my interview was great — but they hired no one instead of me

A reader writes:

I am a restaurant industry professional, in the field of wine and beverage management. My experience in this area is fairly competitive and accomplished for my city (I have about seven years in management level wine/beverage director roles, and more junior but still relevant experience prior to that). COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on the restaurant industry, and I have been temporarily laid off since March, but my employer continues to stay in touch and tell me that my job will be back. However, I have continued to look for other work during this time, as it’s really not certain what will happen.

Recently I was contacted by a recruiter about a position suited to my experience that seemed like it would be a great fit. I am familiar with this employer and their different restaurant concepts, I know many people who have worked for them in the past with positive experiences and I am vaguely acquainted with the woman with whom I would be working directly. I would love to work there, feel I could contribute a lot to their success, and see the potential for longevity with them.

I went through three interviews over the phone and Zoom with members of their management team and received positive feedback at every step from the recruiter. She praised me and said she was excited to see me moving so quickly and successfully through the process At every turn, I sent the appropriate thank-you notes and follow-up emails.

A few days after the last step, I was disappointed to hear from the recruiter that they had selected another candidate. Her feedback to me was that “they decided to choose a more junior candidate for whom the position would perhaps represent a greater challenge and step up in their career.”

Looking back on the experience, I feel that the only things I could have done to lead them to a decision like this were: when asked where I saw myself in five years, I answered that I would like to be in a corporate beverage manager role overseeing multiple concepts, and am looking for a company with growth potential where that is possible (this is the case for them), and when asked about my salary requirements, I said I’d request an entry salary of no less than $65,000. (This is $10,000 less than I made in my previous job, but we are in a pandemic where the job market is poor, so of course I understand I must make concessions. I did not, of course, expressly say this to them. The job was listed with a salary range of $60-65,000 depending on experience.)

I have now learned through multiple sources that they in fact have not hired anyone, and have reposted the position to the recruiter’s website and other industry job boards. I am having trouble understanding why they would prefer to continue their search, why the recruiter would be dishonest (I think), and why my perception of the situation was so positive and then this was the outcome. I am looking for any insight you can provide to help me reconcile this situation and move on with a positive attitude.

Trying to figure out from the outside what went on in a hiring process is a recipe for frustration and resentment. You’re far better off not trying! You don’t have all the information, so you’re making judgments based on assumptions and those assumptions will often be wrong.

First, it’s entirely possible that the recruiter didn’t lie to you when she said they decided to hire a more junior candidate. They may indeed have decided to hire a more junior candidate! That candidate might have turned down the offer, or it might have fallen apart for some other reason. It’s also possible the recruiter had outdated info — that she’d been told “we think we want to offer it to Valentina Warbucks” and then later they decided not to.

Or it’s possible that she meant something different than what you heard. When she said they wanted to go with a more junior candidate, that doesn’t necessarily mean they had a specific one in mind. It could mean they felt you were overqualified for the position so they were planning to continue looking for someone at the career level they thought was a better match.

Or sure, maybe she lied. But that’s the least likely of the possibilities. Recruiters are very used to rejecting candidates; they don’t usually make up random tales just to avoid doing it.

Ultimately, all you know for sure is: They decided not to hire you and they are continuing their search. And that’s normal! Employers interview tons of capable, competent people who just aren’t the right match for what they’re seeking for a specific role. It doesn’t mean you suck or you bombed the interview or you said anything wrong. It means they weren’t convinced that you were what they’re looking for for this particular role. I have rejected hundreds of delightful people over the years — not because they messed up or were inept in some way but because they just didn’t match the specific slate of needs that I had for a very specific position. It’s no reflection on them.

And the thing is, it’s easy to think from the outside that you’re a perfect fit for a job. But there’s no way you can have enough insight to know that. You see what’s listed in the job description, yes, but there’s nearly always a lot more nuance to it … and often that nuance is about things the employer might not even be able to articulate until they interview candidates and realize things like this person wouldn’t get along with Bob, and this one’s ambitions for X are so strong that she’ll be underwhelmed by how little X the job really involves, and this one’s skills in Y would be good for an environment that’s more Z but not ours, and on and on.

So seeing that you’re well matched with the job description an employer advertises is just part of it. It’s the starting point, but it’s a long way from being the whole story.

You’re playing back what you said in your interviews to try to figure out what went wrong. But the stuff you’re focusing on (your answer about your goals five years out and your salary range, which was perfectly in line with what they listed) probably aren’t the explanation. The explanation is about things you’ll probably never know because it’s specific to this particular role on this particular team in this particular company, and you just don’t have access to that nuanced information like they do.

It’s frustrating when an interview feels like it goes well and then you don’t get the job. But it’s a really normal thing! It doesn’t mean you messed up or they messed up, and you will drive yourself crazy if you try to find The Explanation.

{ 112 comments… read them below }

  1. Mannheim Steamroller*

    In a case like this, should OP re-apply for the job if she is really, truly interested in it? Or would that be “strange” and possibly lead to being “blacklisted” by the recruiter?

    1. Ali G*

      I don’t know bout blacklisted, but they should not reapply. If the job posting is the same as before, then they’ve been considered and rejected. If it’s different, lower level, then it’s not a good fit. So either way it would look bad for OP.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Sometimes we’re being protected when something doesn’t work out. We don’t know it at the time, from the outside.
        But I know what it’s like to work in, and even help in the hiring, at a very toxic place.

        If they asked the history of the position or the “culture” in the place, I wouldn’t have lied, but they didn’t. I’d have admitted there was turnover and it was a small business w/the owner actively involved. But I couldn’t come right out and say it stunk, though I’d be tempted. I’d try to give as many hints as they wanted. But they didn’t want to know.

    2. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

      I think there is no harm in asking. I think it would be of little value to OP.
      A good recruiter would be diplomatic and state that s/he cannot in good faith push for another round of interviews. The hiring team made its decision.
      A lousy recruiter would say, sure, let’s do this thing and push forward knowing this.

      1. Antilles*

        The first sentence is really where I fall – what’s the harm in asking?
        Worst case, the recruiter says “I can’t relist you for the same posting” and/or the company rejects you quickly since you’re still not a fit. So you end up in the exact same spot you are now.
        But there’s a possibility that re-applying does help you. Maybe it’s a new hiring manager, so they don’t know you exist. Maybe seeing your name again jogs the hiring manager’s memory of “oh yeah, OP, I liked them the first time around!”. Maybe the hiring manager just straight up got so busy that she didn’t have time to go back through the list of rejected candidates.
        I would keep your expectations low, but there’s not really a downside, so why not roll the dice?

    3. lost academic*

      OP should not reapply. If they were truly interested in hiring her they would have or still would reach out directly to her. They wouldn’t just repost the job. Reposting says we need a different crop of candidates. It wouldn’t be “strange” – it just wouldn’t likely get her anywhere, and I can’t see any reason the recruiter would “blacklist” her unless she were to follow up with increasingly aggressive calls perhaps. Way easier to just ignore her.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        My comment above notwithstanding, good point about the company reaching out directly if they wanted her now.

    4. Willis*

      Don’t reapply. They already knew she was interested by going through the interviewing process and they already made a decision about it. If they have advertise other positions (not re-advertising this same one) that the OP is interested in, she could apply for those. But it would look weird to keep re-applying to the same thing or an identical-but-slightly-more-junior role if they just told you they are looking for someone more junior than you.

    5. Lynn*

      I feel like OP could reach out and offer that if there have been changes to the original hiring plan, that OP is still available and interested, but not too expect too much from reaching out

    6. I should really pick a name*

      I think it would make more sense to reach out directly instead of re-applying.

    7. Esmeralda*

      The only time I would say reapplying was ok, was if some time had passed. We have a good number of people on staff now who were unsuccessful the first time they applied — interviewed, did well, but were not hired for one reason or another (sometimes they needed more experience, sometimes the hiring manager went with a different candidate). In fact, this happened with our director some years ago! They applied a couple times before being hired.

      The difference is, there was a gap of a year or more between.

    8. Office Rat*

      If I was OP, I would reapply. I have gotten jobs I have applied for multiple times in the end. All you can do is forward your interest. They are perfectly allowed to say no, and not interview you again.

    9. Bastet*

      Perhaps it is more common in certain fields, but in he industry where I work it is fairly common to hire people who were rejected the first time around. The last time we hired, we had a little over 300 applicants for 1 position. There were quite a few strong candidates, but only 1 position. Not everyone bombed it. Quite a few would have been great. If for whatever reason the person we hired did not work out, I would absolutely encourage anyone to reapply. The main reason being that the person who has the final say in hiring does not like digging through resumes again to find the good “second choice” options; she would rather post another ad. We have done this, and I have seen this done in multiple offices that I’ve worked in. I am not certain if this is the case here, but the worst that can happen is a no.

  2. WonderMint*

    I’m sympathetic to OP. Last week I too was rejected from a job and found out that the employer hired no one. To add to the frustration, they had me conduct an interview assignment that worked directly on the product for free. The pessimist in me thinks employers are becoming predatory given the impacts of COVID-19.

    Sorry OP, for what it’s worth, you sound like a you’d be a major asset in the industry – just need to find the right opening.

    1. lost academic*

      I’m sympathetic to everyone who is in this situation but I’ve seen it plenty of times and done it a few. Sometimes you think you need a resource but you don’t find the perfect fit and you can’t sell the final hire to the people who need to sign off on it for a variety of reasons. That’s been true for me for both intro, 0 years experience jobs and very experienced roles. I think in these times people need help badly but are also even more anxious than usual to make a commitment to a new hire given the heightened uncertainty.

      1. crowbar*

        Strong agree. I hired someone who I wasn’t convinced about because I thought we had to hire somebody, and had to let them go (this was a contract role, with plenty and plenty of warning given!). It was a way worse time-sink than not hiring at all. I think in the OP’s case, the situation sounds a lot like they were overqualified, and even if they were ok with the lower salary temporarily, the restaurant wanted someone who would be ‘happy’ in the role, or something like that?

    2. fposte*

      It’s frustrating, but it’s pretty unlikely that they deliberately pulled you in for an interview knowing they weren’t going to hire. It’s really not that uncommon for money to get yanked or redistributed or for the candidates to cast light on a need the hiring manager hadn’t articulated.

      1. Nicotene*

        That said, I do think employers are being less and less thoughtful about these assignments. After all, it’s not like applicants can really push back. I now routinely see them being day-long tasks with multiple parts, assigned at an early stage where there’s no way they’re down to their top two or three candidates. It’s lazy and wastes candidates’ time. I think assignments should be like, one hour tasks.

        1. Venus*

          I had one place that told me to pick an hour that I was free, and they sent a writing assignment at the start and wanted it back an hour later. I like how they did that, because it was a reasonable expectation (my work wasn’t polished, yet I had enough time to develop something informed and coherent). They could get a good feeling for my skills in a short amount of time. I agree that more employers should be thoughtful about their expectations.

          1. WonderMint*

            That is a good way to do it! My assignment took me about 12 hours – Assigned on a Friday, due on a Monday.

            I mentioned earlier no one got the job. When I pressed for feedback, I was told that my assignement didn’t addressed some things about their customers correctly – They hadn’t given me any research briefs and I view these assignments as a jumping off point, not something completely polished. Sorry, now I’m just ranting!

          2. Nicotene*

            Ugh I love this! I had one that said the assignment “should take three or four hours” but then they gave me 48 hours to do it, which meant I ended up feeling like I should polish it more and more because they’d given me so much time. I wish it had been an hour start/stop. They could have just used the timestamp on the email to prove it.

  3. MissDisplaced*

    This is by far one of the most frustrating things about job hunting. When you seem to be a great fit, and when things all seem to go well. And then you’re not hired and they’re still looking and posting the job.

    I’ve just had this happen myself with a very large global company I interviewed with back in early December. They’ve been posting the same job for about 3-4 months now under various job titles, and I have heard from my friend who works in that division (albeit at a different site), that they are in a hiring freeze (but apparently still interviewing people and posting several jobs in that division). Sigh! I often feel when this sort of thing happens, the job really doesn’t exist and maybe never existed, especially if it’s a large company.

    But you just can’t know or guess what’s ever really going on internally, so it’s best to move on and not dwell too much.

    1. WonderMint*

      Huh – What good is interviewing people if they’re in a hiring freeze? Feels like a major waste of company time! (Not to mention potentially burning good candidates)

      1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

        It tends to be that way. Kind of like yesterday’s letter about the manager pushing through with firing an employee even those his mom had died the night before…”well, the pieces were all in place so I had to carry on.”
        The job is posted, interviews are scheduled, so we can’t just cancel, pieces are in place, and we might lose the open position if we don’t keep looking. But instead of working with HR and upper management to put the position in stasis, they just keep interviewing like there isn’t a freeze on.
        And hope does spring eternal in some people, “If I find someone great, I can push the hire through.”

      2. TootsNYC*

        Sometimes the hiring manager doesn’t know about the hiring freeze.
        Sometimes they know they’ll lift the hiring freeze, and the hiring manager wants to be ready when the time comes.
        Sometimes the hiring freeze came after the call for applicants had gone out, and the hiring manager thinks it’s kinder to actually interview people instead of canceling

        in MissDisplaced’s example, it seems a massive waste of the interviewer’s time.

      3. Massmatt*

        I agree, but it happens. Other posts have noted some reasons why, but I’ll add that sometimes internal or external procedures require that job openings be posted periodically or you risk losing the position to fill later–as in, lose the budget.

        And I remember seeing at least a couple of letters and/or comments here about employers that post non-existent jobs in order to “see what’s out there” or “get our name out there”, or even more cynically, to promote a false sense that the company is growing. These all seem idiotic, but they happen. The last 2 might explain postings that are long on how great the company is and its history but strangely short on actual job descriptions.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I suspect it’s something like that. They know need those positions filled, but now have to wait, and in big orgs this happens more frequently.

          In the case of the OP, it sounded like a smaller company, so I feel it was maybe more about salary, or simply being unsure of what it is they actually need the role to be. Truly, OP may have dodged a bullet if they’re not clear what their needs and expectations really are.

      4. Canadian Girl*

        Sometimes a hiring freeze just means they aren’t hiring for any new positions but if someone left they will fill that position because it’s already established and needed.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Years ago I got pretty far in an interview process at a university before they called and said that unfortunately a hiring freeze had just been announced. That, I was disappointed, but I understood. (Ironically it’s the same university my husband works at now, and he’s in a totally different field.)

      What frustrated me during my most recent job search was that I saw a position that sounded cool, put a fair amount of time into the application process, and then got an email saying that they’d received my application BUT they weren’t actually gonna hire anyone until the pandemic was over. Come on.

      1. Esmeralda*

        I don’t see the problem with that — I mean, if you need a job now, of course that;s a problem, but otherwise your application is in and when they start hiring again, it’s there. Check back in a few months. From the employer’s point of view: they’ve got a batch of applications, they can probably even pre-screen them, so when they’re allowed to hire, they can move fast.

        1. ThatGirl*

          It’s obnoxious – if they’d had a disclaimer on their hiring page, that would have been one thing, but most people aren’t applying for a job they *might* need in a *few months*. We don’t even know when the pandemic will be over!

        2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          I don’t agree that this is to the employer’s benefit either. Yes, they have a crop of candidates, but there’s no guarantee all of the top candidates will still be available by the time the company is hiring again, so the time spent screening may be wasted.

          And the best candidates will likely have options and *may* have reservations about this company after this experience, i.e. “Hm…I don’t know that I want to work for a company with bad management practices. Company B, C, and D all seem more solid, so I’ll explore opportunities with them instead.”), at least for a while.

          Obviously, this is risk assessment each team and company has to do on their own, so I’m not saying you’re objectively wrong. I just have a different take on and think there are opportunity costs to the company.

          1. comityoferrors*

            Yup. If I put time into a place that has a hiring freeze incidentally after I apply, and that’s communicated — okay, not a great impression but I won’t hold it against them.

            If I put time into a place and find out they didn’t intend to hire anyone until an unspecified amount of time later? Nope. That’s not a neutral/fair impression, that’s an incredibly bad impression. I’m looking for a job now because I need a job now. Don’t jerk me around. Companies wouldn’t appreciate someone interviewing successfully and then informing them that they actually have no plans to start the role until 6-12 months later – why would it work any differently on the other side?

        3. Paulina*

          They could have some applications that are significantly out-of-date by the time they move on them, however.

          1. serenity*

            I agree. Posting a job description and beginning an applicant pool for a job whose hiring process *might* begin at some undefined point in the future is a waste of time for everybody, employer included. Very likely that candidates who apply now will not be available or interested in 6 months, 8 months, etc.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Our university’s hiring freeze said that any open search where no offer letter had been extended was now closed. Our department had fortunately *just* extended offer letters to two tenure-track candidates, so we were able to bring them on, but man — if committee deliberations had taken a day longer, or there were any other delays, we would have had two failed searches.

        1. Venus*

          I was on the other side of this – I had a phone call the day before a hiring freeze was announced, and verbal offers counted. Happy days for me too!

    3. anon here*

      I’ve sadly been on the other side of this, though, and sometimes it’s “interview a great person, I’d say yes in an instant, someone else in the hiring group says no, I’m blocked” and we remain deadlocked on who a good hire would be. It’s frustrating on my end too. Sorry.

  4. AndersonDarling*

    The job interview that we experience is only a small part of the entire hiring process. It is so easy to review everything we wore, said, and submitted because that is all we have to dwell on. When we don’t get the job offer, the only thing we can scrutinize is ourselves.
    I’ve been going through a months long interview process and wrapped up the final “just a formality” interview and then heard nothing. I know better, but I started to go through every word in that last interview. I would realize that what I was doing was not helpful and stop myself, only to find myself wondering if there was something in my zoom background that was a turn off.
    Then they let me know that the job had to get final approval from the board and I just needed to wait a few more days (hopefully today I’ll hear something!!). But that was something I would never have guessed. There are so many things that happen on the employer side that impact a hiring. It was not the fish tank in my background, or how I stuttered answering a question.

  5. Intermittent Introvert*

    Excellent interviews can build relationships and have unexpected results down the line. I once had a “knock it out of the park” interview/presentation for a job they then offered to someone else. I later interviewed in the same organization for another position. One of the members of the hiring committee had also been on the previous one. My interview for the second position was okay, but that member went to bat for me and I got the job. I’m confident my first interview got me the second position.

    1. NeonFireworks*

      Yeah, I got to know several important people in my area of work by interviewing for jobs I didn’t get.

    2. sacados*

      So true! I’m currently in interviews with a very large company in my industry — I’ve had initial hiring manager interviews for about 5 different roles so far (effectively all the same rank/position but just on different project teams) since the recruiter first reached out to me.
      Nothing has worked out so far, but they’ve been transparent that they’re very much interested in my skills/experience and everybody likes me as a candidate, and that it’s just about finding the right opportunity/timing/etc. Currently in second-round interviews for the latest role they contacted me about, so fingers crossed this one works out.
      I’m lucky in that I am still currently employed and basically just looking for the next opportunity for when my current project wraps up, so I can afford to wait for the right position to come around.

    3. TimeTravlR*

      I once interviewed for a job and thought I had done very well also. I did not get the job. A few years later I did get offered a different role with the same company, in a different location. The hiring manager from the first interview got to know me and commented, “We really messed up not hiring you.” I had never even reminded him that I’d interviewed with him. It was nice to see I made enough of an impression that he remembered me.. but even better that he realized he should have hired me. LOL

  6. Nia*

    If the job ad has been reposted publicablly why not reach out to the recruiter and reiterate their interest in the position. The worst case scenario is the recruiter lies again and the best case the LW gets more information on what went wrong.

    1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

      I agree. And I think the result will be somewhere in the middle. Recruiter will say that s/he can’t put OP’s name in because the hiring team said no.

      1. twocents*

        It’s more likely that the recruiter can’t specifically discourage her from applying. I know at my company, OP would just end up with a nonresponse that doesn’t provide clear guidance either way.

  7. Skeptic of hiring managers*

    This is just from my experience but I would just take comfort and confidence in your abilities and experience and that they probably don’t know enough about the job to know you would have been good at it. This may be counter to what Alison has said about this, but in my experience, most hiring managers, and committees don’t actual know that much about the jobs they are hiring for, and the “what they’re looking for” is never consistent or even agreed on, as different people on these committees will push for different things, often things that have nothing to do with the requirements of the job. That happened when I left a job, they “thought” they wanted something else (a more seasoned expert in a narrow part of the job) and completely ignored my advice about how to best fill the role which is someone reasonably experienced in that narrow aspect, but also had proven good people skills, and that bombed in their face as my replacement was a complete disaster working with people, and was too much of an expert. After that they then went back and hired a person more along the lines of what I told them too and he’s worked out much better. A friend of mine created a software then applied for a job that requested experience in the software he created, and they turned him down saying he didn’t have enough experience in that software… that’s how dumb and out of touch hiring committees can be with their candidates they interview.

  8. College Career Counselor*

    I have been where the LW is. I have been to *multiple* finalist interviews as a well-qualified candidate and the organization failed the search. (This of course allows me to say with some job search dark humor “NO ONE was better than me for that position.”)

    I think Alison has it exactly right: this has more to do with them and their needs (which they may not even be fully aware of) rather than anything you did wrong or should have done differently. They may have perceived you as too experienced for the salary they’re offering (even if you were willing to take it), they may have wanted to hire someone cheaper (ie, below their stated range) to save money. Or it may be that they had to put the whole thing on hold (rather than hire someone only to lay them off in three months) due to the organization’s overall financial status.

    I will say that the company had an opportunity to get very well-qualified and experienced candidate at lower than their typical salary. The phrasing of “more junior candidate for whom the position would perhaps represent a greater challenge and step up in their career” would indicate that this company passed on that opportunity or didn’t think it was a significant factor in their employment calculus.

    1. Artemesia*

      Someone didn’t like them. Someone higher up had to sign off and had a different vision. All sort of little things can go awry. And of course don’t reapply unless a very long time has gone by.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I do feel their phrasing of “more junior candidate” indicates they want someone at a lower salary, no matter what salary they posted. Or, they’re just really unclear internally about how they view the duties and expectations and what they’re worth.

      1. Weekend Please*

        Yep. I wonder if they reposted with the same salary range. It is possible that they were overly optimistic about the length of the pandemic and when they got to the offer stage they couldn’t justify the salary they would need to pay for someone at OPs level. Reposting for someone more junior and at a lower salary would make sense.

      2. Momma Bear*

        We are looking to hire for a role we have more recently decided should go to a junior person. Sometimes the full scope or direction is not properly articulated with the person writing the job posts or there’s a restructuring or any number of other things. Maybe it is about salary, but it could be a re-evaluation of needs. My guess is this, and they plan on hiring a junior person and just haven’t found that person yet.

      3. Nicotene*

        Usually when I hear “more junior” I think it’s code for “less expensive.” It’s totally possible that OP would be awesome, but they figure they can get their needs met by a less awesome, cheaper candidate.

      4. PT*

        Honestly, this was my take. “COVID has slammed the restaurant/hospitality industry and we’re going try to drive the salary down as low as possible while there’s a big pool of people desperate for jobs.”

    3. Esmeralda*

      Or they felt that OP would not stay in the position long. They could be wrong about that, but it’s possible that was their thinking.
      Or they wanted someone who was going to be more…malleable? a junior person they could shape for the position. Maybe.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, OP sounds strong and confident. There are certain employers who screen OUT that type of personality, because they have another agenda running.
        OR it could be OP that you reminded them of what they are NOT and they realized that working there would be a disappointment to you.

        I GOT a job a while back simply because I had less experience. The other candidate had way more to offer and was definitely the better choice. But it was very clear that the other candidate would move on at the first opportunity. My boss had three people in my position before me and she just. wanted. to. stop. having to hire new people. The likelihood that I would stay with my boss was the deciding factor.

  9. HelloHello*

    This may not be relevant if the job was reposted with the same salary range, but I wonder if by “more junior candidate” they actually mean they’ve decided they’d like to hire someone with less experience at a significantly lower pay than what you were looking for. Perhaps someone decided at the end of the hiring process that they’d rather see if they could find someone who would take $40-50K and train them up to the level they need, rather than paying more for experience.

    1. Massmatt*

      I was going to say this, it’s sounds odd to me for a company to say they want more junior candidate “for whom the position would perhaps represent a greater challenge and step up in their career.”. Employers are not career coaches, they are trying to get x amount of work done for y amount of cost, not looking to serve the underprivileged.

      My best guess is that sentence really means they want someone cheaper, or maybe the budget is tighter than expected. But Alison is right, while this sucks and it’s the worst part of job hunting, you can never know all the variables involved so it’s best not to dwell on it.

      I realize your particular niche may not have lots of job openings, but in general I’ve always found it’s better to pursue multiple jobs at a time, that way you are not too invested in any single one so it makes it easier to avoid obsessing about things out of your control.

      1. Office Sweater Lady*

        This is what I was thinking as well. Especially since OP asked for the top of the salary range as their minimum. My guess is, either the company realized the budget was tighter than they thought, decided they could get by with less experience, or the original salary was more aspirational than stated (as in, make 65k after working with them for a while). Also, some people like the idea of hiring a younger or still developing person with potential who is thrilled by the opportunity, not someone who will grudgingly take the pay cut from their old position and who will be looking to move up right away.

      2. Oopsy daisy*

        I don’t know that this is necessarily always true. I’m in an industry where we almost always hire people with very specific, requires-lots-of-specialized-education requirements. I hired someone last year for a role that didn’t require that (and had to justify to my colleagues that more/specific education/experience really wasn’t necessary in this case) and had many much-more “qualified” candidates apply. The hiring team and I made a conscious choice that if we had a good, more junior candidate that’s the direction we’d prefer to go. Yes, salary is a factor, but in this case it really was more about offering someone an opportunity in an industry that can otherwise be hard to break into.

        1. Massmatt*

          Hmm, interesting. I know there are industries (such as engineering) where skills are considered “perishable”, or where a certain age group’s perspective is desirable (such as marketing, or screenwriting) but hiring someone just to “give them a break” is new to me.

      3. LDF*

        They’re not career coaches but they may want someone who can learn their way of doing it rather coming in with their own idea, or simply someone eho won’t find a better opportunity and leave in the next year. Doesn’t necessarily seem shady to me.

  10. NeonFireworks*

    This has happened to me twice, and it’s rough. In one case, it seemed to be that the interviewers couldn’t reach a consensus about which person to hire, so they decided to hire no one and try again later. In the other, I was given two separate accounts of what happened, which were flagrantly contradictory (and one was insulting), so I ended up relieved that I didn’t have to work in that environment after all.

  11. Cassidy*

    I can so relate to the soul-searching, but.

    I spent a year looking – nearly 100 resumes, about 35 phone interviews, about 12 in-person interviews, and I further exhausted myself by trying to figure out why I wasn’t offered positions (not all, but a few, seemed in the bag).

    So, about halfway through, I decided that after every interview I would focus on what went well, what didn’t or might not have, looked for more jobs, and just kept moving forward. It’s like what Alison has said: assume you didn’t get the job and consider it a nice surprise if you do.

    Sorry, OP. Sounds like you had your heart set on the job.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Ditto, Cassidy!

      Never, EVER, assume you’ve got the job until you have an offer letter in your mailbox, or e-mail.

      And as Alison said = assume you don’t have the job, but be pleasantly surprised when they do offer.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      That’s one of many of Alison’s pearls of wisdom, but it’s the first one that caught my eye. A person who is rooting for the success of another individual offers this type of advice. It’s not always easy to hear the specific advice but the good intention behind it is apparent.

  12. lapgiraffe*

    Hey OP, as an out of work wine salesperson who’s busy was 85% on-premise, I feel ya. The restaurant world is in a really broken place right now and I know so many talented people out of work.

    I think you’re definitely overqualified for this position, and also probably way too driven for a position that, I’m going to guess based on pay and that “want someone more junior” rationale, they just want a worker bee and not a visionary. I wouldn’t reapply for this one, but if something similar popped up somewhere else I’d downplay your big goals and ambitions if what you want is to get the job. If you’re able, hold out for a position that is worth your experience and will pay you what you deserve.

    Might I also suggest looking into retail? It may not be glamorous but it sure it on fire right now, and funny enough you get to taste a wider selection of wine and more of it (I’d that interests you).

    1. Wino Who Says Ni*

      I would also recommend the retail route. We’re always desperate for people with wine knowledge and a lot of the skills that make a good restaurant team member/manager translate well into the retail setting.

  13. Mental Lentil*

    The most important thing here is to move on and let this go. Don’t hold a grudge against this recruiter or this company. A job offer is the culmination of a long process that for the candidate starts with the application, but for the organization starts way earlier. There’s just too much information you don’t know. It might not have had anything to do with you. Requirements (and job descriptions) change. Hiring managers change. Hiring freezes go into effect, but they keep the posting open so they can get as many good resumes in as possible.

    (Also, It may feel like they screwed you over, but reputable organizations don’t invest this much time and energy to screw over a total stranger.)

    Be like Elsa. Let it go.

  14. Late Bloomer*

    Once, I applied for a job and got an email months later (after I had already assumed I didn’t get and was working elsewhere) stating that they hadn’t found anyone experienced for the job, had hired no one and requested that we had gotten more experience in the meantime, to reapply. I thought it was the strangest thing! If you didn’t like any of the candidates you got, either look elsewhere, reevaluate your expectations or look at the job itself to see if there’s something like a mismatch between experience level and pay that’s getting in your way. Why ask the people you rejected to reapply if they had somehow *gotten better* in the months since the application?

    1. Massmatt*

      Wow, that is weird. Borderline insulting, even. I mean, how much more experienced are they thinking their original candidate pool is after just several months?

      It reminds me of the legendary job postings requiring multiple years of experience with software that was just released that year. OK, so you only want to consider this product’s developers and beta testers?

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Massmatt, during my period of unemployment I applied for a job where five years experience was required for a platform that was only “out” for two years. I suggested they wait three years to fill the spot, they might find someone with five years after that waiting period.

      2. Late Bloomer*

        I wasn’t so much insulted as I considered the company to be a sort of toxic boy/girl/personfriend type who breaks up with you because you’re terrible…but then texts you months later to see if you want to get back together while still putting you down. It made them look really bad.

  15. starsaphire*

    It really can feel totally bizarre. I was contracting in a job for years, interviewed multiple times to be hired for the job I was *actually doing* and getting great feedback for, and passed over because some boss four levels above my boss and grandboss “had a different vision.” (Which I would never have known if my boss and grandboss hadn’t taken me out to lunch and explained it to me.)

    Headcount is a thing. Internal politics are a thing. I’ve witnessed someone get hired because her shoes perfectly matched her blouse. I’ve witnessed a candidate get rejected out of hand because he wore Brut aftershave. There is no logic here and, as Alison says, no point in trying to work out what went wrong.

    Wishing you the best of luck in your job search, OP.

  16. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’ve had a similar thing happen before. But there’s a twist, I got called back a couple weeks or even longer when their first pick and re-posting of the job didn’t work out.

    There’s so much that goes into hiring decisions, the hardest thing to do is remember to not take things so personally. Even though, it’s our livelihood and very personal to us in these moments!

    I see people saying to not reapply but you weren’t given a rejection based on anything other than “We chose someone else who could grow into the role.” so my vote goes for still showing interest. Some places don’t think that after that rejection, you have any interest in them anymore. Or they have to open up a fresh new “look”, reapplying wouldn’t be an issue unless you were pushy or acted weird about it.

    1. Weekend Please*

      “Reapplying” would probably be the wrong move. She already applied. Reaching out to the recruiter or hiring manager to express she is still interested would make more sense in this case.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s a new posting. You don’t know how they operate, if they pull over all the previous data or start with a clean slate. It would be weird to just assume you don’t need to reapply because you already applied the first round.

        I don’t know why anyone would want to play the “would be the wrong move” kind of nonsense, when you don’t know their system and it’s better to be safe than sorry and just call up a hiring manager or recruiter. Instead of reapplying and letting them make the decision without you speaking to them directly. Then you look presumptuous and like you think you know someone, when you don’t.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yeah but remember – once rejected, they may not want to come back to OP (or any other rejected candidate) – even the best ones – it would be a blow to the hiring management’s ego. Admitting – “we made a mistake”.

  17. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Quite often – they may hire someone who does not have high aspirations or intentions.

    Companies often need people with little ambition to perform the mundane. Yes, OP may have been the better TECHNICALLY qualified person, but should things not progress in the direction he/she wants to go in their career, it sets up a conflict for everyone.

    I once worked for a company where the turnover quota rate for any manager’s staff was 100 percent. Ours was 77.
    That doesn’t mean that 77 percent of the people in incumbent positions leave; but, you might have four people migrate through a single slot in the course of a year. If you had a staff of five, with four people coming and going, that was 80 percent.

    One way to cut that down, is to NOT necessarily hire the most qualified people, but hire those less likely to leave who can do the job. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, because I believe everyone that is willing to work and advance themselves should get that chance; but, some industries cannot work unless you have a number of “drones” in the office. In fact, how many times have people heard “oh you’re OVERqualified???”

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s a good thing to point out.

      It’s not something we do specifically but it’s always in our minds to weigh virtually tied candidates in the end. We try to do the “who’s more likely to stay longer…”

      Especially given the information given to the OP being “we hired someone who can grow into the role”, they are certainly hoping for someone who will stick around longer than they expect someone in the OPs position. Who is more likely to leave quickly, especially given that they’d be taking a 10k cut in salary! That’s a large reduction.

  18. Bookworm*

    I am sympathetic, OP. I’m watching this from the other end (not in food service). They may not have lied to you and it’s that circumstances changed: the eventual hire decided not to take it, they didn’t formalize the offer due to COVID or something else and the original choice moved on, the recruiter doesn’t actually know what happened.

    My org has advertised several positions but ultimately chose not to hire for some due to both current events (and I suspect) dysfunction in senior management. I don’t know how far they got in the interview process, if at all for some of the positions that were advertised (but we didn’t fill) or whether they’re holding onto these applications for other positions or waiting for the “right” time to hire, etc.

    It may not have anything to do with you, at all. I am sorry OP. I’ve also been in somewhat similar positions and it sucked. Good luck.

  19. Annie*

    A couple of times, I went through the hiring process as a director and was fully ready to hire someone, but they got the axe from above my head because one of the bosses’ family members wanted the job but hadn’t committed until after I was ready to offer to someone else. It could be, as Alison said, literally any reason. Even stupid ones stemming from nepotism.

  20. Pumpkin215*

    We really only get a small peek into the hiring process. I found out that my current job almost didn’t hire me because they were concerned about a “personality conflict” between me and my supervisor. I became friends with someone that was on the interview panel and she told me this. I was surprised! I know that I have a strong personality- so does my boss. What I didn’t know was how much that showed during the interview process. My boss was very reserved during the interview and I thought she was quiet and shy. (Turns out- she is quite the opposite). We get along well and there are no issues with us butting heads. But now that I’ve been there over a year, I can see how they would be concerned about someone colliding with her. It really got inside my head. It made me wonder what jobs I have been passed over in the past when I thought it was experience/salary when maybe it really was personality. You can drive your self nuts analyzing this so I suggest not even trying.

  21. JuiceToThePeople*

    Hey All –

    I’m the letter writer here and I wanted to provide an update. Shortly after this experience I interviewed with another employer opening a new concept and I got the job! Although the position doesn’t start for a few months I am very much looking forward to it and it will in fact be an even better use of all my experience and skills, and a really wonderful challenge for me. It also pays more and offers better benefits and bonuses. I would never re-apply in a situation like this, of course. I’m glad I didn’t continue to dwell on the unknown or on my feelings of rejection, but instead pushed forward toward bigger and brighter things. Thanks to all the commenters you for the positive feedback!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It’s instances like this where I tend to think that all of the chaos out there does make sense in the long run.
      Congrats on your new job!

      1. TimeTravlR*

        My mantra is, something better is right around the corner, when I don’t get what I think i want!

  22. HR Parks Here*

    Welcome to the we would like someone me junior than you club.. Starting to feel like its code for your not 35 and under myself.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      At age 60 if people can’t see any value in my efforts because of my age, I really don’t want to be working with them.

      Almost 10 years ago, my current boss hired me and I’d like to think it’s because she understood that I had something of value to offer.

    2. D3*

      I feel this SO HARD. Age discrimination is real. Juuust blatant enough that you know what’s happening and juuuuuust veiled enough that it’s hard to prove. I’ve heard all of these in the last year or so:
      “We don’t think you’d be happy in an entry level position” – I went back to school to change careers, I am *very* well aware that I need to start at entry level and I’m very okay with that.
      “You probably need a position with a higher salary and better retirement than we can offer you.” – nope. I’m good, and I wouldn’t be here if the salary range you posted wasn’t okay with me.
      “We just envisioned someone different in this role” – you mean someone who doesn’t come with reading glasses?
      “We would like to hire someone more junior” – not sure how much more “junior” it gets than straight out of college. Unless, of course, you mean someone born after Bill Clinton was elected…
      There’s definitely code for “You’re old and we want a young person!”

    3. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      The absolutely maddening aspect:
      Until I was roughly 35, I wasn’t experienced enough and too young (made worse by the fact that I’m a baby-faced woman)
      Now I’m “experienced” enough but expensive and it limits any future prospects.

  23. Steggy Saurus*

    Well, you could look on the bright side. At least they bothered to tell you that you didn’t get the job. In November I interviewed for two jobs, one of them I really thought I had a chance at. Two weeks later I noticed both jobs had been reposted. Nobody bothered to tell me.

  24. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    What I’d do:
    Contact the recruiter for the open job; ask to be put forward for the position.
    Act as if the history didn’t happen.
    See what they say.

    If they identify you: have an open conversation and ask them to put you forward again, or if there was a real (unstated) reason they didn’t take you on maybe the recruiter will let on what it is?
    If they don’t: carry on as if you are a completely new person. Next time don’t express senior-level ambitions (but of course continue to pursue that elsewhere).

  25. Kanga Roo*

    I recently applied for a relatively senior management job with Wallaby Warriors (WW), a large local affiliate of a name-brand national nonprofit. I had done a very similar job for four years at Koala Conservation League (KCL), which is about twice the size of WW. (I left KCL two years ago for another opportunity). After two good interviews with the hiring manager at WW–let’s call them Joey–they told me that they would be making a decision in 2 business days. Those two days pass, I hear nothing. After a week, I check in with a brief but polite email to Joey asking for an update on the hiring timeline, as I have another offer. Nothing again. 2 weeks after that, I get a form rejection email from HR.

    I’m especially puzzled at the ghosting as it’s a relatively small industry/city, and the chances are high that I will run into the Joey again. Our profession is very heavily focused on networking/relationship building, and Joey has served on the board of the local professional development association. Our causes are related, and the CEO of WW is a mentee of the CEO of KCL (whom I am close to) and when in-person events resume I am sure I will run into the WW CEO too. I even told Joey in the interview–I am really excited about this opportunity and think we would work well together, but no hard feelings if it doesn’t work out. I am a little salty not to get a personal “heads up, we’re going in another direction” email but overall feeling like I may have dodged a bullet!

  26. Sparkles McFadden*

    As others have stated, it could be any number of things, none of which have to do with the OP. There are many possibilities:
    – A decision to change the salary range (this one seems most likely)
    – A temporary freeze on hiring (hence the reposting)
    – They hired someone, it didn’t work out and they decided to reevaluate the position
    – An internal disagreement as to what the position should be like and who should be in it
    …and on and on.

    If the OP wants to check in with the recruiter on the relisting, that’s OK, but it might not be enlightening.

    The idea of “this is the perfect job for me and I will definitely be the most qualified” is really something that people need to jettison during a job search. I think it is better to go in with an open mind and assume there are a lot of moving parts that you cannot know about. A listing is just the starting point.

  27. Baffled Teacher*

    I know this feeling so well, OP! I remember interviewing SMASHINGLY for a private school and then…crickets. I hope it all works out for you soon!

  28. Sue*

    They’re probably trying to cheap out & the less experienced person didn’t want to accept the salary they offered. Good riddance.

  29. Here we go again*

    Could be internal reasons. But without being on the inside I couldn’t say for sure. My former workplace hired people had a start date then told the new hires that they can’t start and there was a hiring freeze. Company declared bankruptcy a 4-6 weeks later and fired everyone a week after that.

  30. Hunnybee*

    Alison, I love, love love what you say about these things. At one point prior to my current FTE job, I created a spreadsheet of the hundreds of applications I sent out and the hundreds of initial interviews I had with recruiters. It was hard not to take the volume of rejection personally, especially as I was trying to make a transition from consulting to a FTE role with benefits.

    I’m going to take a screenshot of your response so, when in the future I decide to apply for jobs and get rejected, I will have your thoughtful reassuring voice of reason to refer to get me through.

  31. Anonymous M*

    “Trying to figure out from the outside what went on in a hiring process is a recipe for frustration and resentment.”
    At my work I had two contract positions approved shortly before our parent company’s acquisition by another company was official, and then when it became official all of a sudden my totally approved contracts needed to be re-approved. Weeks later we finally got them re-approved and we re-posted the positions and then there was a re-org and my department’s new director wanted to go in a different direction and I had to take the postings down again. Sometimes not getting hired couldn’t possibly have less to do with your qualifications or you as a person.

    “And the thing is, it’s easy to think from the outside that you’re a perfect fit for a job. But there’s no way you can have enough insight to know that.”
    To truly know if you’re the best fit for that job you would not only have to work inside the company, you would have to have interviewed all the other candidates. I mean, I work at a company with a huge legacy codebase. I really and truly need candidates with some experience programming, preferably in the (outdated) languages we use because learning the languages, the codebase, and the business domain on top of learning how to program professionally at once is just too many things – both for the new hire and for the team to get them up to speed on. If I hired a new grad into a position where I know the team doesn’t have the resources to properly support someone with no experience, I would be setting them up to fail and that’s just cruel.

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