September 23, 2009 1:56 AM   Subscribe

I applied for a job that I had absolutely the right criteria for, but I've been rejected before the interview stage. Is it worth following it up, and trying to get an interview, or should I just let it go?

The response I got was:

Many thanks,
We've received a large number of applications for the role, many from people who already have substantial experience in similar roles. I can't, because of the volume, invite you to interview at this stage, I'm afraid. But I'm very grateful for your interest in working here. Best wishes
posted by hnnrs to Work & Money (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Assuming that your CV was completely accurate, there's probably little point. On paper, your qualifications and experience may have seemed (to you) a perfect match for those outlined in the job advertisement, but you don't know what else the employer was looking for, or what extra skills and experience other applicants were bringing to the table.

An example: my first job was as a programmer. The job ad outlined the necessary skills, which were programming skills. But it turned out that the company was publishing educational software, and I just happened to have a background in education as well as programming. So I got the job over two other applicants who may well have had more programming experience.

Employers don't always know what they're looking for until they see it. And they've evidently spotted something else they want in other peoples' CVs. By all means follow up your application with a brief letter thinking them for their consideration and asking them to bear you in mind for future positions, but treat this as a failed application and move on. Your energy is better spent in refining your CV and applying for other jobs.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:19 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

thanking. not thinking.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:19 AM on September 23, 2009

I think it'll be difficult to follow up on right now--you have to assume that, on paper, there are other candidates who they believe are better suited. Either those candidates have more of the sort of experience they were looking for (which appears to be his reasoning), presented themselves better, or met some other guideline that you're unawares of. If I received twelve applications and eleven had masters degrees, everything else being quite equal, I'm tossing 12. It may seem cold and callous, but time is a factor here, so it's a numbers game to narrow things down at first.

On the other hand, there isn't any real harm in pushing back and saying something to the effect of "thanks for your response back. I'm a bit disappointed as I felt I was uniquely suited for this job and excited by the prospect of working for your organization. If you find the other candidates to be lacking and would consider letting me prove my qualifications to you first hand, please let me know."

Just don't expect to hear anything after that at all--in the mean time, brush up the resume a bit, make sure you beat those other people out on paper, if at all possible. Fighting against an enemy you can't see is difficult but make yours a bit more of a terse, informative narrative, rather than simple bullet points. If you already go into detail, make sure you're saying the most you can about yourself in the fewest amount of words. But that's for another question.
posted by disillusioned at 2:20 AM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

*The company was obliged by law or habit to submit an external advert for a job where there was really a suitable internal candidate waiting in the wings.
*The department head placing the advert had to route the request via HR who decided to edit some of his original details.
*The person who was going to create the vacancy prolonged their departure.
*The owner's nephew expressed a great interest in this job.
*One of the people who was going to help with processing the applications has just gone on maternity leave

...All of this kind of stuff happens frequently and it helps explain why this is probably not a good time to push your case: there was nothing much you could do.

However the fact that somebody at this company has written a job specification that matches your capabilities and interests well should make them stand out for you. Keep trying to gather more information about what they do - look out in the press and on the grapevine for mentions of any new work they have coming up and consider approaching somebody who runs one of these projects directly with an offer to help out.
posted by rongorongo at 2:50 AM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was recently involved in the recruitment process for a number of positions with a particular EEO employer. Despite big cull at initial contact stage, followed by a phone interview and online skills and psychometric testing, 180 candidates were put through to the assessment centre stage. Only 30 then progressed to the first of three rounds of interviews.

The point I'm trying to make is that at the moment the job market is such that many employers are getting literally hundreds of applications from candidates who more than adequately fulfill the selection criteria - and most of those candidates won't make it to the interview stage.

I have to admit that I'm a little bit bemused by people being surprised that they don't automatically get interviews for jobs for which they are qualified - chances are that unless you're in an incredibly specialised field or are exceptional in your field, you are competing against candidates who are more qualified than you in some way. Most of the agencies with which I work aren't sending more than 10 candidates through to the first round of interviews - those 10 were often culled from between 100 and 200 applications (some entry level positions I'm aware of have attracted over 900 initial applications) - the vast majority of candidates won't even get to the phone interview and online testing stage, let the alone assessment centre or interview stage.

Remember, also, that in many cases applications are computer screened for keywords and only those which contain a given combination of keywords will even get read by a human being (always make sure you use at least some of the buzzwords from the ad and any selection criteria in your application). The scanning software used by one international recruitment agency here will automatically reject any resumes which have a border or an image on them.

It's perfectly legitimate to ask for feedback on job applications, but be aware that you may not get anything useful if your application has been rejected in the first cull - when there are a lot of candidates it isn't unusual to start coming up with somewhat arbitrary benchmarks by which to reduce the pool, and these often are things like number of years of experience or experience in specific industries (or even with certain companies), even though those weren't requirements stated in the ad.
posted by Lolie at 2:53 AM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

What kind of job is it?
If it's a sales job you may be being rejected as a test of your skills, ring them up and sell yourself. If you can't sell your skills, how are you expected to sell [company's] products/services?

I don't think there's any harm in calling for feedback, or at the very least writing (even for non-sales jobs). Separate yourself from the herd.
posted by at 2:57 AM on September 23, 2009

I applied for a job that I had absolutely the right criteria for, but I've been rejected before the interview stage. Is it worth following it up, and trying to get an interview, or should I just let it go?

I've been badgered by people who felt they absolutely had the right qualities for the graphic designer position I was hiring for. They did nothing but stand out in my mind as people I should never hire.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:35 AM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There is probably no point in chasing an interview, but it is worth trying to get some feedback on your application. At the least, you might find out why you weren't selected and do better next time. There is a (very) slim possibility that you could end up stuck in their minds if another opportunity comes up.
posted by dg at 5:30 AM on September 23, 2009

So what if you follow up? Show's you're determined and care about the company and position, and you'll never know until you try. Besides, what are they gonna do? Fire you? There's no downside here, just don't be a jerk about it. Engage rather than confront, and turn on the charm.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:44 AM on September 23, 2009

I'm surprised they responded to you at all, and I would not pursue it further. Not only will it not get you an interview this time (no one likes to be told they are wrong, after all) but it might damage your chances at a future position with this company.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:53 AM on September 23, 2009

What kind of job is it?
If it's a sales job you may be being rejected as a test of your skills, ring them up and sell yourself. If you can't sell your skills, how are you expected to sell [company's] products/services?

when i used to hire sales people, i would never interview someone unless they called more then once.
posted by lester at 6:10 AM on September 23, 2009

Move on and consider yourself lucky that you heard back. In industries with huge CV volume like finance and consulting, no follow-up from the potential employer is considered a rejection.
posted by chalbe at 6:20 AM on September 23, 2009

As you have seen. one manager may be impressed with your persistence, another will forever put you on the "no hire" list for your audacity in making a phone call (presumably, even if you are the very best candidate next time. Go figure.). I'd say that if you feel moved to follow up, do so, and hope that the hiring manager is in the first category. I don't see a downside. I personally wouldn't want to work for someone that would be punitive about a followup phone call.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:03 AM on September 23, 2009

If you want to follow up, follow up and ask the manager what you can do or what expereince you need in order to make your resume more attractive for the role. See if there's any gaps in your experience that need to be filled in one way or another. Treat it as a learning experience.

I think you'll come across as someone interested in learning and doing a good job rather than coming across as one of the people Brandon Blatcher is talking about.
posted by PFL at 7:19 AM on September 23, 2009

Been on both sides of this fence fairly recently.

I'd say that you could follow-up to learn about specific traits/qualities/skills you lacked for the role, with the caveat that it's very possible that you'll never get a response due to the sheer number of applicants as Lolie pointed out.
posted by hijinx at 7:41 AM on September 23, 2009

It's best to move on. You may have better luck cold-calling and networking into the "hidden job market" rather than applying for online or newspaper job postings. Getting a job that way is basically like winning the lottery.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:14 AM on September 23, 2009

Employers don't always know what they're looking for until they see it.

Pro hiring consultant guy here.

The above is very true, and I'm also with BB: you can't possibly benefit from whining, no matter how justified, and you stand a very real risk of harming your future chances.

The polite way to do something, if you must, is PFL's idea: thank them for the opportunity, be nice, and ask what advice they might have for you to better yourself for the next opportunity that might arise. You might be surprised at how much great advice you can get once there's no job on the table anymore, and as long as you don't sound like you're questioning their decision.

The job you applied for is gone. Accept this and don't talk about that job again or you'll sound like an ass.
posted by rokusan at 9:53 AM on September 23, 2009

Building on disillusioned's suggestion, (and, on preview, rokusan) you might also (or alternatively) just ask them to keep you in mind if they have openings in the future. I would also be careful about any negative language in your follow-up -- as others have pointed out, you don't know the subtleties of what they are looking for, so I wouldn't focus on the presumption that your qualifications are the best match or the possibility that other candidates might be inferior, but rather just that you remain interested and excited about the work that they are doing. Keep it short and friendly, and perhaps they'll remember you next time.
posted by gubenuj at 9:58 AM on September 23, 2009

Best answer: We've received a large number of applications for the role, many from people who already have substantial experience in similar roles.

They gave you feedback already about why you didn't get through. There were other applicants with absolutely the right criteria and a whole bunch of relevant work experience. It was a tiebreaker, they had everything you have plus a bit extra so they win.

There's no point pushing for an interview since you were beaten in this tie break by 'many' candidates. The only thing you can do is move on to the next job and either work on getting that bit extra yourself or apply for a job where the other candidates have less than you (either by luck, good self marketing, or choosing different jobs).

I've been beaten in this tie break too (sucks doesn't it?) and the extra experience the other person had was really minimal, but the hirers have to choose on something.
posted by shelleycat at 2:18 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

While this may not address your original question exactly, one thing you may want to look at for future applications is not only your resume/CV, but your cover letter. I cannot tell you how many job interviews I've landed based on my cover letter rather than my resume. In fact, I got two interviews for jobs I wasn't even overly qualified for (and both jobs, as well). When I asked why I was called in to interview (in both cases the interviewers mentioned, "while you lack the experience we were looking for...") both said, "Your cover letter was the most well-written one in the batch."

Now that I am in a position to hire people, I find myself focusing on the cover letter more than the resume in many instances - especially if it comes down to many people with similar skill sets.

If you are not overly confident in your writing skills, find a friend who is (or hire someone) and have them work with you to create a few kick-ass letters to go with your resume.

(And yes, by all means write a nice thank you note and ask to have your resume kept on file - I have hired more than one person from my "on file pile."

Good luck!
posted by coollibrarian at 5:42 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing the possibility that the job could have been listed just to meet legal requirements for an external search and that they knew who they were going to hire all along. That happens a lot more than you would think.

It's also possible that they really get too many qualified applicants to interview and just picked at handful at random or first-come-first-served or via some other non-qualification-based method. I've done hiring myself and sometimes it really is impossible to interview every qualified person who applies, so you have to take a satisficing instead of optimizing approach.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:49 PM on September 25, 2009

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