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I've had an interview with some company recently. The hiring manager told me they have several candidates which are clearly better than me and he would call me if things didn't work out with them. I wonder if that is a common thing to say? And if they do call me after all can I accept an offer without being diminished? Or is it just me and I shouldn't have any hard feelings about that?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jim G., Monica Cellio, jcmeloni, CMW, jmac Mar 13 '14 at 4:32

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Was this subject breached before? (e.g.: you didn't finish school, earned a low/irrelevant degree, no work experience, etc) – Jeroen Vannevel Mar 8 '14 at 15:07
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    What are the exact words used by the hiring manager? It is hard to tell if you are interpreting/summarizing, or if the hiring manager literally and exactly said what you wrote. – atk Mar 9 '14 at 16:03
  • I didn't want to put too much details into the question to keep it general enough. The story is, after the interview they communicated the exact date I should hear from them. I'd waited for a couple more days after the date had passed and asked the manager if I'm still considered. His answer was "Yes, but we're going to interview two more people that look much better on the resume. If things won't work out with them, we'll give you an offer. So you have to wait for the outcome for few more weeks." For some reason I would feel totally fine if he just wrote "No, we've found a better guy" – Lia Mar 10 '14 at 4:59
  • When interviewing for my previous job, I was told that the other person they were interviewing was much more qualified for the position than I was (at the time, my actual experience for the particular job was minimal). I was offered the position over the other person (presumably) because I was a better fit for the company culture. Was this a sugar coated way of saying "we wanted to hire that other person"? I have no idea. I took the job, and proved that I was far and away the better candidate. – Dave Johnson Mar 10 '14 at 13:44
  • @DaveJohnson Just a nitpick, but you might have proved that you were a good choice not that the other person might not have been an even better choice. Since you don't know how the other candidate would have done in the job proving more than that is not possible. – Erik Mar 11 '14 at 9:23
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There are several possibilities here:

  • The hiring manager may be a bit awkward dealing with people, but may just have been trying to tell you that you should probably not expect a callback or an offer.

  • The hiring manager may have been a jerk.

  • The hiring manager may have really liked you but wanted to game you to see if he can get you to accept a low-ball offer.

  • The hiring manager may be a really seriously colossal jerk.

Can you accept an offer from this company without feeling diminished? If it was me, I couldn't. Having been told that I'm on the bottom of their list would make me feel bad, and any offer coming from them would feel tainted. If you really seriously need the money, take the offer but keep looking for another job. They've already communicated that they don't think much of you (whether that's true or not) - but money is money. I'd take their money until I could find another opportunity.

Share and enjoy.

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    Of your list I think I would favor possibility #1. At least if they are gaming you, then you have a fighting chance to game back. On the other hand, who wants to work for a jerk or a "really seriously colossal jerk"? – Brandin Mar 29 '15 at 13:26
  • This happens to leave open the possibility that if they happen to contact the prospective employee again that means that they are desperate for employee (Which in turn may make salary negation lean away from the employer) – Damian Nikodem Mar 29 '15 at 13:44
  • The only way I see a hiring manager using this to low ball is if they made an offer. Something like "We're scheduled to interview a few more candidates that appear stronger on paper, but we might be more interested in you at $xxx." Honestly, option 1 is the more likely situation. – NotMe Mar 29 '15 at 23:13
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I wonder if that is a common thing to say?

If they used the exact words you have indicated, I would say that is rather uncommon.

What isn't uncommon is trying to "let you down nicely" by saying something more like "We liked you, but there were other candidates we like more. We'll keep your resume on file though."

And if they do call me after all can I accept an offer without being diminished? Or is it just me and I shouldn't have any hard feelings about that?

I'm guessing that it's rather unlikely that you end up getting an offer now, so I doubt that you really need to worry about that.

But would you really feel "diminished" by getting an offer? Why? Isn't an offer for a job you apparently wanted good enough?

Everyone is different, and we each own our personal feelings. Some would feel challenged by this scenario. Some would think "I know I wasn't your first choice, but I'm going to work hard and show you that you got lucky by eventually landing me."

But if instead you feel that you must be "loved the most" by a company that hires you, then simply pass if you ever get an offer. Look for a different company that will love you best (or at least won't be honest about your not being the first choice).

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In the first place, please do not have hard feelings. In the process of job search most candidates would have come across this situation.

Also there are several factors(for example skill set match, background, experience, visa issues, cultural fit etc.) that are accounted for the decision the hiring manager makes. It is difficult and not required for him to explain the situation or analysis to every candidate. And most companies do not provide direct feedback to the interviewers. So the best way to convey their decision is to say "X is not the best fit for role Y". In a way, it is good from his/her side that he/she did courteously conveyed the decision, rather than keeping the candidate waiting infinitely.

I hope this answer helps you. Good luck for your job search.

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I wonder if that is a common thing to say?

In my experience informing a candidate that they are not the best candidate and that others were superior to them, is hardly ever done. I have never told anyone that, even if it was the case. There are much more professional ways to inform someone that they don't quite fit the position, but we would keep their resume on file. That's what is typically done.

And if they do call me after all can I accept an offer without being diminished?

I would only accept an offer from such a company, if I was desperate and really needed the money and/or job experience. Other than that, I would keep looking.

  • Would you reject the offer because you were not the best candidate, or because they said you were not the best candidate? If the former, then you are going to reject a lot of jobs. – DJClayworth Mar 8 '14 at 16:11
  • @DJClayworth I would reject because they said I was not the best candidate. I feel that the perception of me would already be tainted before I was even given a chance to demonstrate what I could do. Any minor "mistakes" would be viewed as, "That's why he/she was our last choice". I just think that it would be challenging to thrive in that environment. – brwngrldev Mar 8 '14 at 16:19
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    You're making a wild judgement here. The company didn't say "last choice", and the OP may have been second choice only by a slim amount. The 'better' candidate may have been much better qualified, but looking for a salary that the company couldn't afford. I've hired 'second choice' candidates and most of them have turned out well. – DJClayworth Mar 8 '14 at 16:24
  • I usually word this as "We don't think you're the best fit for the position," as opposed to "you are not as good" (so it's taken less personally), but this is a common explanation in my experience. If you plan to resent not being the best person in the job market you'll have ulcers by 30. – mxyzplk Mar 8 '14 at 17:41
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    @adavis - if this person was the last choice but got the job it means all their "preferred" choices turned them down. Honestly, telling someone there's a bunch of way better candidates ahead of them is stupidly unprofessional - because if you ever offer a job to this person they've now got you over a barrel. "Oh-ho! So you're offering a job to the least qualified person you could find, eh? Well, that's just peachy, buckaroo, but it's gonna cost ya..!" is the way I'd view any offer from this company. First rule of hiring - NEVER give the candidate leverage! – Bob Jarvis Mar 9 '14 at 2:59
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that is a common thing to say?

I will say It is is common thing to happen. In reality Employers looking for ideal candidate and candidates are looking for ideal jobs. The basic purpose of Interview is, employer and candidate should know each other requirements and interests and assess each other how well they are meeting each other’s requirements and interests. In your case the fact is you have met your prospective employer’s interests and requirements. That is why your employer still considering you. However there are other candidates who are meeting the interests and requirement much better than you. Every one look for best and hence your prospective employer would like to give first priority to them. The same concept applicable to candidates also. They are also looking for job that suits their interests and aspirations best and hence they also attend interviews with more than one prospective employer. Some prospective employers met their interests very well and some employer just met their interests and aspirations. So Candidates also give priority to best of the offers they got. Hence your prospective employer honestly and realistically say that he will get back to you if those candidates to whom he is giving priority will not take the offer,and he would like to give that offer to you.

And if they do call me after all can I accept an offer without being diminished?

If the offer met your interests and aspirations best accept it and work on improving your skills.

Or is it just me and I shouldn't have any hard feelings about that?

As I said it is most common thing to happen. But some of the employers won’t tell to the candidate upfront. Ofcourse No body likes to hear bad things about themselves. However the good thing here is he is straight away giving his feedback and assessment. Now you can have realistic picture of where you and your skills stand in the job market. You can use this feedback constructively. If you are interested in the job profile that is similar to your prospective employer you have to focus on improving your skills which are required for that job. Or you can focus on the other job profiles where your other skills are strong.

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Unless you specifically asked if you were still in consideration for the position (and even then) it was a very rude, and frankly unprofessional, comment for the hiring manager to make. You didn't need to know that there were (in the company's opinion) "better" candidates than you and it could have opened them up to a potential discrimination lawsuit if you lived in the US and were a protected class minority or a female if this was a US-based corporation.

The hiring manager should have simply stated that you were no longer in the running at that time and that they would keep you in mind for future positions. Or, even if it wasn't necessarily true, that the position was already filled and that they were no longer seeking candidates. Either of those statements prevents the company from being exposed legally if you were to decide that your being deemed "not a better" candidate including some form of discrimination after reflecting upon what he said.

Finally, unless the company is an industry leader or on the leading edge of your career field, it might be advisable to look elsewhere. Telling you that you might be called if the other candidates don't "work out" or if they get better offers is a sign that the company's hiring practices are somewhat suspect. You never tell people that they weren't your first choice for a position. It damages morale and it can engender resentment in some people which they can later translate consciously or unconsciously into poor performance.

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In Europe (I have experience in Germany, France, the UK and the Netherlands), it's not uncommon to hear that other candidates were better suited (sometimes adding a few words about what was good about your profile or what the other candidates had that you didn't, e.g. specific experience with this or that).

But it's always later in the process, when someone else has been hired or you have definitely been ruled out for the position for which you applied. In that case, your contact at the company might offer to keep your resume on file or invite you to apply for another position later on but I have never seen anyone suggest they might still call for this position if other candidates declined (if they might, they typically stall and take a few weeks before giving any specific feedback).

For the rest, it's easier said than done but don't let that get to you. Whatever a prospective employer tells you, it should be expressed respectfully and courteously. I would consider someone telling me other candidates were “clearly better” in so many words to be rude so if that's what you were told, you have every right to feel angry about it. Still, if you need the job and there is an offer, take it. If you have something better and you don't feel good about it, then by any means decline.

Also, do realize that the person you are talking to still knows very little about you and, possibly, even about the prospective job. They have to make a decision and might feel that other candidates are better for this particular position but it doesn't mean that you are bad at what you do.

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