why can’t I get feedback about why I was rejected for a job?

A reader writes:

Do any interviewers give feedback anymore if you don’t get the job? Since being furloughed, I have been frantically applying, interviewing, and getting to second and sometimes third rounds of the hiring process, and then I get rejected. With so many out of work, I understand that the job market is tough and I simply move on to the next one, it’s all good. But since I am getting to the initial rounds easily enough but not beyond that, it seems to me that I might be doing something wrong – but I really don’t know what.

Employers all say they are happy to keep my resume on file, and my interviewers often connect with me on LinkedIn, saying they want to stay in touch about other roles because they think I’m a good candidate, just perhaps not for this particular role. So it seems like generally like me and think I’m a good cultural fit, and I don’t think I’m coming off as desperate, creepy, or something else off-putting. When they send me the rejection or the LinkedIn connection request, I thank them again and then ask them politely for feedback on how I could better my process next time, whether there were skills they were looking for that I didn’t highlight or should look into improving, and/or what the hiring manager’s feedback was, and then ….radio silence.

None of companies I have applied with have given me any feedback at all, and that is quite a lot of roles for there to be no indications about why. I suspect it’s kind of like being an actor, where the director just felt another actor was a better fit. But these are media and marketing roles with skills and experience that you either have or don’t have, and once upon a time I used to get feedback about how I could improve. But since Covid – nothing.

Do you have advice on how I could better approach asking for feedback? Have employers just stopped giving it?

It’s always been relatively hard to get genuine feedback from an employer after you’re rejected from a job. It’s not something new since COVID – although you might find employers are even less likely to give feedback right now because they’re dealing with so many more applicants than usual.

That doesn’t mean you’ll never find interviewers who will give you a candid assessment. They’re out there! But more often than not, employers are wary about sharing the real reason they rejected someone, especially if that reason isnn’t straightforward and easy-to-understand like “we’re looking for more experience in X.”

There are a few reasons employers shy away from giving candidates feedback along with rejections. First and foremost, they’ve often been advised by lawyers or HR not to, out of fear that it could cause legal problems. For example, if an interviewer rejects you because they want someone who’s fluent in French, tells you that, but then later hires a candidate who doesn’t speak French after all (because she wowed them in some other legitimate way that overcame her lack of French skills), you might conclude they lied to you and start wondering if they just didn’t hire you because you’re, say, pregnant or disabled or a woman or an atheist or something else that could cause legal headaches for the company, even though the reason they gave you was the real one. Or, the employer might be worried about interviewers speaking sloppily — for example, telling you they want someone “more junior,” which you interpret as “you’re too old” (i.e., age discrimination), when they really meant was that “this position would be a big step back for you.” So companies often find it easier to just issue blanket “don’t give feedback” guidance to employees involved with hiring.

Second, the reason you were rejected isn’t always something hiring managers will feel comfortable sharing. It’s one thing to say something like “we’re looking for a higher level of proficiency in data analysis.” It’s another thing to explain to a candidate that they didn’t seem quite smart enough or their interpersonal skills were off-putting or their lecherous stare creeped out the interviewer.

Third, providing useful feedback takes time that busy interviewers often don’t have. Many interviewers are doing hiring work on top of their regular workloads and can’t justify the time it would take to look back through interview notes, remember context they might have put out of their mind right after making a decision, and then wordsmith that into something they’re comfortable sharing with you.

Moreover, a lot of interviewers have been burned by giving feedback in the past. Anyone who’s done a lot of hiring has encountered candidates who argue and want to debate the decision. That’s not the case with most candidates, but once you’ve had someone blow up your phone with angry messages after you tried to share some advice, it can make you hesitant to do it in the future.

More than anything, though, the answer often just comes down to, “You were fine, but another candidate was stronger.” That, of course, is the crux of most rejection letters: “Your qualifications were impressive, but we chose a candidate who better met our needs,” blah blah. That language often irks job applicants because it seems so vague, but much of the time it’s perfectly accurate, albeit unsatisfying.

All that said, sometimes you will find employers who are willing to give you feedback. They’re more likely to do it if you’ve made it to a later-stage interview, and especially if you felt you had good rapport. You’re also more likely to get a useful response if you ask via email versus on a phone call. Email gives the person time to gather their thoughts before responding, whereas a call can make them feel put on the spot.

When you reach out, be sure your request makes it clear you understand that you’re asking for a favor and aren’t seeking to argue the decision; you’re just hoping for information that will help you move forward in your career.

It helps, too, to make your email as personable as you can. You’re less likely to get a useful response if your request sounds perfunctory, as if someone told you to ask for feedback and so you’re dutifully checking off that box. That’s actually what most requests I get sound like! They usually just say something like, “I would appreciate any feedback you can give me about how I can be a stronger candidate in the future. Thank you for your time.”

You’re more likely to get meaningful feedback if you instead say something like this: “I really appreciated the time you spent talking to me and the insights you shared into the ___ field. I wonder if I could ask you a favor. I’m extremely interested in moving into a position like X, and I would be grateful for your feedback about how I can better position myself to do that. Are there weaknesses I could tackle, or any way I might be tripping myself up without realizing it? I’m passionate about working in this field and really respect your achievements, and I’d so appreciate any advice you can share with me.”

You still might not hear back — that’s just par for the course in job-hunting, so don’t get too invested in receiving a response. But some interviewers will help when they can, so it’s worth a shot, especially for jobs that you really wanted.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 124 comments… read them below }

  1. HailRobonia*

    It’s not exactly the same as hiring, but part of my job duties is processing admissions to a professional education program. Most applicants are qualified, so it is rare that we reject people, but I have learned that when rejecting someone it’s best to give as little explanation as possible in cases where it is not cut-and-dried (i.e. if a program requires someone to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering and someone without a degree applies, I explain that there background isn’t sufficient and invite them to reapply after they have earned their degree). In “greyer” areas, such as when someone’s language skills don’t seem sufficient, etc. we rarely give a reason, as that leads to an avenue for people to argue their case. We’ve had applicants who were outright verbally abusive after their rejection – do they think that swearing at us will make us want them in our program?

    1. Annette*

      I’m in a similar position – doing admin for a highly ranked graduate program. We reject 80% of applicants because of limited funding, so people looking for concrete feedback about why they were rejected are very hard to answer. And I’m not interested in bickering about my response bwhich happens too often, so I just send a generic “there was a greater number of qualified applicants than open slots, k thx bye” response.

    2. Firecat*

      I just can’t imagine responding that way. I wonder if it’s an issue of: 1 in 10 do this and it sucks so much we now don’t bother with feedback ever… or if it really is a majority of candidates?

      Seriously – I was once rejected for an academic posting with a scholarship, in such a way that there was no way I could get another posting to secure the scholarship, and the reason the professor gave me was “You seem like the sort of person who needed to experience a failure”.

      And I didn’t complain, yell, escalate, argue or any of those things. I can’t imagine trying to argue with the messanger and/or hiring manager either.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Honestly, even if it’s only 1 in 20 (or less) that respond that way, it takes a lot of emotional energy to deal with, so I don’t provide feedback, even to people who ask nicely. And chances are, you’re getting dozens (if not hundreds) of applications for an open position, so the likelihood that someone will respond badly increases just due to volume. It may be frustrating from an applicant perspective, but it is honestly, the easiest way to avoid those types of confrontations.

        1. Hiring Manager*

          Same here. Hiring is time-consuming enough as is. I don’t want to spend even more time dealing with argumentative or abusive people, when it’s much easier to just not open myself up to that.

          Feedback is a favor that no one owes you.

          1. Koalafied*

            And even if nobody responds poorly, there’s still a lot more emotional investment going into finding a way to tactfully offer critical, individualized feedback to a near-stranger. If it’s an internal applicant who you’re going to have a continued relationship, absolutely it’s worth investing some energy in giving them feedback and trying to make sure you’re not going to offend them by being too blunt, etc… For someone you may well never interact with again in your life? That’s a heavy investment compared to pasting the ol’ rejection boilerplate and pressing send.

      2. Rainy*

        Like, here’s the thing though: if you’re sending out a couple of hundred rejections on a regular basis, even if only 1 in 10 do this, that’s 2-3 angry, insulting, screaming, or even threatening people per search.

          1. Rainy*

            Ugh, this is what happens when I’m doing six things at once. Sorry, my math is not usually that bad!

            It’s also worth considering that sometimes a thing happening once is enough. My dad used to have a job where threats from the public were pretty normal, but just of the “I’ll kick your ass” variety, and he thought very little of it, taking standard precautions like using a PO box for personal mail and doing his best not to be followed home from work…until someone called in a bomb threat to his office and threatened to murder my mother and their pets.

            My dad immediately got real about the threats, including a security consultation, a concealed carry permit, and varying his route to/from work. He wasn’t going to sit around for the second one.

          2. Bastet*

            While I do not have the final say in hiring, I am involved in the process and had the same question for our HR manager, as well as why we don’t bother to at least send a thanks, but no thanks letter to applicants. The biggest reason was time, and the second was fear of being sued. She said that even if someone did want feedback, the only thing she would feel.comfortable giving is that either the salary range was not what we were looking for, the hours are not what we need, or the generic we found a more qualified applicant answer, so no one is really likely to be any the wiser about why they were rejected.

      3. PollyQ*

        Possibly a biased sample — people who ask for feedback may be the ones who are more likely to argue about it.

      4. NeverAgain*

        I once had a trainee position open, and a young person was certain they had it due to knowing people within the organisation, but they really under performed in their application and interview, while another candidate really shined. I felt that it was important for them to hear why they didn’t get the role (in a polite positive way), and they started crying, told me to get stuffed, and just hung up on me. I quite liked the person prior to the interview but they had turned up 45mins early, then when asked to return at the interview time they arrived 10mins late, had spelling mistakes throughout their resume, and indicated that they would take their friends (who I managed) instructions over my own within the workplace. It was a complete disaster of an interview, and I really wanted to prevent them making those mistakes again, but after the tears I switched to a standard email template of interview tips that was sent out to any trainee candidates that weren’t successful.

      5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Even if there’s only one jerk who argues, it’s so unpleasant and energy-sucking that you just don’t ever want to have it happen again. Yes, that one jerk spoils it for everybody.

        The only upside being that when the candidate argues back, I can breathe a sigh of relief that they didn’t make it to hiring.

    3. Kikishua*

      I had a Difficult Conversation with a candidate who wasn’t shortlisted over the phone. Her argument was “But this is the job I’ve decided I want”. She went on and on and on until I said “This conversation just proves to me that I made the right decision”. I wouldn’t say that today, with many more years of experience under my belt, but it certainly shut her up!

  2. Elle by the sea*

    To be honest, I don’t recall having given feedback after a rejection, ever. I used to feel frustrated and try to elicit some feedback, but all I got was nothing or one of the following comments:
    – We have received applications from a high volume of qualified applicants. Most of them are more qualified than you. (This was a job I was wildly overqualified for.)
    – We have candidates from *insert the name of one of the biggest tech companies*, so obviously they must be stronger than you.
    – We want someone with experience. (It was an entry level position and I had years of experience.)
    – It is against our policies to provide feedback.

    1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      If you’re overqualified for a position in terms of skillsets and experience, then applicants at the level they’re looking for would be more qualified for placement as they’re more likely to stay long term and grow within the organization.

      Entry level also doesn’t just mean a position with no experience. It is possible to have entry level positions within an organization that are meant to be entry ways for external applicants at differing experience and skill levels. This is a great tactic for continuity planning, as you cannot always rely on people steadily progressing from the most junior role to the most senior role within one organization. Also, by reserving upper level roles for internal candidates, you’re also setting up a development plan that allows for employees to continue to grow with you.

  3. Should be grateful (?)*

    Also worth noting is that the person hiring is also human and unfortunately has their own motivations. My boss once rejected a promising young candidate because of his AWESOME design portfolio – my boss wanted to be the top dog in his design team and didn’t like having other people who might threaten that. Stupid? Definitely. Not helpful for the company? So much so. But unfortunately it was up to my boss, so what can you do.

  4. Alexis Rose*

    I had a conversation with a former boss about this. He said that there were a couple of times he DID provide candid feedback, even going so far as to offer feedback on the resume/cover letter and put together a really thoughtful response about what he was looking for as a hiring manager and that the candidate could look to improve x, y, or z parts of their application.

    He heard NOTHING back, not a thank you or anything acknowledging that he had even replied to this person. It completely put him off of wanting to provide feedback, so he stopped doing it entirely.

    All of this is to say, OP, that it likely also has nothing to do with you at all, and that people don’t offer feedback because they’ve had experiences that left a bad taste in their mouth (no response to say thank you or worse, someone arguing about the feedback) or because they simply don’t have time! Hiring is a TONNE of work, and it takes hiring managers away from their other job duties that they also have to be completing even though there is a hiring process going on (usually).

    For us, since it was a student experience type job, he offered to sit down with all of the students he DID hire to give us feedback if we wanted it, since we were still so early in our careers. He gave really excellent feedback and my applications absolutely improved because of it.

    1. Sleepy*

      Yes, this exactly. When I first started hiring, I would give thoughtful feedback to candidates if asked, and not one person who requested this followed up with a thank-you or any kind of acknowledgement. Giving feedback was time-consuming, especially considering the energy I put into crafting a kind and constructive message.

      It made me think that many people don’t really want to hear honest feedback on their applications. I wonder if these candidates wanted to hear the “you were great, but others were more qualified” message and were displeased to hear that they weren’t extremely strong in the first place.

  5. Combinatorialist*

    If there is any increase due to COVID, it could also be with the large number of people looking for new jobs, the deciding factor between candidates is more nebulous than it is when there are fewer candidates. When the decision is something like “we had 10 equally qualified candidates and we picked the person we had the best rapport with”, that is hard to give feedback about.

    1. hbc*

      That’s what I was thinking too. When there’s a lack of candidates, I’m often stretching to fill that fourth or fifth interview slot, trying to figure out which candidate who hits 70-80% of the requirements is the best bet for fit. (As in, we wanted technical experience, but they work on cars as a hobby, so maybe there’s aptitude?) But when there are tons of good candidates, it’s more a matter of narrowing down which candidates fill 100-110% of the requirements we’re going to interview.

      It stinks, but sometimes the feedback would essentially be “You were awesome, we were pretty much down to a coin flip” or “We wanted five years experience, you have 10, the other person had 12.”

  6. irene adler*

    I’ve asked. I frame it as ‘what can I do to be a stronger candidate for the next time this position opens up?”
    I’ve gotten some good feedback. Which I have appreciated and incorporated. But I’ll tell ya, “not the right fit” isn’t one of them.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    “saying they want to stay in touch about other roles because they think I’m a good candidate, just perhaps not for this particular role.”

    Surely I’m not the only one who assumes this is polite boilerplate and has little if anything to do with the reality of my potential fitness for possible jobs?

    I don’t think I’ve ever gotten feedback on a job I didn’t get and honestly I’ve never wondered about it. I just assumed I wasn’t going to get every job for which I applied and . . . that’s how it goes?

    1. irene adler*

      Yes, to your first point. I find that the “brushoff” is phrased like you say-keep in touch for future roles.

      Yes, I know I’m not going to get every job I apply for. That is how it goes. But after almost 5 years of applying and interviewing (3-4 rounds of interviews!) and nothing but rejections, it seems I’m doing something very wrong. It would be nice to be able to identify it.

      1. Ashley*

        Do you have someone you trust that could do a mock interview with? Also if you get to reference checks and are getting rejected I would wonder if someone isn’t giving as strong of a reference as I thought they were.

        1. irene adler*

          I’ve only been asked for refs once. So I’m thinking it has something to do with the interview(s).

          I’m not sure I know anyone that might know how to interview. Contemplating hiring a job coach for that.

          I’ve assembled scads of interview questions to prep for. Including the “tell me about a time when…” quesitons. And I read up about the company, the interviewer(s), know the position requirements and how I meet them. I ask questions. Interviewers complement the questions I ask.

          The usual “kiss of death” during the interview is a comment along the lines of “you are certainly well-qualified to do the job”. Some express concern that I’ll get bored and move on quickly. Nothing in my resume indicates job hopping (my current position is over 15 years). I’ve tried explaining my interest in the position to allay their fears.

          OTOH, I am over 50 and female.

          1. irene adler*

            Let me add, that one recent feedback I received was from the HR recruiter regarding a lab job.
            She outlined the hiring process for me. And even coached me on what the hiring manager would ask about. So I was prepared.

            At the interview with hiring manager, he said there would be a lab practicum before being hired. That surprised me. So I said, “OH, okay. I didn’t know that was part of the hiring process.”

            He then said yes, it is part of the process. He indicated he would ask the HR recruiter to schedule this. I said,” yes, that’s fine.”
            Then, crickets.

            I got in touch with the HR recruiter. Her feedback was that this exchange indicated hesitation on my part. Hiring manager decided not to go forward. The HR recruiter went on to explain that in job interviews, candidates must be nothing but positive in their responses. They must demonstrate the ability to think on their feet and have ready, on-point answers to every single question that hiring manager asks.
            My thoughts in the past were that honest answers were appreciated (what I know and what I don’t know). Guess not. Instead, I look at the answer like a car ad on TV. Just state the positives.

          2. IL JimP*

            I don’t know what questions you generally ask but I’ve started adding something like, is there anything in my candidacy that is a concern to you or you’d like more information on? This might help you be able to address any concerns out there

            1. irene adler*

              I think I’ll make a point to ask this one.
              I’m told that interviewers will just ask about anything that they have concerns about. But there’s nothing wrong with directly asking them about their concerns.

              1. IL JimP*

                yeah, I had an executive recruiter tell me to do it and he said it could be more of the way you answered something tripped a flag but they won’t bring it up again because they know the info they think they need to know at that point

    2. rayray*

      I have also always thought this was absolute garbage and I think it’s incredibly rude of companies to tell people this unless they really mean it. I often see it in the standard rejection emails I get, so they’re just saying it to everyone. It’s not nice to say this if it’s a complete lie because when you’re unemployed and desperately seeking for a new job, it will give some people false hope.

      I have wondered why I wasn’t selected after a job interview or phone screen that went well on my end of things. Employers attempt to ghost me but I’ll reach out and then get a very sheepish “Oh well, uh, we decided to go with a different candidate who had x or y”

      I never liked to get too attached or hopeful to a job, but sometimes you do have those interviews that seem to go well and then it’s radio silence so you wonder what was going on on their end.

    3. Firecat*

      Yes – but not with the addition of connecting with me on LinkedIn. Assuming the OP meant – they reached out to me to connect and not they accepted my connection request based on how it was written.

    4. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

      For what it’s worth, every time I’ve had an open position on my team, I have searched my company’s applicant database for candidates who previously applied to similar or related positions. When I find candidates who look strong and who were declined for reasons that aren’t blocking for the position on my team, I absolutely do reach out to them and ask if they are interested in talking about it. Our internal recruiters also use this database. So at least in the case of my (midsize, tech) company, it’s not meaningless boilerplate.

      1. Anonym*

        From the other side, I’ve recommended past strong-but-not-hired applicants for other roles in my company, even months/years later, and they were hired. Hiring manager reaches out, and I’m happy to say “Yes, I had a great applicant last year who was skilled in that area that we didn’t end up going with. Let me see if she’s interested and I can share your open role with her.”

      2. WorkIsWeird*

        Yes! I was part of a hiring committee for a role that was only tangentially related to my “sector” of the office but they wanted another perspective in the hiring process. There were two great candidates. One of them actually had experience in my specialized area of work (think Llama importer) but the open position was more focused in Domestic Llama Management.
        The other candidate got the job but we had an unexpected opening on my team 6 months later. We reached out to the rejected candidate (who happened to be internal in our very large organization) with the Llama Importer experience to see if she was still looking for a new role. She was about to accept a job she was not interested in just to leave her current role and could not be more thrilled to apply for the opening on my team. She has been an amazing addition to the team and I could not be happier with her work. The job was also a significant pay increase for her and cut her commute to 1/4 of the previous time!
        Long story short, we absolutely meant it that we would keep her in mind for other positions. Sometimes the fit is not exactly right but you know the person would be an asset to the team in other ways and it’s great to keep them in mind for these types of scenarios.

      3. Lyudie*

        I got my job that way too, I interviewed once and it came down to me and one other person, they chose the other person. About a year later, they had another open position and called me in again, and I got that position.

    5. Dan*

      I don’t think this is as much of a brushoff as might be assumed. I tend to think these offers are genuine, but lack of follow up isn’t proof that it was a brushoff.

      I had an interview a few years back with [household name] employer. While I was rejected for that position, I was told it was a tough call. There were two positions to be filled, and I was third in line. That is, if one of the first two had rejected the offer, it would have been extended to me. They then said that they’d pass my resume around to other departments. While I never heard from those other departments, I had no reason to believe the offer wasn’t genuine. The reality is, I was only really interested in working for the department I had applied to.

    6. TootsNYC*

      When I brush people off, I say, “I’ll keep your resume on file,” and I stop righ there.

      When I say, “keep in touch; I want to know where you are just in case something comes up,” I mean it.

    7. C M*

      It depends. I used to think it was just a polite “no” until I started interviewing. Recently we interviewed for a position and had two really great candidates. As a team we decided on one and she accepted the offer. But my boss new of another similar position that would soon open up, and he directly asked the second place candidate to apply for that one.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      It is polite boilerplate, but it has more to do with your potential fitness than nothing. If I were hiring and genuinely didn’t think there were any chance you might be a match for something else, I would not use this particular piece of boilerplate. I’d only do it if I actually meant it. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m thinking “if we have another opening soon, I’m calling you in to interview for that right off the bat”, but it does mean there’s a reasonable chance you’d be considered if you applied.

    9. Phoenix Wright*

      Not necessarily. I once had an interview with a recruiting company, and afterwards they informed me the client decided not to go with me, but they would keep my resume in their system if I was OK with that. Several months later they contacted me to tell me there was another job search for a different company and I might be a good fit, so with my permission they sent them my info, which is how I landed my first job. Perhaps it could be different if you interviewed with the client directly instead of a recruiter/screening company, but at least in my case they followed up when they thought it was appropriate.

    10. another worker bee*

      So, as a hiring manager….I don’t really say this to everyone. I would say this to someone who either was in my shortlist but got just slightly beaten out by someone else OR was a bit underqualified but otherwise was a good fit in hopes that they might either apply for a less senior role OR apply later on when they are more senior.

    11. MCMonkeyBean*

      It sounds like OP is saying that some of them are saying things like that while initiating a connection on LinkedIn. If they have taken the time to reach out for that connection, I would definitely not assume they were empty words.

  8. Miss Demeanor*

    A couple things: first, I give feedback if it’s actionable. For example, “you said Y to this question, but we were looking for X, and here’s why.” If it’s more of an intangible- like personality or work style, it’s hard to say, “I don’t think we’d work well together” and have it be of use. I don’t want someone to change something about themselves that would be fine elsewhere.

    Second: it might not be about you. Last spring I had an opening and two fantastic candidates. Even though the job posting was just for a nerf herder, candidate 2 was a scruffy-looking nerf herder, whereas candidate 1 was just a nerf herder. We didn’t know we also wanted our nerf herders to be scruffy until we met candidate 2. It wasn’t a reflection on candidate 1, so all I could tell her was that she was great, but the other person had additional qualifications not listed in the posting but turned out to be super useful. Not very helpful to candidate 1 in terms of what she can do to make herself more competitive. And with high rate of unemployment these days, I suspect most people are going to be dealing with this issue in their job hunts.

    1. Sleepy*

      Yeah, sometimes you get a way more awesome candidate that you are expecting, and there’s nothing others can do about it.

      At my org we have a very specific way of grooming llamas, and it’s often better to hire someone with less experience and train them in our methods in the first place. Because of this, we state in our advertisements that folks do not need a lot of llama grooming experience to apply. However, it can also happen that we get an application from an experienced llama groomer who is already familiar with our methods, and that person will obviously win out.

  9. Cringing 24/7*

    Yes – especially to the point about being burned when giving feedback. When I was a newer hiring manager, I told one of my rejected candidates that the person I chose for the job was more qualified than them, and they. went. OFF! Insisting that they were more than qualified for the job and that I was missing out on a great employee. I tried to explain that just because they were more than qualified for the job didn’t mean that other people who applied weren’t subsequently more qualified than the rejected candidate, but had to leave it at a blunt, “Well, we’ll be in touch if anything opens up that we think we could see you fitting in to.”

    1. Khatul Madame*

      I would have struggled not to point out that the candidate’s rant kinda shows how great of an employee they would be…

  10. ManagingUp*

    I agree with everything that’s been said so far.

    Now that I am responsible for the hiring and this is something that comes on top of the other work, it is absolutely bonkers how much work it is if you want to do this properly.
    I usually offer the possibility for feedback for people I have talked to in person (i.e. the last few candidates). And it is virtually always due to a combination of things – you might be the perfect candidate but not at this particular time due to all sorts of things like the current composition of the team etc etc.
    I also try to accommodate people that ask for feedback and where I felt were really on the line of just progressing or just not. But it is something I do in my free time.

    And I will tell you: most of the applicants have been very receptive and happy with feedback. It will only take one to respond with hostility to stop me doing this. I once got a phone call from someone who argued that they should have been invited for a next round because they progressed in another vacancy at our company (that I had nothing to do with). Really, anyone acting like they are entitled to something is spoiling it for everyone else.

    1. PrgrmMngr*

      The one time I was asked for feedback by an applicant, it was in an aggressive manner that suggested he felt in some way entitled to the job based on his past experience. It was reinforcement of my conclusion that his personality would be an issue, even if he was well qualified on paper.

    2. NW Mossy*

      Team composition/dynamics is such an important one, and only more so as managers are becoming much more aware of their implicit biases and trying to correct for that in their hiring.

      Often, the things that make a dynamic are subtle and not about a person being qualified or not – it’s about what they’ll bring that the team doesn’t have enough of right now. A team with a reputation for being hard to work with can benefit from a diplomat/peacemaker type, while a team with big visionaries needs a pragmatist to ground them. There’s no right or wrong in any of those styles – the goal is a blend that work well.

  11. Clisby*

    What if the real answer is: We didn’t hire you because you’re an asshole?
    This actually happened at one of my husband’s workplaces. It was a small but successful IT company that paid way better than average, so they got plenty of applications. One guy got far enough to come in for an in-person interview, and made the giant mistake of being rude to the two women who handled HR, benefits, etc. They went ahead with the interview, but had mentally crossed him off their list of candidates, because – if you can’t be civil to your co-workers, you can’t work here.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Right, I’m conflicted on this one. On one hand, assholes need to eat too, but on the other, nobody wants to work with one, and, even if you (generic you) somehow get the message across to the asshole, wouldn’t it be just giving them pointers on how to hide the fact that they are an asshole until they have an offer in their hands?

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Isn’t there an entire book on “don’t hire an asshole, it’s not worth it?” I’m pretty sure I read it….

        1. PollyQ*

          The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, by Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Reminds me of the guy who came to an interview at our place years ago, said right from the start to me that “I’m not easy to get along with, everyone hates me, but I still deserve a job” before addressing all comments to my chest.

        Noooope. Did want to give him a rundown of his many flaws after (human trash fire of a man) but didn’t want him to occupy more of my time than a refusal would take.

        1. boop the first*

          Oh jesus,
          I can already hear this guy having loud conversations on the back of the city bus. That’s a Type.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I once had a candidate where honest feedback would have been “because you completely ignored me during the interview, including addressing your replies to my questions to my (male) colleague, and if that’s how you act towards me, a woman who would be your employer I’m certainly not putting you in a situation where you’d be supervising other women. Or anyone”

    3. Aggretsuko*

      We had one guy apply here that would have been perfectly fine except he SUPER gave us the creeps. He was like the guy in the basement with the stapler from Office Space times a thousand. Like I did not enjoy breathing this guy’s air level of creepy and nobody wanted to interact with him every day. We hired the other candidate (it was a temp position) and he applied again the next year and my boss had to come up with some polite way to justify not interviewing him again a second time. I don’t know what she said….

    4. Aprés lui, le déluge (pour ça)*

      My FIL got fired from his last substantive job a few decades ago and was essentially unable to get hired anywhere else because he’s such a towering asshole. At the time, he even lied to his family that he was laid off rather than being fired for cause, and it sort of makes me wonder if part of the issue was that he was also lying about why he left his last job on applications and in interviews.

      He tells stories about interviewing for companies where the interviewer didn’t kiss his ass and he was offended and “showed them” and it’s just like…are you serious? You plunged your family into stress and debt because you thought people–especially women–at the places you interviewed should realize you were doing them a favour?

    5. learnedthehardway*

      Oh – definitely DON’T give feedback to that type of person. A) They’ll very likely react very negatively. B) The next time they interview somewhere, they’ll keep that kind of behaviour under wraps until after they are hired. Another company doesn’t deserve to unwittingly hire an asshole.

      Personally, I recruited a role that required a certain level of ethics and judgment. I felt really badly for the person who innocently mentioned how they go about one aspect of the job – which they did in a way that is completely unethical. They clearly had no idea that how they were doing this function was at all problematic, but I could tell that if they couldn’t see this, then they simply weren’t a fit for our company. And I wasn’t about to put another company at risk of their poor judgment and ethics but pointing out that their example of how they tackled a problem was very problematic. (I did feel badly about it, but I didn’t owe the candidate anything, and it’s one of those things that they should have realized.)

  12. singularity*

    There’s also the simple factor of time. If they receive a lot of applications for a position, then the person who is in charge of hiring for that position may not have time to give detailed, quality feedback to all the candidates who are finalists for the position.

  13. Mayflower*

    It’s really helped me to really internalize that time equals money. Once you start thinking in those terms, a lot of things naturally fall into place. When you ask near-strangers for a little bit of their time, it’s like asking them for a little bit of their money. They are not bad people for saying no.

    (Luckily, this works both ways! I am a recovering YES-person so when strangers ask me for my time, I picture them asking me for a twenty and it makes it easier for me to say no.)

  14. Moose*

    This question comes off a bit entitled. Nobody owes anyone else feedback. You aren’t entitled to their time or energy.

    It doesn’t hurt to ask but if they decide to give it, that’s a kind gesture. Not something that should be expected.

    1. rayray*

      Sure no one is entitled to anyone’s time or energy, but interviewing is a two way street. It’s not the employer doing a favor interviewing you. You’re both there to talk and to decide if the position is a good match. If I spent time on an application, a phone screen, and an interview, I don’t see why I can’t be offered at least a little bit of feedback. I’m not asking for a well thought out essay, just some feedback.

      1. fposte*

        The employer also spends time on the application, phone screen, and interview, though. Do you owe them feedback?

        Feedback is a favor. Sometimes people are in a position to do a favor and sometimes they’re not.

        1. Rayray*

          Yeah, if I rejected an offer and was asked why, I would definitely be happy to explain why.

          I also have had times when I decided to withdraw my candidacy badger an interview so I sent an email to let them know rather than ghosting them.

            1. All the cats 4 me*

              Aw darn, I was enjoying the idea of sending a candidacy badger out to scout jobs. He was really cute. And determined!

          1. goducks*

            Not me. I’ve been on the hiring side too many times and watched fellow managers get all in their feels when a candidate rejects for reasons like “not a good fit” or “not enough pay” or “commute” or whatever. Just like candidates can feel like they’re entitled to a job, sometimes managers feel like they are god’s gift to potential employees who should want to jump all over themselves to take their job.
            “I’m accepting another offer” is all I’ll provide. Even if that other offer is for a job I haven’t even applied for yet.

            1. Rayray*

              This is why it’s good to not get too emotionally attached to things.

              I don’t really care if someone gets their feelings hurt if I pass on a job because it didn’t pay well enough or because I decided I need a permanent position instead of contract. However, maybe just maybe they could take that feedback and consider what they could change. It wouldn’t help me any, but it could help them.

  15. Marie*

    Allison’s response was so good. The fact is that good candidates don’t get hired because there are better ones in the interview loop (and the same is true of poor candidates). It often comes down to luck, the local labor market, or a hiring manager having a gut feeling. In my role, often 4/5 interviewers said “hire” but it has to be unanimous. In all these cases, the truth is difficult to phrase and perhaps not even helpful to candidates. It is similar to casual dating, honestly. I wish it wasn’t so, as I have been on the end of plenty of ghosting rejections myself. Good luck, LW, I hope something great comes along.

  16. Rowan*

    This part of the letter jumped out for me: “I have been frantically applying”

    Perhaps the letter writer is applying to a broader range of positions than they might normally be? I could see how that would lead to a higher rate of rejections (even after interviews) than they’re used to when they’re being more selective.

  17. Modest Anony Mouse*

    I’ve hired for some internships that require some hard skills, non-negotiable. Because it’s students applying, I do sometimes let them know that their skill level is less than what we are looking for. I don’t want them to waste their time applying for jobs that require a skillset they just don’t have yet or which would put them in a position to fail. I’ve yet to encounter someone who appreciated this feedback, though.

  18. Catalyst*

    As some have mentioned above, a lot of it has to do with time. I’m hiring right now and spend hours of my day reviewing resumes and trying to plan for how we are going to manage in the time between when the staff member who gave me notice and my new hire starts. From past experience I can say that I know I won’t have the mental bandwidth to explain to multiple people why I didn’t choose them.

    The other reason I often don’t give feedback on why I didn’t hire someone is because when it comes down to two people who are both totally qualified and seem great, a lot of times I choose one over the other totally based on feeling or intuition, which you can not explain to someone.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      The other reason I often don’t give feedback on why I didn’t hire someone is because when it comes down to two people who are both totally qualified and seem great, a lot of times I choose one over the other totally based on feeling or intuition, which you can not explain to someone.

      Honestly, from my limited experience of sitting in on panel interviews and the follow-up discussions, this is how it happens m0st of the time.

      I have also seen the candidates who didn’t make the cut, invited back later when other positions opened up. I wouldn’t even call it “rejection”.

      1. Catalyst*

        It is actually a really good point about keeping people in mind. I have pulled resumes out of my files and called/emailed people that I had previously interviewed and liked when I had another similar opening come up. :)

  19. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I used to hire part-time, entry level employees. Often, I would get people who applied for a job that didn’t match their skillset, or they didn’t meet the basic requirements, and I would politely direct them to the correct place. “Oh well, you have to be a certified llama trainer to work in the llama department, but Llama Camp is hiring counselors for the summer, that job is also posted on our site,” or “Unfortunately our llama trainers often work alone and by law must be 18, but I know Llamas R Us has a huge junior trainer program and hires a lot of 16 and 17 year olds, they have three big barns within 10 miles of here.”

    People will got NUTS and scream at you for this. “You’re discriminating against me you have to hire me give me a job!” Or worse, “You have to hire my kid and your excuse isn’t good enough.”

    Now nobody gets feedback unless they have blatantly failed a skill test in an interview, and then it is, “Sorry you were unable to tell the difference between a llama and a horse just now, so unfortunately we will not be continuing the interview.”

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      “Sorry you were unable to tell the difference between a llama and a horse just now, so unfortunately we will not be continuing the interview”

      Thank you for that. I laughed harder than I should have.

  20. WantonSeedStitch*

    The only time I have given feedback after rejecting a candidate was when the candidate was internal, or when they’d been recommended by someone I knew and had met with me before deciding to apply, to see if the role was one they’d be interested in. Even in that last case, the feedback was just general “we had a lot of qualified applicants, and decided to go with someone who had more experience in a similar role.” For internal applicants, I like to give them more extensive feedback to suggest areas for growth and development.

  21. Bookworm*

    I can relate. Sometimes it seems like everything was aligned: had connections, good interview(s), felt l was a good fit, etc. But that’s it. A rejection and no idea why.

    As Alison says, it can be hit or miss and a lot of the time you’ll never find out why. It can be worth asking but answers can range from silence to a resent rejection email (you might as well have ignored my email…). Sometimes the feedback is useless or so vague that it’s not going to help you anyway.

  22. Janie*

    It’s important to consider the flip side of this too: since giving interview feedback is so challenging, you can’t assume it is complete or reliable.

    There’s a scene in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ where a woman says something along the lines of “I auditioned to be an actress, and they rejected me because they didn’t like my nose. So I got a nose job, and auditioned again. Turns out they didn’t like my acting”

    This sort of thing happens a lot, for example , I know people who have gotten different degrees based on the feedback of an interviewer and still not got hired.

    So keep in mind that interview feedback is not a promise to hire you if you do what they recommend, and there’s a tendency to make stuff up if they real reason for rejection is awkward.

    Think long and hard about investing time and money in feedback that cost nothing to give, and there’s no consequences if it’s wrong or outright false.

    1. Dan*

      “This sort of thing happens a lot, for example , I know people who have gotten different degrees based on the feedback of an interviewer and still not got hired.”

      AAM had a question about this not too long ago. Somebody was told that they needed Credential X to get a particular job, and LW would have had to pay out of pocket for Credential X. LW’s question was, “Should I pay for Credential X to get this job in the future?” That was such a hard question to answer, because the answer *isn’t* no. That rejection just meant that LW was automatically disqualified without it (making the rejector’s job easy) but getting the credential just means that instead of having 0% chance at the job, now maybe you’ve got a 10% chance. OTOH, if that credential has broader market value outside of very specific jobs, then perhaps it’s worth considering.

      In my line of work, an MS is a defacto requirement. You can get hired without one, but it very much strengthens your candidacy with a broad number of employers and is generally worthwhile. OTOH, a PhD may be often be listed as “preferred”, and an employer may very well have hired someone with one, but does that mean the PhD-less applicant should pay for one out of pocket? Most likely no. The trick with the PhD is that you really need to get one “funded” to even consider it. And then there’s the opportunity cost of being in school for so long. I know when I think about quitting full time employment, I can’t make those numbers work. The other thing is, COVID or not, PhDs take awhile to complete and who knows what the job market is going to be like then. The bottom could have fallen out of the job market, or perhaps the market is shifting such that the demand becomes greater for less credentialed and lower paid employees.

    2. C M*

      I think my oldest brother is one of these people. He’s a lot older than me (the youngest) and he had been complaining about not having a college degree since before I was even in college. He’s always employed but jumps around a lot because he is resentful of every job he has. He thinks colleagues are snubbing him for the lack of the degree, but I know it’s more than that. He’s very good at what he does (an interesting combination of IT and accounting), but his interpersonal skills are dismal. He gets very defensive at any kind of feedback, and just tries to explain it away and convince the manager to change their mind, rather than trying to improve himself. And then he stews about it for days. He was even fired once and they told him exactly why and he still doesn’t think he needs to work on anything.

      At this point I doubt he’ll ever get a degree, and that’s probably a good thing because his ego couldn’t handle finding out that that’s not the real issue that’s holding him back.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I guarantee you it isn’t the absence of degree that’s holding your brother back. If someone has been willing to hire him without one, they were confident he could do the role successfully and that he had the skills and experience required.

  23. Allonge*

    From my side as a sometimes-recruiter, it’s incredibly difficult to give actionable feedback in a lot of cases.

    If I say, well, the experience of the candidate we went with was closer to what we were going for in the teapot-spouting field than yours, and that compensated for her lesser skills in chocolate filing systems, what does that tell you? It’s not like you can change your history.

  24. Minnie Mouse*

    I stopped giving feedback when it started blowing back on me or people used it as a do over interview attempt. Thankfully in my line of work it’s rare that I have to do that, but I do sometimes get requests from college and high school students who want to shadow me. High school students get rejected automatically for liability reasons and college students are carefully screened. I had to reject one young man whose dad wrote his letter requesting an internship and it was all about him being an Eagle Scout. 1) Don’t have your parents write the letter even if they’re an acquaintance of the boss, 2) I don’t care if you were an Eagle Scout until we start giving women with similar accomplishments the same leg up; it shouldn’t be the automatic pass that so many think it is.

  25. Dr. Rebecca*

    A lot of this has been touched on, but…do you *really* want feedback? Or do you just want to have gotten the job?

    Here’s the thing–you’re not getting *that* job, and every job is different with what it wants. So your feedback is going to be some combination of the following:

    Your experience didn’t match what we were looking for.
    You submitted a resume that you couldn’t back up in an interview.
    Your resume was awful, but the boss told us to interview you anyway.
    We hired the bosses nephew/wife/child/best friend.
    We didn’t like you.
    We liked you, but we liked another person more.
    We REALLY didn’t like you.
    You did great, but then you [insert something here] and that was just a touch more offputting/less attractive than the next closest candidate.
    It came down to three people, so we literally played darts to see who ‘won.’
    The only thing you could have done to be a better candidate was to not be you. Sorry.

    Do you need to hear that? Do you even *want* to hear that? Really?

    1. Dan*

      The first three? Honestly yes. If technical skills aren’t up to speed, or the applicant is misrepresenting them, that to me is “actionable” feedback. But I come at this from a field where technical skills are both demonstrable and abstract. By that, I mean, asking me what my proficiency in something I use every day (say Excel) is actually a bad interview question and kind of dumb. The thing is, because I use it everyday, I think I’m good at it, but maybe I’m only using 10% of its overall capabilities. So maybe I’m good at what I use it for, but overall, I’m not good. But asking me for a self assessment is stupid, because for the most part, I don’t know what I don’t know. So it’s helpful to be told that an “intermediate” skilled person should know X and Y features. (Although as an applicant, if you need competency with X and Y skills, just say so if you’re going to screen for it anyway.)

      That said, the rest of your feedback, I either don’t want to know, or I won’t do anything about it. I’ve gotten feedback on “soft skills” in the past (that is, the particulars of “your technical skills were fine, but we didn’t like [thing I wasn’t going to change].”) The reason I wasn’t going to change it? My goal wasn’t to get [job at stuffy work environment] but to find a job that I was actually a good fit for. I was successful in that endeavor, and while the rejector was most likely right, all that meant was that I wasn’t a right match for *them*.

    2. Allonge*

      This, I tried to put it more gently, but really – this.

      There are no good answers. You did not get the job. If it was something easy to correct, like a typo in your resume for a proofreading job, it will still not get you this job and does not guarantee the next one either.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Feedback I’ve gotten for not getting jobs:
        (a) You haven’t already done this job before and we don’t want to have to train anyone.
        (b) You haven’t worked with professors enough compared to the other candidates.

        Other reasons why we haven’t hired someone:
        (a) They were a SUPER “people person” and the hiring committee was NOT into that.
        (b) They were likely to be dismissed from school (student employee) when we looked them up and we’d rather not hire someone and lose them right off
        (c) Creepy (see above) or crazy–let’s just say one gave off unfortunate “nice but crazy” vibes and it turned out that was accurate when another area of the office hired her and then got rid of her.
        (d) One time it was a tossup between two candidates and the ONLY reason Candidate A won was that Candidate B had a 2 week long planned vacation scheduled a week or two after the start date. Frankly, I would have rather hired Candidate B, as Candidate A turned out kind of a drama queen, but as far as my boss was concerned that was the only difference.
        (e) Someone decided they didn’t like her.

        Really, it could be anything and getting feedback isn’t always going to be helpful stuff you can correct and build upon. What it boils down to was “someone else was more perfect than you and that’s all there is to it.” Especially these days when anyone can have their pick of the cream of the crop and odds are high you aren’t that cream.

        1. Allonge*

          Exactly. I have heard about a case when they were looking for someone a lot less chatty than the previous person – he was not even super extra chatty, but still everyone on the team wanted a quiet one. How do you explain that?

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      And you didn’t list any discriminatory preferences, those happen all the time. No one is going to be dumb enough to tell you, “We’re only giving that job to a man,” they’ll just come up with a list of reasons why the man is a good fit and why the woman is “not quite the fit we’re looking for.”

    4. Cary*

      Can’t speak for OP, but my husband is in a similar position and…feedback. Definitely. How can he ever hope to get a new job if he never learns what’s holding him back?

      Now, his being ASD probably changes things and makes him more in need of feedback than the average person–the whole reason it even is a disability is because it’s a factor that is *typically* disliked, rather than the average person’s “normal variation that some employers will dislike but others will like.” Still, ASD isn’t the only such factor that someone could have, and of course someone getting frequent rejections is especially likely to have such a factor and benefit from hearing about it.

      “You submitted a resume that you couldn’t back up in an interview” = Improve interviewing skills (since my husband’s resume is true. Obviously for someone who *was* lying on their resume, they could take from this to stop lying).

      “You did great, but then you [insert something here] and that was just a touch more offputting/less attractive than the next closest candidate” is great, actionable feedback to improve one’s social skills as an Aspie.

      “We didn’t like you,” “We REALLY didn’t like you,” and “The only thing you could have done to be a better candidate was to not be you. Sorry” *to an Aspie* are pretty clearly “It’s the ASD,” which again is useful feedback. You can take from that “Get additional therapy to ameliorate the offputting ASD behaviors,” or you can take from that “Seek out jobs that are OK with, or even specifically reserved for, people on the spectrum.” Both of those are options that we’re pursuing. And part of the reason why is because he was PIP’d for what amounted to a list of ASD traits. (He passed the PIP, though, only to be suddenly fired a couple months later–if that hadn’t happened, and/or he’d received additional “It’s the ASD” feedback, we’d both feel much more confident about this.)

      And the others are comforting to hear in that they’re not the candidate’s fault.

      So yeah. Feedback. Of course. (Who wants a job that won’t work out?)

      tl;dr Everyone who’s saying “You/I don’t want to know” seems to be assuming it isn’t a “real” weakness (that is, one that reliably puts off prospective employers). If it is, you do want to know.

  26. Michaela*

    I just started a new job a bit over a week ago, and here were some of my experiences.

    I was the second choice, and in my rejection the recruiter wasn’t honest why, though did note it was a split decision. She only gave me real feedback before my second interview when their first candidate fell through – that I was too casual, used the word “stupid” times and that it was unprofessional my dog was barking (I moved the camera around so I could pat him part way through without stopping talking), and to address this especially as the second round was more senior. Incidentally, now I’m here I think big boss is pretty chill, and it’s the recruiter that may have been the blocking vote first rejection.

    I will say if companies do like you, in my experience, you will be kept on file. I got contacted by a company I phone screened and rejected with months ago called me for an interview for a role which would have been a better fit. I’ve also been called back and gotten jobs more than once where I’d been initially rejected, or for similar positions, with significant time lags after interviews. I wouldn’t think any further about this though – it’s just luck if the first candidate didn’t work out, or a new role opens up.

    I also had two Covid rejections, one interview went really well, and they loved me, but they were then told they couldn’t hire externals. The other made a verbal offer, but then told me the program that would fund me was cut. So pandemic also is a big factor.

    1. C M*

      Since we’ve started doing Webex interviews during COVID, our company explicitly put out a communication that interruptions from pets, kids, and parents are ok. It happens so often in meetings with existing colleagues, why would I hold it against someone I’m interviewing? Plus, I’ve only been on the side of doing the interviews, but I’m at home too and my cat has crashed every single one. Seriously, he usually sleeps all day but has a spidey sense for any meeting with video and it’s like catnip to him.

      1. boop the first*

        I had a cat like this, always knew when I was chatting with someone on video. I wonder if it’s just our natural higher pitch “phone voice” we have with strangers that makes the cats think we’re talking to them?

  27. The Other Victoria*

    The only time I’ve received feedback on a rejection that wasn’t boilerplate was when I was actually later given the job (it was a grad school job in which there were hard and fast rules around eligibility and so I had been rejected and then first choice turned out to be ineligible because you can only work so many hours weekly or lose funding and first choice had been given some bad information about eligibility when she applied). The feedback I received when I was ultimately offered the job was that while I had more analytical skills, first choice was more outgoing and clicked with the interviewer better. This job was literally just taking data and running statistical analysis and emailing a final report, so really the only *needed skill* was stats. It kind of gave me a complex, that as a quiet person, you can get passed over when you met literally the only real criteria because someone is more bubbly than you.

    All this to say, I imagine there are a lot of times in which the feedback isn’t even all that useful and is just “we clicked with this other person” which is not something you can work on.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      If it’s any consolation, being bubbly has ruled people out for being hired at my work. Really depends on the preference of the interview committee, or more specifically, the person running said committee.

      1. Anon for this*

        I’ve seen at least one person ruled out, in favor of the more quiet candidates, for the reason stated by everyone as “they will talk us to death”. It really does depend on the team culture. The person went on to get a job at another large, sought-after employer, where, I suppose, they were a good fit!

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I wish my previous boss had twigged that in my job, the ability to sit quietly and concentrate on your work is of the utmost importance. He once hired an intern who fizzed like champagne. She was all over the place, and couldn’t concentrate long enough on anything. She should have been in sales, where bubbly can work wonders.

  28. Leela*

    One thing I’d add (haven’t read the comments so it may have been covered) as someone who worked in hiring:

    I don’t mean this to sound as callous as it’s going to but well…it’s not part of our job! We aren’t career counselors. I still support people who give feedback to candidates and I don’t think it’s a problem to want it but no part of us hiring for a company means we have responsibility to tell rejected candidates why we’re rejecting them. As AAM said, sometimes people really blow up at you, especially in times of economic downturn when stress is high (I hired for entry level roles in tech in the recession and would constantly get angry candidates deciding I “must” be giving their jobs to people from India and refused to hire them because they’re white, even though that team actually didn’t have any Indian people on it at that time, I’ve had people tell me how sorry I would be to lose out on their amazing skillset which wasn’t nearly at the top of the skillsets other candidates brought in, etc).

    Also, as AAM said, sometimes the reasoning isn’t something like “we needed more years of Java” but “you didn’t come off like you’d get along with the team and five other candidates did”. There’s no reason for us to have to say that and it won’t really help you. You can try and act differently in the next interview but unless you can keep up that differences for the rest of your career there you’re going to run into trouble anyway and you should be looking for a good match while improving yourself into the best version of you (not what people tell you is more desirable).

    A lot of hiring advice isn’t true across the board. Some is, but you’ll find both “stop sending me thank you notes, they’re not going to make me hire you” managers and “I can’t believe they didn’t send me a thank you note” managers, managers who want you to sound a certain way, act a certain way, etc, and it won’t be uniform so even if I gave you advice that would work for our company, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to help you get hired anywhere else because it’s not like a level up, it’s like appealing to the specific people who were in the interview room with you.

    And lastly, it seems pretty common for people who didn’t get the job to feel like we just didn’t like them/didn’t think they could do it when it’s far more likely that we had one role, ten candidates, and only one person was going to be able to get it so it’s not like you did anything “wrong” and I can’t tell you “always be better than all of the other candidates” because there are way too many variables for what that would actually mean and what you’d actually fix.

    Obviously there are some things across the board like you should probably be open, cordial, thoughtful, get to the point easily, but what that means isn’t going to be uniform either. A group of people won’t completely agree on the line between open and oversharing, cordial and overly friendly, thoughtful and withdrawn, get the point and cut out context, etc.

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with a frustrating job search, 2020 really does make it worse than normal!

  29. Alison*

    I actually occasionally give feedback (I’m a recruiter) and a certain % of people argue with me and are generally not appreciative– so now I skip it. It’s often not worth the risk and takes a lot of energy.

  30. Pam Adams*

    I was on a hiring committee several years go, where we were looking to fill multiple slots. We interviewed about ten people, chose our top four, and started making offers. When we had some turndowns, we went back into the pool, made more offers, and pulled in more to interview. Our eventual 4 hires were numbers 2, 3, 12 and 20 on our initial review. Three of them are still with us and doing fine.

    Sometimes there just are multiple ‘just fine’ hires in a pool.

  31. PrgrmMngr*

    Beyond all the reasons not to provide feedback under typical circumstances, in the current economy, there may be reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you or your competition for the roll. Revenue projections and operations plans are more fluid than anytime I can remember, and there may be internal shifts happening at the employer that they’re not comfortable discussing. I’ve learned that jobs I’ve applied for have been canceled and last spring I needed to take down an active listing while we figured out what the coming months had in store. Depending on the industry you’re in, you may see more or less volatility, but from my perspective working in a non-profit and applying for jobs in non-profits and the public sector, I think it’s very possible for the needs of a new hire and resources available to pay to change between when a job is listed and once interviews start.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I was passed on by two jobs recently. I’m pretty sure it was because: a) they have a large pool of unemployed applicants currently, and b) that pool of equally qualified unemployed applicants is likely to accept much less in salary than it would take to get me to leave my current job. So, they’d have to REALLY want you bad, or you’d have to bring something extremely exceptional or unique to the party. Kind of like dating huh?

      1. voluptuousfire*

        I actually ran into this yesterday myself. A phone screen I had was canceled for this afternoon because they have 8 candidates in queue for final rounds and felt that was sufficient to proceed. I’m currently employed and I could definitely see it being A or B (more likely B, after researching the company more). In the end, the role wasn’t meant for me, since they passed on me.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I guess you can’t be too mad if you’re employed (though maybe not thrilled with your job) and they hire from the unemployed. Especially right now. Shoe’s been on the other foot in my case, so I hope the job went to someone who needed it.

  32. goducks*

    There have been plenty of times where the thing that I didn’t like about a candidate for an opening would have been the thing that landed them a different role in a different org. It’s really hard to give actionable feedback in those cases, because what was a liability for this job, might be an asset for another. Especially when the thing at hand comes to personality traits. Too quiet, too reserved, too outgoing, too chatty, too direct, too diplomatic…. Any one of those things can make a person a bad fit for one team, but an ideal fit for another. I’d absolutely hate for someone to think that my not caring for a reserved person for my opening at my org is something they need to “fix” before they interview for another role at another org, which may absolutely love that trait.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      That’s what they call “fit.” Either a fit for you as manager, or a fit with existing team personalities.

  33. MissDisplaced*

    I’ve just learned not to expect any feedback on why I was not selected. I mean, it’s not like they are going to tell you if they had a pool of equally qualified applicants that were all happy to get paid $2ok less than you are currently making and want. Or that you are too old.

    Of the times I did receive any feedback it was usually for variations of these things:
    >>They hired an internal candidate
    >>They hired someone with more and/or better aligned experience
    >>The job opening was delayed or cancelled
    >>They thought I was overqualified for the position and would leave or be bored
    >>It was a government job and they had veteran or military wife preference first (I was once directly told I had the best background and highest education for a job, but they could not advance me because of this)

    It’s really not best to dwell on these things overly much. If you’re worried about your interviewing, just keep practicing with friends or other colleagues who can give you candid advice.

  34. learnedthehardway*

    Hiring managers and recruiters are not going to provide feedback to candidates, for the most part. Their job is to find the right candidate for the role and hire them, not to coach people on how to interview well. They don’t have time, and it’s not in their own interests to help a candidate improve their interviewing skills.

    Also, there are just so many things that can go wrong, if hiring manager / recruiters do get involved. The candidate may not accept the feedback and will try to re-interview on the spot – totally awkward situation. Or the feedback is that someone else was a better “fit” – that’s a minefield to communicate, particularly when fit is so subjective, and is sometimes based on intangibles that the interviewer can’t really define. Then there’s the problem that if you provide feedback to one candidate, shouldn’t you provide it to all candidates – nobody has time for that. And if you don’t treat candidates equally in the process, you have liability.

    If you really want feedback about how to improve your interviewing, you need to find a career consultant who specializes in this, and pay for the service. There are people out there who are legitimate, and who can support candidates who are trying to improve their interviewing skills. You have to be careful about who you use (it’s not a regulated industry, and anyone can put out a shingle and bill themselves as a career coach). It’s also expensive to do. But it can be a good way to improve.

    Other, less expensive ways to work on your communications skills would be to join public speaking groups, interview with peers/friends as part of a job hunting circle, or talk to a mentor.

  35. C M*

    I don’t think I’ve seen this yet in the comments, but often we turn down great candidates because we chose an internal candidate. It’s very frustrating from the outside trying to get into the company and I’ve definitely been on the other side of it, but now that I’m interviewing it just makes sense many times. If we have two candidates with similar skills, the one who has access and knowledge of all the IT platforms, plus clean room certification and familiarity with the company lingo, the choice is obvious.

    We don’t always choose the internal candidate, and we consider outside experience valuable to the team (better to have diversity of experiences on the team for problem-solving). This is especially true if the internal person is from a different department or division, or obviously if no one internal applied. But often the internal person is the most qualified. I’ve never been asked for feedback, but I don’t know how I could hypothetically tell someone that in any meaningful way. If they knew that’s the reason, what could they actually do about it?

  36. Anonymous at a University*

    Honestly, as someone a major part of whose job is giving feedback to people (writing students), it:

    1) Takes a long time
    2) Has to be phrased carefully, both to explain what you mean and to avoid giving a wrong impression
    3) Is often ignored

    If a hiring manager is getting hundreds of applicants for a position, winnowing down resumes, arranging interviews, giving interviews, sending out rejection notices, deciding what candidates to move forward, holding discussions with other people involved in the hiring process, etc., I can see why they would skip this step. Especially if they’ve had hostile responses in the past, or put together a thoughtful feedback e-mail only to have someone argue about it, or given someone honest feedback and had that person assume they were lying about it- because of course THEY can’t really be like THAT- then I think there are all kinds of reasons that they wouldn’t send any more.

  37. LizM*

    I’ve had candidates try to argue with me or react in a pretty hostile, aggressive way. I had one candidate tell me I clearly didn’t know how to do my job, because I was looking for the wrong things in a candidate.

    It’s also sometimes hard to articulate feedback in a way that is actionable for the candidate, and it takes some effort to craft that feedback. I will take the time to do that for internal candidates, and will sometimes do it for external candidates if they’ve been through several rounds of interviews and were one of the top candidates, if I feel like I’ve gotten to know them well enough to know that the person will take it well. But the risk of it blowing up and being a crappy experience for me weighed against the benefits means that it’s just not always worth the effort. I hate to say that, because I want to be helpful, but there are only so many hours in the day, and I need that energy/brainspace to coach my own team.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s kind of like the advice I think Captain Awkward gives about not asking for specific reasons why somebody dumped you: you will not like the answer.

  38. agnes*

    Ditto to the many responses already that hiring people are not career counselors. Here’s a tip though–get a group of people who know you well and WHO WILL BE HONEST with you and get them to help you dissect your last couple of interviews. Maybe they can even do a mock interview and give you feedback.

    Also, depending on how long ago you graduated from college, you might still be able to use some of the career services they offer. Many schools also have relationships with private career counselors they can refer you to if you aren’t eligible for their direct services. Getting some professional help is a worthwhile investment in your career. A good career counselor/interview coach can really improve your presentation in only a few sessions. I don’t know why more people don’t utilize their services.

  39. yeine*

    i’ve just become a hiring manager, and our HR/people teams – who are pretty laid back about stuff – were pretty intensely firm about me not giving feedback, even when i wanted to. So I didn’t, which is a bummer, but I really did want to help this candidate! :(

  40. thank you*

    Wow, thank you so much for this response. I feel so seen about the note about being burned in giving feedback. This happened to me and I have had so much trouble shaking it. It’s such a huge relief to read that I’m not alone.

  41. Overit*

    I have only ever gotten feedback once. I did a two day dog and pony show interview. At the end of the second day, I was verbally offered the job, we negotiated salary and start date. I was told I would get a formal acceptance letter by a certain date. Date passed and crickets. More time passed and crickets. I contacted them and the same person who offered me the job expressed astonishment that I believed I had gotten the job. I then asked for feedback as to why I did not and the answer was…. “In your cover letter, a period appears to be slightly off — just ever so slightly to the right of where it should be. Now that was probably due to a typewriter issue, but you should have caught it before sending it in.”

Comments are closed.