn’t explicitly hold it against her but I would definitely unconsciously label her as flaky, and if I was hiring for another position that better suits her actual experience I might not think to bring her in. Basically whatever impression she gave that was so good they wanted to bring her in for an interview even while knowing she didn’t meet all their requirements would be eroded or undone by the impression of being young/flaky.

          2. Engineer Girl*

            In this case the OP knew that there was an interview and the potential for further communication. So they should be checking their email. That’s the difference.

          3. CM*

            I do college interviews and I absolutely get annoyed if somebody doesn’t respond to my email about scheduling an interview within a few days. If you are expecting communications about an application you submitted, you should be checking your email and voicemail regularly. (That said, I don’t necessarily hold it against them, but if they’re also late to the interview or need to reschedule at the last minute, I’ll view them as being unreliable.)

        2. Having It Both Ways*

          As discussed above regarding the issue of whether the employer might have jumped the gun, it is not at all helpful to speculate on the employer’s motives or actions since we don’t know or have enough information to make an educated guess.

      2. Karen D*

        Yeah, this too. OP probably made a favorable impression on somebody, for them to have scheduled an interview. And things do fall apart; it’s possible that the more-qualified candidate wants more than the organization can afford to pay, or shows signs of being not very committed to the particular job being offered.

        If so, OP has probably blown the opportunity to be considered as a backup choice if his or her behavior was interpreted as sulking. … or actually, if they take OP at face value that s/he (an active job-seeker) wasn’t monitoring email. That’s not something I’d ever admit to someone in this situation.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          RE: OP has probably blown the opportunity to be considered as a backup choice. . .

          I agree that the response that she didn’t check emails was kind of strange and not positive, if I were the hiring manager or HR, I would not put too much weight on that. My manager can’t remember important conversations we had yesterday, so I kind of doubt on the hiring side, they are putting as much energy into remembering the OP’s every move as she may think.

          1. Zombii*

            Since her contact at the company seems to prefer to communicate via email, OP may be more (negatively) memorable now they’ve had to call her/go outside their preferred method of contact. Things like that will stick sometimes, not that that’s at all fair.

            And although I could understand them being frustrated that she went four days “without checking her email,” and that they had to call her to confirm she’d received it, I don’t understand why they didn’t call to inform her in the first place. It was time-sensitive information, and who knows how often this person they’ve just started interacting with usually checks her personal email?

            1. Chriama*

              I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation that someone who’s engaged in your hiring process is checking their email semi-regularly. I mean, she was checking it enough to get the original interview request, and actually schedule a time to meet, right? The additional phone call was for her benefit, not theirs. If she shows up and they don’t want to interview her the only one who’s wasted her time is the OP.

        2. Karen D*

          (and yeah, the above is why I shouldn’t make leisurely progress on an AAM post while actually doing work. Interviewer’s response makes mine wholly redundant.)

  12. TootsNYC*

    If you NO-SHOW an appointment, you’ll likely never be considered by them (at least, not until some time has gone by and they’ve thrown out their files–which isn’t likely to happen in the digital age).

    And the point folks made above—that you should be pleased that they were going to interview you; that this is a considerate company—are ones that would have me suggesting you write them a note to thank them for considering you for an interview, and also for letting them know, then wish them luck, and tell them you’d be interested in anything that comes up that you -would- be a strong candidate for.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Tangentially, I got an interview once with a government agency after no-showing on them for another job a year or so earlier. Technically I did show up – the day *after* my scheduled interview. The director was generous enough to interview me anyhow, but I was mortified and figured I’d be blacklisted. I didn’t get the second job either, but at least they were willing to give me a shot. So anecdotally at least, it’s worth a shot for a good fit, assuming of course you apologized promptly.

    2. Cap Hiller*

      Yes if I were the OP, I would worry that if the org needs to go back to their B list, OP wouldn’t be considered for it because he/she did not pay attention to the email. Possibly burning a bridge

    3. myswtghst*

      I really like this idea. A quick email to thank them for their consideration of her application and their communication, and to wish them luck in their search, might help keep the door open if any other job opportunities arise which the OP might be better suited for.

  13. The Supreme Troll*

    OP, you yourself admitted that you lacked experience in a key function of this role. There is a very slight possibility that they might have considered you for the position if there wasn’t absolutely anybody else who applied, but once more candidates started applying (with the necessary experience), it would not have made sense to interview you, as they would be wasting your time since you were at this point out of their candidate pool.

    This company in no way meant to offend you; in fact, they went out of there way to explain everything very clearly, so that you did not need to guess at anything or make assumptions. Like it was said above, it would be wonderful if more companies acted this way than to give you canned responses.

  14. DCGirl*

    I once had an interview for an annual giving/membership position at an art museum in Baltimore. When I got there, I the interviewer was running late and her assistant didn’t take me back to see her till more than an hour after my scheduled time. The interviewer took one look at my resume and said, “I don’t know why HR scheduled you for an interview. You won’t do at all.” I had tons of annual giving experience but not museum membership experience. “I’m not going to waste your time or mine.” Then she buzzed her assistant to lead me out of the rabbit warren of offices and to the museum door, where I exited to find that the delay in her schedule meant that my parking meter had expired and gotten a ticket. The museum then mailed me a coupon for free admission to thank me for applying. I threw it away.

    So, yes, a phone call to cancel that interview would have been much appreciated.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Oh man, that’s rough. One of my worst interviews ever was an on campus interview with a D.C. law firm. I was kept waiting more than an hour, the interviewer was clearly distracted, and then he actually *sent me out of the room* for 20 minutes so he could take a phone call, then called me back in only to immediately end the interview. I later learned they’d hired another student earlier that day.

    2. Over Development*

      I had a similar experience where an annual giving position at a major university was secretly a Gift Officer position, only no one told HR.

      I was taken to task for having not raised six and seven figure gifts. I would have so much rather had that interview canceled.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        So aggravating. I still remember a phone screen from 100 years ago at the beginning of my career, where the person kept asking me about experience I didn’t have, clearly getting frustrated. I’m just thinking, YOU called ME. I have no idea why I was on your list since I’m clearly not what you’re looking for, but I certainly didn’t put myself on your list. Go yell at someone else.

      2. DCGirl*

        Yes, she clearly felt membership was the most important part of the job and that anyone could learn to do annual giving, but hadn’t communicated it to the HR.

        1. ex-AIC employee*

          As someone who has done annual giving and membership at a major museum, I say she’s full of it. Museum membership is not rocket freaking science, and direct mail works the same way wherever you go.

  15. Murphy*

    I totally understand being disappointed, but I do think it’s better than going to the interview and getting your hopes up more if there wasn’t any chance that you’d get the job

  16. Uzumaki Naruto*

    I wonder if the LW thinks that getting an interview means they would have had a shot at the job?

    If so, that’s just wrong. It’s absolutely possible to decide that someone’s qualifications don’t stack up on paper to the point where you can’t hire them, regardless of how much you like them during the interview process. They didn’t take away your *chance* by canceling; they took away a waste of your time.

  17. Adam V*

    The only downside I see here is if they interview all the more seasoned applicants and decide “you know, they may all have more experience, but I don’t think I’d really want to hire any of them – #1 was rude, #2 seemed to want to use this job as a stepping-stone, #3 was applying to grad school for August, etc. etc. etc. Hey, what about OP? She doesn’t have the experience, but maybe we could give her a shot”. But OP, having had her interview rescinded, has moved on and is already in final interviews with other employers.

    Not sure I know what the right answer would be if you were worried about that – maybe ask OP to push back her interview until they’d had a chance to talk to all of their top candidates first? But that might be worse – asking her to delay, and then going back a second time to cancel.

    So… yeah. I guess cancelling up front was probably the right thing, even if it stinks for OP.

  18. Amy G. Golly*

    A couple years ago, I applied for a librarian position with Chicago Public Libraries. At the time, I was really excited to be considered for a job in a city I love with such a large system, but I didn’t get my hopes up too high, and I didn’t hear anything from them. (I had been told they highly prefer people who already live in the area, so I wasn’t too crestfallen.) Flash forward more than half a year, and I’ve just accepted and been working at my current position for a few weeks when someone from CPL calls and leaves me a voice message to schedule an interview. While I was excited to warrant an interview (after all that time!), I’d realized by that point that relocating to an expensive city just wasn’t the right move for me. I called the woman back and left her a message declining an interview.

    She called me back to tell me I had to decline the interview “in writing”, i.e. in an email. I did so, because I had no reason not to, but I’ve always wondered about it. I mean: in such a large, competitive library system, I can see why they might want a record of my declining the interview. But…what leverage did they have to insist? What, if I didn’t agree to email my regrets, then I would be bodily forced to schedule and attend an interview…?

    1. Adam V*

      Maybe it’s for some silly lawsuit reason? You decline on the phone, they don’t call you for an interview, you sue them saying “you never interviewed me because [discriminatory reason]” and they can’t prove that the reason they didn’t call you is because you asked them not to. It turns into “he said, she said” – but really expensive because you’re doing it in a courtroom.

      Still, I agree. Sounds like a lot of wasted time to me. Even in my above case, you could write down in their file “spoke to Amy at 1:45 PM on Monday 2/6/2017 about the opening for position #12345, Amy stated she was declining the interview” and that should be good enough.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think it’s more likely that they’re a public employer (and thus have certain formalities about documentation during hiring) than a fear of being sued.

      1. Amy G. Golly*

        “Demand” might be too strong a word, as she was certainly very nice about it. But yeah, she did say I “had to” decline in writing, which I found slightly cheeky, since our phone conversation was the second time I confirmed my decline!

        Now that I’m remembering the situation, it was her calling to tell me I had to decline in writing that seemed odd. I don’t know why she didn’t email me the request – then I could have just responded to her email.

        1. Robin B*

          Reminds me of a time when I contacted a local church, saying please save your postage and exclude me from future mailings because I was not a church member there.

          The “pastor” insisted we withdraw in writing… but we weren’t even members. Sigh.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      That is kind of funny, requesting the decline be in writing. Sometimes I wonder if that sort of thing is a misinterpretation of a policy. Like, they may need it documented in writing, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it for them. They can easily document the phone call themselves, but in this day and age of e-comm, everyone acts like it can’t be done.

      1. Over Development*

        So…many arguments on what counts as digital documentation and what we actually need…

    3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Is it a competitive/Civil Service type situation? Were you being called from a potential eligible list with scores? If that’s the case, that’s why they need it in writing – to legally move onto the next candidate. (I’ve gotten around this by sending an email, “To confirm our conversation on X date, you are declining the interview for Y job.” [blah blah blah pleasantries.] BUT, depending on the circumstances something more definitive is sometimes required.)

      1. Amy G. Golly*

        I figured the reason was along these lines, and I saw no need to make their lives more difficult by refusing! I just found it a bit…odd. Because of course I don’t have to decline in writing, and they have no leverage to ensure that I do. Honestly, I was expecting an email along the lines you described, confirming that I declined to interview – I imagine it’s what would have happened had I failed to send the notice myself!

  19. NK*

    Speaking from the hiring side of things, interviewing candidates takes a lot of time and energy! I probably don’t spend as quite much time on the interviewer side as the interviewee side, but pretty close. I’ve spent hours discussing the relative merits of candidates with my fellow interviewers. So if someone cancels (ideally with at least 24 hours notice, but really anytime before), I wouldn’t hold it against them at all – I’d be glad that they didn’t show up out of a sense of obligation if they had no intention of taking the job. I’d guess this is one of those areas where the candidate is much more likely to hold a grudge than the company.

  20. Trout 'Waver*

    I don’t think this group deserves the free pass, though. They clearly jumped the gun on scheduling the OP for an interview. Although it is far kinder to cancel the interview than offer false hope, ideally they would have an idea of what their applicant pool looks like before scheduling any interviews.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      As several of us remarked above, we don’t have enough information to know or make an educated guess about whether they jumped the gun.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        They went from “We’ll interview this person with no direct experience” to “We have so many qualified candidates we can’t even interview the people we said we would” in a couples days. I think we can make an educated guess….

        1. LBK*

          The size of a hiring pool can be really unpredictable – they might not have anticipated receiving a lot of resumes from highly qualified people, so someone who looked like they might be worth taking a chance on could drop down the list pretty quickly if it turns out you actually get a ton of interest from more experienced candidates.

          Is it wrong to schedule an interview soon after receiving someone’s application? In general, don’t candidates prefer expedience, based on the endless complaints we see here about how it takes companies to hire? Feels a little “damned if you do” to complain that they actually went *too* fast in this case.

          1. lutian*

            I’d rather be told “no” from the beginning than hear “maybe” followed by “on second thought, nah.”

        2. HRChick*

          I thought it was more “We’ll schedule an interview with those we’re considering” to “We’ve selected an applicant that can’t be beat.”

        3. MoinMoin*

          I imagined a scenario in which they’d put out feelers for applicants and hadn’t received much so they decided they may as well take a chance on the OP, then found out, for example, the local college career center didn’t send out the opening as expected and now a professor has forwarded it to all her students and hey, now they have a whole class of applicants with the exact right qualifications!

        4. fposte*

          But this happens all the time, especially if you don’t have a firm close date or you expedite the process by scheduling interviews before you’ve gotten the whole submission pool. You think you’ve got a pool where somebody with similar experience and a creative approach is the top of your cut, and then suddenly you get a few people who have the exact credentials you’re seeking. That’s not jumping the gun, that’s just a way to handle the process.

            1. Chriama*

              Occam’s Razor is that they jumped the gun on interviewing instead of legitimately believing she was one of their better options until they received evidence to the contrary? I don’t think those 2 scenarios are mutually exclusive. Many people interview on a rolling basis, and it’s not unusual for the pool of applicants to change as time goes on.

              I do think that just not scheduling interviews until they had better applicants is not a realistic expectation. We don’t know how long the position was open for. OP heard about this job from an acquaintance, right? It’s actually pretty normal to assume that a few of the better qualified applicants heard about the position from acquaintances too, and that everyone heard about it a few weeks after the ad had been posted and the hiring committee was suddenly flooded with referred applicants.

    2. Annonymouse*

      It really depends though.

      If it is more of a niche industry/role then having someone with lots of previous experience apply – well you’d be foolish not to interview them.

      Also if someone comes along that blows everyone else away it won’t make sense to interview other people who aren’t even close.

      In my current job for a niche industry I applied late in the process (because the job posting was under call centre when it’s actually admin/reception so I didn’t see it until I searched for “teapot sports”).

      I have 10 years admin and customer service experience, 7 years industry experience including areas they want to move towards plus an extra skill they’d normally have to hire a seperate person for.

      So it really didn’t make sense to interview other people without industry or role specific experience.

  21. Punkin*

    While it is disappointing, the company really was respectful of your time.

    However, you were not respectful of theirs to a point. Refusing to answer their email was childish. Plus, I would find an applicant who had “not checked their email” in the days leading up to an interview (what if the company need more info?) to be maybe – looking for the right word here – disconnected? – from the application/hiring process.

    You made them call you (and lied when they did). Sometimes that is enough to burn that bridge.

    1. Observer*

      I was thinking much the same thing. If I heard that a candidate had not checked their email for two work days before an interview, I would definitely put them into the “don’t ever hire this person if they ever apply again” pile.

      1. Chriama*

        Totally agree. If she was going to lie she should have said she never got the email. At least this way it’s technology’s fault, not the fact that she’s flaky.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      That’s unfair to the OP. If the company was truly respectful of the OP’s time, they wouldn’t have scheduled an interview at all. Job hunting is exhausting and stressful. Give the OP a little latitude for having a less than gracious response to being jerked around.

      1. Punkin*

        Yes – job hunting is exhausting & stressful. So is hiring.

        I have seen it from both sides (in fact, will probably be job hunting again soon).

        I have been on several interview committees at my present institution. As employers, if someone looks like they may be able to be developed if we get few strong candidates, we would like to talk with them to clarify & assess. But if a strong candidate applies & we have x interview spots (everyone on the committee has to block out time for these – sometimes a challenge to get everyone together), the weakest candidate. will not get an interview, even if it has already been scheduled.

        I, as a candidate, would have been so disappointed to be interviewed and then told “well, we interviewed you because you were already scheduled, but we are going with someone with more experience who applied after we scheduled your interview” – because I prep like crazy for an interview. They REALLY would have wasted my time.

        OP should have sent an email along the lines of “I am disappointed that we will not be able to discuss this position. I believe in your company’s mission and hope you will think of me for future openings…”

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Hiring is every bit as difficult as job hunting. I’ve done both as well. But job hunting is much, much more exhausting and stressful because your livelihood, and by extension you family’s is on the line. It’s unfair to compare them in that way.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Yeah, I agree that the power dynamic alone makes this a different kind of stress for each party. I don’t think the OP should have responded this way at all, but I also don’t think it’s fair to say both ends of it are generally equally stressful.

      2. fposte*

        I’m not sure why you’re thinking that scheduling her for an interview was a frivolous act, though; it really isn’t.

        And I get that it’s disappointing, but such responses should remain internal or shared with loved ones; don’t sulk at the employer.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          I mean, if they had no idea that fully qualified candidates would apply to their posting, and they were completely shocked that multiple had done so only a few days after they had scheduled interviews for less than qualified candidates, yeah then it wouldn’t have been frivolous. I guess that could happen. I find it much much more likely that they scheduled the interview prematurely.

          1. Observer*

            It’s still an utterly inappropriate reaction. Also, assuming they made a mistake to schedule the interview. Should they have really compounded the mistake by bringing the OP in for an interview that they knew was not going to go anywhere? That’s ridiculous.

            If someone told me that the applicant actually HAD gotten the email but refused to acknowledge it and then lied about it, because they thought we were obligated to waste everyone’s time with an interview just because we made the mistake of setting it up, I would go from “mental note to not hire in the future” to “Place this name in the Not Eligible For Hire list at my organization”.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              Nobody is arguing the OP’s reaction was appropriate and nobody is arguing that they should have brought her in anyway.

      3. Annonymouse*

        It’s not disrespectful if someone comes in late in the game who is a 9 or 10 out of ten that blows the 6.5 or 7 out of the water and you only have limited interview spots.

        How many times have we heard complaints of someone who interviewed when clearly they had no chance and they were just to fill a quota?

    3. Non-Prophet*

      Yes to all this. OP, your disappointment is understandable. I know what it feels like to be excited and hopeful before an interview. But this organization really did treat you with respect and professionalism when canceling the interview. They canceled several days prior and, when you did not acknowledge receiving the cancelation email, someone called you to be absolutely certain you knew the interview had been canceled. In some ways, they were more considerate of your time than you were of theirs. I don’t say that to be harsh, but to offer how it might have appeared from the employers perspective.

      Unfortunately, saying that you did not check email for four days was not a great response (though admittedly better than saying that you saw the email but chose not respond). For nonprofits, it’s essential that their development staff be responsive and engaged with the donor base…and also be able to accept rejection graciously. As an interviewer, if a candidate admitted to not checking email for four days before a scheduled interview — or was not able to accept professional rejection– it would solidify my impression that the candidate would not have been right for a fundraising role.

      Although this position didn’t work out, I think it was a good learning experience. Clearly you wrote a compelling cover letter that made you an attractive candidate –even without direct experience. That says a lot about you! Good luck!

      1. Emmylou*

        +1 to the point that fundraising requires many queries and connections that lead to rejection that you absolutely cannot take personally. This is the biggest red flag here for me — I’m not sure OP is making a link between the skills this process is supposed to demonstrate and the way she responded. Both “out loud” (seeming to be disconnected) and to herself/us (taking this way too personally).

        1. Punkin*

          Emmy & Non-P – great points that I had not even considered!

          I really hope the OP finds a good fitting position for her skills.

  22. Collie*

    I’m guessing the answer is yes, here, but if OP wanted to, would it be totally out of line to ask what might make her a stronger candidate in the future within the context of a brief (and sincere) thank you note?

    1. Chriama*

      It sounds like OP knows exactly what would make her a stronger candidate – experience in the job she was applying for! She might write back and ask for feedback on how to get more experience or to be considered for lower level roles in the future, but if it’s just because she doesn’t want to let go of her perceived connection to this employer then I would tell her not to bother.

  23. lutian*

    I can see OP’s annoyance here. It’s one thing to get rejected because the company has a certain threshold for qualifications, i.e. “Jane Doe’s resume shows that she lacks X, Y, Z. We cannot hire her.” It’s another for the company to be wishy-washy about it and say, “Well, Jane Doe’s resume shows she lacks X, Y, and Z, but I guess maybe she could work out…” and then, when they receive resumes from people who are proficient in X, Y, and Z, the company says, “Oh, well, of course Jane Doe can’t do this job.” Either it’s possible she could do the job or it’s not.

    And yes, of course, there are jobs where you can learn this stuff as you go, but I don’t think it’s the best practice to hire someone who lacks major qualifications simply because they’re best of the worst that is available to you. If you hired Jane Doe from the example above, and then three months later you run into someone who needs a job, would be perfect in the role and requires no training, are you just going to fire Jane Doe when it’s your own fault you put her there?

    1. Collie*

      While I also see OP’s annoyance, I disagree a bit with your premise. The company isn’t obligated to interview anyone and everyone who could potentially do the job/meets the bare minimum. If they did, interview processes would take far, far longer than they already do. I think the point is to pick the top-most candidates based on application materials and narrow it down from there.

      1. lutian*

        I didn’t say they should interview anyone who could potentially do the job. I’m saying they shouldn’t backtrack their position on requirements. Of course they shouldn’t interview anyone who meets the bare minimum. They shouldn’t be calling those people for interviews in the first place (and then canceling them once better prospects show up). If they’re not receiving applications from qualified people, they should look at why that’s happening, rather than bringing in someone to interview who is subpar from the get-go because that’s the best they have to work with.

        1. Collie*

          I’m sorry if I offended you. That wasn’t my intent. I reread what you wrote and still interpret it the way I had originally, but I can see it may be interpreted differently as well. I shouldn’t have commented without fully understanding and I apologize.

        2. The Anonymous One*

          But they never said OP was subpar. Just that someone else was more qualified. There’s a difference.

          1. lutian*

            It felt pretty clear from OP’s description of her own skills that she wasn’t the right fit for the job from the get-go.

            1. fposte*

              She wasn’t the perfect fit for the job, but places often hire people with relevant if not exact credentials and hope they rise to the desired level. I see it a lot in small orgs, and my university has definitely been known to do it as well. It’s just that they’re easy to trump if you get applications from candidates with the credentials you really want.

              1. Turtle Candle*

                Yep. At my workplace the shorthand is “Magical Unicorns” and “Nice Normal Ponies.” A magical unicorn is the person who fits every nice-to-have and would-be-great-but-not-necessary slot on the application–the writer who is completely conversant with programming but just doesn’t enjoy doing it, so they can singlehandedly manage your entire API reference with minimal training, for instance. A nice normal pony is a writer who is moderately technically inclined and willing to learn. We absolutely hire nice normal ponies; I was one when I started. But yeah, it’s just true that if we’re interviewing a bunch of nice normal ponies and a magical unicorn shows up and interviews well (can back up their experience, isn’t a jerk, has solid references, etc.), we’ll snap up the magical unicorn first.

                Like I say, I get how it feels unfair, because I myself am a nice normal pony, not a magical unicorn, and it sucks to know that all it takes is one magical unicorn to sweep you out of contention. But speaking as a current employee, wow, it’s nice when we get a magical unicorn.

        3. bleepbloop*

          I think it’s more likely that, they got a number of resumes, and OP looked good for whatever reason, but then they got a resume that looked good for the same reasons as OP PLUS they had the qualifications. If you know your company is one where, say, personality matters a lot, or organization matters a lot, you might be willing to overlook teachable skills for personality traits, but if someone comes with both, it’s gonna be a no brainer. Acting out is not a sustainable or reasonable response to the stress of job hunting, and I would recommend OP and anyone else who feels this way to explore whatever other outlets which will allow them to express emotions and manage expectations in a healthy way.

      2. Blossom*

        I don’t think that’s what Lutian’s saying at all. I took the point to be that a hiring committee should be absolutely clear on the essential criteria, and not be tempted to dip below them because of a lack of suitable candidates. Sure, if you have a greater number of qualified candidates than you can feasibly interview, then just pick the top 5 or so. With some jobs, however, you’re in the opposite situation; very few applications, and each seemingly worse than the last; it’s easy to get drawn into wishful thinking about how maybe Mediocre Candidate X would be better than an empty seat, providing that the job description was completely redrawn, etc.

        In this case, I do think the organisation was rash in inviting the OP to interview so soon, given the context.

        1. Chriama*

          > a hiring committee should be absolutely clear on the essential criteria, and not be tempted to dip below them because of a lack of suitable candidates.

          How does that make sense? Surely the business is capable of evaluating whether or not they’d rather have an inexperienced person in this position or no person at all. Why on earth should they place some sort of artificial restriction on themselves that ignores the reality of the job market they’re in? Really, I get how much it sucks to get that rejection. But the company has acted reasonably, professionally and politely. All the things people are selecting would make applicants feel better, but it wouldn’t be good for the company. And since the end result is the same (applicant doesn’t get the job), why should the company hamstring themselves to protect the feelings of grown adults?

          1. Zombii*

            If the company hires someone who doesn’t have the essential qualifications because they’d rather hire anybody than nobody, they set the person they hire up for failure. Given, sometimes it’s better to hire anybody than to hire nobody, but that’s not usually true for higher-level roles, especially ones that are crucial to the survival of the organisation. Organisations/companies that do this end with a net loss—they’ve spent resources training someone who was never going to succeed in the way they needed them to, plus more resources to go through the hiring process again, all to show that the position was “filled” (“filled” because the work was still not being done, or it was being done in a way that was more damaging than if nothing had been done while the hiring manager continued to search for qualified applicants).

            This obviously varies by industry and job market, etc, but an arbitrary hiring timeline that no one is willing to deviate from is often a worse artificial restriction than insisting on finding applicants with specific necessary qualifications. It’s the difference between “We haven’t found any qualified candidates in the month we’ve been receiving applications, we need to extend this search,” and “We haven’t found any qualified candidates in the month we’ve been receiving applications, we need to start interviewing the unqualified candidates and cross our fingers.”

            1. lutian*

              Yes, this is how I feel. If you end up hiring someone you’re not that thrilled about, it’s going to be more difficult for that person to succeed. Can it be done? Sure. But I’ve also seen people get hired without having the core criteria and then they end up losing the job a few months later because it’s not working out. Well, no shit, Sherlock. You took a chance hiring this person and now they’re out a job because you felt the position *had* to be filled RIGHT NOW so you chose someone who maybe wasn’t the best choice.

            2. Chriama*

              > If the company hires someone who doesn’t have the essential qualifications because they’d rather hire anybody than nobody, they set the person they hire up for failure.

              That’s a false framing. Just because they wouldn’t prefer an inexperienced person if they had an experienced person to choose from doesn’t mean they should never consider an inexperienced person, or that such a person is destined to fail. And just because they don’t want to invest resources in training if they don’t have to doesn’t mean they won’t invest those resources if that’s what circumstances dictate.

              And again, we don’t know what their timeline was, or what skills OP needed that they thought they couldn’t get. Having an inexperienced person who can handle some of the low level stuff could give more experienced staff some breathing room to be able to handle the high level stuff she can’t do yet and also free up some time for them to train her up to their level.
              Imagine this: there’s a team handling x and y, and x is high level and y is low level. They bring OP in to take on the team’s share of y while the rest of the team splits up her share of x. Once she’s trained, each member of the team is handling a proportionate amount of x and y.
              Sure, the organization might prefer someone who can come in and take on x and y right away. But given the choice between all this stuff going undone (or suffocating the existing employees) while they try to find the ‘perfect’ candidate and bringing in a less than perfect candidate and rearranging some of the work while she gets up to speed on the higher level stuff, it’s not unreasonable to decide that it’s better to have a less qualified person than no one at all.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Seriously. And people complain all the time here about not being given a chance just because they weren’t a 100% match with the job. Here’s a company that’s willing to be flexible.

                1. Golden Lioness*

                  I was thinking the same thing.

                  Another point nobody brought up is that maybe they cancelled the interview because in discussing the role they realized there were certain new skills (not originally envisioned when they posted the job) and that takes OP out of the running.

                  It happened to me one before, and I was perfectly fine with it. I know they would consider me if I applied again. I still speak and stayed in touch with the internal recruiter of that company.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They might have been willing to consider her as a candidate who could do the job … but once they got a bunch of people who were clearly stronger, it wouldn’t make sense to waste her time or theirs on an interview when she clearly wasn’t competitive with the others.

      1. lutian*

        It seems like she wasn’t competitive to begin with. That’s where my problem with this comes in. Like, why are you willing to drop your standards so much just because you aren’t attracting a good pool of candidates? Maybe you need to rework your compensation or the job duties or something. But saying, “Ugh, I guess” to a potential candidate feels very, very wrong to me.

        1. HRChick*

          When we select a candidate to interview that has less than stellar experience, it’s not because we’re saying “ugh, I guess”. It’s because we’re looking at the knowledge. skill and abilities of this person and reasonably concluding that they could translate to the job. That while the applicant may have not worked in this particular area, their resume seems to indicate they are capable of performing.

          1. Leatherwings*

            Exactly this. It’s not like a begrudging acceptance of their qualifications, it’s saying “yeah, I think this person could potentially work out”

            And then discovering that *compared to other candidates* they won’t. That doesn’t mean they were never ever competitive to begin with. Saying that that means the expectations of the role were too low to begin with doesn’t quite make sense to me. The bar is going up, not coming down.

        2. MillersSpring*

          But in this case and similar cases, the organization likely isn’t saying, “Ugh, I guess.” Instead, they’re probably saying, “Hmm, nice. Possible, let’s see.”

  24. Allison*

    You admit very early in the letter you didn’t have much experience, and this was for a director level position. It doesn’t matter how awesome your application materials might have been, if you didn’t have enough experience for a director-level role, you were not an ideal candidate for a director level role, so it’s fair of them to prioritize candidates who are at or around that level already. If they had more qualified candidates, being awesome in the interview wouldn’t have mattered.

    Now, I used to be a proponent of the courtesy interview, but I’m not anymore, I’m a proponent of being honest and respecting people’s time.

    1. lutian*

      So why did they even call her for an interview in the first place? It does seem rather obvious she didn’t have the skills for the job. Being rejected for not having skills sucks, but it’s better than having someone express some sort of faith in you that you could potentially do the job and then turn around and say, “Actually, no, we got better applicants, so now you couldn’t possibly work out.”

      1. Adam V*

        When you haven’t yet received enough applications with the right kind of experience, you’re more willing to entertain applications that are close-but-no-cigar. So I can see them saying “eh, none of these are great – pick the top two and offer them interviews” and then a couple of days later, resumes with the right experience come in and they say “there are more good ones than we’ve got remaining slots for, we’re going to have to take back those two spots we already filled to make room”.

        1. lutian*

          I guess the question is, was OP close but no cigar, or was she nowhere near the cigar. I understand this can happen with people who just off by one or two small requirements, but if you’re trying to be the Director of something and you’ve got three years of experience, no one should be entertaining your application in the first place.

          1. Adam V*

            > I guess the question is, was OP close but no cigar, or was she nowhere near the cigar.

            I feel like the answer could be “both”.

            This is going to sound bad, but… when the bar was lower (because the experienced people hadn’t yet applied), she could clear it, but as soon as they applied and raised the bar, she was far enough below it that they said “she’s not going to clear it now” and went ahead and cancelled.

            1. lutian*

              But shouldn’t the job itself be the bar, regardless of who applies? Like a “You must be this tall to ride this ride” sign.

                1. lutian*

                  Right. So if the only reason someone is clearing the bar is because you’ve lowered it after not getting enough applicants, why are you calling them for an interview in the first place? Shouldn’t you only be interested in people who clear the bar as it stands? After those people apply, then you can cull the herd.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It’s a small local chorale group. It’s pretty likely that they’re somewhat flexible about exactly what the profile of the person will end up looking like, and that’s not inherently unreasonable.

              1. Annonymouse*

                In a smaller business? Not necessarily.

                If it’s an important role you need to fill then you need it filled fast and look at who seems qualified.

                OP had some experience but not a lot in the exact role – a good candidate but not great.

                Then a new candidate comes along with 10 years experience in a large org doing the exact role and wants a better work/life balance that this smaller group can provide – this is way above the calibre most small businesses expect because they can’t offer big wages.

                So it makes sense to go fo

          2. Leatherwings*

            But I think it’s reasonable for companies to say “if we don’t get applicants with the experience we want, we’re willing to work with someone we like to train them”

            Then other applicants came along who had that experience and they did a re-calculation and said “Oh, if we don’t have to spend all this time training someone because we can find someone who’s already trained”

            That seems normal and fine (particulary for fundraising roles).

            1. lutian*

              I think that’s fine for entry level or lower-pressure jobs, but I feel like once you’re up to a Director level, you should either be good enough or not, other candidates notwithstanding. You should be able to look everyone you’ve scheduled an interview with and think, “Based on the information at hand, I’m 100% comfortable with all of these applicants”, not “Well, she could be good after we invest time in her and train her.”

              1. Leatherwings*

                That’s pretty arbitrary, I think.

                And I think that OP probably was “good enough” to meet the bar you talked about above (someone who could probably do the job if they had to with or without training). Then other candidates came along that were really really great.

                So there are two bars – one that’s “good enough” and another that’s “Ideal”

                OP met the first bar but not the second. The “Good Enough” bar was good enough, but not if they had “Ideal” bar candidates. And it’s silly to say that nobody should ever hire higher level professionals who need training, which is basically the logical conclusion of your point.

                1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  “Grading on a curve” is an awesome way of thinking about it, and actually makes me feel a little bit better about my own interminable job search. Thanks fposte!

              2. Chriama*

                Non-rhetorical question: why do you feel that way? I think that there are times when a position is necessary enough to the business that a less-qualified person is better than no person at all. And I know that people frequently grow into jobs and apply for stretch jobs and get them and go on to do very well. Do you also think that if there hadn’t been any stronger candidates but the role was above OP’s ability that they still shouldn’t have called her in for an interview because she was objectively not good enough?

                1. lutian*

                  Zombii answered this pretty well up above:

                  “If the company hires someone who doesn’t have the essential qualifications because they’d rather hire anybody than nobody, they set the person they hire up for failure. Given, sometimes it’s better to hire anybody than to hire nobody, but that’s not usually true for higher-level roles, especially ones that are crucial to the survival of the organisation. Organisations/companies that do this end with a net loss—they’ve spent resources training someone who was never going to succeed in the way they needed them to, plus more resources to go through the hiring process again, all to show that the position was “filled” (“filled” because the work was still not being done, or it was being done in a way that was more damaging than if nothing had been done while the hiring manager continued to search for qualified applicants).

                  This obviously varies by industry and job market, etc, but an arbitrary hiring timeline that no one is willing to deviate from is often a worse artificial restriction than insisting on finding applicants with specific necessary qualifications. It’s the difference between “We haven’t found any qualified candidates in the month we’ve been receiving applications, we need to extend this search,” and “We haven’t found any qualified candidates in the month we’ve been receiving applications, we need to start interviewing the unqualified candidates and cross our fingers.””

                2. Chriama*

                  They can understand that she doesn’t have everything they want in a candidate and still believe it’s not impossible to train her. It’s possible that if no one better had come forward she could have gotten the job and grown into it over time.

                  Also, my second question again: Do you also think that if there hadn’t been any stronger candidates but the role was above OP’s ability that they still shouldn’t have called her in for an interview because she was objectively not good enough?

                3. Golden Lioness*

                  I do not believe that someone that does not met 100% of the job posting criteria is being set up for failure. That is too simplistic and overlooks the overall skills of the applicant.

                  I am a good example of that. I am a lawyer. I came to the US with no US corporate experience and having never worked for a company. I had my own clients and worked freelance for other firms that had overflow. I was always good at writing and I am fully bilingual. When I came here I applied for a job at a contracts department in an oil and gas company, and I was hired. I have not failed, quite the opposite. But I had the formal education and enough transferable skills to be able to rise to the challenge….
                  Put more simply, if “setting Someone with no experience up to fail” is true, nobody would get their 1st job ever and be successful, because they do not have the experience. We all learn, it’s just about picking the right challenges. I actually love to work for companies that see the value in different backgrounds,

              3. Immy*

                Aside from the other points raised about how the bar changes with the applicant pool I think there is also a chance that at what sounds like a very small organisation ‘Director’ may not mean as much as it might at a larger org, a bit like when positions have ‘manager’ in the title but they are a department of one with no direct reports.

                1. MillersSpring*

                  +1 Exactly true. “Director” level at a very small non-corporate organization could be someone with very little experience in a stretch role.

              4. J*

                “Good enough” for a director level position means something different, depending on the size/reach of the non-profit. In some organizations, you’ll need loads of experience. At much smaller shops, having something in the vicinity will suffice. (Especially if it’s not a full-time position.)

              5. One of the Sarahs*

                I think you’re maybe getting hung up on the term Director, which can mean a ton of different things – but especially in really small organisations. It could be, eg this local Chorale group has a 3 very part time staff: a Director of Music, and Director of Fundraising and an Office Manager. These titles might look the same *on paper* as the same posts in a major symphony orchestra, or a huge music department in a prestigious university, or a major museum like the Victoria & Albert, or whatever, but mean radically different things. There is no such thing as a universal “Director level”.

              6. Annonymouse*

                OP was a good candidate and one thing you are forgetting is that this is a smaller org – the calibre of expected applicants is different to what a large city museum would get for instance.

                So its entirety possible that initially OP was a good candidate – some experience in the role/industry.

                But then someone else comes along with a lot – like 5+ or even 10+ years in the industry and role. Someone you normally don’t expect to apply to a smaller business (as smaller businesses can’t pay a salary that competes with much larger companies).

                Suddenly someone that was good gets completely blown away by someone amazing.

                If it was a much larger organisation OP probably wouldn’t have got a look in as competition would have been much fiercer.

          3. bleepbloop*

            We’re literally bringing a director-level person onto our team this month and my boss specifically asked me to look for people with less than the usual experience (so, we’re looking for people with ~3-5 yrs) because the department is small and we want people who aren’t stuck in their ways or used to having a larger staff to delegate to. You shouldn’t generalize.

  25. Chriama*

    I *strongly* disagree with people saying the company shouldn’t have contacted the OP if they knew she didn’t have all the requirements they wanted. I think you’re thinking of things from an applicant’s perspective here, and it’s not helpful to frame things like that to the OP because it sets her up to have some unrealistic expectations*.
    The company knew she didn’t have all the experience but thought maybe they could work with that. When they received other applicants, they realized they didn’t need to try to make things work with a sub-par candidate (and this is not a knock on OP. She acknowledges that she doesn’t have much experience) As soon as they realized it, they let her know, checked in with her to make sure she didn’t waste her time, and were polite and professional.
    Businesses don’t need to operate in such a way that every potential applicant is in no danger of having their hopes unnecessarily raised or their feelings hurt – that’s just ridiculous. If they had demanded a significant amount of time from the OP before turning her down – a lengthy job application, a huge pre-interview project, etc – that would be something to be annoyed by. But they scheduled an interview and then retracted it as soon as they knew she wasn’t in the running. That’s hardly malicious.

    *I’m currently apartment-hunting so I have a pretty relevant analogy. Say you look online and find a bunch of apartments that you’d like to visit. You’re more excited about seeing some of them than others, but you start emailing places and setting up viewings. After communicating with the landlords, you realize that a few of the places at the bottom of your list aren’t really that great in comparison to the others; Maybe a couple of the really nice places are willing to take less rent than advertised or some of the more expensive places actually include things like utilities or parking that make them cheaper than you realized. Either way, you now have a shortlist of some really good places and some not-so-good places, and you decide that there are enough good places that you don’t really need to go see the not-so-good places. So you cancel those viewings. Did you do anything wrong here?

    I’m sure many people would agree that your only obligation is to contact the landlords as soon as you know you’re no longer interested. You don’t want to ghost on them, or make them spend a bunch of time painting the place before you even go see it. But no one would tell you that you should only contact landlords once you’re positive they’re on your shortlist, and that cancelling an apartment viewing because you’re planning to see other ones that better fit your needs is disrespectful to the landlord’s time. It’s just a thing that happens. We’re empathising with the OP because it’s easy to see ourselves feeling so disappointed in that same situation, and we want people to be more considerate of our hypothetical feelings. But it’s not reasonable or realistic to expect people to operate in such a way, and having those expectations just sets you up for frustration and disappointment. And quite frankly, allowing yourself to always be frustrated and disappointed is likely to hamper your career – no one wants to hire someone who looks like they’re always walking around with a chip on their shoulder.

      1. Chriama*

        Thanks! I think it’s easy to imagine yourself as a frustrated applicant, less as an anxious landlord who has a mortgage on the place and is losing money every month it’s vacant. But reframing it like that makes it clear which obligations of etiquette or morality truly exist, and which ones are really just a response to frustrated expectations.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Ha! I’m not a a landlord, but when I sold a home and a buyer would cancel a showing, you would still think, “Aw, just come see it. You’ll love it when you see it in person.” Even when you know there’s only a 0.01% chance they would like it, and they are saving you the hassle of vacuuming again and taking the dog somewhere, it still sucks. (We sold our last house in 2011, just as the market was starting to turn up, so you pinned a lot of hope on each opportunity.)

      1. Chriama*

        That’s how I feel about selling stuff on Craigslist. I had one guy ask about the object, I gave a very detailed and honest description about it’s flaws, he came to see it and decided he didn’t want it. I had another guy tell me they were coming, not show up for 2 hours (but contacting me every 20-30 minutes to say there were ‘almost there’), try to negotiate the price when they arrived, and then wanted to pick it up on the weekend and didn’t have cash in hand for me to hold it for him. In both situations I also had a bunch of people who contacted me and then ghosted or said they’d found something else. I don’t remember those people, just the ones who really wasted my time.

    2. 2600*

      This gives me anxiety. I hate cancelling things even more than I hate setting things up. I think the most apartments I’ve ever set up viewing appointments for at once is two. If they didn’t work out, I just started the whole process over again. The idea of making 8-10 appointments for anything and then just cancelling half of them is horrendous to me. But I’m the kind of person that will research something to death before I commit so I can avoid cancellations.

      1. Chriama*

        I didn’t mean to imply that I operate by setting up appointments with the express intention to cancel some of them. For example, I typically email several ads asking a few questions and giving my availability for a viewing. Sometimes they get back to me and aren’t available when I am, or respond to my questions with answers that are deal breakers. So I email back and say I don’t want to view the apartments after all. Is it wrong of me to say “I’m available Friday night at 7, does that work for you?” in my initial email even knowing I have some questions about things that would be deal breakers? Apartment hunting, like hiring, is a fluid process. Sometimes things change part-way through. Being respectful of people’s time is not the same thing as never contacting anyone until you’re sure that they’re a contender.

        1. 2600*

          I mean, I won’t say you’re wrong, but I wouldn’t give a time in my initial email. I’d ask the questions first and then if I was satisfied and still wanted to see the apartment, then I’d ask about a time. I’m sure that’s my anxiety at cancelling/setting things up talking.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I honestly think the organization was very polite about not wasting the LW’s time. I think her disappoint was about getting beaten out for the job (which is indeed disappointing); although, maybe the LW had the hope to blow them away in person and win the job.

      1. Chriama*

        I’m also wondering what people would be saying if the company cancelled the interview but said it’s because they’d decided to hire one of the people they had interviewed earlier. It’s frustrating to feel like you’re not being given a chance, but you have to remember that even if OP had interviewed the odds are high that someone else would have gotten the job – it’s just math. Should companies not interview more than one person for a job?

        1. lutian*

          I would be less frustrated if someone who interviewed before me got the job than if they canceled me based on future interviews. At that point it feels like, “We loved this person!” which feels like less of a slap in the face than “You’re not good enough anymore.”

          1. Chriama*

            I totally understand your analysis of the difference in emotional response, but I’m skeptical as to how things would actually play out. In the case of deciding to hire someone else, they haven’t interviewed OP yet. Maybe something in her interview could cause her to stand out even more than the person they decided to hire. It’s quite possible – likely, even – that if you (theoretical you, not lutian specifically) were in that situation, you would feel like they shouldn’t make a decision until they’ve interviewed everyone they thought was a potential match. The bottom line is that rejection hurts, no matter where it happens in the hiring process. And it’s important to separate the pain of rejection from objective observations about whether or not someone behaved badly.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s analyzing it emotionally rather than logically though. Emotions are fine, but they’re not a super useful basis for advice in this case.

            If they know they’re not going to hire you because they’ve just uncovered several significantly better candidates, it makes sense for them to let you know that you’re no longer under consideration rather than waste your and their time.

    4. Golden Lioness*

      I really agree with that! Besides, what if this was a case where OP had experience raising funds for chocolate packets, and they are looking for someone with experience raising funds for sparkling water. Similar skills, transferable, but not exactly the same.

  26. Delta Delta*

    I’m a fan of more communication rather than less. The fact this group got in touch to cancel struck me as very polite and respectful of OP’s time. I recall once interviewing for a position and being told they’d call me on the following Monday to let me know either way. Monday came and went. So did Tuesday. Then next Monday. I assumed I didn’t get the job and moved on and got a different job. That was seventeen years ago and I still haven’t heard from them, so I guess I’m not getting that one. But it left me with a bad taste about the company. It would have taken them less than a minute to call and say, “thanks but we hired someone else,” especially since they told me they would call.

    1. Brandy*

      I had that happen with a recruiter. Said come on in for me to place you with a company. She had found my resume on Linked In. Called me, not me her. Said she’d get back to finalize the details. I waited and waited. The day came and I went and filled out paperwork. She never returned any calls before or after I went in. Wouldn’t see me. I was young. Shouldve gotten up and left, better I should’ve never went. I learned. But why be like that. Id rather her man’d up and said “this” is the reason I don’t want you to come in.

  27. Nonprofit manager*

    One view on timing:
    I work for a smallish nonprofit. As the hiring manager, it’s part of my duties to screen applicants. We have HR, but they’re super small, so they don’t get involved until the hiring manager is ready to make an offer. So, while I am reviewing resumes, doing phone screens, interviewing candidates, etc., I am also doing all the other million and one things on my plate.
    I tend to screen in batches, say everyone who’s come in during the last week or 10 days. So if I’ve gotten 60 applications in the last 10 days, and I want to phone screen 2 of them, I’ll email them that day. For some applicants, the luck of the draw means they get very quick feedback. And you betcha, if in the course of reviewing the next batch, it becomes clear that I’m not going to hire someone, there is no way I am going to waste my time and theirs with a conversation that won’t go anywhere.
    If anything, my reading on this – as a hiring manager – was that this was a good thing for the organization. OPs response was immature (silent treatment because s/he didn’t get what s/he wanted) and entitled. In the exact same circumstance, a mature & professional applicant could have handled herself in a way that would have left a very good impression on the organization. Now, OP is at best a bit odd (not checking email while job searching) or has demonstrated a bad attitude (if any tone of voice came through in the phone call).

  28. 30ish*

    It’s one of those situations where it’s entirely understandable to be a little upset, even if you haven’t been wronged. Psychologically, the rejection probably stings a little bit more in this situation because it’s explicitly expressed, and because it feels like something you already had has now been taken from you (rather than not given in the first place). Of course this doesn’t mean that one should respond in a way that lets the employer in on one’s feelings.

    1. Chriama*

      > it feels like something you already had has now been taken from you

      That’s a very good observation that I think is at the core of what a lot of people are feeling. The company hasn’t hired someone so OP had a shot at the job, and now they’re not even letting her try out. It feels ‘fair’ that they should at least give her a chance.

    2. Nonprofit manager*

      There’s a difference between feeling disappointed and being upset. Be disappointed, sure! I’ve had plenty of conversations with rejected applicants who are disappointed but polite and professional. That is a very understandable place to be in, and I would never hold that against anyone.
      OP was not going to be competitive for the position. They knew that and treated her with respect. However, she did not respond professionally because she “did not feel like she owed them anything.” Seriously? And in a fundraising position, no less! What’s she going to do when a small-sum donor doesn’t want to move to major-giving, or when a one-time donor isn’t able to make an on-going commitment? Refuse to speak to them because she “doesn’t owe them anything?”
      There may be some roles where one can get away with this low-level snootiness, but fundraising is certainly not one of them.

      1. Observer*

        Good point! If there is one thing good fundraisers understand, it’s that you (almost) never get on your high horse.

  29. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    Hindsight is a fine thing but it’s best not to burn bridges in this situation – they’ve acted with courtesy and you kind of haven’t.

  30. soup soup*

    You admit you had no relevant experience, but swung an interview with your ‘awesome’ cover letter. Imagine if you’d swung the job itself? Their expectations of you would be high, and you’d likely not excel, since it’s a post which requires experience. How happy would they, and you, likely be feeling a year from now?

    Apply for posts which you can actually do – remember, you’re applying for a real job, and if it turns out to be a bad fit then it’s not pleasant, for you or the employer. Blagging an interview means nothing if you can’t actually do the job!

    1. Cove*

      I am a person who was hired for a stretch position. It was a small business and I was hired for a marketing position. Based on the job description and interview, I felt pretty confident I could do the job even though I had no professional experience with it (I had some experience in my private life). I got the job and pretty quickly realized that the reason they didn’t hire someone with more experience/skills is that the pay they were offering would have to have been tripled or quadrupled. So I was the best of what they could afford. Four months into it, they dumped me because I was not achieving everything they wanted me to achieve, which I now realize would have been impossible for me. And they should have realized that at the time, based on my resume and interview. They took what they could get, they did not take what they wanted. I was unemployed, and had to take whatever was offered. They did not have to offer the position to me.

      And this is why I’m in the camp of not offering positions to people when they don’t meet your core qualifications. And I don’t mean not knowing a piece of software that you only use once a week but could learn in two hours. I mean if a job requires 12 years of experience and the applicant has two.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That can happen. There are also people who have been hired into stretch positions and excelled. You just can’t extrapolate from this in that way.

        1. Cove*

          But isn’t it bad practice to hire someone when you have only about 30% confidence in them being able to do the job? I’d think you’d want to feel at least about 60% confidence. Otherwise you know you’re hiring someone you’re just going to have to fire later.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            30%? Absolutely, terrible practice. But that’s nothing to indicate that was the situation here.

            (And really, I wouldn’t hire at 60% confidence either. But you can have reason to have a lot of confidence in someone being able to grow into the job even if they don’t meet 100% of your requirements.)

      2. Golden Lioness*

        I was also hired in a stretch position and I did very well. Stayed on for 7 years, was given increasingly challenging work, and moved on to a better position (same role, higher up) with a 35% pay increase.

  31. Tandar*

    I still remember the interview where they called me to cancel while I was sitting in their lobby 10 minutes prior to the scheduled time and told me it wasn’t necessary to reschedule. It’s not fun to get turned down like that. So lots of sympathy on that, OP.

    1. Observer*

      The difference is that they emailed her several DAYS not minutes prior. So, yes, it’s hugely disappointing, but nowhere near the same thing.

  32. katamia*

    I’d love extra time to do whatever instead of going to an interview where I have zero chance of getting the job rather than getting all dolled up, figuring out parking at an unfamiliar building, etc. Rejection sucks, but they really were doing you a favor, OP, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

  33. MommyMD*

    Why are you playing unprofessional games with them? They kindly cancelled your interview and told you why. You say yourself you are not experienced. It’s a waste of your and their time to interview you when qualified candidates have now applied. You lie about receiving the email? Personally until you thicken your skin and mature, I would not want to hire you.

    1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      I would have put this less harshly but I am inclined to agree. OP I know this feels rubbish but the right thing to do in this situation is to write back, thank them for letting you know and ask to be considered for other positions.

  34. phil*

    Why do people take offense and/or ascribe bad motives to perfectly normal and considerate business practices such as this? I read this as the chorale group being polite and considerate.

  35. Audiophile*

    Years ago I had an employer cancel an interview on me. I forget how long it had been scheduled for, but I was extra bummed because the interview would have fallen on my birthday and they canceled the day before, so it definitely took the wind out of my sails. It didn’t really affect my opinion of them, I was glad they took the time to call and cancel. As someone who’s shown up to interviews that weren’t “confirmed” and then watched companies scramble to “interview” me with whoever was there, that’s more demoralizing than anything else.

    I’ve noticed a lot of nonprofits tend to move quickly, rarely have I had a second interview at a nonprofit which has brought its own headaches. It definitely makes me appreciate organizations that don’t move that quickly.

  36. MW*

    I can sympathize with OP’s feelings. I myself had a certain mentality when applying for my first couple of jobs a few years back. Applications were like tests, interviews were both rewards & further tests. If I “pass” the application test, I’ve earned my reward, an interview, and if I perform spectacularly in the interview don’t I deserve to pass that test too and get a job as a reward? Losing an interview after having one arranged feels like having victory torn from my grasp.

    But I think that mentality is all wrong, and tied up in a culture that demonizes unemployment. Applications & interviews aren’t (usually) tests, they aren’t one-way, and they are not value judgments on you as a person. Rejections made me feel like a failure, but that’s not true. The employer’s needs & capabilities didn’t match with your own needs & capabilities, it wasn’t a good match, but there’s no “fault” on either side.

    Good luck with your jobsearch OP!

  37. Huh*

    If an interviewer shows professional courtesy of cancelling with several days notice, please take that 10 seconds to reply. All you need to say is “OK, thanks for letting me know.” It annoys me when people don’t do this and I am left wondering if they are going to turn up at my office. Whether it is an interview, some other business meeting, or a catch up with a friend, confirming cancellation does not take long and it’s a polite thing to do.

    1. The Fail Ship*

      Agreed. Honestly, the attitude of this OP really rubbed me the wrong way. Entitled to be interviewed despite knowing they had limited qualifications, not responding because they were “so upset and felt they didn’t owe them anything”. Honestly, that’s a horrible attitude. You may not “owe” them anything, but you owe it to yourself to put out the kind of behavior you’d want….like, notifying someone if you had to cancel a previous engagement? And following up several times?

    2. Lefty*

      My thoughts too! Even if it’s a form response, something generic/polite feels better than nothing (to me).

      OP, I wonder if you’ve responded to their email yet (if it’s still timely)? As a Hiring Manager, I would feel much better about considering you in the future if I got an email than if it goes completely unanswered… something as simple as, “Thank you for the call before our scheduled interview. I hope you’ll keep my resume on file in case any similar positions open.” If I received that, I’d think, “Ok- good follow through, let me remember her name if I see it again.” If I didn’t, I may note, “OP never responded, even after we called and she knew about our email. I’m not sure if this is a case of her not handling rejection well or if she doesn’t follow-up on things; we really need a fundraising director who handles both well.” I’m sure Alison has some scripts for responding to these sorts of changes- maybe one you could even keep as a standard response if this ever happens again.

  38. Marisol*

    I’m late to the party, but OP in case you are checking comments, I want to say it’s good to remember that the way someone responds in situations like this will likely get back to the friend who gave the recommendation to apply, and may affect the friend’s reputation as well. I had a friend who acted just slightly badly, nothing reprehensible, but slightly badly, with a business contact I referred her to, and that friend will never get another recommendation from me again. I have worked too hard to form good business relationships than to let someone’s cavalier behavior hurt me. So bear in mind that, depending on your circumstances, it may not end just with the employer who cancelled your interview.

    1. RB*

      Yes, exactly. The letter writer seemed to possess a high level of naivety about how the business world functions.

  39. Bob*

    I can’t believe the responses this question is receiving.

    I got called for an interview and they cancelled the interview 2 days before the interview. They claim they had made an offer to someone else already. WTF! If you had called me for an interview, it means you feel I have a shot at filling this position, no matter how ‘strong’the other candidates that were interviewed were. If you call someone for an interview, that person should be given the opportunity to prove he is the right person for the job, if not, don’t call the person for an interview in the first place. This is an indication of a poorly runned HR department.

    1. Kathleen_A*

      I don’t understand your reasoning, Bob. If you got called for an interview, it means they felt you had a shot *at the time they offered you the interview* – that you were a viable candidate. But if other candidates with better qualifications apply after they’ve scheduled your interview, that changes things. You might still be qualified, but they found somebody they think will fit their needs better, in which case, it would be wrong to waste their time and yours by having you come in for an interview when they had no intentions on offering you the job. I mean, what if you had to take a vacation day or something to interview? It doesn’t mean they weren’t sincere at the time they offered you an interview, and it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with their HR department. You did have a shot. They just found someone they’re happy before interviewing you.

  40. Don Park*

    I completely disagree that the organization that you were speaking with was actually being professional with you. If anything, it should show you that this organization has zero ethics and you probably should have rejected them first.

    This question really hits close to home to me because I had a similar situation happen to me just now. The major difference between your situation and mine is that I actually have a lot of experience, they jerked me around for over a month to schedule an interview with me, and 10 minutes before I was finally going to have a conversation with the hiring manager, I got a generic rejection note saying the company decided not to speak with me. When I pushed back against them asking what was going on, they wrote back they wanted to speak with candidates that had experience with ‘large growth’ — something that I not only have, but also something that they never even brought up to me during the initial ‘screen’.

    I am extremely upset about this situation and I have made my voice heard to the recruiter — From what I gather in my situation, they figured out that I was an ‘older’ job candidate (it doesn’t take long to figure that out if you look me up online) and they ultimately decided to pass. The funny thing is I looked at all of their videos — even one that they released less than 3 weeks ago, that they are blatantly discriminating against people over 40, the disabled and possibly more.

    I am planning to take my complaint to the EEOC and see if their management team want to have a huge anti-discrimination suit filed against them because it’s really obvious that they are participating in discriminatory hiring practices.

    The big question in my mind is how many millions of dollars should I sue these people for? Do I want them to be wounded or do I want to bankrupt them? I don’t know yet — but it’s the only thing that’s keeping me from going to their offices in San Francisco and causing a scene.

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