Bewildering hiring manager behavior

by Evil HR Lady on December 6, 2012

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I’m trying to get some clarity on a recent situation I found myself in.
 
I applied for a job at a very successful and reputable company back in August.  One of the main reasons I was interested in working there is that they actually put out meaningful content into the world, responsibly.  After a week I got called in for an interview which went really well.  I got asked to come in for another interview 2 days later.  And then a 3rd interview 2 weeks later.  This was the final interview where I met nearly the entire team I was interviewing to work with.  5 hours long.  
A couple days later I got an email saying everyone loved me but the hiring manager was going on vacation and would get back to me when he returned. Promptly upon the hiring manager’s return, I got an email saying that now that he’s back from vacation he’s going to start pushing to get the final approvals, that this is unofficial good news, and that the entire team has signed off on me, etc etc.   I was so excited, but not too excited, because unofficial news is not good news.
 
This went on until mid-october.  He would email me to check in and update me on the stages he was in and some of the bumps he was encountering but kept reassuring me that he is pushing for a positive outcome.  Around mid-october, our latest correspondonce, he as asked me to check in with him the following week, which I did and never heard a response.  He had always been very very prompt with his responses  so I even though I got a bad feeling in my gut, I figured he had no updates for me.  The week following Sandy hit the NYC and most offices remained closed.  After things from Sandy cleared out enough to get most businesses up and running, I emailed him again.
 
Coincidentally, because I am (and have been for several years) and avid follower of the work the company does, I was reading their blog, as I do regularly, and saw a post that mentioned their new ____ (the position I had applied for).  I googled the woman’s name, her website came up, as well as her resume, and to my horror I saw that she started in that position at the company back in September.  I was horrified.  I was upset for the job, yes, but I was so deeply hurt that I had been lead on, unnecessarily for months!  Worse even, after over 50 emails back and forth with the director of him consistently saying how much the team wanted me to start there, he just completely drops off.
 
Do you have any advice to help me process what happened?  I’m at a loss and don’t know how to interpret this and use it as a lesson.  I cooled down for another 2 weeks and finally sent him one last email saying that being an avid follower of the blog, I couldn’t help but notice the position was filled.  And then I thanked him for the consideration and correspondence and said I hoped to work with the company in the future.  I was hoping that at least he would finally respond with an official ‘yes, we gave the job to someone else.’   I assumed that after 7 hours of interviews, and a weekly correspondence, it would be a decent thing to do.  Nothing!
 
I know that there’s nothing I can do about this, that this is the way the hiring process is sometimes, but I wish there was something I could do?  Is there an appropriate way to check in with him down the line, or to connect with him on a social platform like Linkedin, so he would keep me in mind for future openings?  Although at this point, I’m not sure if I’d like to work with a group of people that treat others this way.
 
What are your thoughts?  Any feedback would be so much appreciated.

This is the most bizarre story, ever. Why would he keep communicating with you if the position was already filled? Why say he was pushing or approval when the position was filled?

I’m dying to know the company and call them up and ask WHHHYYYYYY, but I suspect you’d rather not have that bridge completely burned. (Although if you are, I’d love the guy’s email.)

My question is, was he doing this alone, or was there a recruiter that was also involved in this deception? If he was alone, he probably is so super wimpy he couldn’t say no. Which means you dodged a big bullet by not getting that job.

The only possible logical thing was that he wanted two people and only had approval for one, but was pushing to get an additional headcount. Still, just weird.

I just don’t know what else to say. So, I throw this out to my readers. Help this poor woman make sense of the nonsensical! Or share your horror story.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen December 6, 2012 at 1:33 pm

My first feeling is that they were trying to hire you for a second position, in addition to the woman they announced on the blog. I can’t imagine someone interviewing a candidate and spending time e-mailing with him/her just for kicks. You can’t know what’s going on inside the company. Maybe the manager really, really want to hire you, but they can’t get the approvals? We have a candidate we’ve wanted to hire for *a year* and, after a hiring freeze, the approval for the position expired and my boss can’t get it approved again. HR is in contact with the candidate and they explained the situation, but she might be just as frustrated and confused… (I do agree that the manager should have come back to you with some sort of explanation.)

In short, big companies suck and sometimes the hiring manager has his or her hands tied when it comes to hiring. Sad but true…

Reply

Evil HR Lady December 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm

That is the only logical explanation I can come up with as well. But, it is sooooo unprofessional! Just tell the candidate what is going on.

Reply

Shar December 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Even reputable companies sometimes have dysfunctional areas, such as budgetary approval for positions. Maybe the hiring manager was embarrassed to admit to the candidate that the process was so broken. Still, what a shame.

Reply

Evil HR Lady December 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Perhaps. But, is it that embarrassing to say, “We’re trying to get funding!”

Reply

ds3434 December 6, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Short answer? Yes, because the manager is terrified we’ll lose the candidate, and/or we don’t dare project the image that money is tight.
I have another situation right now where I have two people who require H1B sponsorship in interview. We still haven’t figured out which department, if any, is able to fund the position. But if I lose good candidates in the interim, my head is on the chopping block.
Not right, again. But happens.

Reply

Anna December 6, 2012 at 7:18 pm

If I were the candidate pending funding, I wouldn’t mind being told so. I’d take it as “you weren’t our first choice, but that said we want you anyway.” If they want me enough to look for funding, that means more to me than not being the employer’s #1 pick for the job — and all the more so in this job market.

Reply

Ann December 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Another possiblity is that the company wanted to keep her available in case the person they hired didn’t work out.

Reply

Evil HR Lady December 6, 2012 at 5:01 pm

That’s another possibility. Weird, but plausible!

Reply

Charlotte December 6, 2012 at 11:39 pm

My thoughts too. Maybe they had some inkling she might not work out? But if so, why not tell the candidate that the position was filled but they’d keep her in mind for future openings.

And please, this is a really good reason to stop following this company as intently, at the very least.

Reply

cncx December 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm

this was my thought exactly. some european countries with long probationary periods for new hires don’t tell people the position is filled until the probation is up for the first hire.

Reply

LJL December 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

My guess is that there were 2 positions open, then the funding for the second (unfilled) one was cut late in the process. The hiring manager is probably embarrassed and hiding, so you probably did dodge a bullet.

Reply

Holly December 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm

If this is the way the company works, do you REALLY want to hear about future openings? This is a gigantic red flag to me that something is seriously wrong with their organization.

Reply

Lola December 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I AGREE.

Reply

Elizabeth West December 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm

That was my first thought as well.

Reply

Melissa December 7, 2012 at 8:39 pm

A huge red flag, I agree! I believe they were holding onto you in case the other person didn’t work out. It is very typical for companies to think of the business and not the individual. Please move on and find something else! I like the old Cliche’ “When one door closes another one opens” – has personally happended to me many time!!! You seem like a good person and know you can find another company that will appreciate you :)

Reply

Evil HR Lady December 6, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Yes, super red flag.

I wouldn’t want to work for this manager.

Reply

Just a Reader December 6, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I had something similar happen. The company kept assuring me I was the top candidate and asking for my availability for a final interview, then disappearing. This went on for 6 months.

I finally got a hold of the recruiter and she told me they had hired someone else.

Then she called me 2 days later to reiterate that I didn’t get the job.

I think the OP is on the string in case they need somebody for an additional or different position. In my case, I think it was this plus an incompetent recruiter

Reply

Evil HR Lady December 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I can’t believe it’s happened to multiple people.

Okay, I can believe that. I just don’t like it.

Reply

ds3434 December 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I have not had time yet to compose my “defense of Recruiters”, but as a CR let me shed insights.
I recently had a job I thought was filled when a VP over the hiring manager swooped in and said “get this guy in for an interview.” Next thing I knew I was told to make an offer, the bewildered hiring manager washed his hands of it, and I still dinn’t know where the heck the guy came from.
The treatment of the OP was terribly rude, but I could share a million behind the scenes reasons why it happened. Somebody dropped the ball. Hiring managers generally want Recruiters to step in and only handle the “bad news”, and sometimes we are just as clueless about what happened.
Link to hiring manager or send a strongly worded letter to HE about what happened, but regardless shake your head and move on.

Reply

Evil HR Lady December 6, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Stuff definitely happens. VP wants his best bud in the position,, for instance. But, for heaven’s sake, tell the candidate!

Reply

Cube Monkey December 6, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Very similar situation happened to me. I knew the hiring manager and had previously worked with him. I applied for the job in March and had several rounds of interviews and was also given the unofficial nod. After numerous attempts to find out what the status was I gave up. I received an email in OCTOBER informing me they decided not to fill the position. It had been so long I had honestly forgotten about it by then.

Reply

LTMG December 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Simplest explanation that occurs to me is that the hiring manager lacked the confidence and leadership skills to tell the candidate the unvarnished truth. Would we willingly work for a person whose moral courage is weak?

If this is true, then the candidate can be grateful to not work for a weak manager and leader even if the company is highly respected. Weak managers and leaders, consciously or not, subvert their staff in a range of latent ways leading to weak results and wasted career time. If the candidate is a strong, capable, competent professional, then he or she needs and deserves an even better immediate superior.

Reply

Just a Reader December 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

What are the thoughts on posting interview experiences on sites like Glassdoor? I was very tempted to write a scathing review to warn other job seekers after being jerked around for half a year…but concerned about it coming back to bite me.

Do we have a responsibility to warn others? And are these types of reviews helpful/advisable/traceable?

Reply

Charlotte December 6, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Absolutely do this. I check glass door religiously.

Reply

Stells December 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I agree with Charlotte. Plus, all reviews are completely anonymous. I always wait a few months to write mine so that if they see it then they are less likely to remember me when they read it.

(although a LOT of companies don’t even check Glassdoor to see what people/employees are writing).

Reply

Another Evil HR Director December 7, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I once interviewed with a national company for an HR position at a regional plant. Had 2 interviews at the local level, one with someone from national HQ. They then flew me to Connecticut for a “final” interview. All indications were that I had the job. That was the last I heard from anyone. I called the headhunter several times (they sought me out originally) and even he didn’t return my calls initially. Finally he told me even he couldn’t get an answer from them. Never did get any response. So if you can’t even be open with an HR candidate, presumably someone who would understand how things sometimes go wrong, who can you be honest with? Stuff happens, move on.

Reply

Winston December 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm

This is not uncommon. In fact it seems to be a trend. I know a few people who have been led on by company management, only to find out that the offer they are expecting is a mirage.

It’s happened to me. A company I’ve spent two days interviewing with told me that I was going to receive a job offer very soon. The HR rep outright lied to me that I would receive an offer for certain and that it was only pending final approvals. But this paperwork was left outstanding for weeks. After a while she quit responding to my emails. Months later the friend who referred me to the job got to the bottom of it – the company hired someone else whom they thought wouldn’t ask for as much money. I guess its often that hiring managers or HR people get placed in the uncomfortable position of having to break bad news, but instead of rescinding their previous statements they would rather just avoid confrontation.

Reply

Tim December 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Unfortunately, I’ve heard this story repeated several times. I think what is happening is recruiters not wanting to burn any bridges and attempting to keep the applicant, and their resume, alive in their database. The sad part of the story is the company may have done more harm than good and this person will never consider a job with this company.

Reply

J.D. Walker January 3, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Tim, you’re absolutely right…..

I interviewed for a job, and found out later (from the recruiter actually TELLING me this) that my Army Reserve status is the reason I wasn’t hired. I luckily have a job I like now, and if I’m ever looking for a job again, this company is definitely OFF my list.

Reply

Heather December 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I had something similar happen to me; however, I was already doing the job! I was hired for an administrative position on a contract basis. I had been doing the job for over a year and was nearing the end of my contract when the company decided to re-structure the department and change the job slightly so that they could get rid of one position. The person who had worked the other position had already been “let go” so I was the only one left doing that particular job. When the job was finally posted internally, I was at the end of my contract so, I obviously put in for it. The HR assistant emailed me with a “WOW, I’m so glad you applied!” I waited anxiously for them to start the interview process but, they didn’t seem in a hurry. A couple of weeks went by before they finally scheduled the interviews. When the interview time came around, I was asked to prepare a 10 PowerPoint presentation on a particular topic that they had given me. I was bewildered by the formality of the presentation and thought it was a little over the top for the position but, the subject matter was something that I had intimate knowledge of and was confident that I would give an excellent presentation. The panel interview went very well, the presentation was good. They seemed happy and at the end of the interview my former boss said “See you soon.” As I had been away from the company for several weeks, I took this statement as a good sign. Imagine my surprise when they called my house before I even made it home from the interview to say that I didn’t get the job; they had decided to give it to a temporary employee from another department who had a University degree. I was devastated! How could they give someone with no experience the job that I had done for over a year just because that person had a degree and I only had a College diploma? They tried to console me by offering me the other person’s temporary job in the other department! Thanks but, no thanks.

Reply

Dave December 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Late to this discussion, but intrigued. Is it possible that the hiring manager got sacked somewhere in all of this? That’s the only reason I can think of that he is not returning e-mails. I know that does not explain the other aspects of the troubling progression of events.

Reply

Deb December 31, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Perhaps the manager’s boss had someone else in mind for the role and was forced to hire that person instead of you. It hurts, but you must find a way to move on. There are other companies out there who will value your expertise. Good luck!

Reply

Rachel April 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm

The real WTF here is that the candidate still wants to work for the company at some point in the future, even after all the messing around they were put through. At best, this particular potential employer has clearly demonstrated that they’re bureaucratic and incompetent. At worst, they’re duplicitous and untrustworthy. Have some self respect, woman the feck up, consider the time (and therefore money) you invested in finding out this company wasn’t worth working for as school fees, and move on. Trying to get closure in situations like this just reeks of desperation and is indicative of Battered Job Seeker syndrome. Don’t do it. Just move on. The company will get its comeuppance soon enough by the quality of candidates it’ll be able to attract in the future through using hiring policies like this.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: