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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

in rejecting job candidates, should I mention we selected an internal candidate?

A reader writes:

In notifying candidates (who were interviewed) that they were not chosen, do you think it's better or worse to let them know that we've selected an internal candidate for the position?

I'd come down on the side of more information being better than less information. Job seekers so infrequently hear anything from companies they've interviewed with, and I think if given the choice, most people would prefer to hear more rather than less about the reason they didn't get the job.

That said, it's worth noting that some job seekers get upset when they hear that the job went to an internal candidate, because they figure that you were planning to hire that person all along and just wasted their time. (Which, I want to note, is not always the case.)

But on the flip side of that, some job seekers will feel like this is a rejection that doesn't really reflect on them, which they will appreciate.

Anyway, I think as a general rule, more feedback is better than less, so I'd include it.

What do other people think -- would you want that info included in a rejection letter you received? Or would you wish they'd gone with something vaguer? 


Dave C said...

I agree that more information is better. Any candidate who takes offense to this and gets upset is merely reinforcing that the hiring manager made the right decision.

That said, I admit in my youth (mid-20s) I reprimanded a manager who had hired me as a contractor for a summer position, and called me up the day before my start date to tell me the budget for the position was cut. If he had hired me as an intern (which is really what the position was), I would have been able to do it. So I suppose I faulted him for not having more foresight about such an outcome and guarding against it.

@EllisonAmy said...

It can be frustrating as a candidate to find out an internal applicant was successful as positions are better advertised internally first and then externally.

However, as a candidate it's better to hear that an internal candidate was successful rather than, 'you came in second, we thought you were great, but the other person was just a bit better'.

Amewsing Mews and Views said...

That happens, and it's always about fair competiion. Iwould want to know

Anonymous said...

I think it depends based on what stage of the hiring process you're at, and communicating that the decision to go with an internal candidate is particularly useful if you're calling/emailing someone to tell them that you aren't going to be asking them to interview for a position. Recently I applied for a position where I felt like I was a strong candidate at an organization where I had some professional ties, and I was surprised when, after a month and a half, they hadn't at least called me for a courtesy interview (not because I think I'm so freakin' awesome, but because I work in a really small, incestuous non-profit field and the hiring manager for this position and I served on the same municipal advisory board). Eventually the hiring manager called me and said that they liked me but they had an internal candidate for the position. This wasn't great, but at least it explained why I couldn't even get the time of day from them. If you've already interviewed at a place and they tell you they picked an internal candidate, it's a slight ego cushion, but ultimately you still feel like you had the opportunity to be judged on your own merits.

Anonymous said...

at the risk of saying what has been said- I'll settle for them just outright rejecting me.

I think I would be slightly miffed if they told me an internal candidate got the job (esp. if I had interviewed, or traveled to interview). It feels like you just wasted my time, even though I understand the reasons for posting a job externally when you already have a strong internal candidate.

clobbered said...

I like to see this covered at the short-listing phase. You know "we are interviewing 5 candidates total for this position, 2 of which are internal".

I don't think it is necessary to specify that the internal candidate got the job. Would you specify that a non-internal candidate got the job?

If you want to throw the unsuccessful candidate a bone, one can just say "even though you were blah blah blah, the job was offered to a candidate that also had direct experience of our operations"

Anna/The Edible HR said...

I've had this happen twice - I went through a phone screening, multiple in-person interviews, was told I was a "strong" candidate......only to be informed that the job was offered to an internal candidate! It's very frustrating. Personally, I'd prefer that a company suss out viable internal candidates first.

Olio said...

In applying for the company where I now work, I was informed that the job I wanted went to an internal candidate, who had more experience in finance than I. However they said in their call that they really liked me, were still interested in my skill set and wished me all the best (the usual blah).

Three weeks later, they offered me another position in the same department out of the blue and it has turned out to be a much better fit than the job I originally applied for. So, happy days all round. :)

Where I live, internal candidates usually get first refusal and companies have to advertise externally for legal purposes.

I have no problem with an internal candidate getting selected over an external, as it encourages people to stay within the company.

Rebecca said...

If for some reason you went out of your way to tell me you hired an internal candidate, I'm going to assume you had no intention of hiring me when you interviewed me.

And how is it helpful for other applications to know that I lost out to an internal candidate? ("What can I do differently in the future?" "Be working here already.")

Anonymous said...

I don't mind being told that they picked an internal candidate over me. I just assume they're looking internally and figure that they have the same philsophy I've had when I've been on the hiring end: "better the devil you know than the devil you don't know". Or as a peer of mine once told me when we were gossiping about another peer's bad internal hire, "If you screw up internally, you have only yourself to blame since, not only do you have their performance evals to review, if you talk to enough people, someone will tell you the truth about that person if it's bad!"

Anonymous said...

I've lost out on 2 jobs in the past year because the employer decided to go with an internal candidate. Both jobs were what I thought a perfect fit, so when i did not get the job, I did ask why. Luckily, they were both local jobs.

I think hiring an internal candidate is more "safe" for the employer. Less risk involved with hiring someone new and if they work out or not. With the internal they already know the candidates work ethic.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to hear your thoughts on rejection letters that inform you of who was chosen. I've applied to several jobs at a local public university and the rejection letters will frequently say. "We've hired Dan Jones for this position due to his many years of experience in the field." Even though employee information at a state university is publicly available, it just seems a little weird to me.

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago, I was applying for a position via an online application - it was the type you can save and come back to later if you couldn't finish it in one sitting. I saved it, and when I returned to it the next day, the position I was applying for disappeared. I called the HR department to be told that it was filled internally before the deadline of the online application. I was upset since I wasn't given a chance. I also figure had I gone through the process, including interview, to be told that someone internally got the job, I wouldn't be too happy.

Reason being - it feels like they just went through the formalities when they already had someone in mind. I don't want to know about the other candidate who did get the job, but rather I want to know why I didn't and where I possibly went wrong. Of course some can say that the internal person just knows the company, etc.

Becky said...

I'm in this situation right now, and I prefer knowing. I had the skills they wanted for the job, my interview went well, and then I never heard from them again. I found out from a friend who works at the University where I had applied that they had internal candidates. The job posting clearly said that internal candidates would receive preference, and so I figure it's not that I'm not a good candidate; it's that they had people internally who met the requirements.
I do have a question, though, as to how you are supposed to "break into" an organization like that. All job postings have that same disclaimer, and I can't afford to take a job paying $7/hour just so that I can become an internal candidate. Do you have any recommendations?

Charles said...

NO, NO, NO - For Pete's sake, why on earth are you telling me about WHO got the job instead of telling me WHAT I could do better or different to get the job (or something like it) in the future? WHY?

What difference does it make as to who you hired instead of me? Internal, external, boss's girlfriend, etc. Do I, as a job candidate, really need to know this info? (hint for clueless recruiters, the answer is no) But, I doubt you would even consider telling me what skills, experience, etc. that the chosen candidate had that I didn't - Now THAT would be useful. But, recruiters NEVER tell anyone that.

The only advantage of telling me that you hired an internal candidate is if I see your organization doing this more than once (and not just me - I have friends who also tell me about their job interviews) then I will know not to waste any more of my time with you in the future. it is your organization's reputation that you are messing with - not mine.

Or, as has been said above, let me know right off the bat that you have a strong internal candidate - then I know what to expect.

AAM, you must know that many organizations do in fact "check out what's out there" before hiring the internal candidate - "just to make sure." Given how many outfits do this is it really any wonder job seekers "get upset" when told that an internal candidate got the job?

Anonymous said...

If they hired an internal candidate, the company now has a new opening... it's a great option for someone still looking. I always advise candidates who are not selected to "follow the trail" to find an opening before it's even advertised. For a manager to receive the "perfect" resume right after they received notice of resignation (or, in this case, a transfer) may just solve their problem!

Anonymous said...

I appreciated being told after my last interview that they hired somebody one of their employees had already worked with. I understand the "devil you know" philosophy.

In response to hearing this, somebody mentioned that they always asked up front if there were any internal candidates for the position, so they'd know whether or not to invest their time.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why some people automatically assume that an internal candidate is always going to get the job. And it's definitely not fair to assume that a company had no intention of hiring you (the external candidate) just because they ultimately picked an internal candidate.

I work for a small company so we wouldn't necessarily put someone internal through a formal interview process for an open position. However, I can see how in a large company the hiring manager would need to interview an internal candidate and really consider fit for the new role. It's very possible the internal candidate may not be the right fit which is why I disagree with the thinking that internal always wins.

Anonymous said...

I would want to know, especially if it's something that will soon be public knowledge. For example...
I volunteer with a nonprofit. One of the staff has been training me for her job for almost 2 years while I've been volunteering because she knew she would be leaving within 5 years and she thought I'd do well at the job. She announced two weeks ago that she was leaving. I emailed my resume and a cover letter to her boss, who has seen a lot of the work I've done (which has gone far beyond what normal volunteers do). The boss thanked me and said to ask HR for an application. HR never sent one. I got an email yesterday from the boss that the position has been filled but that she hopes I'll still volunteer at such a high level and help out the new person.
Now, if that person were someone internal or known to be amazing, it would make it a lot easier for me to continue volunteering at a high level without feeling unappreciated. In a case like this, where I'll be asked to work with the person who got chosen, it would be nice to know why they were chosen over me, especially if they were internal.

Anonymous said...

No. Telling the prospect you filled the job internally makes them feel like you wasted their time, and you had no intention of hiring from the outside whatsoever. It doesn't matter what the truth is. Frankly, telling a prospect who or why you hired someone else is none of their business.

If they ask for feedback on why you didn't hire them - that's a little different. But to answer your question, no, you do not have to justify your selection to interviewees.

Ask a Manager said...

Hold on here! So many of you are assuming that hiring an internal candidate means they planned to hire that person all along. It's absolutely true in some cases, but it's definitely not true in all cases, and it's pretty impossible to know from the outside if it is or isn't in your particular case.

I have had internal candidates who I've not hired. I've had internal candidates who I genuinely wasn't sure about, so I did a full hiring process, with them as one candidate out of many, and in some cases I ended up hiring the internal person and in some cases I didn't. In the cases where I did, I was absolutely giving full, real considering to the external people.

I'm not saying there aren't some companies where the race is fixed. But you can't assume that's the case every time someone internal is hired.

Anonymous said...

I think just hearing back that you were rejected would be hard enough for some companies to start doing :\

DanRuiz said...

I don't see the upside to mentioning the fact that an internal candidate got the job. At best, the rejected candidates don't really care who got the job; and it seems likely they will think you wasted their time.


Anonymous said...

I got my current job as an outside applicant. They had planned on an internal candidate, but (as I heard later), I had the skills the office lacked, so they talked to the internal candidate, explained, and gave her a position working for me so that she could learn from me. And I learned a lot from her! We were a GREAT team.

Since then, we have made some hires of outside people, and not always for the job they applied for. You never know what you might get unless you try. I consider it a plus when my employer tries to promote from within.

Philippe said...

I'd have to agree with many of the posters here -- why do I care that it was an internal candidate? or a girlfriend? Or a ... It's irrelevant. The only relevant information that I really want to hear back from an interviewer is what -I- could have done better. The only time that I'd want to know it was an internal candidate was if the rest of the rejection stated something along the lines of "There were no specific factors that caused you not to be hired by our organization. We simply had an internal candidate that had the same experience, knowledge, and attitude that you did. For business reasons, we went internally."

Otherwise? I don't care who gets the position. I want to know how I can do better for the next time.

Anonymous said...

Yes, tell me, then I can search the company's site for the internal candidate's old job too!

Anonymous said...

If an employer would at least COMMUNICATE a rejection after an interview, by any means other than silence, that would be a good start.

Anonymous said...

One way of determining whether a job is already 'fixed' for someone could be to look at the post and close dates on the job ad. If a search is supposed to be nationwide, but the dates are a week apart, I'd guess that it's a stitch up (I've applied for one such position - for which I'm notionally a fit - primarily for the entertainment value in seeing if their fully automated system deigns to send me a rejection email in the end).

Jamie said...

If companies are going to do a legitimate search in which they are looking at internal and external candidates I'm fine with that.

But an entry on another blog in which companies were being advised to have x number of applicants for various racial and gender demographics.

If a company has already decided on an internal hire but casts the net just to say they interviewed others who fit the slots - that's totally disingenuous.

People looking for work shouldn't have to prepare for an interview if they don't have a shot to begin with.

I know this is probably the exception - but in reading about this on a major business site I can't say it wouldn't cross my mind if I knew they went with an internal hire.

Anonymous said...

Depends if you told them they had the position or not.

Today I was called and told a position was filled internally, after two interviews and being told I had the job.

That's not right to do to people.