"We've decided to go with someone else"

Is it considered okay to ask someone who was a potential employer why they decided to go with someone else? I thought I had a really keen job lined up, the interviewer said I reminded her of her son and the second interview the guy said I was on the “short list” only to get this.
No, I wasn’t betting on it but now I’m all curious as to why they didn’t choose me because I always take things like this pretty personally.
Would a good time to ask “why” when they originally call? Would calling them back after getting the bad news to find out why be considered creepy?

Yes. It’s absolutely okay to ask. They may tell you that it’s company policy not to say anything, but it’s completely appropriate to ask.

Unless, of course, the answer might be, “Well, you did kill and eat the guy who interviewed you, and the police just wanted us to call you so they could trace the line and find out where you are.”

Apart from that, though, they might be able to help you. If the reason was that you don’t have the right credentials, then you’ll be motivated to get the right credentials and then apply again. Maybe they’d be happy to hire you if that were the case.

Buggrit. Forgot to answer the other question. Okay, here goes:
Yes, you can call back. Just say, “Hey, I was kind of surprised when you called and told me you were going with someone else, so it didn’t really occur to me to ask why.” Hell, they can’t hold it against you that you forgot – they already didn’t hire you, so what else can they do?

You have a right to know. I would probably ask during the original call, but calling back is o.k. Don’t worry about appearing “creepy” to people who don’t hire you, just the ones who do. :slight_smile:

Several months back I applied for an IT position with a state university in my home state. I received an email stating I made the short list and asked if I was available for a telephone interview. I responded with a yes and a a phone interview was scheduled. In the mean time I went to their web site and devoured anything and everything I could find. I came up with several dozen questions I wanted to ask them during the interview, later editing the list down to five. For all practical purposes, I was as ready as I could be.

The phone interview was a conference call with the (acting) IT director for the university and two IT techs. The director allowed the techs to ask basic IT questions to evaluate my answers. The IT director asked a few non-IT questions. During the course of the interview I was picking up vibrations that the interview was going very well.

When it was my time to ask questions, I went through my list. The questions all involved current and proposed IT programs for the university. One in particular involved the strategic direction of IT for the university. It was based upon the current IT policy statement and strategic direction documents available from the very IT department I was being interviewed for.

Not one of the interviewers, especially the (acting) IT director could provide an adequate answer to my questions, even though they were all based upon their own public documents! It got a bit awkward, but in wrapping up the interview the small talk seemed to smooth it over.

The next morning as I was drafting my thank you emails I got a call from the (acting) IT director. She called to tell me that although I was qualified for the position, they were selecting someone else. Since the vibrations during the interview were pegged hard in a positive light, I asked. She pointed out that I missed the correct answers on practically all of their questions!

Well, I never sent the thank you emails, but I did go back and check my notes of the interview, even spent considerable time researching my answers with online sources. According to the hardware and software OEM web sites I checked, I answered every question accurately.

My mistake? I failed to gauge they wanted someone who would go along to get along in the position. In other words, in this state university government job one was to blend in and just keep things moving, but never really move the organization forward. That I knew and understood the entire university strategic IT policies, goals and projections, and where I believed my job fit into it scared the (acting) IT Director because I knew her job better than she did (she had been in the job for more than a year).

I was too good for my own medicine. I scared them because I could do the job, but I also wanted to move the organization forward. My ambition among unambitious people scared them.

By asking why I lost I gained insight into the interview process. I knew where I had lost and how to take steps to prevent it. At the time, the loss of not getting the job hurt a bit. It has since paid off immensely with the job I have.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. Had I been selected for the job, I would probably be there now going along and getting along, and looking for another job someplace else. I know I wouldn’t be happy working with and working for people who have no ambition, possessing the stereotypical attitude “good enough for government work.”

A look at their web site just now reveals they have fallen futher behind in meeting their strategic IT goals for the university.

I pity the students who must use IT resouces in order to earn a degree at that state university. They are being short-changed in their education by IT people who really don’t care about anything other than themselves and the “government” job they have.

When you don’t get the job, ask. You cannot lose. But you sure can gain quite a bit.

Yes, by all means check back and find out why.

I once applied for an IT position, went thru the interview, all was well (as far as I could tell). They did not call back to arrange for the second interview (as promised). I called to find out why, they told me that I had lied on my resume. Apparently my university had made a very big mistake and told these people that I had never graduated.

I asked the IT guy I was talking to for an hour’s grace period, got back on the phone to the registrar, and informed the clerk on the phone that this was a matter possibly leading to litigation, and could I speak to her supervisor? Good heavens, yes I could, and within the hour her supervisor called the IT guy to apologize and had a letter sent by certified mail containing a copy of my transcripts.

I actually think it was an advantage, as it made my name stick in the IT guy’s brain.

Two days later, I got the job offer.

Please check. And thank them for their time, no matter how it turns out. I did not accept the offer from the IT guy, since I received another, better offer from another firm, who told me they put me on the short list when I was the only one who sent a follow up letter to my interview thanking them for their time and expressing an interest in the position. I worked there for over 10 years.


actually, as some one who’s been the interviewer, I’ve never given a straight answer for why they chose some one else.

Why would I? “we decided to go with some one else” works. Anything else may open me up to lawsuits.

And, since I was interviewing for positions w/in human services, many of the ‘reasons’ may have been pretty subjective.

A good interviewer will always leave you w/the impression that you’re answering the question well. I’m quite certain that some of the people who did what I considered to be very bad interviews thought they’d nailed it.

In some cases, of course, the folks may have some one specific in mind they wish to hire and unless the other person blows up on their way to the interview, or you somehow or another really blow them away, you probably wouldn’t be offered the job (This has happened to me - yea, I know what you’re thinking 'she just thinks it has, but one interview I had, the current ‘second in command’ made it a point to chat w/me before the interview, and I’d gotten a weird vibe from it, like I was really being screened by him, then during the interview, they commented that ‘the current second in command has also applied for this position, should we decide -ha ha- to go w/him, would you be interested in the second in command position?’ I said ‘no’ since it would have been a lateral move requiring me to relocate 80 miles away).


my advice would be to have some one else interview you (on camera if possible) and critique it. Some publically funded job seeking places may offer this service (or colleges etc.)

Your questions have been addressed very well by the previous posters, but I think it is worth mentioning that you really shouldn’t take these things personally. These people don’t know you; they only met you for maybe an hour. Their decision was based on many factors, but you, the person, might have been the least of them. I’ve known of jobs that advertised and interviewed for a position, knowing that they would already promote someone from within, but had to go through the motions of appearing to look for an outside candidate. To be rejected from a position like this says absolutely nothing about you.

i cant imagine why you would want some to lie to you! they didn’t hire you, isn’t that enough rejection for one day? i don’t want to sound like a meany, but it seems to me you are going to get:

a) told someone else is better than you.
b) told you have some horrible failing.
c) lied to.

and your still not going to get the job! personally, i don’t like any of those options.

i would forget about and focus on your next job goal and move on, brother!

You’re not the boss of me!

You can always ask, so long as you think you can deal with the answer if it’s not flattering. But I agree with WRING; you may not get a truthful answer anyway.

IME (on both sides of the interview desk), if you screwed up something concrete, or did not have some qualification – in other words, if there is some objective shortcoming – a good interviewer will tell you that. (“Your writing sample wasn’t as strong as the others we received.” “You answered the test question wrong.” “We’re looking for someone who’s certified, and you’re not.”) But if they’re passing on you because they didn’t like you or don’t think you’ll fit – if it is a subjective shortcoming – you’ll never get a straight answer on it. No one is ever going to say “You didn’t blink for five solid minutes, and it creeped me out” or “You didn’t laugh at my jokes, so I don’t think you’ll fit in here” or whatever. But you can always ask.

There’s also the possibility that they had received 400 resumes for a single job opening, interviewed thirty people, found that fifteen of them were emminently qualified, and ended up picking one out of those fifteen essentially at random. Now they had to come up with something to tell the other fourteen, and “we’ve decided to go with someone else” was as good as anything.

(IE, it wasn’t you, it was just the luck of the draw.)