A reader writes:
I recently applied for a city government communications position for which I was perfectly qualified. They asked me last minute to fly out for a four-person panel interview and even went as far as rearranging the panel date so that I could make it, even after I suggested an initial Skype interview at their original time to ensure neither of us wasted time if I was not a proper fit. All in all, I spent hundreds of dollars out of pocket to fly there last minute, rearranged my professional schedule, took a vacation day and completed an at-home lengthy written exam, in addition to a 45-minute writing sample on-site before the grueling interview process (in which one of the consultant from another city who was helping guide them on hiring this new position kept yawning, looking away and even left the room in the middle of the interview for several minutes).
When all was said and done, I had to follow up multiple times over the span of weeks (they kept saying the decision was being delayed) before finally being told "we decided to go with someone who is already in a similar city government position." That is fine and I gracefully understood that... at least until I found out who they hired. They hired someone who I use to work with at a previous company and even helped train for the position they currently hold. Since I previously worked in that role, I know for a fact it is not a city government role and that I definitely have more qualified experience, having currently worked with over 30 different city government communities simultaneously. So not only did the company I interview with lie to me as to why I was rejected, they hired someone who in my opinion (from personally knowing the person they hired) is not qualified for the position at all.
Should I say something to the HR person who lied to me? I want to maintain a professional attitude and take rejection with poise but really feel unethical about not calling them out on a lie.
What do you get out of saying something? It might make you feel better to say something, but it definitely won't help you maintain relationships with anyone there.
Moreover, and maybe more importantly, you don't actually know that the HR person lied. For all we know, they planned to hire a different candidate, one who did already work in a similar position, but that person fell through for one reason or another, and then they ended up going with the person you know. Or the HR person just had her information wrong, but it wasn't an intentional lie.
Or maybe you're right and she did lie to you, presumably because she thought it would make the rejection go down more easily. That's misguided, for sure, and kind of lame, but there's nothing unethical about just shaking your head and moving on.
I get the sense that what you're actually frustrated about is that you put all that time and even money into going through their hiring process, and they rejected you in favor of someone who you think is far less qualified than you. And maybe she is. And yes, that's frustrating. But you have to remember that they hired her over you for a reason. And sure, maybe that reason is something shady (like she's friends with someone involved in the decision, or whatever), but it's also likely that the reason is legitimate -- that you had a different idea of what they wanted for the role than they had, or she has strengths you don't know about or aren't acknowledging, or that you're overlooking a significant weakness of your own for the role, or that you were a bad cultural fit and she was a great one. Who knows? This is why guessing games about why you didn't get a job and someone else did are fruitless: Because you're always left with the fact that, no matter how much you disagree, the employer, who generally knows the needs of the job better than you do, made the decision that they felt was in their best interests.
My advice is to move on -- and remember, the job you really want is the one that's excited to get you.