A friend of mine asked me this and since I am not in HR, I wanted to get a professional opinion.
She had an interview a few months ago, and a couple of weeks later found out she didn’t get the job. Last week she saw that the company is advertising the position again, so she forwarded her resume to them again and said she was still interested. The response she got back was an email stating they are “pursuing other candidates”.
My friend wants to if it is ever okay to ask them why they aren’t considering her. She says she is definitely qualified for the position and she thought the interview went really well. She really wants to know what the problem is, both so she can “get over it” and improve on her next interview.
I told her I thought it was fine to call and ask, but that she probably wouldn’t hear anything helpful. If it was a personal reason going against her, like a bad interview outfit of body odor, they certainly aren’t going to tell her that. Am I right? What would you advise?
In an ideal world, the company would tell her why she wasn’t hired. This would allow her to work on the gaps in her resume or interviewing skills or wardrobe. However, they don’t and they won’t and I’ll tell you why: Liability.
Oh, but your friend would never sue for discrimination of any kind. Yes, yes, I understand. Other people would. Once you start getting into reasons, you start opening yourself up for lawsuits. If I tell you, “I didn’t hire you because you don’t have experience doing X,” that seems pretty straightforward and not at all discriminatory. Right?
Well, what happens if after searching for 6 months, I can’t find anyone who can do X, but I’ve long forgotten about you (and you’ve probably found a new job anyway), so I hire someone who is a different race/gender/sexual orientation/religion/political affiliation than you are that also doesn’t have experience doing X. (Note, not all of those are prohibited by law in all places. I just threw them all in to make the post more interesting.) Next thing I know, you are crying foul and suing me.
No thank you.
And what if my reasoning isn’t a “hard” reason, like lacking skill X? What if you just don’t interview well? What if you picked your nose when you thought I wasn’t looking or spilled spaghetti on your blouse (another hint: never order something messy if they take you to lunch)? What if your skirt was too high and your blouse was too low? Well, I don’t want to bring that up.
What if the reason is you wouldn’t fit in in the department? This is something people really take into consideration. Most likely, you’ll have to interact with others at work and a manager will have to manage you. If you’ll cause problems based on personality or otherwise, you won’t get hired. But, no manager is going to tell you it’s because you sound like Fran Drescher.
Your best bet is to ask friends for an honest assessment. They will not want to do this because it will involve telling you to stop picking your nose and lower your hemline and could you please see a voice coach? But, persist.
Even if you have all the qualifications on paper, this doesn’t mean you really have them. I mistakenly hired a temp who said she had vast experience with Microsoft Access. Well, turns out she had run reports on a database that someone else had set up and all she had to do was open the file and click on a button. This was not the skill I was looking for, but I’m sure she thought she had the necessary skills. (Or, she thought she could get away with her lack of knowledge, which she couldn’t and didn’t.)
Your friend certainly can call and ask, but you are right that she shouldn’t expect anything helpful. When calling make sure to not sound accusatory and not to use it as a chance to insist that she is qualified for the position. “I have an interview at another company coming up and I want to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes i made when I interviewed with your company. Could you give me some feedback?”
In the meantime, if she does have embarrassing issues like mannerisms, dress or hygiene, you, as her friend, should tell her. If you don’t want to, you can see why a company that could get sued won’t want to either.