I got this message from a recruiter a few days ago, “Hope all is well, Abrar Zakki! I wanted to extend a virtual wave and thank you for your interest in joining our team. You obviously have many of the skills we’re looking for. That said, we’re moving forward with other whose experience speaks more perfectly to our current needs,” and hundreds of rejection emails that sound like, “You’re not the right fit,” or “We decided to move ahead with another candidate who we feel is a better match.” Such a basic rejection template.
Looking for a job, indeed, exhausting. Sending thousands of applications, getting rejections and attending a couple interviews are part of the process. An interview is supposed to be a two-way communication when both employers and candidates are getting to know each other. Candidates are likely to spend time and money to attend the interview and an appreciation from the employers is important.
I sent many applications since I graduated from the University of Leeds (UoL), UK, especially after I moved to the Netherlands. I was never lucky with (junior) recruiters or automatic recruitment system/ applicant tracking system (ATS) as they tend to eliminate the candidate based on the checklist and obviously, there is no human sense in ATS.
I got interviews, some are good and some are funny. I will not share my interviews before I graduated with a Master’s Degree. I have worked in retail, airlines, bank and NGOs. Surely I dealt with interviews and rejections too but it has passed so long ago and perhaps, their recruitment methods have already changed. I will not share my good interviews either, as I think it might be my mistakes or I was not good enough compare to other candidates. Therefore, I just share my experiences dealing with the funny interviews.
An unprofessional Talent Head who takes advantage on the duty trip
After I graduated from UoL, there was a time when I wanted to come back to my home country, Indonesia to work. So I applied for some vacancies. I got a Skype interview with an American Food Company who has a branch in Indonesia. The recruiter invited me for a face to face interview in London with the Talent Head, as that was part of their international recruitment process to attract Indonesians who study abroad. This fourth world’s largest food and beverage company in 2017 has a fancy office building in London and I was so excited. The recruiter proposed the date and time, as her manager (Talent Head) would visit the London’s office and the interview would be held there. I agreed but got no confirmation.
I sent a couple of emails to ask for their confirmation, as I lived in Leeds and I needed extra time to go to London. It takes more than three hours, even commuting by train. On the day the Talent Head arrived in London, the recruiter sent me the confirmation. I got no time but I was still excited and planned to go to London at the same day. I tried to ask the recruiter to reschedule the time but still, waiting for hours and no confirmation.
Then I contacted the HR Department in London directly, hoping that I could reschedule it for the next day. Shockingly, the person who spoke with me on the phone said that the Talent Head for Indonesia Office was only there for half an hour and she said her colleagues took her to town for lunch and seeing around, probably she would not come back to the office.
She took her chance in London for sightseeing!
I sent an email asking about the interview but I got no reply until one week after that. The recruiter set up a Skype meeting with the Talent Head as she already got back to Indonesia. Then we agreed on the date and time. However, again, she did not show up. I was waiting for more than two hours and still did not receive any confirmation. Then again, I sent an email to the recruiter.
The Talent Head replied to my email as below:
I do not know if that was an excuse or she just thought that it was not important, as she also mentioned my name incorrectly. It also seems that it was very hard for her to apologise. In the end, I had no interest anymore dealing with the recruitment team who do not appreciate candidates. I might change my mind if there was a ‘sorry’ word. So I replied to her.
Taking my ideas but does not hire me and does not send any confirmation
This happened to one unicorn company in Indonesia, established in 2009 and one of Indonesia’s biggest online marketplaces.
I felt robbed!
The recruiter, the hiring manager and the team were aware that I was abroad, so the interview was conducted through Google Hangouts. It went very well as I presented some innovative ideas for the business development in the country. They were happy with my presentation and invited me to prepare a proper proposal. At that time, I had no doubt to do that as I was sure that this was the right company to work for.
During the interview, I saw one of them writing a note and taking pictures of my PowerPoint slides constantly on the phone. I just thought that this perhaps the recruiter’s way to capture moments from the interview and compare it to other candidates. But I felt even weirder. During 1,5 hours interview, they really asked me about the ideas in detail and how to execute them step by step, process by process, more like telling them what to do. I do not know if that was really their way of interviewing but I just felt I was being exposed to some hidden intention. At the end of the interview, they looked very happy and satisfied.
Then my suspicion came true. I am not sure if they really took my ideas without spending more money on the salary or maybe I was just not good enough for them. But I never got any email after that interview. They never contacted me back, even sending a rejection message. I sent them an email asking about my status, but I got no reply.
I had my application processed once by a consultant from an organisation jointly owned by the Government of a Europe country and their business community. Their purpose is to help the companies from their country to grow the global sales and international expansion. I got a chance to fill a role in Indonesia for their global leader in wound care and related vascular diseases, lymphology and non-invasive orthopaedic products.
I got the interview and I guessed it went very good but the consultant sent me a rejection email not long after the interview. Well, I thought I might not as good as other candidates for that position, so I moved on.
A month after that, the Project (Recruitment) Manager sent me an email regarding the offer for the role, asking when I was available for the final talk with the Regional Director and when I could start. But getting a rejection email from his team before already made me progressing the other plan.
I sent him an email back but I never got any reply.
Speaking of the Netherland’s Orientation Year Visa, I write the article here.
I actually felt bad for one recruitment team and the Country Director of the multinational clothing-retail company known for its fast-fashion clothing for men, women, teenagers and children. I applied for their production office in Indonesia and honestly, this is one of my dream jobs. I have passed all the assessment and interview stages which took approximately a month and it has already come to an end of the process. But before I signed the contract, I had to have a talk with two Directors from two different countries through a video call and the recruiter had already set up the meeting. I am fully aware that this type of work is complicated as she needed to match different time and location. However, after considering many reasons and possibilities, I decided to move to the Netherlands and had to reject the offer. I apologised to the recruiter and she understood my situation. She was a nice one but life goes on.
Before that, I also applied for some companies in the UK, even though most of them were not able to provide a Visa sponsorship and with the ‘Brexit’ situation, I understand these companies are dealing with an uncertain situation to hire the international employee. I got processed by the public health services in the UK. I did a telephone interview and on the same day, I received a rejection email. At that time I felt, “Okay, it’s quick, but maybe I’m not the right person.”
The day after, I received another email saying that was a mistake.
I fully understand it sometimes happens with the administration or system error, but comparing the attitude of this recruiter and that Indonesian Talent Head attitude who did not show up a couple of times in the interview, made excuses and even did not apologise, this was completely better. In the end, I did not get the job as I spoke with the hiring manager and as this was a contract position with a fixed term, they chose not to provide me sponsorship for the Visa.
Lost to the local candidates
I do not blame some companies prefer to hire local candidates who speak the local language fluently. As I am now in the Netherlands, I understand most of the companies will choose Dutch candidates as their biggest market is Dutch people and maybe most of the corporate data are available in the Dutch language. However, some of the international companies with the international market or whose headquarters are located in the Netherlands open the vacancies to non-Dutch (English) speakers. Even though, in the process, in the end, local candidates tend to have a bigger chance to catch the fish.
I experience some rejections because I do not speak Dutch (at the moment), some said it indirectly and some said it in the feedback. One of my experiences is when I had the chance to follow the recruitment process of a Dutch dot-com company, specialised in online food ordering and home delivery.
I already had the beginning stage interviews when I was still in the UK and set up a meeting once I arrived in the Netherlands with the Hiring Manager and the current employee who soon to be replaced by a potential candidate as he was starting his own business.
The interview went smooth and I guessed they liked me as they gave me a compliment after the interview. However, there were other two candidates, an Indian and a Dutch, as they mentioned. I had the chance to talk back to the recruiter who was very friendly after my interview and she said to me that it was actually between me and the Dutch as they already stopped considering the Indian to move forward.
One week later I got the call from the recruiter. It was really between the two and they actually preferred me in terms of the attitude, aside from the matched skills and experience. However, they chose the other candidate. As she mentioned before the other candidate is Dutch, then I asked her, “Is it because I’m not local or is it because of the Dutch language? If it is about the language, I am willing to learn it as I have signed myself for a course.” She giggled and wished me a good luck in the future. Well, I honestly just think that any skill can be learned but the attitude is fundamental. Besides, if they already preferred to choose the local candidate in the end, why bother inviting me to the interview.
But I appreciate her as she was very opened and friendly, before, during and after the interview. Some of the recruiters are only nice before the recruitment process and some of them do not bother to send the rejection call or email, even after the final stage or interview, ignoring candidates who already give effort, time, even money to go to their offices for an interview.
Maybe this is my assumption but a wrong feedback?
Somehow I got a call for an interview with a travel fare aggregator website with a headquarter in Amsterdam. I moved on to the second interview even though I mentioned that I did not have the particular skill they need for the role. It is a technical skill to run a tool for digital measurement. However, the recruiter convinced me that the team was still considering me to fill the role.
Then I had the interview with the hiring manager and one of his team member. Apparently, they still asked me about this technical knowledge and I answered that I have never used it before. But as I had done my research, I told them the basic understanding of this tool and how I am willing to learn more about it as I have other needed skills.
They moved on, but to be honest, during the interview, I could not understand their English, the accent and the pronunciation were just unclear and I had to ask to repeat the questions over and over again. They are both from Eastern Europe countries with a strong accent. I realised at some point the Hiring Manager got enough when I asked him to repeat the question again. But aside from that, I guess I answered the questions very well.
Two weeks after that, I received the rejection email with the feedback from the recruiter. He mentioned that I am lack of this particular technical skill and I do not have communication skill, everything that I explained was just vague. I was not so sure how to react to those. Definitely, since the very first beginning, I had mentioned that I never used that tool but they still invited me and for the communication skill, I wish I could say you better find anyone who comes from Eastern Europe too as they may speak the same language with you, so perhaps you could communicate better using your native language. Do not blame me because I think that is an international company with multicultural employees and English as the working language.
Interrogated by a rude Hiring Manager
This is the funniest interview I have ever had so far in my life. I did not specifically apply to the role but one day an agency recruiter sent me a message on LinkedIn, offering me a chance to apply for the position. This is an American manufacturing company based in Delaware, Ohio, USA and for their EMEA market, the headquarter is in the Netherlands. The company is one of the Fortune 1000 and it has a positive growth, so I was excited.
I got the first interview, answered a business case, wrote a descriptive essay and got a great feedback that the Department Director likes my CV and my essay. They invited me for the second interview but it was not with the Director but with the Manager and one of his team members. I was waiting in a meeting room with the door opened and it is exactly beside the Manager’s room, I think. While I was waiting to be interviewed, one of them got yelled with the high-note voice, definitely, the man who was screaming at him was not satisfied with his work, as this man kept saying ‘not sure’. However, I do not think that was the best way to encourage your team to perform well.
The agency recruiter has given the name of the manager who will interview me and someone called his name. He stopped yelling and entered the room where I was waiting. “Oh no, this is him!” I was also convinced by his voice. We shook hands, then he said he wanted to take coffee, so he wanted me to wait there. I said to myself, why not offering me anything to drink too, even though I might reject it gently. It is just a form of politeness.
He did not review my CV or even read it a glimpse. As when I introduced myself, he kept asking the same things over and over again, like he was confused and not connected to my explanation. When he finally checked my CV that was in front of him, he apologised as he finally understood what I meant. The interview is supposed to be two-way communication but I just felt like I was interrogated with the use of the rude statements such as, “This is wrong,””Why you keep going round and round and round (while making disgust expression),””I don’t believe it,””This is not your effort, others are also contributing to this,” etc. For me, I thought why someone else’s experience becomes wrong, as that personally happened to them, not to the others who ask them. Even though they do not agree, I guess it is not wise to judge others.
I gave some exact number figure from my previous work experience and the Manager wrote other number figures on the whiteboard which he thought that was about the same case. I was okay with that and tried to explain it in details on the whiteboard too. During the presentation, he interrupted me a couple of times without giving me a chance to finish my explanation. Knowing that circumstance, I speeded my speech, cut some details. He was about to interrupt me again when I mentioned the different figure that was not on his mind, then he apologised again for interrupting that part. He was thinking another thing!
I was holding my patience as I could just walk out of the room with a person who did not appreciate others but I thought I came with a good start, so I had to end it with a good finish too. I tried to give a detail explanation with a solid business analysis because when we analyse a figure, let’s say profit, there are so many influencing factors to create a margin, such as revenue and cost. However, he put it in a very simple way by only seeing it from one factor and he blamed me because I could not make a quick decision based on that figure. “You make it complicated!” he yelled while marking the figures and putting the cross mark on the whiteboard.
Finally one of his team member who also interviewed me supported me by saying, “I guess Zakki is right because we can’t put it simply if we want to analyse it,” and I said, “Thank you for supporting me on this matter.” But maybe the manager felt embarrassed and since then he put a sour face the entire time.
Time ran so fast then it was already 1,5 hours interview. The other guy had to stop the manager and ended up the interview by asking any question from me. Typical of an interview. I asked several questions and apparently, they were good questions for the manager. However, for all technical questions, the manager did not want to answer and gave it to the other guy to fully answer them.
Two things crossed in my mind when I asked about the innovative or creative way for a team member to come out with a solution or strategy, instead of strict to the work SOP. The other guy was silent for about a few seconds then giggled while answering the question. He also looked at the manager while answering that. I sensed pressure.
When I asked about the simple question, “What do you love most about working here?” the Manager answered that by repeating my answer about why I want to work there. I was just smiling hearing that. At the end of the interview, the Manager, again, apologised because he put the thing so simple while it needs deep business analysis before coming out with a conclusion.
The other guy was actually quite nice and I think I may get along to work with him on a team but I was not sure I can work with a typical manager like that. I was curious and looked for their profile on LinkedIn. As I expected, even though they have years of experience in their position now, they are not from the actual background or even in line with what needed for that position. No wonder the manager put everything so simple for a specific business case. I do realise that in the actual work, it is actually my responsibility to convince them or any stakeholders with an insight but how am I going to share the ideas if I am not given a chance to explain or time to tell as I am interrupted all the time?
The next day the agency recruiter called me to ask about the interview. She was very nice but I politely said that I may not be the right fit for the role and the work environment, therefore I withdraw my application.
During the interview, instead of interrogating what I have done in the past, I prefer any recruiter or hiring manager to ask me about what I can do and what value I can bring to the company.