Follow up with employer that sounded interested, but wasn't?
June 30, 2014 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Do I personally contact the person who made me think I was a strong candidate, but didn't consider me again?

I interviewed for a lateral-move job at a place I liked but it would have required a move across state. I wasn't mentally or emotionally prepared for a move and when I found out I got a second round interview I was so stressed out that I declined. In my personal phone call to the director he told me I was the only candidate, and the favorite anyway. He asked if I would be interested if they re-posted in a few months, I said I would certainly consider it.

They re-posted a different, higher-level position one month later that I still met the qualifications for. I had done some soul-searching and felt more ready to commit to a move, so I applied again and sent a personal email to the director explaining that I was ready to commit to a move. I never heard a thing and just got an auto-email that the position was filled.

Should I reach out again or just leave it where it stands? Someone is telling me I should send a message like, "I'm glad you found the right candidate. I wonder if you could advise me on how to strengthen my consideration for similar positions in the future". I have my theories why (because I said no before, I stupidly didn't re-write my entire cover letter and just re-worked about 50% of it, and they got better candidates with more experience).

I kind of feel like a big idiot right now and am scared to personally contact the director again, I don't want to seem unprofessional. So what IS professional in this case?
posted by wannabecounselor to Work & Money (4 answers total)
I wouldn't worry about asking for advice from someone who doesn't seem interested in talking to you at this point. The position is apparently filled, so that's the end of this story. I think the professional thing to do is move on and keep applying. If you were a top pick for the previous position, I'm sure you can be a top pick for something comparable. Good luck.
posted by clockzero at 1:08 PM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

My hiring experience says that one of two things happened:
- the higher level posting attracted a more experienced candidate set. Some of those candidates were probably lateral applicants. Suddenly you went from cream of the crop at a lower job grade to middle of the pack at a higher grade.
- they reposted for a specific person who demanded a higher grade.

It's not that you didn't rewrite your cover letter; you can let go of that guilt.

If you're really interested in working there, then definitely contact the director once by email. If they don't respond, then you're in no worse spot than you are now. If they do, then you've expanded your network.
posted by 26.2 at 1:13 PM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't reach out with that message, because I think you probably are making assumptions on the reasons why you didn't get that second position. Be on the lookout for another position with similar qualifications, because I suspect that you might just be the victim of bad timing or something else.
posted by xingcat at 1:14 PM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I kind of feel like a big idiot right now and am scared to personally contact the director again, I don't want to seem unprofessional. So what IS professional in this case?

What's your goal? There's nothing unprofessional about
  • Making the best decision for yourself, professionally
  • Changing your mind as time goes by
  • Behaving as if you're as worthy of their attention as they are of yours
  • Talking to/emailing people in a plain-spoken way about what you'd like to know and/or accomplish.
If you want feedback/information about how to approach other jobs then by all means, drop the person a note. They corresponded with you in the past so there's no harm in asking to have more conversation. They may have better things to do, so you need to be prepared to be ignored and should tailor your message in the short & sweet way you do when you want to improve your odds of a response. But it's not unprofessional to talk with your equals.

If you want to possibly work at this place in the future then you should just say so. You were a lead candidate and they liked you then, so indicating you're a fan of their organization may well put you on a list of people to reach out to. I don't think you need to be all that flowery or BS about it. Maybe someone there took it personal when you declined their offer, but that's on them, not you.

Ask what you want; just be clear about what exactly it is that you want.
posted by phearlez at 1:33 PM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

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