Duane Hoffmann / msnbc.com
By Eve Tahmincioglu
msnbc.com contributor
updated 3/29/2009 4:48:10 PM ET 2009-03-29T20:48:10

Mary Ortega of Wilmington, Del., has been on 40 interviews for marketing and public relations jobs in the last 10 months.

Before interviewing, she always researches the company and the people she’ll be meeting. She dons a nice suit and comfortable high-heeled shoes. She’s also driven from Washington, D.C., to New York on more than one occasion for job interviews.

Even though she has yet to land a gig, that’s not what’s frustrating her most. She’s angry because she rarely gets constructive feedback or even a phone call on why she wasn’t chosen.

Ortega, 43, usually gets a brief e-mail such as this one she received on March 13:

At this time we have decided to move forward with other candidates whose experience more closely matches our requirements.

“No one seems to have the balls to pick up the phone anymore,” she says. “Have we become a passive-aggressive society?”

There’s nothing more frustrating than putting the time and energy into a face-to-face interview, only to get little to no information on why you didn’t get a job. Unfortunately, this is becoming commonplace throughout the work world, as more and more hiring managers opt to ditch civility and do little to follow-up with desperate job applicants.

There’s a host of reasons why.

Companies are so fearful of lawsuits they want to limit the amount of information they give candidates after they’ve decided not to hire them so as not to make a slip and say something that can be taken as discriminatory.

Many human resource personnel and managers are also too busy to take the time to provide a self-help session for job seekers who are looking for advice on what not to do next time.

And still others just don’t want to have to talk to someone they’ve rejected, opting to use e-mail as a safe haven from a rejected candidate’s wrath or disappointment.

No feedback, group rejections
Ryan R. Miner didn't even get an e-mail after he interviewed on Feb. 20 for a scheduler position for a California congressman.

“I interviewed with his chief of staff and it went very smooth,” says Miner, 23, who’s an unpaid intern for a Maryland TV station, WHAG. “She said, ‘When the congressman returns next week, I will sit down with him and go over all applicants, and figure out who we want to talk to next.’”

That was more than a month ago, and Miner hasn’t even gotten a rejection e-mail.

“I would like to know what they thought I could have done better in the interview or did they think I was not qualified,” he says.

Often these rejection e-mails aren’t even personalized.

Recently, social networking group Twitter Inc. interviewed applicants for a business project manager position the firm had open and mistakenly sent out rejection e-mails en masse.

The e-mail went out to more than 180 people, and every recipient could see everyone else’s e-mail address, making it clear that no e-mail was personalized.

The faux pas ended up on the Web site TechCrunch, which included the actual e-mail:

During the course of our recruiting efforts, we come across many fine candidates such as you, and we carefully evaluate each candidate’s background and interests against our projected workloads and staffing needs. Although we are impressed with your background, the hiring committee has decided to move forward with a different candidate.

We will keep your information on file for six months in case future opportunities arise.

Twitter immediately apologized for the screw up, but it got me wondering why the firm felt it necessary to send out a form letter instead of being more personal.

“Regarding feedback after an interview. I'd say that's a case-by-case basis,” says Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.

Sometimes, he adds, the applicant takes the initiative.

“Candidates will send me a personal e-mail or an invitation to join their network on LinkedIn,” he says. “We're talking with very talented folks, so I think it's useful to stay connected even if they don't wind up joining Twitter — they may be a fit down the road.”

Realizing many of these e-mails are indeed generic may make many of you cringe, but there are ways to figure out why you were not chosen.

Let’s start out with some of the reasons hiring managers say people don’t end up getting a job.

Spherion Corp, a recruitment and staffing firm, surveyed hiring managers and found the top reasons candidate don’t get hired include: not enough experience; the wrong skill mix; another candidate has better experience or skills; or the candidate was looking for more money than the position paid, according to Rebecca Callahan, senior vice president of Spherion’s Recruitment Process Outsourcing division.

Because of the economy, she adds, many job openings end up being withdrawn during or after the interview process for lack of funding.

If you work with a recruiter, it’s easier for them to get the poop on why you got the heave ho because the hiring managers may be more comfortable telling a middle man or woman instead of you, says Waffles Pi Natush, president of The Barrett Group.

You should send a follow-up e-mail or make a call to the hiring manager after a canned rejection and try to get more information. But being overly persistent won’t get you anywhere and may even hurt your chances for a future job with the company, recruiters say.

Other ways to get feedback
If you get nowhere with the hiring managers, Natush actually suggests you try and contact the person who got the gig instead of you.

That’s easy to figure out given all the social networking sites out there. You can just search for the company and position, or even go to the company Web site. Depending on the position, the person’s name and contact information may be right on the site.

“Call the person that got the job,” he says. “You’ll have a networking contact with a person in a position that interests you, and that person may have left a similar position or has been interviewing in different places.”

Be genuine and wait until your anger over not getting the job subsides. You don’t want to come off as a spurned candidate, he says.

For Andrea Tobor of San Francisco, it wasn’t about being spurned. She wanted to know why after four interviews with a marketing firm and rave reviews from everyone she met, she got a voice mail left on her answering machine at midnight from the hiring manager that she didn’t get the job.

She eventually got someone in human resources to fess up. Turns out, one of the senior vice president she interviewed with thought she was after her job, she says.

After looking into 200 jobs, landing 25 interviews and having little to show for it, Tobor, 59, decided to launch her own business consultancy called Radical Partnering in December.

“I saw the writing on the wall,” she says.

Sometimes, however, you might get more truth than you bargained for.

Ortega from Wilmington pushed the issue after receiving yet another e-mail rejection with few details after interviewing, and surprisingly one of the managers gave it to her straight in follow-up e-mail:

“No hidden agendas. Everybody thought you did well and you were well thought of. Except, the interview did not go well with Scott? And that killed it. He thought you were nervous and did not do a good job of answering questions. Just keep up the good work and you'll be ready for the next opportunity.”

“It was my fifth interview at the company,” she says, still stinging from what Scott, a senior vice president at the firm, felt about her. “This one really hurt.”

Eve Tahmincioglu writes the weekly "Your Career" column for msnbc.com and chronicles workplace issues in her blog CareerDiva.net.

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