Working in recruitment taught me a lot of things I wish I had known when I was myself active on the job market…
If today I’m the one leading interviews, I have no trouble remembering my experience on the other side of the desk. Finding a job can take a while and be hard on the ego. I remember in particular how disappointed I would feel when companies I met and had a great connection with would simply not call back after an interview and I’d end up never hearing from them again. First, I wouldn’t understand why I didn’t get the job, but I was also just as confused by this cold ghosting. I was anxious to know what I did to put off the employer…
Well, now that I have a much clearer vision of these situations, I am way less conscious about my past experiences as a job seeker! Seeing the behind-the-scenes of recruitment has given me a lot of insights on the job market realities and I was relieved to discover that there are multiple reasons why good candidates are not called back, reasons that have nothing to do with their performance.
The purpose of this article is not at all to excuse any of this behavior from hiring managers or recruiters, but rather to expose some behind-the-scenes knowledge in the hope that our candidates and all job seekers can stop doubting themselves immediately when they don’t get a job & the company didn’t let them know why.
Here are my top 5 of the most common reasons why you didn’t get a call even though the interview went great.
1. The hiring process for this position is canceled, pending, or postponed.
It happens quite often that for organizational or financial reasons, the hiring process is put on hold. Sometimes, the company will decide they won’t hire for this position, but for this other role instead. Or, after reviewing the budgets, decide to cut the position or wait before hiring. The worst in these situations is when the company leaves the job posting online, so you immediately think your interview wasn’t good enough.
As candidates, we are quick to start doubting ourselves but in reality, we have no idea about what’s going on internally. Not every company wants to admit they made a mistake and wasted people’s time or that they can’t afford to hire so we are often let in the dark. Give yourself more credit.
2. You are not given feedback because there is none to give!
This is a tricky one. In a context of “recruiter/client company” or “hr technician/company manager”, a clear and transparent communication is ideal but unfortunately not granted. It’s just terribly unfortunate, but when the person in charge of the decision-making and the person coordinating the interviews are two different people or departments, communication problems are a big risk. Particularly in a boss/employee and client/service relationship where there is a certain imbalance of power.
As an interviewer, if your boss (or client) doesn’t want to give any explanation or reasoning behind their decision, we can’t invent them. This makes the follow up very difficult with our candidates. These are the cases where you’d be told that the company chose a more experienced candidate or something like that. By no means does that indicated that you were not enough, it’s simply because the only feedback available concerns the person that was hired.
3. The position was almost already internally filled but the company still interviewed external candidates.
This will happen mostly in bureaucratic environments. It can even be mandatory to advertise a position and hold external interviews even if you already have an employee in mind. I also heard about companies who hold interview rounds to meet with industry professionals with the only intention of gathering fresh ideas for their businesses from external perspectives!
This situation puts candidates in an awkward position, doubting themselves again even though they had little to no chances of being hired in the first place. The truth here is that, even if companies consider hiring internally, it’s a good idea to stay open to new talents in their market. But to equal potential, companies will often go for an internal employee. Promoting someone internally is less of a risk, less expensive, and truly great for the corporate culture. It’s hard to compete against that.
4. There are many, many candidates and the interviewer has no time to call them back.
Even when the time is missing and there are no constructive comments to say, letting the candidate know whether it’s a go or not is simply common decency, you think (and I think, and everybody thinks, and with good reason). But you’d be surprised how that principle is hard to apply in the reality. How many candidates can be met for the same position you ask? A lot. There’s no number, the answer is: how many as it takes.
Contexts of mass-interviewing often come with the no-feedback situation described above. It’s still awful for the candidates. Please understand that recruiters work on so many positions at the same time, meet so many people per week, and have really tight objectives, alongside with other tasks. It’s no excuse, but you shouldn’t doubt your value if they don’t get back to you.
It’s also important to understand that as a candidate you are not the interviewer’s boss or client. The company will pay this recruiter to find their new employee, the boss will pay this HR coordinator to find their new team member. If time starts to fly, the client’s or boss’s priorities will take over, unfortunately, to the detriment of the candidates.
5. You could be a victim of discrimination.
My intention here is not to accuse anyone or any field in particular, but we need to be realistic. Even if we are well equipped legally in Canada to avoid hiring discrimination, the phenomenon is still informally present in certain professional environments. The discrimination that recruiters can witness can be based on characteristics that are way more subtle than ethnicity.
As HR professionals, it’s very hard to manage. On the one hand, it is our professional duty to indicate or warn the client or hiring manager about questionable practices, but this isn’t always obvious because of the ambiguity of these situations. Sometimes, comments can be downright inappropriate and personal, this puts the recruiter in such an uncomfortable position, and even more so when they want to follow up with the candidate in question.
In the future…
I hope these behind-the-scenes revelations can shed light on the hiring process. I only brought up these 5, but there are more! I simply hope you can have a larger perspective on the hiring realities and consider them instead of losing confidence next time you don’t hear back from a company.
To end of, I would add that being recruiter also made me realize how candidates are quick to criticize the interviewer/hr coordinator. It’s important not to let these bad experiences put everyone in the same boat. Respect and communication should never be a one-way only. Thank you for reading and good luck in your next interview!