I want to share a wonderful story about how I didn’t get a job.

I interviewed and was not hired. Although the job was through a recruiter and my first interview was with a personnel clerk, at the end of the interview the hiring manager himself gave me his decision that I wasn’t right for the job. He said it was a difficult decision, but he was impressed with my qualifications and asked if I wanted to be considered for future openings.

not hiredHe also volunteered to help me in my job search with his industry contacts! He told me to wait while he called two managers he knows in other companies and suggested they should meet me! At first I thought, how insane, but then I realized how smart it is! This is a very busy person who travels non-stop and has all of the same reasons that everyone else has for not following up with people. Yet he made the time for me.

In my whole life, this has never happened when I did not get hired. I think the benefits of an employer handling a situation like this are tremendous. Would I send him business if I had the opportunity? Would I recommend this company to other people? Of course!

I hope other employers read this and act accordingly. You have everything to gain by being direct and honest with people who have invested time with you and your company regardless of the outcome. It can be good for you to help a candidate you did not hire to get hired elsewhere.

To everyone who did not get hired for a job, I hope someday you get treated like this. Simple decency and respect go a long way. It changes everything!

Nick’s Reply

Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s important to note what really happened here, what did not happen, and why you’re happy even after you were not hired.

First, the manager took personal responsibility for notifying you of his decision. He showed unusual character and integrity. That’s why you’d recommend his company to others.

Second, the manager has acknowledged your value to his professional community. He didn’t hire you, but he didn’t reject you. He offered you the professional courtesy of introductions to his peers. Everyone benefits. Recommending good people strengthens the entire professional community.

Finally, he treated you respectfully. Your joy makes you likely to recommend people for jobs there — and you may apply again yourself. You’re happy because even though the manager didn’t hire you, he’s aiding your career. How often does that happen?

If I were you I’d send this manager a note acknowledging his kindness and largesse. Whether or not one of his buddies hires you, I would stay in touch from time to time. Let’s encourage high standards!

A note to managers: The next time you interview a job candidate, remember that the manager in this story is your competition. Are you as good as that?

And now I rap employers for stupidity

What happened to this job seeker may seem a bit off the wall. But consider how stupid it is for employers to invest loads of money and time recruiting impressive candidates only to dismiss them without another thought just because they didn’t hire them. Where’s the ROI in that? What a waste of talent, not to mention the hiring manager’s time and other company resources!

This is a big reason why the Employment System is so broken. There is no reason to waste good candidates! The manager profited from this “no hire” by building good will all around — with this good candidate, with the other managers he referred the person to, and by showing that his company doesn’t waste talent or valuable new personal relationships! The candidate might even return for another job, having had such a good experience — even if no hire was made the first time.

Cultivating talented people in your company’s professional community that hold you in high regard should always be a top business objective. Because It’s the people, Stupid.

Have you ever been treated this way after you were not hired? The manager’s behavior is certainly an anomaly. What might make other managers adopt this manager’s practices? Can you think of two or three ways an employer could encourage its managers to behave this way? In what ways could it pay off?

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  1. When we talk about hiring, we often say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This is always said to the candidate applying for jobs, but I think it should be turned around and directed at hiring managers. All this talk of “nobody wants to work” and “the good candidates aren’t applying” could be solved if candidates were treated with respect, if hiring managers cultivated relationships, etc.

  2. I am soooo impressed. That company must have a great day to day work environment. I go job hunting on the basis of 2 protocols. 1) will they use my skills to the fullest 2) is there great positive communication within the office.?? The MONEY will usual follow that.

    • @Peter: I agree with you. When management knows how to put skills to profitable use and also communicates clearly, the company is usually performing well financially — and management knows why! So the money gets spread around to the talent. Rinse. Repeat.

  3. Thanks to Nick’s posts… I’ve been doing the same thing for my “friends” in the industry… if I find someone that I don’t wanna hire but I know my “friends” need, I’ll personally recommend them. Keep that relation “fresh”

  4. About 25 years ago I applied for a position at an elite ad agency. My background was in advertising but the “dirty” end: composition, printing, typesetting, etc.
    The interviewer was the owner who did exactly as above, treated me with dignity and heartfelt respect and courtesy. Explained kindly that while I wasn’t a good fit for the posted position he made several phone calls to help me match with the perfect job! I sang his praises to everyone. We’ve been in touch all these years. I sent a few friends and colleagues to him for jobs.

    • Great story, EED! It’s so simple and so rooted in the Golden Rule. People who take time to help one another out tend to do better than those that don’t. It’s better to have friends in your professional community than not to. How complicated is that??

  5. I appreciate the leaders that respond directly. I think that one of the reasons it is not done is that many if not most organizations do not let the hiring manager speak to candidates independently. They are worried about lawsuits and want to make sure that all candidates are asked the exact same questions and that. Nothing seemed inappropriate is discussed.

  6. Great story! A good example of one of the mantras I preach to job seekers..don’t forget you’re doing two things in parallel. Yes you’re hunting for your next adventure…but if done right, you’re also network building…and this applies to the other side of the table..hiring managers. The manager in this story obviously understood that.

    I can’t recall anyone doing this for me at least to my knowledge. I know of times when someone “walked my paper” to a peer manager. Somewhat similar but done internally. And as a manager I’ve done this when I realized a person was better suited in a peer team, rather than mine.

    The closest I can recall to something like this is when I was an agency recruiter. Reference checks (3) was SOP in my job. I was very impressed when I met/interviewed a guy who gave his current boss as a reference. When I called his boss he of course was very explicit on qualifications etc. But what was most impressive was the “why”. Why the guy wanted to leave & why the boss was a reference. Simply put…”he’s top of the line, I hate to lose him, but in this company I can’t do anything more for him. Staying here would be holding him back & he deserves to grow”. Wow. (I did place the guy…but wasn’t smart enough to keep in touch with his boss). In all the decades I’ve worked and recruited, I never ran across a boss who did this.

    It also brings to mind another piece of advice I give job seekers…When & if you know you’re through the interviewing process & it doesn’t gel.. Ask the hiring manager this question “Can you suggest anyone else I should meet?” It’s my experience that people do want to help and in many cases that hiring manager will pony up some contacts and also allow you to use his/her name. Some, as the boss in this story, will also run interference with those contacts. While they may not have spontaneously thought of it, a reminder is the next best thing.

    I also advise the job seeker to flip that. They should walk away with a very good understanding of the job, the company, that hiring manager, culture etc. If the job seeker knows someone in their network that would be a fit…be a connector..connect them to each other.

    On my tour as an inhouse recruiter I pinned this on my cube where I (& others) could see it. “Treat applicants with a high degree of respect for them & their time. Even if not a fit, leave them feeling that they want to work in this company.”
    That’s what the boss in this story did, & in so doing created an advocate for that person and the company. And advocates make recruiting and networking so much easier for all concerned.