In the March 8, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to make failed interviews pay off.
I had a good interview, or so I thought. The manager complimented me on our discussion, and I could tell she was impressed, but I guess I just wasn’t the right fit. I know everyone goes through this. But when you add up all the interviews across a long career, you wonder why. I try to learn something from every such failure, but the time spent just doesn’t seem to be compensated by what managers share after a meeting. Do you have any advice about how to benefit even from interviews that don’t result in a job offer?
Not every job interview results in an offer of employment, but every interview should provide you with information that helps you land an offer next time. An interview is an investment of time and effort. You should always get a return on that investment — either in the form of an offer, or in the form of useful feedback.
Many employers won’t tell why they rejected you. Indeed, their legal eagles (or hatchlings in the HR department) may have warned managers that they’d get sued for telling you too much. But, if you press, you may get something you can use. Just remember: You don’t want grounds for a lawsuit, you want useful information. An employer owes you that in exchange for your participation in their hiring process.
Here’s how to get truly useful information if you’ve been rejected.
First, make sure you’re getting feedback directly from the manager and members of her team. The most valid information usually comes from the hiring authority and from others who understand the work in question, not from a clerk in HR. (A good HR person might offer you something useful, but it’s usually the manager who can really help you.) So call the boss after your meeting.
Second, don’t ask why they turned you down. (That’s what prompts the legal heebie-jeebies.) Instead, thank the manager for considering you, then shift the discussion to career development.
How to Say It
“I learned a lot from our discussion. Can I ask you for some advice? Someday I want to work in the kind of position I interviewed for. I want to become one of the best people in this field. Can you suggest what I ought to be reading, what kinds of further education or training I might get, and where I should focus myself to develop the right skills? What would you do if you were me, to develop myself professionally?”
Keep your request informal and friendly, and a good manager will advise you. Note that you are not asking why you were rejected. (See Play Hardball With Slowpoke Employers.)
Finally, don’t take “no” for an answer. If you’ve asked diplomatically but a manager ignores your calls or won’t provide honest feedback after a rejection, recognize that you’re dealing with an irresponsible member of your professional community. She has a one-sided view of business. She expects people to be open and honest in interviews, but refuses to be candid herself.
My next suggestion will probably have you scratching your head, but think about it.
E-mail or call the CEO of the company, or the top executive in the department that interviewed you. (Don’t be intimidated — he or she is just another employee of the company.) Politely explain that you interviewed in good faith, and that you expect the same in return.
How to Say It
“I value my reputation as a responsible, forthright [marketer, software engineer, whatever you are]. I hope your company values its reputation as a responsible member of our professional community. I invested many hours in interviews with your team, and I would simply like some honest feedback about my meetings with your company. But no one will call me back. I look forward to hearing from you.”
A good CEO will get the message. A bad one will ignore you. It’s worth finding out how a company you’re interested in is managed, and whether they behave with integrity.
Shocking suggestion, isn’t it — that a top executive would make sure her management team does the right thing. The world has been conditioned to accept bad behavior, so we don’t ask for good behavior. That diminishes the entire business world. My guess is, awkward as such a call or e-mail might seem to you, the CEO will remember you. If the CEO is respectful, it’ll pay off. If the CEO is dismissive, you’re the one who will remember. And you’ll let others know.
After investing hours talking with a company, you should see a return on your investment. But it’s up to you to collect it. Nobody said doing collections is easy, but consider how much you can learn throughout your career by chasing down the value of every interview you do.
The bonus is, after a few of these calls, you’ll have all kinds of good questions to ask employers at the end of your interviews, so you can collect the ROI without having to call anyone later.
A rejection can be delivered in one of two ways: with good faith and respect, or with thoughtless disdain. When you invest in an interview, make sure you get the most out of it. Ask. Learn. (See Loopy feedback failure.)
Do you make sure every interview pays off? We all know employers are lousy about providing useful feedback. I frankly don’t know how they get away without it. How can they be squeezed, without making them explode?
This worked many years ago when I applied for a job, and upon following up, learned I wasn’t selected. I politely asked if they could tell me where I stood with the other candidates, and was told that I was second in line behind the candidate who was hired. I actually had not expected that response, as I had only a little experience and none in the position I had applied for. I think it is unlikely I would get as much information today.
I also once rejected a job offer after interviewing for an engineering position. I could tell from the questions asked that they were looking for someone who had more design experience than I did. The manager was shocked when I turned down his offer, but I told him that I could tell they were looking for more experience, and that I did not want to take a position in which I was likely to fail. After discussing this, he convinced me that they understood I lacked experience, but wanted to hire me anyway. So after rejecting it initially, I ended up taking the job and worked there for 10 years.
Once the ‘We picked some else’ message has been delivered, you are unlikely to get feedback. So you have to ask for it while the interview process is still going on. You may not get any even then, but your chances are much greater.
We take it a step further when we hire.
Once a candidate is on the short list, they get my email and phone, and if the Hiring Manager does not give them an update weekly, they are instructed to contact me, I never get these calls. I never have to search for ‘talent’ – it comes to me like water flowing downhill
Hiring is hard work, which is good news. 99% of my competitors arent up to the task.
I have found it helpful to observe the interviewer during the interview for clues. Watch body language and listen to how they describe job duties or what they say about why the job is open. Focus on their facial expression when you are talking. What questions do they ask you? Are they respectful and interested in you or do they want to mock you and see how high you will jump when they say jump! This will tell you why you weren’t hired. Listen to their comments after you answer their questions. If they do offer you the position, you will go on armed with knowledge of the boss. You may not get hired for no legitimate reason and you are taking it too personally.Too often we assume it’s us, when it is a lousy organization and hiring manager.
Tango4Eva brings up the interesting flip side of this issue. I’ve turned down job offers and removed myself from consideration, and I don’t ever remember being asked why by employers. The job offers were rejected outright as they offered salaries that were so below market that they weren’t worth negotiating.
In regards to feedback as a candidate, I wonder if using an anonymous survey from one of the free websites would work. People don’t like to say no or are afraid of lawsuits. But a simple 3-4 question survey (“How can I improve my interview skills?”, “What skills/knowledge should I improve upon to better position myself in this industry”, etc.) sent to everyone you interviewed with, not just the hiring manager, could provide useful insight.
I know that personally, I would have no problem providing that type of feedback to candidates.
I disagree with your advice, especially the word “should”. Should the candidate get feedback? I think the candidate may get feedback, but it is optional.
Did the candidate really put in the time and effort? If not, I expect that the employer wouldn’t want to waste more time on this candidate and shouldn’t answer their question.
But even if the candidate did put in the time and effort, should the candidate get an response? I’m not even sure I’d go that far. What if this were an issue with personality or culture?
I don’t think of an interview as a club where the hiring manager signs on to improve the candidate after rejection.
Sometimes the candidate has to reflect on the uncertainty of life and discover the meaning for himself.
I agree with Bob, I don’t think a candidate “should” get feedback, but on the other hand, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect it. And Tango4Eva’s advice is a good way to start. Ask the hiring manager while you’re having a live conversation. Any insights you get will be useful information. And if you really would like to join the team, say that too, before you ask how you’re doing. e.g. I love what I heard, I’d really like to come aboard, I think I can add value to the team…How am I doing so far?
The reason I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask, during or after your interview is job hunting is very akin to sales. And sales people have no problem asking if they clinched a sale. And if they don’t the buyer usually has no problem telling them why.
But you have to accept the fact that today there are six lawyers standing behind the hiring manager, with palpitating hearts afraid he/she will say something that can transfer nicely into a lawsuit. You know why? because someone likely did just that..invoking the “no good deed goes unpunished” law. I’ve found from working in large corporations, that there’s a story behind every policy.
That’s why Nick’s advice is to NOT focus on the job, by asking why you didn’t get a job offer. Optimum word JOB. As a hiring manager & company recruiter people who only focus on, and care about a job are disappointing. I really want someone who’s attracted to the company, my department, the potential in same. So as Nick pointed out, focus on career matters, YOU, and what you can learn that will help you grow. No one is insulted by asking them for their advice, because you’re implying strongly that it has value. But most important, there’s usually no rules against it. And it can convey nicely what you want to know, plus pick up some other pointers you didn’t think of.
Another important thing to consider is that when you go this route, you are starting to do some network building. And this door can swing two ways. So don’t hesitate to consider the reverse. If you had a good interviewing session(s) you should have walked away very well informed about the company, the hiring manager’s organization, as well as personal insights. So in line with Kathy’s point about paying attention to body language, if you meet in the person’s office, look around and pay attention to what you see. Usually they aren’t stark. There’s clues to family, hobbies, accomplishments, personal interests etc. Some people think small talk is a time waster. It’s not. Per my alignment to sales, really good sales people do this to get to better know the person. in sum, you should walk away well equipped to not just ask for advice, but to give it, offering info of interest including personal. To network, to give as well as get.
In for a penny in for a pound. Another piece of advice to ask for is pretty simple and almost no one does it…ask them if they know someone who they think should talk with you. (implying for either a job lead, or more professional advice). And do likewise. You’ve got nothing to lose. If you know someone they should be talking to (with clearance ahead of time from the person) offer them the lead(s).
One other thing to consider about Corporate mindsets. Try and get personal #s or contacts. Sometimes that’s not hard. This is where Linked In can be useful. And this applies to references if you’ve moved on or been moved on. Because while a company may “forbid” managers from giving you that kind of feedback or a reference, that can’t extend to personal feedback or references. If you communicate with that manager on a company phone, company email..that’s official company business with all policies in play. Talking to them at home, or in a personal meeting, or personal email. That’s a different ball game & they have a lot of wiggle room.
I know this from personal experience. I was terminated back in the day, laid off, not for performance etc. I asked my to-be ex boss if he’d give me a personal (written) reference. No. Against company policy, and such a reference would be on company letter head. But he told me, if you ask me for “Personal” reference…no problem. Which he willingly did. As I moved on, I did likewise for others.
One final point. I’ve found most people, including managers want to help. So back to Nick’s point. Ask the right way and you’ll find, company policy or not, you may get good feedback or something pretty close, particularly if you point out the difference between corporate and personal feedback.
Even with phone interviews, I try to get feedback. They always call me, but if I do not get a valid callerID I don’t answer the phone. So at least I know where they are calling from. One time I got an email saying no one was answering. I told them to unblock ID if they want to talk. I will return the call later if there is no followup.
The assumption those wanting feedback have is that they can do something better, something in their control. If that is true, then feedback is good. But most of the time the reason they didn’t get the job is that there is another candidate maybe a bit smarter or maybe with better knowledge of the field. Telling them that they should have taken another course in college, or that they should have been born with 20 more IQ points is not going to help. Especially when you would hire them if you had two openings, not one.
Actors are masters at interviews (auditions) – they do more than anyone. If you get one job out of 15 auditions you’ll be doing very well. But they don’t expect feedback. If they lost the job, it is probably because some other actor was a better match for what the casting director was looking for.
Imagine you go on a date with someone and don’t click. You owe it to that person to politely say you’re not interested. But if they bug you for feedback (and didn’t do anything weird during the date) and insist on it, that is getting stalkerish. You don’t want to be stalkerish. You as a manager don’t want to deal with stalkers. Sometimes the answer of we found a better match is perfectly honest.
@Tango4Eva: Love your story about taking the job you at first rejected. This is a great example of candor at work. There’s so little of it in the interview process. My compliments, and thanks for sharing it!
@VP Sales: Resume databases aren’t necesessary. They’re insufficient. They’re problematic. Everything changes when you start talking to people, and when you encourage them to talk to you. What I really believe most of the world doesn’t get is that, given the chance, people will step up and deliver solutions very thoughtfully. Our hiring system, unfortunately, doesn’t do that. It encourages people to play dumb games, to hold back, to wait for software to make choices. The good news is, 99% of your competitors aren’t up tot he task of hiring effectively. That makes your job and mine much easier!
@Chris: “I’ve turned down job offers and removed myself from consideration, and I don’t ever remember being asked why by employers.” The system makes this a totally foreign idea, and not up for consideration. It’s a very important choice, to say no. Reminds me of when 5 publishers were bidding for my first book. I was tickled. But after an “interview” with one of them, in which I realized I wanted nothing to do with them, I told my agent to notify them that – technical publishing term – they were “dis-invited from bidding.” It would have cost me nothing to let them bid. My agent said she’d never had an author do that – dis-invite a publisher – but she loved it. What’s the point? Both sides must make choices, not just the side with the money.
OR this person simply got beat by a better candidate. It is possible that you gave a great interview and are a good fit. The reality that I’ve rarely, if ever, read on this page or the downloads is that interviewing for great jobs is truly competitive. You may have done well. What you don’t know is your competition. Smart employers give a broad search to find the best. You may have simply been beat out by someone with a little more direct transferable skills, better culture fit, or had better solutions. You could have been good but someone else was better. Keep researching and reaching out. Yet remember that your search is always competitive and the answer may be that simple.
@Bob: I disagree with every word you wrote. Thanks for writing it. This is a good topic.
Interviews are based on the prefix “inter” which means between and among. Such meetings go south in many ways when one side dominates. Employers naturally think they dominate because they own the job and the salary. But the candidate owns the skills and ability to do the work.
One analogy to your position is that, after an employer makes an offer the candidate is not interested in, the candidate has no obligation to notify the employer that the answer is “no.” Just ignore them. That’s the analogy to an employer denying feedback to an applicant.
But the interview process is between two parties, and both have obligations. The obligation is not merely binary – a yes or a no. I think the obligation is to explain why. Isn’t it ludicrous to think that, after you spend hours with someone, delving into their character and life, you can part ways just by ignoring them? I don’t buy that at all. It reveals a kind of depravity: After I get what I want, you’re dispensible.
But there’s something more to this, even. I strongly suspect that when employers don’t provide feedback, it’s because they don’t know how to explain their assessment and judgment of the candidate. They don’t really know, or cannot justify rationally, why they rejected the applicant. I think in many cases, there’s a deep-rooted failure of the employer to understand its own business, objectives, and criteria for hiring. That’s the scary explanation. The employer rejects and hides out of a sort of shame.
When a client of mine makes my candidate an offer, I don’t just jump with glee. I ask why. I want to know. Without knowing why, you have no insight on the choice – which can lead to disaster. If “why” isn’t sound, then the offer should not be accepted. (It’s like marrying someone simply because they’re beautiful.) Knowing why tells us what the future is likely to hold, whether the answer that precedes why is yes or no.
To use your own language, a job candidate signs up to improve the employer. If the employer isn’t prepared to do the same, then the interview time was truly wasted on a higher level where integrity and accountability reign. Not talking to a candidate after rejection reveals wonton neglect of the professional community a manager recruits from.
That’s why I disagree with everything you said. But thanks for saying it, because that’s where good exploration of ideas comes from.
@Scott: Interesting analogy about dating and telling someone why you won’t see them again. Hmmm. I know people avoid that like the plague. But why? Why not explain? Maybe because it might seem like rubbing salt in a wound. Maybe because the rejected person will want to argue (which would be natural.) So, is there a way to explain lack of interest in a useful way that doesn’t provoke unintended consequences? I think there is. I think we avoid doing it right because we’re lazy, and we’d rather run than talk and learn.
Come on, somebody take this on :-). I think the underlying issue is worth talking about – whether we’re discussing jobs or relationships.
When I was interviewing candidates onsite, at a client’s facility, I used to let applicants know, then and there, why they were not a best choice for the position. As a rule, interestingly, male candidates would take the feedback with a neutral reaction while the women would react positively, being glad to hear why the decision was not going to go their way. I would make suggestions for improvement and often gave these candidates the business cards of search firms/agencies that I was sure could help them with their job search. I used to get a number of Thank You notes from the women when I was doing that, none from the male candidates.
Unfortunately, that had to stop when to my complete surprise, a candidate acted out and became a serious nuisance.
So I’m on your side when you are seeking to know why you did not receive an Offer but, I’d hate to be the Hiring Authority who gets a call from those who didn’t get an Offer, every time a hiring decision is made.
Using the soft, indirect approach may be ‘clever’ but I’m inclined to think that the majority of such inquiries will get you a mediocre and/or neutral response. Either or both are useless as a self-measurement for improvement.
But hey, go for it if you really want but know that even if you are successful in getting through to that decision-maker, don’t be surprised if you get a response that is less than helpful. In this litigious society in which we live, most employers will choose to play it safe and will give you a ‘safe’ reply.
The suggestion that an employer who won’t give you feedback means the company is not for you is r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s, Nick. You are going to broad brush a F500 company in a negative fashion because a Hiring Authority won’t give interviewed candidates feedback? Let us not forget that great companies have not only superlative professionals on staff, they also have jerks working for them. Suggesting that a company is not a good place to work because someone interviewed with a jerk or, less inflammatory, won’t give feedback is not logical. It is still a F500 company and for a reason. Before you react, the same exists for leading edge companies like Apple. Broad brushing as you suggest is a form of sour grapes.
Having said all that, here is what I have that could be useful:
A realistic way to possibly receive post-interview feedback: if you were referred by an executive search firm or employment agency, there is a good chance you can get this information from the recruiter who sent you on the interview.
The employer will usually tell the recruiter the reason you were not chosen because that employer/client wants the recruiter to ‘get it right’. By indicating the reason for their decision, it is anticipated the recruiter will work harder to pick someone who is closer to what that client is seeking.
Assuming you are not an ‘excitable boy’ type and the recruiter is confident you will maintain your cool, that recruiter may, if you ask, be inclined to let you know why you were not chosen.
Part of the reason is not to satisfy your curiosity but to let you know what you need to do to improve or fix so that same recruiter can send you out again, to another client. In our business, we usually endeavor to send recruits to three clients….this increases our chances of getting a hire.
Once you have interviewed for the first time and the recruiter gets post interview feedback, the recruiter can let you know how to fine-tune your interview so you are successful on the second/third interview.
As has been said, if a decision to hire was made because another candidate had more experience or was deemed to be a better cultural fit, feedback won’t do much for you but do know that if you went on an interview via a recruiter, know it is quite possible you can get feedback from that recruiter because you are, probably, still a viable candidate and if the client company feedback gives the recruiter the ability to create a competitive edge in you, then it is much more likely you will get feedback from that recruiter.
The dating analogy is interesting, and there are some parallels, but there are important differences.
A personal relationship is completely idiosyncratic, and sometimes the reason can be “I just ain’t feeling it.” That’s perfectly acceptable. Or maybe it’s something more quirky that you don’t care to discuss with someone who is about to become a mere acquaintance, or maybe your high school crush just moved to town and called you but that’s none of the other person’s business, or maybe the other person’s mannerisms remind you of your ex, or maybe it’s something more objective that the other person can’t change and so why bring them down and is a matter of taste (like, “you’re too fat/too skinny”) or something they can change but you don’t want to get in the habit of telling someone how they should change and really, you’ve lost interest anyway (“you need to brush your teeth more”). Nothing wrong with ghosting in those situations and blocking their phone number if you feel like it, no explanations needed.
A job interview, however, is a business situation. It should be possible to give good, objective feedback: managers give feedback all the time and should be good at it. But then, of course, it’s necessary to receive the feedback in an open spirit.
Hi Nick and thanks for a great article. I offer this information based on my 25 years’ experience in recruiting and talent management. Job seekers, sadly enough, you won’t get honest and direct feedback from recruiters because we live in such a litigious world and companies are fearful that they will be sued if providing such information. It is a sad fact. I like Nick’s approach, though, to trying to get some information which can help you in the future. One of my favorite questions, asked of me in my past “life” by a job candidate during an interview: “Tell me more about what it takes to be a success here at xyz company” and “how did you get to your position at xyz?” Recruiters and hiring managers gobble those up.
There is a perspective to this business of getting feedback that is not much addressed:
Generally, these conversations make it sound as though candidates expect feedback in a way that ‘explains it all’ in a nutshell/in a short conversation.
When you consider that career coaching/counseling can take hours over several days of meetings, it is not always reasonable to expect feedback to be a simple matter of pointing out a few things and then it is done.
For some people, feedback cannot be holistic in nature if the feedback is not given in a comprehensive manner.
That could mean that not only is the interview addressed, useful feedback might require that the interviewer dig deep into that candidate psyche so that all matters relevant are put together in a connected manner.
In other words, asking for feedback could, ideally, mean you are asking that interviewer to fully engage with you so as to fully address all issues that are/could be relevant to your fully understanding not only ‘what happened’ but also be coached so you can improve/change/adjust in preparation for the next interview.
This is never addressed in these ‘why won’t they tell me why I did not get an Offer?’ sessions because most people expect a simple reply with easily understandable points to consider.
For executives and those who are mature in their experience -those with track records of success- there probably is no need for a ‘deep, meaningful’ conversation but for those who are younger or less experienced, useful feedback may require that for the interviewer to give you what you need to know, it may be necessary to touch on issues that are either personal in nature or are peripheral to one’s character/personality.
In such cases, there is very likely no chance in a million years for getting the feedback you seek.
This would also especially be true for those candidates who just plain have a personality defect or mannerism that is not broadly accepted and would make peers uncomfortable were that person working alongside them.
And to make it worse, those are exactly the persons who repeatedly fail at interviews but since no one wants to ‘get their hands dirty’, few people are willing to either give that person insight and/or risk getting a fiery response from such a person should they take a chance and offer advice or suggestions.
This scenario is not so hard to visualize- how many times have I seen at city-data, for example, people posting, asking how to work alongside someone who seems to have personal characteristics that are either odd and/or offensive?
Feedback is not necessarily a simple matter of letting someone know they need to exhibit ‘better eye contact’…….
Nick, the below quote is the most important thing you said in this column:
“But there’s something more to this, even. I strongly suspect that when employers don’t provide feedback, it’s because they don’t know how to explain their assessment and judgment of the candidate. They don’t really know, or cannot justify rationally, why they rejected the applicant.”
This hits the nail on the head- of all the training that HR puts out to its department managers and executive, they totally skip teaching their hiring authorities how to give holistic feedback post interview.
Most would tell you, if asked and assuming they are honest in their reply, that such training needs to be so comprehensive that they just don’t want to take the time to do this right.
So instead they preach a total ‘hands-off’ approach to giving feedback. Especially, again, because of the potential for litigation.
Until this hurdle is overcome and fully addressed and resolved, candidates can expect to continue to not be given feedback.
I work in the tehcnology sectors and I often see the starry eyed look when someone gets at offer from Apple or Google
I ask them what they know about the company, and then what the average tenure is.
Hint – its about the same as Dollar General
Per the ATH – research the COMPANY, not the job.
So you know,
The Recruiter.com Network is having this same conversation at LinkedIn.
In my replies there, I quoted you.
Nick Corcodilos, at his blog site, brought up a very relevant point with regard to this topic: “I strongly suspect that when employers don’t provide feedback, it’s because they don’t know how to explain their assessment and judgment of the candidate. They don’t really know, or cannot justify rationally, why they rejected the applicant.”
Hope this is okay….
Interviews being business changes the tone of the comments, but what if you are looking for a creative type and get one who is great at just doing the job – or vice versa. That a person’s background/characteristics is wrong for my job does not mean it isn’t right for another one, and telling a non-creative person to pretend to be creative – or vice versa – will just hurt their next interview or, even worse, cause them to fake it and get a job they will hate.
When I’ve told people there wasn’t a match, that is exactly what I meant. Or, in dating terms, it is not them, it’s me.
I appreciate your thoughtful response.
I’m not buying the “litigious world” excuse. I can buy into the idea that people see a post-interview feedback session as potentially conflict ridden and they don’t want to engage. I think the original writer is pretty naive to think that people would change their discomfort if only he was asking for feedback.
But the idea presented in this comment thread that most struck me was the idea of what would it take to get a manager to be able to explain his hiring judgement? But the comments sort of left this alone.
What would it take to get a hiring manager to come up with an objective set of facts so that hiring was more deterministic? What would have to happen up front to make hiring and decisions more deterministic?
Sometimes there’d be no feedback beyond
“Well, you’re not perfect…”
as they could just be holding out for Prince Charming, Mr. Big, the Purple Squirrel, etc.
“You’re too old”
“You’re funny looking.”
“You’re not very pretty.”
I worked in the tech industry for about 40 years, about 30 as a hiring manager. And 10+ more as an IT recruiter and in-house corporate recruiter.
By & large with few exceptions interviews were team interviews, ie. multiple people, potential peers, yourself, team leads, other managers whose input you wanted, HR/HR recruiter etc. Once in awhile it was 1-on-1. Just the manager, mostly because the mgr didn’t do teams.
Wherever I worked it was SOP to have post-interview consensus meetings to compare notes to help the manager finalize a decision. If done right, it’s not a vote, though it could appear to be, with each person who conducted an interview making their hire/no hire recommendations. It’s not a vote per se, because if done right, “everyone else” = 49% of the vote and the hiring manager 51%. The manager always holds the prerogative to make the hiring decision, every if everyone else gave a thumbs down. I’m just using that as an example, as that’s a card rarely invoked by a manager.
The quality and effectiveness of consensus meetings run the gamut from excellent to why-bother. A manager usually walks into these with their own evaluation and really is looking for confirmation of what they already would like to do. And with a really good fit, it’s usually a no-brainer. Pretty much everyone’s on the same page as the manager. It get’s ikky when it conflicts, and further when the manager goes against the consensus and turns down or hires someone that doesn’t map into the opinion of the very people he/she asked for advise.
And to your question, the-sound-of-one-hand-clapping factor is often in play where people offer no explanation or something so general or unsubstantial in the way of an explanation they might as well have said nothing. And aren’t pressed for same. This is particularly telling when the person who either doesn’t offer an explanation, or offers a crappy one, is the hiring manager. Which may boil down to “it doesn’t feel right”. A gut feeling which by the way is a valid reason.
This is why Nick’s point “, it’s because they don’t know how to explain their assessment and judgment of the candidate. They don’t really know, or cannot justify rationally, why they rejected the applicant.” is so much on the mark. Never mind the outside candidate, if pressed, in many cases hiring managers can’t answer that question.
While you sleep at night, great HR minds struggle with this very same question, stimulated by terminations of people who in retrospect clearly did not fit, and/or were hired over what appeared to be much better fits.
Which leads to the answer to your 2nd question about objective sets of facts. HR and/or bosses up the line, would likewise like a better understanding of why did you hire Sally and not Joe?
Be careful what you wish for, because a seemingly better consensus meeting results in objective information, not merely subjective information or gut feelings.
So enter scoring systems of varying degrees of sophistication. That extract key requirements from the job description, which hangs hiring managers on their own creative petards, fleshed out with subjective considerations. Which are used equally to evaluate every candidate. (HR loves fairness).
If well constructed with meaningful relevant points it can be a useful tool, that serves as a useful checklist and reminder for interviewers to conduct more meaningful interviews, that can result in useful comparison. And which used by a good facilitator, can extract explanations.
But carried to the extreme it can be a time consuming pain in the ass and counter productive. e.g. turning it into a point system, and producing a “score” that dampens common sense and rational thinking. Looks like we’ve got a clear winner, Sally got the highest score, end of discussion and thought.
So on one hand, one can conduct interviews that could provide answers to that question..Why him? that could be articulated to “him”
But there’s no perfect system because when the dust settles, the decision’s still on the manager’s back. And you can present a well quantified set of reasons to hire from your team (or yourself), and simply ignore it and follow that inexplicable path of going with your gut.
Explain that to the candidate. “Man you hit every mark, but it just didn’t feel right, so I passed.:
So again to Nick’s point, in many cases because the interview process is loosey goosey, they can’t explain hiring reasons to themselves, let alone a candidate, or it boils down to a gut feeling which can’t be explained to the satisfaction of a candidate.
As far as feedback to candidates, fear of litigation is real, but also a convenience in avoiding process improvements that would need to be in place to give intelligent answers to candidates.
And everything I said is magnified in high volume, fast paced recruiting where without any kind of audit trail, you can’t remember a candidate at the end of the day, let alone days later.
I think part of the reason why employers are unwilling to provide feedback is as Nick and others noted: fear of litigation (though I think that is ridiculous) and the other is because it is uncomfortable and awkward telling someone why they weren’t hired.
Perhaps, some candidates don’t really want honest, constructive feedback, and employers can’t tell the difference between someone who honestly wants feedback so she can improve (maybe it isn’t so much the job skills but poor interviewing skills) and someone who is going to be a problem (but why didn’t you hire me?).
For you guys, I wonder how many hiring managers or employers hear the request for feedback and interpret it the same way as their wives’/girlfriends’ question: “Do these pants make my butt look fat?”. Hint: when she asks you that question, she’s NOT looking for honesty, and if you value your life and peace and harmony, lie through your teeth. She’s looking for reassurance that you still find her sexy and attractive.
I wonder, too, whether this is a generational issue, with so many younger people used to getting trophies for finishing last in the swim meet, with rampant grade inflation because their delicate egos can’t handle anything less than an A or criticism.
Regarding your suggesting this ties to a “generational issue” has some merit to it but perhaps for a different reason than you suggest…
First, people have always wanted to know why they were ‘rejected’ or ‘not picked’. It is common nature to wonder this…assuming the job was sincerely being sought after.
Looking back, in the fifties and sixties, one did not question Authority. So applicants not chosen would grind their teeth but were not inclined to ‘rock the boat’.
In the seventies, the common theme of Question Authority did not sufficiently punch through the wall erected by the same baby boomers who continued to hold the strings.
Now, fast forward and we have not only ‘Yes, Question Authority’, those doing the questioning are often In Charge. (We still have baby boomers holding on, here and there, maintaining the status quo of not being challenged for their decisions.)
However, as a ‘practical matter’, as ‘Don’, above, suggests, the volume of candidates being interviewed precludes individual accountability, even if those ‘gut feelings’ could be more clearly articulated.
And in spite of the skepticism expressed here at this thread, there is the liability issue to consider, if for no other reason than to avoid the expense of nuisance suits.
There is another issue I see quite often: HR is very hung up on its processes and less directed toward outcomes, as they say in healthcare. This is a serious problem that manifests itself in many forms….
And, back to what Nick said- HR has not yet learned how to train hiring authorities to be able to articulate their methods and final decisions.
There is currently a conversation by corporate HR about expanding and enhancing the ‘candidate experience’. This is a start in the right direction but although they are addressing the interview process, they are only now barely scratching the surface with regard to providing the ‘accountability for their decision’ current candidates seek, request, demand.
It is not just the cry babies who want to know why they were not picked, it is more and more of the newer generations who are, reasonably, seeking a basic answer to what they see as a basic and reasonable question.
That the [mental] process of making a final decision among candidates is convoluted does not occur to most candidates not chosen so they do not see any reason for hiring authorities to be [apparently] holding back.
[Also, that there may easily be ‘more qualified’ and/or ‘more of a cultural fit’ candidates does not often enough occur to candidates not hired. It is too easy to begin their thinking that there must be something to do with them that had to do with the companies final decision…so they want to know what it is.]
So we have layers of barriers to success in finally being able to give rejected candidates the answer they seek.
The solution to providing feedback, on an individual basis for all applicants not chosen may never be resolved. At least, not until the current ‘apply-interview-choose’ paradigm is reinvented.
@PAUL FOREL: “You are going to broad brush a F500 company in a negative fashion because a Hiring Authority won’t give interviewed candidates feedback? Let us not forget that great companies have not only superlative professionals on staff, they also have jerks working for them. Suggesting that a company is not a good place to work because someone interviewed with a jerk or, less inflammatory, won’t give feedback is not logical. It is still a F500 company and for a reason. ”
It’s also still a jerk company. Every action from a company communicates its character. Just ask any marketing or PR department that spends untold sums to promote its company. If a saleas person or two were going around behaving badly in front of customers, they’d get fired. So why is it that how HR or managers behave with a company’s other huge constituency – the professional community it recruits from – is excusable, and something we just must take in stride? I don’t buy it at all, even if it’s widely accepted.
I like your suggestions for ways to get feedback. But please consider what you’re saying: Just because one candidate became a serious nuisance, you stopped giving feedback. What happens when a prospective customer goes off on your sales rep? Do you stop sending sales reps to customers, or do you fire that rep? When a stray data point drives policy, we’re all in trouble.
I think our business culture has become corrupt in many ways, and how employers handle rejected candidates is corrupt. When you hold this behavior up to the light, it’s just plain ugly and irresponsible. It’s just another manifestation of HR “best practices” that have no best in them, just a lot of rationalization.
What a great discussion!
@JR in Mass: “A personal relationship is completely idiosyncratic, and sometimes the reason can be “I just ain’t feeling it.” That’s perfectly acceptable.”
There’s no reason a manager can’t deliver that as the reason for rejection. I don’t think anyone has suggested that reasons for rejection must be objective or clearly definable. But I think in many situations, a manager can deliver a lot more than that. Perhaps the problem is diplomacy. Managers and HR just don’t have it. Well, why not? They’re dealing with important constituencies of the company, aren’t they, where diplomacy is critical.
“But then, of course, it’s necessary to receive the feedback in an open spirit.”
Yep. Why is that so hard for some to swallow?
@Patricia Edwards: “One of my favorite questions, asked of me in my past “life” by a job candidate during an interview: “Tell me more about what it takes to be a success here at xyz company” and “how did you get to your position at xyz?” Recruiters and hiring managers gobble those up.”
That’s the kind of suggestion I was looking for! It works! Please note what I said about diplomacy above. HOW someone says something matters a lot. The excuse that most business people just aren’t diplomatic is unacceptable. They shouldn’t be in business. In any case, the lack of an important skill is no justification for accepting that as normal or good or acceptable. It’s not.
@PAUL FOREL: “So instead they preach a total ‘hands-off’ approach to giving feedback. Especially, again, because of the potential for litigation.”
Agreed! HR is so tied in knots over compliance and legal risk that HR can no longer do the job. Legalities have become the excuse du jour.
Also, thanks for posting the Recruiter.com link!
@Bob: “What would it take to get a hiring manager to come up with an objective set of facts so that hiring was more deterministic? What would have to happen up front to make hiring and decisions more deterministic?”
I don’t think hiring decisions are always objective, or that the process is deterministic. It’s often very subjective. Please see my other comments above. Feedback need not be a long “session” or explanation. It could be very brief yet respectful. Job candidates are so routinely abused that almost any discussion by the employer is viewed as a good, helpful thing. I’m not suggesting that feedback should be detailed or exhaustive by any means. It’s just good business to take the time to discuss rejection tactfully and, if possible, helpfully.
Please note what VP Sales posted nera the top of this thread: “Once a candidate is on the short list, they get my email and phone, and if the Hiring Manager does not give them an update weekly, they are instructed to contact me”
What’s so hard about that? ACCOUNTABILITY. Most managers and HR folks just don’t want to be bothered. And that’s the beginning of the end of any company.
@Don: “This is why Nick’s point “, it’s because they don’t know how to explain their assessment and judgment of the candidate. They don’t really know, or cannot justify rationally, why they rejected the applicant.” is so much on the mark. Never mind the outside candidate, if pressed, in many cases hiring managers can’t answer that question.”
Yep. That’s the other half of it, and perhaps the most damning.
@marybeth: “For you guys, I wonder how many hiring managers or employers hear the request for feedback and interpret it the same way as their wives’/girlfriends’ question: “Do these pants make my butt look fat?”. Hint: when she asks you that question, she’s NOT looking for honesty, and if you value your life and peace and harmony, lie through your teeth. She’s looking for reassurance that you still find her sexy and attractive.”
THAT is diplomacy :-). Or, in the words of the Irish side of my family, “Diplomacy is telling a person to go to hell in a way that makes them enjoy the trip.”
How about when the “feedback” is complete nonsense? Back before Christmas, I applied for a digital design job at a company two hours away. I was contacted by the HR rep who confirmed I met every qualification and said he would set me up to meet with the “team,” and I asked him to please be considerate and try to arrange to have as many members of the team there as possible due to the distance I had to drive. I got the email with the itinerary indicating I’d be meeting with the hiring mgr (and nobody else) for 30 minutes (I immediately suspected something was screwy here). Well, I arrived on time while the hiring mgr kept me waiting 10 minutes. The meeting finally began, he gave a brief description of the job and handed the conversation over to me; because we now had only 15 minutes to meet I pulled out my laptop, saying “why don’t we just get to my work samples and you can ask questions” (he didn’t bring anything to the interview i.e. print samples, tablet, etc. and, quite frankly, really didn’t appear interested in talking to me at all). I asked if he took a look at my video library (so that I wouldn’t need to pull it up on my laptop, thus saving time), and he confessed that *D’UH* he hadn’t even noticed the link to it which is both on my resume and on my website. !!! Oh dear, I said to myself. Okay, did the HR rep forward you the email I had sent with design samples and do you have any questions about those? His response: “I don’t remember.” Good grief. At that point I realized I had just wasted my day on this “interview” where it was evident from the start that this kid clearly had no interest in me at all. At the end he made it a point to tell me they received a huge amount of resumes — now, why the hell would you tell the candidate this???? Seriously, the only reason would be to give you the hint that they have so many applicants you really don’t stand a chance (in other words, to be cruel). I cried the whole two-hour drive home in the pouring rain.
The following week, the HR rep called me to give me “feedback.” I was prepared to be rejected, but was curious to know just what sort of crazy excuse they’d concoct (as I said, I met every requirement of the job having 17 years of experience doing exactly what they needed). “They’ve decided to pursue other candidates who have better ‘change management experience.'” Change management??? My exact words to him were “what the hell does that even mean?” He said he has no idea and tried to press for more information but that’s all he got. Oh, but keep an eye on their website because they’re always hiring blah blah blah. I abruptly said “good bye” and hung up.
I sent a seriously nasty letter to the CEO about this accusing them of age discrimination (as I couldn’t think of any other reason why they brought me in for this “fake” interview but to check the EEOC box), which resulted in a seriously offensive response from their “VP of talent acquisition.” So I filed a complaint with the state council against discrimination, but in the end I dropped it.
I will wonder for the remainder of my days just what the hell really happened here, because I don’t buy that “change management” crap at all (where do you get certified in “change management,” anyways?).
I think you’ve pretty much nailed why most candidates don’t get the job. Also why a lot of great candidates have just quit looking. They are sick of showing up for interview after interview just to hear “no”. Your list would be honest feedback, but let’s not hold our breath.
As part of my funeral plans, I think I want a group of HR managers and hiring managers as my pall bearers, so they can all let me down one last time.
@L.T.: “I think I want a group of HR managers and hiring managers as my pall bearers, so they can all let me down one last time.”
I want to open a restaurant where employees of companies that mistreated me as a job candidate are not welcome. The list of companies would be posted at the door. The name of the place would be “The Rejected Resume Restaurant.”
I’ve thought of opening my own coffee shop, with library shelves full of books (no I.T. books, other than maybe the pink shirt book) and a large round table in the back where my fellow writers could congregate and write, read or chat about writing, reading, the days events, etc.
I suppose we could dis crappy employers in our spare time.
@Paul Fogel: I’ve been working since I was a kid (got my first job picking cucumbers the year I turned 10), and there have been many times during my life when I’ve wondered why I didn’t get a job for which I applied. When I was a teenager and looking for a more stable, permanent job that seasonal farm work, I remember my mother telling me that I should never expect to get hired; that there will ALWAYS be someone who is much better than me, who has more experience, who was more dependable (than a teenager without a car), etc. She also said the same thing about boys–when I wondered why a boy I liked didn’t ask me out or talk to me (there’s a girl who’s prettier, better than you)–so deal with it.
I didn’t always ask for feedback–maybe because mom’s tape was still running in my head, and logic–if they had wanted to hire me, they would have offered me the job. Duh.
I remember years ago applying for a job, and knowing that I met all of their requirements. I was interviewed but didn’t get it. I was so surprised, not because of ego but because the interview went so well, the interviewers liked me and seemed very interested. When I was informed that I wasn’t hired, I asked why, and was told that they hired someone they liked better. That was a perfectly acceptable answer to me, and it just reinforces the idea that although I thought I was it, I really didn’t know who else was in competition for the job. The employer didn’t specific whether the other candidate had more of the skills, more experience, or whether it was the more nebulous “better fit” kind of thing. Sometimes (many times) employers will go with their gut, and that’s fine too.
@JR in MA: I agree with you that the dating analogy is on-point in some ways, but in other ways, it is much different. In the work world today, it isn’t acceptable not to hire someone because of race, but if you’re dating and not into black men, that’s fine. When I was in my 20’s, a friend of mine set me up on a blind date with a buddy of his. He thought we were a good match based on our common interests, but the buddy had very high standards for feminine beauty, and within seconds of meeting me told me that I wasn’t beautiful enough for him so he was leaving.
Where I think it is on-point is the whole culture fit–when you’re interviewing, being a good fit for the company AND the company being a good fit for you are important. The more measurable needs of the parties (skill set, problem-solving ability, salary, ability to grow/learn new things, opportunities for advancement) might be met, but cultural fit can sometimes be very hard to pin down.
@Nick: THAT is diplomacy :-). Or, in the words of the Irish side of my family, “Diplomacy is telling a person to go to hell in a way that makes them enjoy the trip.”
Not only is it diplomacy (love your saying from the Irish side of your family!) but self-preservation!
Sometimes you just don’t want to get into the reasons. At my previous job, I often sat on various hiring committees. I remember being on the committee that interviewed a round of candidates, and while the one who was the best candidate on paper seemed the obvious choice, this guy stank (hello soap and water, hello clean clothes and deodorant) and even worse, during the interview he scratched his balls. There were five of us on that particular hiring committee; four of us were women. He didn’t excuse himself to go to the bathroom so he could scratch himself in private, and made no attempt to hide it. He was so obvious about it that there was no way we could miss it, and there was also no question when it came to the vote: it was four to one against hiring him, and we went with the next best candidate, figuring that it would be better to take the time to train the person in the few missing skills than have to work with and deal with someone who had poor personal hygiene and even worse social skills.
Another note, just to illustrate how random the reasons for hiring or not hiring someone can be, for one of my first jobs post-college, the office manager told me that what made her decision to hire me easy (there were two other candidates she was considering besides me, and we were all fairly equal in the skills dept.) was that I didn’t smoke. She didn’t ask about smoking during the interview, but she noted when I started work that even if people don’t smoke during an interview (this was 1988, when it was still acceptable to smoke in offices and buildings) she can smell the smoke on the person–it gets in their clothes, hair, skin, breath, and in this case, the office was small and she and the others didn’t want to deal with a smoker. But she didn’t tell the other candidates that they lost out because of their cigarette habits!
4 to 1? you mean there was a 1 in favor, the guy?
@Don: Yes, on that particular committee, the lone male faculty member voted to hire the stinky ball-scratcher. None of the women wanted him around. This particular faculty member didn’t think it was a big deal (maybe because he was a he, not a she) but he was the kind of guy who dressed for interviews with job candidates in clothes you and I would wear to paint the house or wash the car, and he couldn’t match his socks. Plus, since he was faculty and only had to be on campus to teach class, for office hours (2 hours per week and by appointment), and for various committee meetings, it wasn’t like he’d have to deal with stinky guy for hours on end or share an office with him. Many faculty are brilliant at their subject, but some of them had no common sense or sensibility when it came to ordinary matters.
That’s why I asked. Most men would not want to be around him either. Crotch scratching doesn’t get a hall pass just because we’re guys. He’d fall into the weirdo category. That is if you got past the stench, which he wouldn’t.
When young and naive, I sometimes asked for feedback, but mostly got platitudes: not qualified, not good fit, etc. Even then I understood reluctance to answer honestly. Wanted to know whether deficiency was easily fixable, like unclear or incomplete answers, instead of say, missing a critical skill or credential. So I basically gave up on this.
Once I did get clear feedback from a generous interviewer that also read notes by other interviewers with the same company. Shocked how I made such a poor impression due to lackluster technique. I really appreciated that.
Excuse me while I interrupt the thread to say I am just as grossed out by people who can’t seem to use a more proper and fitting word like ‘scrotum’ instead of………..
I know what you are going to say but that is the way it is….
Is it really that hard to use a more polite word in the public domain?
Street language has its place but I’m not so sure it is here.
He could of sued under ADA as jock itch may be considered a disabiliy
@Don: The chair of that particular hiring committee telephoned him to let him know that he didn’t get the job, and he asked why. She reverted to the platitudes that have been the subject of this q & a–and said that he was very qualified but the person we decided to hire was equally qualified (she lied, the person we hired was NOT as qualified as he was) and a “better fit” culturally. She emailed us and told us what she told him, with the women all agreeing that the platitudes she used were what we would have said had we delivered the news. The candidate later called the lone man on the committee, asking why he wasn’t hired, and our male colleague told him that he voted to hire him, but was outnumbered. The candidate was a pain in the butt for a while, calling and emailing us but as he got the same story/same reasons from 4 out of 5, he eventually went away, but for about 3 months, I could depend upon a daily call and daily email from him, as could the other 3 women on the committee.
So yes, it got stalker-ish and creepy, and perhaps even more so because of his personal hygiene habits, or lack thereof.
And that’s the gist of Nick’s q & a–too many employers, hiring managers, and hiring committees can’t tell whether a candidate really wants honest feedback (not looking for accolades) and isn’t going to get stalker-ish or creepy if the answer is no (not hired, no feedback).
In fairness, I’ve been on the other end, and would have liked to have gotten honest feedback. I’m an adult; I can handle any negatives. But I can really understand why employers don’t want to provide it. In our case (at my last job), the 4 of us didn’t want to touch it–we didn’t want to tell him, and found it hard to believe that he would go to an interview without bathing.
As for my male colleague, he said that he didn’t care about the candidate’s personal hygiene habits–he wouldn’t be sharing an office with him, or even floor space. This particular professor was on campus 6 hours per week for class and 1 hour for office hours. Many faculty could and did work from home or elsewhere without the distractions of students, faculty, and staff around, so to his way of thinking, the guy’s habits had no impact on him, so he didn’t care. And he wasn’t one to dress up for class either. The time our accreditors showed up for a site visit, he was in a t-shirt he usually wore for yardwork (it was so dirty it could stand up by itself) and frayed, torn, filthy denim cutoffs, and ancient Birkenstocks. He hadn’t shaved or showered…..so cleanliness was not his top priority. And he was tenured, so there wasn’t anything the dept. chair or dean could do about him.
“E-mail or call the CEO of the company, or the top executive in the department that interviewed you. (Don’t be intimidated — he or she is just another employee of the company.) ”
You are a very special kind of stupid, aren’t you?
@Fred: “You are a very special kind of stupid, aren’t you?”
No, just not intimidated by top execs, and I don’t tolerate unprofessional behavior by employers. How’s the stupid?
Thank you for your advice. I mostly disagree with you.
The idea behind the statement ‘An interview is an investment of time and effort’ is completely false. The preparation prior to an interview is the investment of time and effort. If you’re waiting for the interview to put forth that investment, you don’t deserve the offer, or an answer as to why. The interview is ‘game time’ for you. It’s the most important meeting of your life. It determines what options (in the way of offers) you have for your future.
I do agree you should ask for feedback. The intereviewer does not owe you an answer, however. The interview process does not belong to you. You are a part of the company process, who owns the interview.
You should be cordial and friendly, and ask for feedback. If you don’t get an answer back, maybe you didn’t make enough of an impression on the interviewer to give you an answer in the first place.
If you go to the CEO for an answer of why you didn’t get an offer (aside from a sales job —maybe), you will have given that company enough evidence to confirm their original decision.
I received an email for a graphic design job that I applied to on a companies website.
Originally the marketing director contacted me and asked me to come in for an interview which I did. Afterwards I made a custom interactive website and hardcover book of my work which I sent to the director as a thank you. Later I received a generic email stating the position was filled. I called the marketing director after getting this discouraging email to ask for feed back and find out what I can focus on to improve going forward. To my surprise she told me she was still considering me for the position and would get back to me in 2 days. I’m glad I took your advice Nick to call her back and gather feedback but I am confused as to how I was automatically told I didn’t get the job when she is still considering me.
Wanted to share this to encourage others to seek feedback.
I (belatedly) think it’s much easier to get feedback during the interview than afterward. “Ask for Feedback DURING your Job Interview” at http://goo.gl/Zrs3Yd includes specific suggestions on how to ask for feedback. It should especially help the many candidates who are reluctant to ask for feedback.
I’m totally with Nick on this one.
If hiring managers can’t explain their decisions in clear concise terms, then their judgement has to be questioned.It should not be tolerated internally or externally especially after 2 or 3 “successful” rounds. There are way to many better qualified candidates getting the shove based on vague notions of “fit”.
A quick look at the vast numbers of “open” positions and the skew against the long term unemployed will tell you this is nothing more than institutionalized incompetence. If more hiring managers were held accountable those numbers would rapidly normalize. So yes write that “Dear CEO” letter and by all means highlight how poorly it reflects on their company.
@Max: It truly is a dirty little secret of HR in many companies — and in the HR profession — that the “talent shortage” and “unfilled jobs” are largely the result of management incompetence. Except in rare instances, HR completely fails to ensure that managers are tutored in the art of interviewing, assessing and hiring people. I think — again, in many quarters, not everywhere — that HR is so protective of its turf that it doesn’t want managers very involved in hiring. Witness all the managers who actually fear their HR departments and will not assert their management powers in the face of HR bureaucracy.
And what does that tell us? That the real problem is in the board room. Many boards of directors are just as terrified of HR as management is. Not because HR scares boards. But because boards don’t want the icky task of managing HR.
So HR operates largely in isolation, insulated from the expectations that any other corporate department must meet.
Unless job seekers start making noise the exposes incompetence, this will never change.
Having said all that, those few HR departments that actually do a good job are admirable. But in the minority.