weird work situation (not fit for rants) AKA what the heck just happened?

I’ll try to keep this short, but it’s weird so bear with me. I was encouraged to apply for another position in my department. I sent in my resume and references and whatnot, and then nothing for 9 weeks. The long wait was ok since it’s a public university and these things take time, but since I work in the office I’ve seen quite a few people come in to interview for the job. I’ve been careful not to ask about progress since I didn’t want to put my coworkers (the hiring committee) in an awkward position, I’ve just been quietly riding it out and hoping for the best.

Until yesterday at the end of a really good meeting with my current supervisor when she said - I can’t say anything about anything, but I strongly encourage you to email a followup to that position. There is some information that you should have but won’t get unless you send an email initiating contact. I will tell you though that everyone who is going to be interviewed has been, and everyone who will not be getting an offer has been informed.-

Ok, so I leave her office thinking that’s odd advice, since of course they can contact me as an applicant whenever they want to, but whatever, so I send a quick followup email and go home for the day.

This morning I have a bright happy email from the director announcing the new hire for the position (not me), facilities comes in to make desk and chair decisions, and after lunch I find the form email telling me they’ve gone with another candidate.

Not getting the job is fine, it happens, but what the hell was my boss trying to tell me in her cryptic little message? She said very clearly that everyone who didn’t get selected has been informed, but that wasn’t true for me.

I wish I’d gotten the sorry Charlie email before they sent out the announcement, and I wish she had just kept her damn mouth shut because it kind of made everything more uncomfortable than it needed to be.

I think I’d have to ask the supervisor what she meant. That’s too weird.

Sorry, I don’t have any insight except to say it does seem weird, and somewhat unfair if that follow-up thing was supposed to be some kind of test. But presumably some of that info was for you only, so if there’s any way you can be identified it might not just be you at risk.

Did you receive acknowledgement of receipt of your application? Were you invited for interview?

Because it sounds to me like you didn’t. I wonder if they never received your application, so you were never informed of any outcome since you hadn’t officially applied. I think your supervisor was trying to hint that you needed to follow up your application so they could say “what application?” and take it from there.

In re: your supervisor, it sounds like she had incorrect or incomplete information, or that whatever she had been told was then superseded by new info/decisions. It happens all the time in hierarchical organizations. There is a lag time in info filtering through the organization. The info may have been correct when she heard it but, unknown to her, out of date by the time she passed it on to you.

In re: your application, next time you should follow up within a week after submitting and ask when you can expect a decision. It gets you on the interviewers’ radar, puts pressure on them to act, and shows them you have good follow up skills.

My application was acknowledged by email within 24 hours of submission. That email also said university hires take a very long time and please be patient with the process. The next three weeks wrapped around the holidays during which various members of the hiring committee were on vacation. So yes, a month in would have been a good time for a followup, but since I was right there in the room with them every day it didn’t feel crucial.

Keep in mind that I’m not wondering why I didn’t get the position, I’m just trying to decode my supervisor’s odd advice. She was out of the office on Friday so I couldn’t ask her about it, I’m not even sure how to ask her about it. Gosh boss, what the hell were you on about last week?

She didn’t have the whole story and didn’t realize a decision was made/or being made.

That’s my best guess.

That’s a good guess. It bothers me that the new hire announcement email went out hours before my no thank you email did. Maybe I was in there right up until the last minute, or maybe they totally forgot I had even applied.

I agree it sounds like your supervisor had partial or obsolete information. I would guess she heard something like “some of the applicants have sent followup letters so they’re the ones who are really eager to do well” from people closer to the decision making process.

The big mystery is her saying “I will tell you though that everyone who is going to be interviewed has been, and everyone who will not be getting an offer has been informed.” This line sounds to me like it has to mean that you are going to get an offer even though you have not been interviewed. I’d be curious to ask her what she meant.

Yes, that’s how I interpreted her comment at the time. It seemed possible that none of the interviews went well enough for an offer, and that they could skip a formal interview with me since they’d been working closely with me already for almost two years. It also doesn’t seem like something you should say to someone without checking your facts first.

I guess the lesson here is that she’s not as in the loop as she thinks she is, and that I should take her advice with a grain of salt in the future.

I would also ask her directly- mention that you followed up with the search committee and just received an email that the position was filled. Clearly she is interested in the fact you applied, so an update would be perfectly normal, but will also give her a chance to explain what she thought was going on. It would also let her know if she was left out of information she was supposed to have (like status of the search).

Could she simply have meant that they had weeded out all of the candidates that they definitely were not going to hire and were about to make a decision imminently among the top choices. Since the decision was about to be made, any action to help your position would have to be done immediately.

She thought it was you, or at least thought you were in the driver’s seat for the position, but she was very wrong. Imagine what an idiot she feels like at this point. It’s going to be an awkward Monday.

Maybe, but she definitely said there was some information that they would only be able to give me as a reply to a follow up email. Her facial expressions made me think it was something good, but in the end it wasn’t so it’s possible that I read the whole situation wrong.

This was my interpretation. OP had not been definitely rejected and was still considered a “maybe” with a chance to influence the outcome if she acted quickly.

I don’t think she thought it was you. I suspect that IF you read it right and it was something good, that they didn’t choose to interview you because of something like a different position is coming up for which you would be a top candidate. Many organizations have a rule that you can’t move positions more than once a year, and they can’t tell you about a position not yet posted in writing, but if you had called them, they might have “let it slip” verbally. Or perhaps a “we refocused the job and you wouldn’t want it now, but didn’t rewrite the job description at this point in the hiring process.”

Awkward for all of us and I have no idea how to handle it. The hiring committee was made up of five senior people who I interact with all day every day in the course of my work. Do I say something or just stay quiet and move forward? What would even be the right thing to say? I guess I could just say congratulations on finding the right person for the position, and then turn to her and express condolences that she’s much less important than she assumed :smiley: but I can’t exactly say the same thing to each of them as I encounter them on Monday, right? Also there are other new positions being posted, but at this point I’d feel like a rube applying for them since this experience was so drawn out and strange.

meanjoe, I can’t really interpret what she said/meant/mayhave thought.

Next time you apply for a position, treat it like you don’t know any of the selection committee. Apply, follow up in a “reasonable” amount of time on the status. If you see interviews taking place, ping for an update. Don’t assume there is no need to formally interview you since they work with you every day - let the committee tell you that. Certainly, in most companies I’ve worked at, you go through the loop like any other candidate. Even if the hiring manager wants you, shaves the dice your way, stacks the interview loop with cronies, you still have to go through the loop and get “hire” as the feedback.

I think in this case you assumed too much and didn’t pass a “hidden” test. As you probably know, many interviewers have pet peeves or need to check off on certain things NO MATTER WHO the candidate is. “I was rooting for MoeJoe, but he couldn’t even send an email asking for the status or informally ask someone in the office. It’s obvious he isn’t really interested…”

I’d ignore it completely unless she presses the point. Be Mr. Teamplayer and move on.

Re China Guy’s point I think this is a strong possibility. You want people to be eager and hungry for advancement if you’re a hiring committee. No follow up inquiry is not always a good move even if you think it’s polite. It’s quite possible to passively polite yourself out of consideration. It’s a fine line and requires reading the lay of the land as you can go too far in the direction and annoy yourself out of consideration if you are too aggressive in demanding a decision.

Thanks for the advice. I did assume I would have to interview, and when I didn’t get one I just figured that I wasn’t right for the position so there wasn’t any reason to follow up. I had more or less given up and moved on until that meeting with my boss.

Since I got my current position in the same department without any weird secret tricks or tests, I wasn’t looking for them here. As I said in my OP my curiosity isn’t about why I didn’t get the gig, but more about the real meaning of my supervisor’s odd advice.

I’m still glad that I didn’t informally ask people on the hiring committee for an update during the course of my regular workdays because I don’t think that’s appropriate and I’m not sure they would have been able to speak freely anyway.

I had a boss once who refused to hire anyone who didn’t send a thank you note after an interview and I thought that was really stupid. She supervised a lot of really polite people who weren’t very good at their jobs. I think if I failed that kind of a test here then I probably dodged a bullet.