Job interviews mean nothing


I always thought interviewing was one of my strengths. After all, I’ve interviewed thousands of people in my life as a journalist, so interviewing comes naturally to me. Plus I have some school training in acting, and a job interview is about you perform before your peers. I’ve also been told that once you land a job interview, you are on an equal footing with the other candidates.

Unfortunately, reality is much different than the career advice forums and columns. After more than 15 interviews during the past 17 months (I stopped keeping count earlier this year), I now realize that your performance in a job interview means nothing. All the interviewing advice from the HR and recruiting pundits about what you wear, how you shake a hand, and how you make eye contact often make little difference in the final outcome. I’ve left job interviews with the feeling that I “aced” the interview only to receive a rejection in the mail two days later. Some don’t even bother to send you a rejection letter. In one long five-hour interview I had in a nearby city, the employer bought me lunch with the staff I’d be working with, sent a realtor to pick me up and show me the homes in the nice neighborhoods, and had the top administrators meet with me –who said I “spoke their language” and gave me good vibes throughout the process – only never to hear back from them. After a thank you letter, an email and a phone call asking about the status of the position, I gave up trying to figure out what happened. One year later, the job was still posted by a different recruiter.

Another employer paid for my flight to Washington, D.C. and reimbursed me for parking the day of my interview. I never heard back from them, either.

The majority of employers do send an automatic rejection letter that doesn’t give you a clue about why you didn’t get the job. But sometimes you do discover why with a little persistence. When I do dig, I find out that the employer has hired an internal candidate. After receiving one such rejection letter from an employer that interviewed me for a job that fit me like a glove, I boldly called the hiring manager and was told I didn’t get the job “because I didn’t live in the community” which was 46 miles away. She said the position required someone to be on call and involved in community groups. “You were number three among the final candidates, though.” The other two candidates lived and owned homes there.

I felt great about this last interview, too. After being complimented on my work and my skills, the hiring manager told me the next step in the process would be for HR “to vet” the final candidates, implying that my references would be getting called. The other staff member on the interview panel also told me to expect to hear back within a week. Neither happened, and when I sent more follow-up correspondence than usual I discovered they “made an offer to an individual who has a long working history with our organization.” She adds: “We all enjoyed meeting you and recognize your many talents…you certainly have a lot to offer.”  This missive was followed up with a rejection from the original recruiter, who wrote: “We had many good applicants. Please apply for others.”

Well, if my talents are so impressive and I have a lot to offer an employer, then why can’t I land a job in my career where I have 20 years of experience?

That brings me to the question many unemployed want to know: Why even post the position to the public if the department wants to hire someone within? If they are legally obligated to post it, then why go to the trouble of interviewing external candidates you have no intention of hiring? Is that fair?

Advice to hiring managers who know the person they want to hire: don’t waste our time or yours.


Unemployed or underemployed and need a place to share your stories?  You’re welcome to comment here. There are also some larger unemployment forums that are available online. They include and .


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