a conversation with a job seeker frustrated by an interviewer

I’m moving this week so some posts this week will be reprints from years ago. This one is from August 2012.

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I recently had an email exchange with a reader who was disappointed that she didn’t get a third interview that she was expecting with an employer. I think she’s speaking for a lot of job-seekers in her confusion and frustration, so I asked her if she’d let me reprint our exchange here. She agreed — but noted that she’s worried about being judged harshly if people think she sounds naive or entitled … so please be nice!

The background: She applied for a job with an organization that she had temped at earlier this year. She had two interviews for the position, and they then suggested a third and final interview. Here’s our exchange…

Reader: Well, I never got to the third interview. The interview was cancelled and he said he would get back to me in 3-4 days. I waited 10 days and contacted him to follow up, and he said, “After discussing this with (the person who had been my previous manager when I tempted there), we are unable to extend you an offer for this position because we had candidates with more experience.”

Throughout the entire interview process, there was never any indication that my lack of experience would be a problem. I made it clear I was willing to work and learn and do everything it took to do well at my job; I assume my interviews went well because why else would I have been called back?

They were clear about what they were going to do, they said specifically they’d like for me to come in for a third interview, and now to say that they don’t want to hire me is like pulling the rug out from under me. Is this fair or right? Before I read your blog, I would have thought this was normal and take it as a rough part of the job search, but now I am just so angry, and I think I’m justified in feeling this way? I don’t want to not reply to the email; I want to say something and I will respond to them sometime this week, when I’ve calmed down. But what do you think?

Me: This is actually very, very normal. Interviews are never a guarantee of a job offer, and even saying that they’d like to move you forward isn’t a guarantee that they will actually do that, because if stronger candidates emerge, it won’t make sense to waste your time or theirs when they know that you won’t be the person they offer the job to.

These two posts might help:

they loved me — why didn’t I get the job?

but I’m qualified for that job — why did you reject me?

Reader: I guess that does make sense. I know it’s not a guarantee, but they should have been honest and upfront. I thought I had a real chance. If they turned me down after they gave me the third interview, that would be different. but this feels like I never even had a chance.

Me: I don’t think you have any reason to think they weren’t honest with you. It sounds like you did have a chance, until circumstances changed, at which point you no longer did and they informed you of that. But this is very typical of how hiring works. It’s very unlikely that they were intentionally misleading you; what’s more likely is that their candidate pool or their assessment of how well you fit their needs simply changed, and that changed your chances.

You’ve also got to remember that you’re not entitled to a chance when you’re applying for a job. It’s not about giving you a fair shot; it’s about them looking for the best match for the job. They’re going to talk to the candidates who seem best matched with what they need, and if that ends up not being you (at any stage), that’s going to be the decision … which is what it seems happened here.

Reader: Right, but if throughout the first two interviews, experience wasn’t an issue, why is that a reason now? Could it be that there’s some other reason that they can’t say and this is just a cop-out?

I dont think they were upfront or honest because he got back to me only when I followed up, and I don’t think they would have even let me know unless I contacted them.

What else can I learn from this experience? I really, really, really thought I interviewed well this time around, I had questions prepared and should I assume the interviews went well because I was called back for them twice?

Me: It could be that they were concerned all along about experience but weren’t convinced it was a dealbreaker until later in the process. Or it could be that they started realizing that it was an issue after they thought about it more. I wouldn’t assume they were being deceptive.

Re: following up, it’s possible that they weren’t going to get back to you until/unless you contacted them; tons of employers do that, unfortunately. But it’s also possible that your email is what prompted him to finally make a decision about your candidacy, and otherwise it would have just happened later in their process. Or they might have a policy of notifying all candidates once a hire is made (very common), but he gave you an answer earlier because you asked.

I understand the temptation to feel that they somehow mishandled this, because it’s frustrating to have this happen — but this is really very normal and I don’t see any indication of wrongdoing on their part. Sometimes you’re just not the right candidate, even though things seemed positive.


Thanks to this reader for letting me share our exchange. I think she’s far from alone in having these questions and doubts, so hopefully sharing it here will be interesting to others too.

{ 159 comments… read them below }

  1. Doodle*

    This is a great example of how two people can both be acting rationally and in good faith and still not be having the same conversation. Thanks for sharing the whole conversation, Alison! I know I’ve had similar thoughts as the letter writer, and it’s great to have them broken down and clarified.

    1. Kidsmoke*

      Disagree. The company acted poorly.

      Acting in bad faith:
      ” we want you to come in for a 3rd interview” and then ghosts until interviewee pings them.

      Acting in good faith:
      “The next step for candidates is a 3rd interview. If you move on to the next round, we’ll be in touch to set that up”

      Telling someone they are moving forward when you don’t really have the ability to know that is acting badly.

      My advice to the OPis: yeah that stinks. It sucks being told you’re moving forward and then not only do you not move forward, they don’t even bother to tell you. That’s a rotten way to treat people and it’s unfortunately very very common. What you can learn from this experience is that employers are not great about communicating clearly with candidates and while it’s unfair and frustrating, it’s something you can expect to encounter all the time when job hunting. Keep your side of the street clean during the interview process and walk a fine line between being enthusiastic and hopeful and being realistic and clear-eyed. If an employer says they are going to schedule an interview with you, you can get excited about that when they actually DO it, not when they SAY it. It’s normal to feel disappointed when someone disappoints you, so get used to acknowledging your feelings whe it happens, feeling it and then shaking it off and carrying on.

      1. Artemesia*

        Should they interview her when they have decided they are going with someone else? Things change. The only fault I see here is that they should not have had to be prompted to get back to her, but as Alison noted, often the policy is to not inform the also rans until you have completed the hire. They probably intended another interview and the decided that they had better candidates and changed their minds. Interviewing her again would not have been polite or ‘giving her a chance’ since they had decided against her. Nothing is as discouraging as being interviewed pro forma when you have no chance. Ask any woman of color (or for that matter white woman) or minority man who has been interviewed and had their hopes kindled when it was to fill some interview quota required by the company diversity policy and where someone else was already chosen. Or ask anyone interviewed because ‘they had to interview outsiders’ when they had already chosen an insider.

          1. RMF*

            What constitutes a promise, though? Interviewee wasn’t entitled to anything.
            I’m sympathetic to OP, because I’ve definitely been there. (In fact, interviewer once verbally told me I was getting the job, and then emailed me that they went with someone else.) But the system wasn’t designed to be fair.

          2. Kathleen Adams*

            Asking someone to come to an interview isn’t, IMO, a “promise.” And in any case, not wasting someone’s time is a more serious commitment than suggesting an interview. I mean, they hadn’t even given her a specific day yet. There was no promise.

            I really do think that if they weren’t going to give her the job, and they apparently weren’t, the kind thing to do was to not have her get all wound up and prepared for an interview that was not going to go anywhere.

            The only thing the company did wrong, IMO, was not getting back to her. That was probably rude, but it’s actually possible that there were extenuating circumstances even for that. Alison has identified some, as have some of the other commentators.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Agree with Artemesia. The company’s only mistake was speaking too decisively about a third interview. Because they did that, they should have let her know as soon as it became clear that wasn’t happening … but they probably forgot all about the exact language they used, just because interviewers generally don’t think a next round interview is a done deal, which interviewees are parsing every word for meaning. They said, “We’ll contact you to schedule the next round,” when they should have said, and when they meant, “If we move you forward to the next round, we’ll contact you.”

          But mostly, OP keeps searching for what specific thing she did wrong to prevent her from getting the job. The answer is nothing. You may just have been a A- all along — perfectly fine, even very good, and they liked you, and it would have worked out — and then an unquestionable A came up, and you’re out of luck.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree with you Kidsmoke. I have had many jobs where I had to learn to speak carefully. I don’t think it is asking a lot for interviewers to speak accurately. I have seen way too much of this, “I will do x”, and then nothing happens. It takes almost no effort to tone that down, “Our over all plan is y, if you hear from us then you will be doing y step.”

        I picture an employee saying “I will do x” and not doing it. Then the sky falls down on them. But it’s okay for a company representative to say that to outsiders.

        I do take to heart, Alison, pearl of wisdom: Move on as if you did not get the job. I think this is the most practical advice ever. I think that prevents situations like OP is talking about.

    2. Junior Dev*

      I have a thought on this and it’s not meant as a condemnation or anything of people who aren’t able to take the path I did. Just my experience.

      This is the moment I realized I really did want to work as a programmer.

      I had spent about a year and a half suffering from terrible depression while I bounced between low paying contract jobs, internships, and under the table work for relatives. I saw a poster at the community college about a free vocational training program where you’d learn to code from online classes and be eventually put through a jobs placement program. I did the online classes but did not end up hearing back about the jobs placement (the government office in charge of this program is kind of a mess, in my experience). So I took the next step and did a coding “bootcamp,” a 12 week in-person course.

      At one point during the boot camp I went to a technology conference and was approached by someone from a company that was hiring. I got his card, sent him my resume, and ended up getting an interview for a position I was in no way qualified for.

      The hiring manager spent the first ten minutes of the interview talking about the company and what they did. I was confused by this until I realized: he’s trying to convince me to consider working here.

      It was such a reversal of the typical power dynamic in interviewing and I was blown away by it. I turned the moment over in my mind later, thinking of all the rejections from part time jobs that wouldn’t pay the bills, the sense of desperation as I sent resumes into what felt like an infinite void.

      Tech is weird and it has many problems. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that women and minorities can have such a hard time getting into an industry where job seekers feel like they have the power for once; having power in the job market and having power in society as a whole are related. And it’s not that tech workers never have problems finding jobs (or finding jobs that are right for them). As someone without a STEM degree and relatively less experience, I don’t have quite the complaints my coworkers do about being deluged with emails from recruiters.

      But here’s the thing, all workers are valuable. Companies wouldn’t hire people if they didn’t bring in more value than the cost of their salaries. It’s upsetting to me that *anyone* should have to feel like they’re begging for a chance to make money for someone else’s business.

      I would hope that as people gain experience in any industry, they move away from feeling desperate in the job market, and it can start to feel less like “this company promised me something but they didn’t deliver” and more like “this company and I are negotiating to see if it’s mutually beneficial for me to work there.” We’re not supposed to get political here so I’ll refrain from going full Marxist, I’ll just say that the power dynamic that makes people feel desperate for a given job is messed up and I wish more people didn’t have to deal with it. And for me that’s meant going into an industry that doesn’t value me as a woman but does value me as a skilled worker.

      I hope this all makes sense and doesn’t come off as blaming anyone.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Thanks for sharing your experience. I remember the desperation, and compounding feeling of worthlessness (I wrote down below that I had other issues going on). I never ever want to find myself in that position again and that’s why I’ve worked so hard the last few years. Things got worse before they got better.

        I’m just a little nostalgic right now because I was just promoted and got a huge (for our company) raise. I definitely worked hard, but I also had my manager pushing for me, and I remember feeling sad that all the things I have right now, I’d never get.

      2. Fake old Converse shoes*

        THIS. It’s incredible the amount of hoops I had to jump at some places just to get my resume considered, most of which are caused by poorly (if ever) trained HR. The typical entry level job ad I found asked for
        * age: 18-25
        * Min 5 years professional industry experience (internships, learning projects and summer jobs not considered)
        * Already graduated or a year from graduation in CS / Engineering
        * Intermediate knowledge in technologies that are either too new to be widely used, or too old to be used anymore
        * At least five professional references (former bosses only, internship mentors were not allowed as there were not professional enough)

        If you get there, they preferred the male CS/Engineer over the rest, even if there was someone with more experience but a lesser degree or no degree at all. And if you belonged to a minority, personal questions were more important than technical (“Do you have a car?”, “do you live with your parents?”, “Are you in a relationship?”, “Do you plan to have kids?”, “What job do your parents do?”, “Did your parents go to a University or Community College?”, “Why did you choose this field and not [common career path followed in you community]?”). I remember that some people in my class even copy & pasted my work experience and they got hired, while mine was rejected because “it didn’t meet the minimum requirements” (I interviewed there years later, and even tough they were exposed, they faced no consequences).

      3. Fake old Converse shoes*

        Oh, and if I told someone about this, I was called “liar” or “angry bitch”.
        Lovely people

        1. NaoNao*

          Wow, who on earth are you telling about this? I do feel some of these things have a slight ring of “urban legend” or “borrowed from an op-ed piece” (such as “you need 5 years of experience, but we’re only hiring people under age 25” or “intermediate experience in tech too new to gain experience in”) but still!!!

          If people are calling you a liar or using slurs when you tell them things (IRL, I would avoid FB and other places perhaps for this type of venting, as people can be very unsympathetic there) I would ask them “why do you feel that way?” or my newly discovered magic reaction “So and so! That’s not like you! I’m really surprised to hear such a hurtful thing from you!” (for family, close friends, etc).

          Reasons are for reasonable people. Not everyone needs updates.

      4. Zathras*

        This is interesting to me – I had a similar revelation in my most recent job search when I realized that they actually wanted me. I attributed the changed power dynamic to the fact that I was interviewing while employed, but the fact that it was also my first real interview for a tech role was probably also a factor. (Previous role was also in tech but I was essentially hired by people who already knew me.) It was the first time I ever really felt like an interview was a conversation rather than a test.

      5. Wendy Darling*

        I interviewed with A Giant Tech Company You Have Heard of earlier this year. They flew me to their home office and put me up at a hotel at great expense, and covered all my expenses — meals, ubers, everything. The first 45 minutes of my six-hour (!!!) interview were spent with a recruiter who walked me around the offices showing me all the sweet amenities and telling me how amazing the company was to work for. And some of it is “you don’t need work-life balance!” stuff like on-site gym, laundry service, and free food… but they do treat their employees *very well*, because they have to.

        I didn’t get the job. It was a huge reach and I wasn’t quite qualified. But man, I fully intend to try again in a couple years…

      6. Yet Another Museum Person*

        I’m seriously contemplating approximately what you did — an online boot camp to go into tech. (Already got started, to see if data analysis really is for me.)

        Your post has brought me to the point of tears.

        I’ve been trying for well over two years to find a job in the museum sector. I have an amazing degree and experience on world-class projects, but none of it matters. I’ve had exactly two interviews so far this year. I feel worthless. My mental health is taking a deeper than usual dive, because I can’t live like this for the rest of my life. I can’t be always afraid and always desperate. The idea that there’s a sector where I *don’t* have to do this, where I might even be able to pick where I want to live and work!

        I’m sorry for the rambling, but as a female-presenting person probably going into the tech industry, this post has been amazing to read :)

        1. Junior Dev*

          I would advise you to be careful when picking a boot camp–do your research and talk to people who have gone there. I regret going to the one I did, it was very disorganized and the person who ran it was ride and unprofessional. Other ones are better though.

          I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time.

          Do you have any questions about bootcamps or getting into tech? I’ll check this thread a few more times, but make a top level comment with my username in the Friday open thread if you want to ask me stuff there.

          1. Yet Another Museum Person*

            Thank you so much! I’m definitely researching boot camps carefully and will ask around and check with real humans who went through it. The goal is *definitely* to be employable, almost above all else :)

  2. Bend & Snap*

    She doesn’t sound frustrated or entitled at all.
    99% of job hunting seems to entail getting jerked around. It can be frustrating.

    1. paul*

      I think they *do* sound frustrated but it’s understandable. Job hunting flat out sucks and the interview process has always struck me as being pretty rough for interviewee’s most of the time.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        The thing that I think is sort of brutal about applying for jobs versus most other things in your life is that with jobs you are either #1 or you get nothing. In the Olympics you come in second or third and you get a medal. In job interviews you come in second or third and you get a two-sentence email about how they have decided to move forward with other candidates. It’s really demoralizing, so I totally understand how people get frustrated.

        1. Rainy, PI*

          When I was unemployed after leaving my doctoral program and before landing at my current organization, I got a lot of really nice personal emails and occasionally calls (oh god don’t do this, the amount of hope a candidate feels when you CALL to break the news that they aren’t hired is just cruel) when I came in second for yet another job, and over time it was actually very depressing and exhausting.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I’ve gotten like two personalized emails that I felt were really sweet.

            The phone calls are the WORST, though. I have had not one but two different hiring managers email me so they could set up a time to call me and reject me. Please just send me an email so I can feel my feelings in private.

            I would seriously advocate for a ticky box in applicant tracking systems indicating your preferred rejection format, like…

            [ ] Phone
            [ ] Email
            [ ] Echoing silence

            [ ] Yes please
            [ ] Yes but whatever you say I will argue with and hold against you forever
            [ ] No thank you

  3. Janelle*

    The comment about if experience wasn’t an issue why was it suddenly before the third: I am thinking someone else who wasn’t involved in the begninning of the process came into the fold later and felt the lack of experience was an issue. It is common for certain level management to not be involved until candidates are narrowed down. We can’t know not being in their persons head but it seems likely.

    1. Koko ¯\_(ツ)_/¯*

      Yes, or early in the process they might not have been sure if they could get an experienced person to accept a salary within their budget range, so they were open to the likelihood they’d have to bring on someone inexperienced and train them, but then suddenly an experienced person came along whose salary requirements were within range.

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        That was my first thought, too – that they were willing to train a good candidate, but then they got one or more applicants who wouldn’t need as much training. And if that’s the case, it would have been deceptive to interview the OP after there was no chance he/she would be hired.

        Of course it still sucks to get turned down, but it sucks to get turned no matter what. Maybe you would have felt better if you’d gotten the third interview, OP, but…maybe not. Sometimes the closer you get, the worse it hurts when you don’t get it.

      2. Allison*

        That’s my suspicion as well, they had a budgeted salary and were realistic about what kind of candidate they could get with that range, but then some candidates came along that had all the requirements and then some, and after the second interview it was clear that either they would accept a salary within the budgeted range, or they loved the experienced candidates so much they managed to get the salary range increased.

      3. Jen S. 2.0*

        Or a couple of already-strong people in the interview pool mentioned a special skill or piece of experience they had that was a real plus (…but that wasn’t mentioned in the ad…), and that made them stand so far above the rest that no one else would be able to compete. For example, say a bilingual person came along when the company had already been toying with needing a Spanish speaker on staff, or someone came along who had already worked at length with an unusual software package the company will be getting.

    2. Malibu Stacey*

      Or the lack of experience wasn’t enough to disqualify her in the interview process but another candidate had more experience and they realized that ultimately that’s what they wanted.

      1. Caro in the UK*

        This is what I thought. The lack of experience wasn’t a problem as such, it was good enough, but when someone came along with more experience then that was even better.

        Unfortunately there’s not much any of us can do about this, there’s always the risk that even if you meet all of the requirements for a job, someone might apply who exceeds them.

        I do think they should have reached out to her first though, as soon as they knew they were going with someone else. Waiting for her to contact them after giving her the expectation that she would have another interview was pretty crappy (normal, but crappy). Especially when she’s actually worked with them before.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        This was my thought: Somebody else was in the running who had either a lot more experience, or experience of a sort that was particularly of use.

        I think it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you’re one of however many applicants for (very often) one open position, and that interviewing is the elimination process, not the prospective employer convincing themselves to tailor the position to you. Maybe because we usually don’t see all those other applicants and hear about their qualifications? I don’t know. But it’s really not in the bag until it’s in the bag, no matter how many times they call you back.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      Or they narrowed the applicants down to a handful and had to start thinking how one is better than the rest. Everyone could have had the standard experience, but if one candidate had more experience then that could have made the decision. That level of scrutiny wouldn’t be necessary until later in the interview process.

    4. Artemesia*

      She doesn’t know that ‘experience’ wasn’t an issue. If I am worried that you don’t have skill X we can talk about it. But if you lack experience, what is there to talk about? I may hire you if you are still the best I can do, but if people with experience show up in the pool, then you drop out. It is like saying ‘no one said they were offended by the dollar dance at my wedding’. People don’t SAY when they are offended by something at a social event. An interviewer doesn’t necessarily say they want more experience or that they were hoping for a blond; many things go unvoiced in the interview process — some of them awful (e.g. we would never hire a Jew or a woman or someone with tatoos) and sometimes you are just wonderful but someone slightly more wonderful is in the pool – or the owner’s nephew.

    5. MillersSpring*

      Or something else happened–a new client, new partner, someone left the team–and suddenly they did need more experience in a critical area. Candidates need to remember throughout the process that Things Change. Delays happen. Funding gets pulled. Decision makers go on vacation. Other projects become more critical than hiring for an open position. Don’t take it personally or think that you’re getting treated unfairly. Anything you’re told–“We’re going to bring you back for a third interview”–could change.

    6. memyselfandi*

      The letter writer says this explicitly: “After discussing this with (the person who had been my previous manager when I tempted there), we are unable to extend you an offer for this position because we had candidates with more experience.” They got new information about the candidate’s experience relative to the other candidates from someone within the organization (how much more reliable can you get?) and that changed the picture. I think the letter writer is simply mistaken in thinking that experience wasn’t an issue before; it was always important. What changed was the information they had regarding her experience relative to other candidates. The other candidates could have been individuals who also tempted (sic) with the company, not necessarily new candidates.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, when people say conflicting things like that interviewees notice big time.
      I think that interviewers fail to factor in that interviewees hang on every word they say and memorize the whole conversation verbatim. So if an interviewer says “X is not necessary” and later says “X is a big deal”, interviewees notice this FAST, and the interviewers credibility is sagging badly. Which one is it?

      It just takes a second to say, “I know we said X was not necessary, but in the course of doing interviews and talking among ourselves we realized that X is actually very necessary.” Just take a second to acknowledge the conflicting information. Because otherwise, all the interviewee is left with is “They obviously lied, but WHY?”
      OP has another wrinkle in her story because she actually temped for them, so they knew her work.

      And three interviews? How many more did they need to do with a person that had already worked for them?

      OP, I can see your cause for concern. However, listen to Alison. We assume places are a lot more professional and a lot more organized than they actually are. And when there are a lot of people involved in making a decision things get worse. Ever been on a day trip with seven people in a van? A rest stop just to use the bathroom takes at least an hour and a half. The more people involved, the longer everything takes and the more the group changes their minds.

  4. Trout 'Waver*

    I don’t think the interviewer gets a free pass for promising to follow-up and then not following up. That’s just plain rude.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, it’s a little rude — but it’s not a huge deal, and it doesn’t do the OP any good to get hung up on that, especially when it’s such a common part of how this stuff tends to go.

    2. Insert name here*

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been promised a follow up one way or another only to never hear from the interviewer or company ever again. Like “we should hang out sometime!” Automatically means “you’ll never hear from me again!”
      My favorite though are people who claim not following up is super unprofessional and they would never do that…one guy even added me on linked in and told me to follow up and take him to task if I hadn’t heard by the end of the week. Did I hear from him again? Nope!
      I just expect to be jerked around when job hunting. That’s always going to be a thing.
      Local Government agencies have been the most consistent with letting me know one way or another interestingly.

    3. Lilo*

      It is better than wasting her time on an interview when she has no shot at the job though. It has happened time and it sucks, but responding angrily just has no positives.

      1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

        This. During the last interviews (outside of my team) that I sat in on, they had already decided on an internal candidate, but had two outstanding interviews that they were keeping because “they were already scheduled.” I tried explaining that unless they were actually going to consider these people, they were doing them a disservice by having them come in.

        It was completely perfunctory and pointless – but the people still got their promised interview. We didn’t even discuss the candidates after. I felt absolutely horrible for the job seekers.

    4. I am not a lawyer but,*

      Having been on this hiring side … we decided not to go with the candidate who had temped in a related dept – we had our own temp who was also qualified – but her manager wanted to be the one to inform her, but never did. He didn’t want to disappoint her so he left her hanging. Now I’m the one she badmouths. Since she has followed that path, HR will not let her contract be renewed.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Ugh, that sucks. I never understand how leaving someone hanging — and letting them find out the bad news by seeing someone else start the job — is somehow less cruel or mean to them than just telling them. You’re still disappointed, but you’re disappointed for longer and the crash is harder. “We appreciated your time, but have decided to go in a different direction. Thank you for interviewing, and we still consider you a very valued member of the team.” How hard was that?

        (Note that this applies to friendships and dating as well. Just say, “Thank you for inviting me, but I’m not going to be able to make it.”)

    5. Murphy*

      I’m not in hiring, but in my job, I am sometimes told not to respond to people about certain inquiries. I get told something from on high such as, “There will be an announcement.” So I don’t reach out and let people know things, but sometimes those above me take forever to actually make their announcement or that announcement doesn’t get distributes to the right people. I feel badly leaving people in the lurch, but if I was told to wait for an official announcement, sometimes that’s all I can do. Something similar could have happened here.

      1. NW Mossy*

        This happens all the time in my org when we hire an internal candidate, especially for managerial positions. When I started my current gig (a lateral transfer to move from managing Team X to Team Y), the announcement was delayed several days because we needed to find a block of time when we could let both Team X and Team Y know simultaneously. They also generally try to slot in the “sorry we didn’t choose you” meetings very shortly before the formal announcement so that those folks don’t hear about not getting the job through the grapevine. Coordinating all those moving parts is hard on short notice, so there ends up being a lot of what looks like foot-dragging to those not directly involved in the coordination.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I look forward to a day where this is widely considered unacceptable and society as a whole changes.

  5. Blah (currently feeling)*

    I’ve had so many flaky experiences with employers… from people being very positive about hiring me then never responding to an email again, to getting a verbal job offer then never responded to again, and today I had an interview where I don’t even get why they interviewed me… I asked what qualities allowed someone to excel at the position, and they told me that they wanted someone who had done the exact job before, which I have not…

    I get frustrated in all of these situations, but I also just figure it’s part of the process. I don’t feel entitled to any sort of polite behavior while job hunting at this point. At least no one is actively yelling at me, I guess.

    1. Insert name here*

      What a sad but accurate commentary!
      “Well at least no one is actively abusing me so everything else is okay!”

    2. k.k*

      Isn’t it sad that we have to get used to this as part of the process? If they behaved like this in other aspects of their business (with clients, vendors, etc) they’d likely be out of business soon, yet when hiring it’s expected. I’m under no illusions that this will change anything soon, but I can certainly commiserate. I say this as I’m in the middle of playing phone tag with a potential employer that doesn’t get why I can’t always answer my cell phone when I’m at my current job, and being ghosted by another one who was supposed to getting right back to me with an interview time.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I think that what people do when there is a power disparity in their favor shows a great deal about their character.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It bites companies later on. People remember how they were treated. People also tell other people how they were treated and it does impact their bottom line. Nothing happens in a vacuum. I hear stories all the time, “this employer did X, that employer did Y.” It goes right around the community and people take notice.
        This covers everything from slap shot interviewing practices to bad bosses.

    3. Allison*

      Ughh, I feel you on the people going from being super excited about you, to ignoring you, without any explanation. I get that some people in the recruitment field are super good at making you feel like the #1 candidate until it becomes clear to them that you aren’t getting the job, but still, at least tell me you’re not moving forward with me.

  6. Scully*

    “I thought I had a real chance.”

    I mean, two interviews IS the real chance, right? Hundreds of people don’t even get to the second interview. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.

  7. Gov Worker*

    If I had been in her position i’d be feeling exactly the same. I don’t know what sort of sector this reader was interviewing for but having 2 interviews is a lot right?

    1. Coldbrewinacup*

      It’s pretty common now to have multiple interviews, even for low-level jobs. I had to go through 3 interviews for a data entry position. That’s how things are now.

      1. Polymer Phil*

        Why the hell is this a thing now? It’s bad enough to have a fake doctor’s appointment or a half-day vacation for one interview, but the double interview seems to have become a standard thing since the last time I paid attention to this kind of thing. What’s the benefit from the hiring company’s perspective?

        1. Bagpuss*

          I think it is often about *who* is doing the interviewing.
          It can be more efficient (for the company) – particularly if there is someone senior who needs to be involved in making the final decision, it may make better sense for (say) HR to do initial interviews and narrow down the candidates, than for a senior person to sit in on all those interviews – it comes down to what the time of each interviewer is worth to the company, and whether / to what extent interviews are part of that role. (e.g. interviews may be part of the role of HR, but for the senior person might mean time away from their primary role, s0 time spent interviewing means less time spent generating income for the company)

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t think 2 interviews is a lot? In my industry, it’s common to have at least 2, and often 3 (including the phone screen).

      1. Artemesia*

        And if you have two interviews, you can assume at least two other people are also having two interviews. Being a finalist is not a guarantee of a job. It should be a guarantee of getting called or emailed back when you don’t. On the other hand at only 10 days they may not have finished the process yet and so not have contacted the also rans. When I hired, I was not allowed to contact the finalists until we had hired; sometimes we ended up going back for #2 when #1 declined. That sometimes did drag on awhile. I hated it. But I always wrote a personal note to each finalist whom we didn’t hire; it was always far too late IMHO.

    3. NW Mossy*

      The only times I’ve ever had a single interview for a role where when I was applying to a very small company with one decision-maker or the one instance at my current company where it was basically a pro forma for a promotion. Otherwise, 2-4 has been much more the norm for me.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I didn’t think two interviews was too bad, but a third? For someone who already worked there? wow.

  8. Brogrammer*

    Even if experience isn’t required, it’s usually still a nice to have. Sounds like a classic case of “You were good, but somebody else was better.” It sucks, but them’s the breaks.

    1. LawBee*

      Yeah, my take is that her lack of experience was fine, but when it came down to two otherwise pretty equal candidates, they went with the one who had more. Makes sense. Sucks for her, though. Hopefully she found a good job afterwards.

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      It’s funny, it was for that 2nd or 3rd interview that I came across AAM looking for advice on what to wear to an interview. And I wrote to Alison so many times that year, and got so much great advice lol.

      Tbh 2012 was one of the worst years of my life. I had a lot going on in those days, and not getting a job was just compounding my general frustration & unhappiness with myself and my life. Looking back though, I am SO GLAD I never got the job. It wasn’t a good fit for me anyway, and I’m in a pretty great place right now, inside and outside of work. So things worked out for the best.

      1. Brogrammer*

        Wow, this really is a long-standing community. It’s cool that you’re still here and I’m glad things got better for you.

      2. Junior Dev*

        I’m glad things worked out for you!

        Alison answered a question from very early on in my tech career that I think shaped the way I think and learn to this day.

      3. Kim Possible*

        That’s so great to hear!

        I’ve had interviews that I thought went tremendously at that time, and was frustrated when I didn’t get the job. But, in retrospect, it was ALWAYS for the best! I think when you’re frustrated in your job search, it’s easy to convince yourself that an okay fit is a great fit, because you’re so ready to jump ship at your current job (at least, that’s been my experience!)

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Aww. I am sorry that was rough. And I know you had some other rough stuff, too.
        I am glad you chimed in now and I am glad things are better for you.

  9. Karo*

    What’s standing out to me is that the interviewer never said that her lack of experience was an “issue,” just that they found someone else with more experience, which isn’t in any way equivalent. If you advertise a position asking for 0-2 years of experience, and you get one candidate with 0 years and one with 2 years, and they’re both in your price range, going with the candidate that has 2 years of experience isn’t saying that it’s an issue that the other candidate had no experience. It’s saying that they went with the best person for the position, and the difference between the two was the experience.

    Don’t get me wrong – I completely get the overall frustration, and I get being upset that you lost a job you thought you had a really good shot at (trust me, I get that!), but I’d give the experience remark a pass. It’s pretty innocuous without even getting into the hypotheticals that Alison proposed.

    1. Koko ¯\_(ツ)_/¯*

      I think it’s easy as a job-seeker to get into the mentality that you’re being evaluated and you’re either “good enough” and will get the job or “not good enough” and won’t. But the employer is looking for the best fit among likely multiple “good enough” candidates – you’re being ranked rather than graded pass/fail.

      1. Malibu Stacey*

        Right, and if the Hiring Manager had voiced concern about the LW in the second interview, she very well might have wondered, “Why bother bringing in me for a 2nd interview if that’s a problem all of the sudden?” or if it was said in the first interview, “Why bring me in for an interview at all when my resume states how much experience I have?”

      2. Junior Dev*

        Yes, and your success in the job market as a whole is often treated as a matter of whether you’re good enough or not good enough, and of course has real material consequences. Every time I’ve expressed frustration to my mom about a job search she’s suggested I take a community college class or get a new credential. Not that those are terrible ideas in and of themselves, but it was usually not the case that I was “not good enough” to get *any* job, it’s that I was less good than other applicants for a lot of jobs.

      3. AMPG*

        I think that’s a HUGE fallacy among job-seekers – both the idea that you’re either “good enough” or “not good enough” and the idea that there’s one “best” candidate and nothing should stand in the way of hiring that person. It happens all the time, in my experience, that there are two or three people who would be a great fit for a particular position, and the choice between them can come down to any number of random details.

    2. fposte*

      Yeah, people misread this kind of employer comment a lot, I think. For one, experience often *is* a concern early even if they interview you; usually when I interview I have things that I like about an application package and things that I don’t think are as strong. Getting an interview doesn’t mean everybody thinks your experience (or whatever is stated later as the weakness) is just dandy and exactly what they’re looking for; it just wasn’t below acceptable for the finalist pool. And, of course, as people are saying, it can be dandy and still get beaten by somebody whose experience is even dandier.

      1. Lilo*

        Of that they got more insight into her experience weaknesses after talking to her former manager. She could be super experienced in one aspect of teapot design, say, but not the specific software they use in that division for teapot design.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I can buy this.

        It’s so simple for the interviewer to refrain from saying “experience is not an issue”. That solves that problem. People need to say what they mean and mean what they say.

  10. AnotherAlison*

    I think having temped for this company probably added to the OP’s frustration. You temped there. You had two interviews. You have to be thinking if you can’t get that job, what can you get? I also think that when you think you have an “in” (which you may think with previous work history at a company), the rejection is more surprising. Just two interviews at any ol’ random company may not have had the same impression in the OP’s mind.

    1. Karen D*

      Right, exactly. And make no mistake, that familiarity IS an asset. … OP is a known quantity. They know his/her strengths and little flaws. There are likely to be no surprises if OP comes aboard in a permanent role. That counts for something .. in some positions, it counts for a lot.

      The problem comes when you get down to that last round, and one person is so clearly a better fit EXCEPT for that prior knowledge. And the people in charge of hiring start thinking about how they’re going to justify going with someone who, on paper, just doesn’t have the qualifications of the other finalists. And the argument “Well, we know this person and we know they can grow into what we need,” becomes tough to defend when (again, on paper) there’s an applicant who ostensibly already has everything the company needs.

    2. Artemesia*

      But this OP remarks that the rejection came after they talked with her temp supervisor; I would assume the supervisor was not wildly positive or felt the experience level was not high enough. That seemed like a bigger red fag here than ‘experience’ per se. She didn’t get a strong ‘hire message’ from the person who knew her work best at that company.

    3. Murphy*

      You have to be thinking if you can’t get that job, what can you get?

      Definitely! I was rejected for a promotion a few years ago (which I really should have gotten, but that’s another story…) and that’s how I felt. These people know me and how well I work, and even they won’t hire me for a better job!

      But that motivated me to job search and I ended up where I am now. So also in a better place.

      1. NW Mossy*

        I got turned down for promotion three times before I was successful, and believe me, it stung. One was definitely a real reach and I knew it, but I felt like I had a good shot at the other two. It definitely hurt to feel like I’d lost out to candidates I thought I surpassed, particularly the one who ended up flaming out of the role a couple years later.

        Looking back, I’m actually really fortunate that none of those jobs worked out for a bunch of reasons. The biggest is that I would have reported into a director whose style just did not match mine – she really valued stability and calm, while I thrive on a rapidly changing environment where I can make a big impact. We would have butted heads constantly, and I’m in a way grateful that she could see that even if I couldn’t.

        Ultimately, her turning me down meant I was available for a left-field opportunity that brought several amazing mentors into my life and really helped me build my career in a way I never thought possible. As much as the whole closed-door/open-window thing is a cliche, it really did work out that way for me.

    4. Nervous Accountant*

      That was it, although I have to be honest, looking back I’m surprised they even wanted me back.

      Things were great there, until they weren’t. I was put into a management position, even though it was temp, and I had 0 management experience whatsoever. Add a bad attitude of the permanent employees, my own unprofessional demeanor, and it was a disaster. My boss stopped talking to me 4 weeks before the end of the assignment, but she was still the one to refer me to this position–I’m still mystified by that.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t think it was right for the boss to stop speaking to you.

        But I do know from my own experience, I HAD to say XYZ to an employee, and fortunately the employee saw that ABC was the real answer. What I am trying to say is sometimes a boss has to take a particular stance but privately they are rooting for the employee to rise above the problem. I could see this boss realizing that you were the preferable employee but there was nothing she could do to fix the situation. She had to leave perm. employee in place and you were stuck with supervising this employee. Sometimes when people are backed into a corner they react poorly, so maybe this is why she stopped speaking to you. She could not face the problems.
        But she saw enough about you that she liked so she gave you the reference.

  11. Pete*

    Based upon the HR’s email it seems the OP’s former manager nixed the candidacy.

    If the position was to report for that manager then she rejected the OP because she wanted more experience (or that was the smokescreen because she wasn’t enough of a fan of OP’s work.)

    If the job was not one that reported to OP’s former manager then HR rejected the candidacy based upon her lack of a recommendation.

    It seems.

    1. Bookworm*

      I agree. We can’t be certain that “experience” isn’t a cover for something that’s hard to give feedback on.

    2. Lora*

      Yeah, that’s the only thing I can add to Alison’s advice: Companies are made of people and sometimes people are idiots and jerks. And when hiring is done by committee, for every additional person on the committee, you have increased the frequency of jerks+idiots.

      There’s been plenty of people I wanted to hire desperately, who I thought were great and should move to a second interview, and someone else in the group didn’t like them. There’s been people other managers wanted to hire who I thought were raging a-holes and no way no how did I want them in the same lab as me. We don’t have to be unanimous, but sometimes we do end up going with the person who annoys everyone the least rather than the rockstar. It’s not the rockstar’s fault, it’s not that they are a bad person or anything, it’s not even that they aren’t really a rockstar – it’s that we can’t get consensus. And yeah, when it’s a whole bunch of people who get to have an opinion, there’s a proportionately higher chance that at least one of those people won’t like you.

  12. animaniactoo*

    Generally, I would take the fact that they came to this conclusion after talking to your previous manager to mean that there was a difference in your assessment of what experience you DO have, and theirs. It’s possible that’s because you’ve developed some of those skills further along since you worked with them (and they’re wary about how true that is), or it’s possible that the previous manager wasn’t aware of how much you were actually doing then. But if you get a message like this with that kind of context, it’s worth looking at reassessing what you ARE offering as solid value to them and seeing if there’s something you’re evaluating too high. Another possibility could be that previous manager said something along the lines of “Eager, willing, great personality, but problematic. Really solid in this, picked up that, but it was like pulling teeth to get her to develop along Y path, and since Z path is close to that, it might be an issue.”

    Should they have reached back out to you? Absolutely. But they gave you potentially valuable feedback when they answered your followup, so pay attention to that and use it to help yourself. Don’t forget that they could be wrong in their assessment – but if you dismiss it without looking at it, you can’t use it in the event that they’re not (that) wrong. It’s been years, so hopefully this is long in the rearview mirror of a bump you passed over on the way to a great job.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Or, of course, they just had someone show up who had more experience, and there’s no connection – it’s just worth looking at given that they told you that it was after talking to previous manager that they came to this conclusion.

  13. M from NY*

    I disagree with Allison and really wish employers would be more respectful when interviewing. It’s one thing to bring in someone and realize their well written resume overstates their experience. It’s another to dangle multiple interviews with a temp whose work product you already have a good idea about. To keep asking back for multiple interviews was poor management. They should know what level of experience they need (& are willing to compensate) before calling in candidates. Now there’s nothing OP should say besides “thank you for the opportunity” but I wouldn’t accept future invitation for interview from them.

    1. GarlicMicrowaver*

      I agree. At this stage (after two interviews) there is some level of investment. The interviewer was disrespectful (despite intentions or non-intentions) by not reaching out to the candidate who had come that far. At this point, OP has to thing of what she wants the outcome to be if she replies. I personally would be candid: thank them for the opportunity and say you’re curious because you thought you’d be a good fit. Then, ask for constructive feedback. They probably won’t give it to you, but at least it shows your strength of character.

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        Wow, I do disagree. They didn’t just need to evaluate the OP; they needed to compare the OP to other candidates. And that means interviews.

        Besides, evaluating a temp (even a two-time temp) is simply not the same as evaluating someone for a permanent position. If they thought she had a shot, and they evidently did, or why bring her in twice, they needed to interview her just as they’re doing with everyone else.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Why do they need to interview her if they know they’re not going to hire her? Information came to light via a manager’s experience with her, and they decided not to make an offer. It sounds a lot to me like they asked his manager, and the manager opted not to recommend her.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Because maybe they didn’t know they weren’t going to hire her after the first interview.

            I’m a little confused by the apparent assumption that she was already out of the running and they just interviewed her again to string her along. The differences among candidates may not always be that immediately obvious, and I have to assume they refine their criteria a little as the get to know the pool of applicants. So she may well have been in the running until it became clear that someone else had a particular strength.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              I’m afraid you’ve lost me in this comment. I assumed no such thing.

              I am talking about the THIRD interview – why would there need to be a third interview if information came to light after the SECOND interview that put the candidate out of the running?

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think Kathleen Adams means they needed to interview her, in general, as opposed to subjecting her to a different hiring process than other candidates. I don’t think she means that the company needed to call OP back to interview a third time once their pool/expectations changed.

            1. Lilo*

              I am confused as to what that means though, does that mean asking her manager from temping for input was wrong? That makes no sense to me. Of course you ask someone who has worked with the candidate about her. Sometimes it is a huge advantage to interviewee, sometimes it is not.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I don’t think that’s what it means! But I’m also interpreting someone else’s comment, and I might be getting it wrong.

                I read Kathleen Adams’ comment to say: “Of course you have to subject temps to the same hiring process as other candidates. That includes requiring them to participate in each stage of the interview process if you are advancing their candidacy, just as you would for other candidates. And requiring that someone participate in that multi-stage process—or delaying information about whether you still want to advance a candidate to the next stage—is not inherently disrespectful.”

                But requiring people to participate in the same hiring process doesn’t mean, imo, that you don’t speak to a temp’s manager. You would speak to anyone else’s manager, too, when checking references, whether that candidate is internal or external.

              2. Artemesia*

                I can remember getting a resume from someone who had done work with another branch of our organization who seemed like the dream candidate for our job. And then I talked to the people he had worked for in the other branch and they were not only not positive but their concerns were precisely the thing we most wanted to avoid. So that guy went from our top 5 to no interview. He then harassed our admin for days about when he would be interviewed, I sent him a rejection to end that and he send me single spaced lengthy memos about why I was making a mistake and then contacted the CEO claiming age discrimination. All this convinced us of just how right the decision had been.

                You never know what else is going on especially if you worked at a place before. Clearly there was not a strong rec from the former supervisor. (I can add the person we hired in my example was a woman in her late 50s and most of the people we had hired for that particular type position were people in their 50s and 60s, so the age discrimination thing fell apart pretty fast.) We were underpaying for the level of experience and training we wanted and so a retired person looking for a second career was our sweet spot.

        2. GarlicMicrowaver*

          Not sure I follow your point. Of course they needed to interview her. My point is it’s rude they didn’t follow up and they likely wouldn’t have if she hadn’t reached out first.

          1. Recruit-o-Rama*

            Well it is rude, I agree. But you don’t know that they never would have notified her. In my company, we don’t notify candidates of rejections until the new person starts unless they are a definite “no”. I do tell candidates and expected time frame but also explain it’s an estimate and to feel free to email for an update. I respond to emails, even if the response is “thanks for following up, a decision has not been made yet, sorry for the for the delay”. There are a lot of legitimate business reasons hiring takes longer than expected and I would take any date with a plus or minus grain of salt.

          2. Lilo*

            It is somewhat.common to wait until they have a final candidate to tell people it is a no, though.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It could have been rude. Or it could have been that OP was their #2 pick, and they didn’t want to remove her from the hiring pool until determining whether their #1 pick would perform in the third interview and receive an offer (and accept it).

        3. Lilo*

          It makes nonsense why they would bring her in after they had decided about her already. It would be far worse, imo, to do that. You would just be wasting her time.

    2. Recruit-o-Rama*

      It sounds like they did know what range of experience they were looking for. Having people in for interviews is how employers compare and contrast candidates. They found someone with more experience, they didn’t dangle anything in front of her or do anything deceitful.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t think they were (generally) rude or unclear about their hiring preferences or dangling opportunities by asking OP back for multiple interviews. The only thing I think was rude was not proactively following up with OP to cancel the third interview—although, they could have been holding that open in case their top candidate dropped out (in which case, wouldn’t OP have preferred to have stayed in the pool?).

      Experience is not an “on/off” switch—it’s usually a gradient. Sometimes you end up with someone in your pool who has more experience than you expected for that compensation level, and you could not have predicted that ahead of time. It sounds like something along those lines happened after round 2. So I don’t think the company was jerking OP around. I think that, as is the case with all hiring processes, sometimes information about the candidate pool shifts as you go through each round of the process.

      1. Recruit-o-Rama*

        This is exactly right. In my experience, you can have a process that seeks to be transparent as transparent and painless as possible and it will still not please everyone. I try to be understanding, because it’s not like I have never been on the other side and I want to leave a good impression on candidates who are interested in working for my company.

        BUT, for as many horror stories as we hear on here from the job seekers side, I could tell you a story about bizarre and rude behavior and fantastical leaps in logic (or non-logic) from my perspective. I understand there is a power differential so I try to be empathetic, but I’m a human to and some candidates are downright vile and say horrible things to me when they are rejected. It’s definitely not the norm, but we would all do better to treat each other with respect and professionalism no matter which side of the equation we are on.

  14. Jake*

    One of the hardest parts of maintaining composure during a job hunt is realizing and accepting that normal social norms that normally exist between a business and a person don’t apply.

    Normal Example: Not following up within a given time frame would be considered rude and make you reconsider dealing with this person again in a professional capacity. (Banks, Insurance companies, etc.)

    Job Hunting Example: Not following up within a given time frame should be expected by job hunters.

    It stems from the power differential that exists. As a job hunter, you have no leverage. It is very rare that a company cannot find somebody of equal value or “close enough” value if a job hunter chooses not to work for them due to their rudeness. It is doubly true for candidates they are rejecting. This means they aren’t forced to maintain the same polite facade that they are required to for customers and/or current employees.

      1. Jake*

        Yeah, the effects of power differential show up in just about every stage in the hiring process, even with the best of employers that have no intention of taking advantage of that differential.

    1. mousanon*

      ” As a job hunter, you have no leverage.” That is only true if not getting the job means being unemployed and penniless. If you are currently employed, or have other offers , or have a spouse providing income, or have enough savings to get by, then you can afford to be picky. Just like the employer is able to.

      1. Jake*

        Sure, you can be picky, but that still limits your leverage to “hey, you can be polite and hire me (the candidate you’ve determined to be the most qualified)”

        Their second option is still “If you don’t like it we’ll hire somebody that is still going to be great in this role that doesn’t care about our rudeness”

        The difference between the two from the company’s prospective is very minimal. In my experience, the vast majority of hirings have several qualified candidates that the hiring manager would be happy with. This leaves you with a lot of control of your personal choices, of course, but it really doesn’t affect the employer in any meaningful way that could potentially change their future behavior.

  15. Katie the Fed*

    “After discussing this with (the person who had been my previous manager when I tempted there), we are unable to extend you an offer for this position because we had candidates with more experience”

    That to me reads as though the previous manager decided to recommend against you (for whatever reason). “Experience” might be the catch-all term for bad fit, lack of hard skills, lack of soft skills, etc.

  16. Ohyeah?*

    I wonder if this lack of respect to job applicants is an American thing or is it the same everywhere. Hiring practices and procedures are different in different countries so it may be apples and oranges to a degree… (I am Anerican and have also experienced similar frustrations in the job search)

    1. Anon for this*

      The never-letting-you-know is common in Australia. I had an interview once where it was down to me and one other person. Because of the size of the industry locally I knew exactly who it was. In the interview I was told they needed the job filled ASAP and that they would definitely get back to me in the first part of the following week.

      Never heard a thing. And the other person didn’t get the job either. Five months later they have the job, no interview, no hiring process, to my up-until-then boss, who had just been strategically managed out of her position. This in local government, where you have to follow due process and merit and equity.

  17. Rookie Manager*

    On Friday a job advert for my team went live. So far I’ve spoken to 4 interested people and recieved one application. This is a timely reminder for me to follow the golden rule with applicants!

  18. TeacherNerd*

    I think one of the things that sometimes gets overlooked is that an interviewer, or a hiring committee, can have two equally good candidates (or perhaps even three or four), both/all of whom would be great, but you simply have to make a decision because you can’t hire both of them. I remember a former professor mentioning that she was on the Ph.D. committee at our university, and while one could weed out some candidates, it got to the point where there were X number of slots, but only Y number of openings – that really they’d all be really good, but we didn’t always (or even usually) have enough slots to accept all candidates. Similarly, I went on dozens of interviews a few years ago, and finally got offered a job at the school that interviewed me last. I learned later that it had come down to me and one other candidate who had been teaching for 20 years (I was still a teenager when this other teacher started – no way I could compare with this other teacher in terms of experience), but I was offered the job because of a throwaway comment I had happened to make.

    Yes, sometimes another candidate has more experience, or is a better fit, etc., etc., but I would argue that just as often, sometimes it just comes down to a random choice based on nothing, or something very minor.

    1. KDA*

      We just filled a position, and it came down to two really good candidates. One was better at skill A, and the other at skill B, and both skills are very important. Trying to decide which was more important was sooooo hard. In fact, I’d say it was impossible. So then we tried to figure out which skill would be easier to teach…and got nowhere because it seemed fairly clear that both candidates were perfectly capable of improving on thing they were slightly lacking in.

      What it came down to, I think, is that one person really seemed to want the job more than the other. Don’t get me wrong – both were good and enthusiastic. I don’t mean to say anything negative about the one who didn’t get the job. But the one who did not only really wanted this sort of job, but also really wanted to work *here.*. We’ve had a lot of turnover, and I do mean a lot, and the idea of hiring someone like that was very appealing. Under other conditions, this might not have mattered that much, but here and now…it definitely mattered.

      And there’s no way a jobseeker can prepare for that sort of circumstance.

      1. TeacherNerd*

        And indeed, one of the issues at hand is that you don’t know who the competition is. At one round, a candidate might be a shoe-in, but not in other circumstances, which is again one of those unknown circumstances.

        That distinction is so interesting – the candidate who wanted to work at *there.* That never occurred to me. I mean, I wanted to work, at times quite desperately, and any job would have done in a heartbeat. But that’s eye-opening in making that apparent. Thank you. :-)

        (Apparently I was offered the my current job because I said I’d make my students write until their hands fell off, or words to that effect. I can’t remember saying that, but it sounds like something I’d say. Complete throwaway remark that in another circumstance might have made the administration go, “Oh, not our sense of humor – let’s hire the teacher with 20 years’ experience.”)

        People like knowing “why?” and sometimes, there’s just no answer.

        1. Kathleen Adams*


          It was interesting that a desire to work *here* became so important. I usually feel that the potential for longevity shouldn’t be an important factor. The chances of hiring someone who’s going to want to work here for a decade or more aren’t great – people change jobs for all sorts of perfectly good reasons – so my usual assumption is that all you ought to really hope for is that you hire someone who will do good work and be reasonably happy here for 3-5 years. And I know my supervisor feels the same or even more so.

          But this time, after all the change and turmoil, someone who really wanted to be *here* was kind of a big deal.

  19. seejay*

    I had several interviews with a world-wide well-known company. They progressed to the point of having their lawyers talk to me about the steps needed for moving me into the green card process and everything. We’d discussed salary and I thought I had the whole thing in the bag.

    One of the steps I had to do was demonstrate my skills and the team I would have been working on sent me home with a small project. I spent 8 hours that evening on the project and did exactly what they asked and went in to demo it. When I got a call back, I was turned down. Apparently I didn’t demonstrate sufficient design skills with my project. Except the problem was I was applying for a position as a front end software engineer/developer… *not* a designer. If I knew they were going to be taking into account design skills, I wouldn’t have applied since my design skills are non-existent. No where in the job description was there anything about requiring “design skills”. I talked to my contact at the company who had recommended me and pushed me to apply and he was livid… there was zero design skills requirement needed for the position (he knew what the position was). I was pretty heartbroken since I had put a lot of time, effort and hope into getting the job, which honestly I’d felt like I was going to get.

    It turns out the team was really disorganized, never filled the position because they couldn’t find the two headed purple unicorn (front end software engineer with top end design skills), got the position pulled from them when they didn’t fill it in six months, and then got disbanded after a year.

    Sometimes you can have a great and awesome interview and everything feels like it’s perfect, only to find out the team you interviewed with is a bunch of chuckleheads in the long run.

    1. Kathleen Adams*

      I’d put this one in the “bullet dodged” category, seejay! I mean, if they had hired you, what a nightmare it probably would have been!

  20. T*

    I still feel like the hiring company was dishonest in that they didn’t inform the applicant. They did waste her time by not telling her promptly that they had decided not to move her forward. I think that it’s the waiting until she contacted them to let her know she was out of the running that’s the problem, not that they changed their mind about her as a candidate.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      How did they waste her time? Once they decided she was out of the running, they didn’t keep interviewing her. She presumably wasn’t putting her entire life on hold until she heard from them (and if someone does do that, that’s not really on the company).

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I agree–a candidate shouldn’t put their life on hold, but in the OP’s case, it seemed like a decent probability that this was going to result in an offer, and you might wait to make other life changes until it is settled. I was in a similar situation around the same time period, and while I definitely didn’t put my life on hold, there are some things that you just decide to “wait and see” on until you know for sure on the job situation–things like internal transfers, signing up for a course/program, moving to one side of town or the other. At some point, I would assume I didn’t have the job and move on, but I think there is a “limbo” period where you don’t want to make other life changes until you hear back or assume once it has been so long that it’s a “no.”

  21. FormerHiringManagerFormerJobSeeker*

    It’s tough. I’ve been on both sides and know the frustrations. I can say that as a hiring manager, I typically use the interviewing process to continually narrow the field of candidates. So I might bring in 5-6 in the first round, 3-4 in the second, and maybe just 2 in a final round. The time interviewing is to answer questions that I and others who are part of the process have about certain candidates fit with the position and organization. I think that the poster here was probably a strong candidate. But as the field narrowed, she didn’t quite make the cut. That sucks. But it’s part of the process.

    I would advise two things: 1) Ask for feedback. Find out from the hiring manager what they really liked about you, and what their main concerns were, along with traits of the final hire that they decided upon. This will help you better understand what they were looking for and possibly prepare for in your next interview. 2) A perfectly valid, and helpful question for you to ask your interviewers is “what concerns do you have about my ability to do this job?” Had you asked that in this case, you might have heard that they were somewhat concerned about your lack of experience. You could have then responded by stating how you make up for your experience in your passion, skill, and willingness to learn (etc etc etc). It may have made a difference in their decision, or maybe not. But you would have been less shocked by their decision. My two cents.

    Regarding the delay in their communication to you – every hiring process (on either side) that I’ve been a part of takes longer than expected and communication with candidates takes longer than anticipated. Seems like the unfortunate nature of the beast. While they probably shouldn’t have scheduled it without being sure they wanted to pursue you, it’s not the most egregious offense.

  22. Interviewer*

    This is why generic rejection letters say, “Unfortunately, you were not selected to continue in the recruiting process” – because for so many candidates, you can’t say anything specific at all about the selection process without having it all picked apart. I agree with other commenters who have suggested that “more experience” might have been a euphemism, or an attempt to sound generic (but failing miserably). I’m glad you landed on your feet, OP. Hopefully this perspective & experience helps for a future job search, and is helpful to others here as well.

  23. Greg*

    I had an experience somewhat similar to the OP’s last year. I went through multiple interviews for a position, all of which went very well, and then in the end the hiring manager told me, “We went with someone else. The role was too junior for you and you wouldn’t have liked the day-to-day work.”

    I’ll confess, like the OP I had a flash of annoyance that they went through the entire process knowing what my experience level was (and I don’t think salary was an issue; it was a university and they had fairly strict bands, which I was fine with).

    But then I thought about it some more and realized there could be plenty going on behind the scenes that I wasn’t aware of. Maybe they realized as they got further into the process that their conception of the role needed to change. Maybe there was one person on the hiring committee who was pushing hard for me, and that’s why I made it as far as I did, but that person was ultimately outvoted.

    The point is, in a situation like that you ultimately don’t have enough information to properly judge the company’s conduct, and it’s not worth wasting your time stressing over it. (And honestly, that would probably be the case if they acted in a way that was patently unfair).

    So OP, my advice is to send them a nice note thanking them for the opportunity and try to keep the communication channels open. You can ask politely for feedback (but don’t assume you’ll get it), and given your history with the company, you might also want to work your personal contacts and find out if it’s worth applying for anything else there. I don’t want to read too much into anything, but the fact that they dinged you “after speaking with your previous supervisors” makes me wonder if they got some sort of negative feedback.

    Ultimately, focus on the things you can control, not the stuff you can’t. Good luck!

  24. kindnessisitsownreward*

    I understand the LW’s disappointment, but Alison’s answer is quite right. Sometimes hiring priorities change after the hiring manager has a little more time to think about all the candidates and what is needed for the position. The communication from the company could have been better.

    This is the LW’s chance to leave a positive lasting impression—- write the hiring manager, thank them for the opportunity, and tell them you remain interested if their hiring parameters change. And then move on.

  25. Allison*

    Being ghosted at any stage of the interview process stinks; once a company engages with a candidate, they should maintain good communication with them until either they’re hired, or rejected in favor of other candidates. While there’s no excuse for failing to give bad news in a timely manner (or at all) just because you don’t like those conversations, sometimes stuff happens. The hiring manager goes dark (or, around this time of year, goes on vacation), or decides to make changes to the requisition, or wants to go with an internal candidate or a referral, and the recruiter or HR associate or whoever’s managing the process needs to figure out the line between necessary updates and giving a candidate an unnecessary look into the messy decision-making process.

    That said, I think more people could stand to follow the timeframes they give, especially for people who took the time to come in and interview. You say you’ll have news by a certain day, drop them an e-mail on that day saying “sorry, something came up and the process is going to take longer than we expected. Feel free to bug me next Friday if you don’t hear from me by then.”

  26. Rusty Shackelford*

    To me, the frustrating thing would be that the interviewer apparently said there *would* be a third interview. If he’d said there *might* be another interview, or if he’d simply said the next step in the process is a third interview, then I’d think she had read too much into it. And no, it’s not inappropriate to wait until someone has accepted the job to notify the other applicants that they won’t be hired. But since the LW had been told to expect a third interview, I think they should have treated her as a special case and notified her sooner that she wouldn’t be moving on in the process after all.

    1. MissDissplaced*

      And even then you still might not have the job! We’ve all read numerous tales of woe here on that topic.

    2. Look, a bee!*

      And even then you might not… I went through a genuinely devastating situation while job hunting at the end of my MA, I was offered a job, accepted it, turned down my many other interviews and six weeks later towards the end of the vetting process, they called me to say the job no longer existed due to a shift in funding. By this time I’d declined all other opportunities. And the job was in a city sixty miles away, and I’d already handed in my notice at work, so had my partner. And we’d signed a contract on a flat in the new city. It was a firm job offer and acceptance and for the government (!).

      I pushed back on this of course after my initial devastation, challenged them and was told it was legal but they’d offer me a month’s wages as an apology, which I declined as I was determined that the job I was offered and accepted was mine. I took legal advice which said I didn’t have a leg to stand on, but when researching UK contract law myself i found a very straightforward page on the government legal site saying that once a job has been formally offered and accepted subject to vetting, if the vetting criteria are met, that forms a contract in itself and you are employed in that role. So I went back to HR, pointed this out and they finally gave in and gave me the same job at a location ten miles away from the original on a fixed twelve month contract rather than permanent. I could have fought for the permant position I was owed but I decided to just take it as I was moving there whether I liked it or not and figured twelve months was enough to get there and see what I thought.

      The job turned out to be a nightmare (quelle surprise) and the shoddy and legally iffy way they treated me (and how many others who weren’t as tenacious!) soured me from the start, but I’d have stayed in the role if the job was what I was promised, however it was a total bait and switch so I started job hunting after a few months and landed what is to this day my dream role shortly after, in part due to what I’d learned during that short time in the role.

      The manager there hated me, for many reasons I think but not least as she didn’t get to choose me for her department and she resented being told I was coming to work there.

      Since then I’ve treated even a firm job offer as tenuous until my first day and once I begin a job I’m keen to get the contract signed. It was an incredibly painful experience but hardened my naïveté during the job hunting process.

  27. Nervous Accountant*

    Thanks for the overwhelming comments & support guys, back then and now. Glad to know that I wasn’t being entitled or naive :-) Not sure if anyone wants to read an update but I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic lately so why not.

    Back in 2012, I was working at a nonprofit in a temp position (tax preparation). Since I had experience the year prior, they hired me as a site manager so I was in charge of the staff as well as the tax returns. I was doing well in the job until the middle of the season, when things went pear shaped with my staff–I had 0 experience in managing and generally lots of self esteem/self respect issues. The staff under me was disrespectful to me, but I was pretty unprofessional too. My boss stopped talking to me about a month before the assignment ended and she ignored me when I came by to say goodbye on my last day.

    I was surprised as hell that she reached out to refer me to a permanent position. I jumped at it because I needed a job. Things like fit, environment, never even occurred to me–I was in no place to be picky. That miserable summer was spent looking for a job, I took an unpaid “internship” at a pharmacy as a tech, met with several recruiters who ghosted or lied, worked as a part time admin assistant waking up at 3 AM to be in the office by 5 AM etc.

    For the next tax season, I got a really great assignment through a temp agency. I was excited and really happy about it. Things went REALLY bad there, although I can confidently say I was very professional and tried my best to be good; ultimately I was let go early.

    I spent the next month in bed depressed and feeling sorry for myself. Eventually I got out of that funk, made a few changes, got another job, and another job, and…4 years later here I am.

    It has NOT been an easy road, I’ll be the first one to say that. Anyone who’s read my posts since 2014 can attest to that, so I’m not looking at this with rose colored glasses. But whatever challenges I had here, are nothing compared to the challenges of being a job-seeker. I wrote above that I never want to be desperate again. 4-5 years back I was desperately wishing for a permanent, stable position. I wanted to be paid more than minimum wage. I wanted coworkers who were friendly, and wouldn’t scream at me. I wanted a boss who would have my back and not treat me like crap. Last week, I got a promotion and a huge (for our company) raise. Of course I worked really hard for it, but my mgr also pushed really hard to our boss that I get these. I know I haven’t always had the easiest time here, but now that I’m in a better place, I try to look at the bigger picture of how things turned out.

    What’s going to happen next, only God knows, but I’m thankful that things got a lot better for me.

  28. curmudgeon*

    I just got an email telling me they are onto round 2 of interviews but I am not a candidate, thank you for your time.
    Can I send a reply thanking them for taking the time for an interview & asking for feedback on why I did not progress?
    No upset over it , fairly certain it was because I am waaaayyy overqualified & would also need more than basic minimum wage/no benefits…I only applied because I’m trying to leave a bad situation & need something lined up before I go.

    1. Greg*

      It never hurts to ask, but I think the earlier in the process you got cut, the less likely they are to respond (and even in cases where you’re a finalist, I still think your chances of getting honest, detailed feedback are less than 50%).

      In order to maximize your chances that they’ll respond, I would recommend a) avoiding HR, since they are most likely to adhere to a “no feedback” policy; b) focus on people who were especially nice to you throughout the hiring process; and c) make your request broader than “Why didn’t you guys hire me?” That kind of question tends to make people feel like they’re being put on the spot, or asked to reveal confidential discussions. Instead, you could ask something like, “I’ve been getting to final rounds with companies but haven’t managed to close the deal. Can you help me figure out what I could be doing better?” Or “I’m trying to break into this field but am not having success. Do you think there’s some kind of credential I should get that might improve my chances?” (Bonus points if you look up their history and know they do have that credential: “I see you are certified in Teapot Design. Has that been a big help in your career? Would you recommend it for others?”)

      1. curmudgeon*

        No HR involved; just a “chat” with the guy trying to hire someone for his team.

  29. JuniorMinion*

    I think the conduct question depends on whether LW is currently employed or is unemployed (meaning employers have a bit more power). I have a job right now, and only have so many made up dr appts I can schedule in order to fit in interviews. If someone who I had prior work experience with made me use two of these to interview during the workday and then ghosted me with some superficial excuse about my lack of experience (especially when they knew me / my work) I would be reconsidering wanting to work with those people.

    All employment is a trust relationship ultimately – and if your hope as an employer is to hire someone away from another job, rest assured they are evaluating you as much as you are evaluating them.

  30. Yet Even Another Alison*

    What sounds like happened is someone with all the great qualities of the OP came along and this person has more experience. Simple as that. Generally speaking, if the cost is the same, the company usually goes with the candidate that has more experience. Many companies, in my experience, use the interview process to help shape and validate the job requirements. For example, they may interview a group of individuals and decide, through speaking with the candidates, that one aspect of the job description may not be as important as another – thus adjusting the order of importance of skills.

  31. Jana*

    I don’t think the reader is being naive. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some (not all) employers to be kind of intentionally misleading with job candidates. No, a candidate should never assume there is an offer until an offer is made. However, employers do sometimes lead people to think an offer is likely when they’re not in a position to suggest that. For example, I recently interviewed three times (and participated in a 2-hour skills assessment) with an organization and, at the third interview, the HR director cheerfully told me that we’d need to start talking about salary, benefits, etc. soon. Well, the organization just ghosted on me. I didn’t think an offer was in the bag, but it’s still disappointing to have employers throw around comments that they know are bound to make people think an offer might be the result. Job candidates are frequently reminded to be careful about questions they ask and how they convey information; there’s no reason that employers can’t be expected to do the same.

  32. idi01*

    Many years ago I did something to a job applicant which I still feel guilty about. I called the applicant back for a second interview, implying that the job was pretty much hers. Then I interviewed someone who was a much stronger applicant and immediately hired the second applicant. The first applicant came for her 2nd interview (took a bus ride of 5 hours from another city) and I told her that the job had been given to someone else. She was rightfully quite upset that I had called her to our office and then told her we gave the job to someone else.

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