Today’s letter comes from Ask a Manager:
I have been going through a very rigorous interviewing process for a permanent job in a firm where I have been undergoing a two-month post-college training program/paid internship which is very prestigious and only very few trainees are offered the permanent job. It would be my first proper job after finishing university. I have worked very hard during the training and have been very much appreciated by all colleagues. I have successfully passed all stages of the internal recruitment and have been told repeatedly by HR that I would definitely be offered the job. All that was left was to do a final interview with the company CEO and another director, scheduled for an early afternoon on Monday. However, everyone treated this as a mere courtesy meeting or just a sort of final formality.
On Sunday evening, I was travelling home on a packed train with my bike. Suddently, I was approached by a lady who asked me, rather rudely, to give my seat to a man, her father, who was travelling with her. Since I was sitting on a regular seat (not a seat designated for disabled passangers) and had to read some materials to prepare for my interview, I ignored her. Unfortunately, when I was getting off the train, I accidentally moved my bike in a way that it caught and left dirty stains on her coat.
I did not think much of this till the next day when I ran into the same woman and one of directors in the lift in my office building. It transpired that she is the CEO’s wife. She said nothing and did not acknowledge me, but it was very clear to me that she recognised me.
My interview that day went very well. However, I was not offered the job! I was given some feedback about the skills that I have to develop but that was all. I am not sure HR knows about the above as nobody mentioned it. The HR person who handled my recruitment was very surprised, in fact he was in shock about this. In any case, I am very disappointed as I am sure that this is the result of the said woman badmouthing me to her husband. I have worked so hard to get this job and feel it is extremely unfair to be rejected for something that has nothing to do with my performance and ability to do the job.
I am thinking that I should complain to HR and also should request the meeting with the CEO and the second director (who interviewed me) to explain myself, or maybe even to offering to pay for dry-cleaning or reimbursement of the ruined coat?
This is appalling! They all but promised you this job and then withdrew it for something so small as lacking basic human decency. It is absolutely unfair to judge candidates based on personality and especially to judge applicants based on things that happened outside of the interview process. I mean who cares if a potential employee is or isn’t someone you want to be around. The only fair way to judge is to judge based on how you act when you are on and know you’re being assessed.
There’s also the important fact that you sound super reasonably confident. Like the kind of person who deserves this prestigious internship more than anyone else because they are better than everyone else. It’s super unfair to think you were denied this thing that you so rightfully deserve. It’s also completely impossible that this rejection was based on qualifications or any reasonable factors that could have been considered.
So, now we’ve established how right you are and how you deserved this internship. So, what can you do about it at this point? The first step should be to contact HR and explain to them that you shouldn’t be disqualified just because you ignored an old dude trying to steal your seat and ruined a woman’s coat without acknowledging it. Some might consider this as jerky, but you were just asserting dominance in the wild. Well outside of the confines of the job and interview.
If HR doesn’t listen or if they say “hiring is at the CEO’s discretion,” you should take your case to the CEO. Say that his wife was obviously PMSing and acting like a total wretch, and you know he must be familiar with “how she gets.” If for some reason, this doesn’t get him to immediately hire you, you should go to the police next. This is serious and you deserve the job!
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