Best practices when calling a do-over is not an option.
April 7, 2015 11:43 PM   Subscribe

I applied for a job, I got a phone interview, I got rejected, and now the search has been reopened. I think I want to make inquiries. How should I go about it?

I work for a state government agency and I applied for a job at a different state agency. I had a phone interview a couple weeks ago, got the rejection a few days later, and saw this morning that the job has been relisted.

I'm actively looking for new jobs locally and I had one interview in person last fall for a job similar to this one. When the hiring manager called to tell me they'd hired someone else, she told me that I was a great candidate and was a very close second to someone who just clicked slightly better with the department. For this job, I think I was a decent candidate on paper; I have a decade of relevant experience and a lot of the skills they want.

I slightly know the hiring manager from a local professional organization, but we have not worked together. I think that what tanked my application was the phone interview with her and an HR rep. I was nervous and failed to bring my A game, and I especially wasn't happy with my answer to what I know was one of their most important questions.

I want to contact the hiring manager sometime soon and my question is how I should approach it. The best case scenario is that she asks me to reapply, but I don't expect that she would, and I don't think I should do it if she doesn't ask. Is a very general question about what they were looking for the best way to go? Is it risky to ask anything about the other candidates? I realize they may have had to reopen the search for some other reason, like not enough candidates. Should I lead with that, or just ask what I could have done better?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total)
If you have been rejected in one round of interviews there is little chance they will consider hiring you this time around. Phone interviews are ridiculous anyway.

A better course of action would be to approach the hiring manager in a month or two and ask how you can improve. You could also ask the other hiring manager.

I wouldn't bother with HR. They are gatekeepers whose job it is to hire and fire, so they have little empathy.
posted by Nevin at 1:06 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why you feel you need permission in order to re-apply. I would simply reapply. As the job search has been re-opened I think directly asking the hiring manager what went wrong puts her in an awkward position; that question should have been asked directly after the last rejection when there was no job currently on the table.
posted by saucysault at 3:03 AM on April 8, 2015 [8 favorites]

You could approach the person you know and ask for feedback on your application so you can improve for the future - that's not unusual, and at least will remind them of your existence. That conversation might also give you an opportunity to ask whether it would be worth reapplying (my assumption in your situation would be that it's not, or they would have come back to you rather than spending money on readvertising the post... but who knows?)
posted by penguin pie at 4:14 AM on April 8, 2015

I'd definitely reapply-- from their perspective, it's a huge bonus to have another crack at their second-best choice rather than having to start from scratch with a whole new pool of unknown applicants.
posted by instamatic at 5:56 AM on April 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

The close second thing is an anecdote from a totally different job application, I think.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:23 AM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think the "close second" job was a different job, right?

I don't think it's ridiculous to reapply, maybe acknowledging in your cover letter that you didn't bring your A game. I probably wouldn't ask for feedback if you're reapplying. If I were the hiring manager and got a reapplication from someone I had rejected, I would have to be really sure that they knew what the problem was before I considered them again.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 7:08 AM on April 8, 2015

Sorry, posted too soon--Since you know the hiring manager, I think it's also reasonable to ask for feedback in the way you're considering, but only if you're NOT planning to reapply.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 7:10 AM on April 8, 2015

I work for a state government agency and I applied for a job at a different state agency.

I work in a state agency, and my state has an incredible number of arcane civil service rules that dictate how the agency advertises and hires for a position. It is NOT the same game as getting hired in the private sector.

Multiple possibilities are at play here. The agency's first candidate may not have accepted the job, or may have started and then immediately accepted a different job, and now the agency needs to re-start the hiring process. The "different state agency" may want to hire you on this second round, but it is possible that they *cannot* contact you directly, due to civil service rules. For example, my state's civil service rules mandate that the agency has a short time to solidify a hire (say 2 weeks or so) from the time the position is offered. Otherwise, we have to start the ENTIRE hiring process from scratch, including advertising the position and canvassing candidates who aced the civil-service pre-hire tests.

The other option is that this current advertised opening is for an identical 2nd position -- that is, if you got the job, you'd be working side-by-side with the first-choice candidate. The civil service rules may dictate that the second position must be advertised in an identical manner to the first. If you were a strong candidate the first time around, but weren't selected for hire, that may work in your favor on the 2nd time around. Again - civil service rules can make this process different from private industry.

I strongly recommend that you reapply to the position through the proper channels, in order to find out!

Depending on how well you know the hiring manager -- and how badly you feel you bombed the last interview, it was likely just a small stumble , probably was not as big as deal as you think it was-- after you submit your application, call the hiring manager and start a casual conversation about the position. Mention that you've applied and you're looking forward to interviewing. Talk up your qualifications, and similar duties and experience in your current post. Basically, try to create a new impression that will have the hiring manager favorably considering you before the second interview.

Good luck!
posted by Ardea alba at 7:38 AM on April 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

everyone's encouraging you to do this, and I guess there's no particular downside to you. On the other side of this, as an in-house recruiter who is often approached for feedback and try-agains (neither of which I can give), I find it embarrassing and awkward every time, and it would be even more so if an applicant were someone I knew personally.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:40 AM on April 8, 2015

If you had no idea why things went badly, I think it could potentially be reasonable to ask for feedback so that you could improve next time around. In this case, it sounds like you are pretty sure you know why you didn't get the job (i.e. bombing a majorly important question in the interview and not bringing your A game all around). It is completely beyond the purview of the hiring manager to help you now fix these things -- next time, you know you need to prepare better, deal with your nerves somehow, practice doing some phone interviews ahead of time, etc. etc.

Personally, I don't really see the point of reapplying *assuming* this is the exact same job and your qualifications have not significantly changed -- they've already said they would prefer to hire NO ONE over you (sorry to be harsh, but that's the reality of the situation), and you aren't giving us a reason here why that would have changed. Obviously if you've gotten a degree or had a huge work success or promotion or something in the interim, go for it and talk up this new qualification in your cover letter. Otherwise I would move on to other job opportunities and take from this experience what you can to improve next time.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:59 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another vote for applying again. In your shoes, I would try to add something new to the resume/cover letter and draw attention to it. "Since the position was previously advertised, I have been working on/accomplished/etcetera." If this addresses your weak points from the last interview, so much the better.

You won't lose anything by applying again, but you certainly won't get the job if you don't apply at all.
posted by Urban Winter at 9:12 AM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's a tough thing to hear, and you can of course ignore it if you want, but I'm not sure this is something you want to do. The hiring manager works for the employer; to ask her to go over your application or interview and tell you how to do better is asking her to help you get the job, rather than helping the employer find the best candidate. That's part of why it puts her in a difficult position. She has a conflict of interest, almost. (I understand you're trying to demonstrate you are the best candidate, but it's a hard line for her to walk.)

But assume she does what you're asking, despite the fact that she's probably not supposed to. Suppose she gives you advice on what to do differently, and you do it. Will this convince anyone that you are a better candidate than you were when you answered on your own? They are not looking for the person who is best at getting the job; they are looking for the person who will be best at doing the job, does that make sense?

Normally, I am a great advocate of "you already don't have this job, so you might as well apply." I tell people literally that very thing, all the time, because normally, you have nothing to lose. But in this case, when it sounds like you were rejected only a few weeks ago and probably cannot persuasively argue that you are substantively a better candidate than you were before, applying again just to have another shot at the application process could seem like an odd move. In a state agency situation, they may have another position you would be right for in the future, and it's worth thinking about whether the risk that this could be off-putting in a way they'd remember (I fear that if I were in the hiring position, it would be off-putting to me, a bit like a refusal to take a polite no for an answer or an assumption that I must not have fully considered your application) is outweighed by the likelihood that reapplying will be successful.

If you are certain you want to apply, I would not contact the hiring manager. If you are certain you want to contact the hiring manager, I think the only fair question to ask is along the lines of, "Is there anything you can tell me about what this job requires that might help me better determine how I could make a contribution if I were hired?" I don't think you can ask her to tell you how to get the job (which means you can't really ask her why you didn't get the job), and you definitely shouldn't ask about other candidates. Just one person's couple of cents. Good luck to you, whatever you decide!
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:30 AM on April 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'd definitely reapply and I'd be really direct about it -- tell her you really want to work there, really liked the people you met, and are positive that the interviews just didn't show the best side of you. I'd also say that you'll do what it takes to make sure it is a great click between you and everyone else there.

Try, try again actually works for jobs. People want to hire motivated hire-ees, and there is nothing like telling them how much you want to work there to demonstrate that motivation.

This time, in interviews, aim to interview them -- ask about them, what they love about the job, what they'd change if they could, their background, etc. People also connect well to potential hires who seem interested in them.
posted by bearwife at 10:45 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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