A Dragged-Out Interview Process And A No-Context Rejection

Illustration by Français Gildas

Bloom Stories is a content series sharing the good — and bad — of your job experiences. For years we’ve felt like undercover investigators learning about the good managers, not-so-great workplace experiences and some of the heartbreaking reasons why folks leave seemingly great places to work. We want to share the revealing stories behind everyone’s career journey, not just the people who make it to the 30 under 30 list. We’ve been listening to your career stories now we want to share them with the world.

We know that there are genuine implications that come along with sharing your lived experiences. There are power dynamics at play that prevent folks from sharing their story. We are on the receiving end of experiences that make us feel a whole range of things from joy to anger. We want to share your story to help people feel less alone. We hope that these stories will guide readers to more affirming, empowering and good workplace experiences.

Meet Caroline:

The workforce can feel like a maze. Qualifications and recommendations can only bring you so far. For many, it will only bring you to the interview chair. To better navigate this path, candidates often look for signs during the interview process that things are going well. Caroline Baker* was no different. However, after going through a 2-month recruiting process filled with great indicators, she was promptly rejected with little feedback as to why.

Speaking with Bloom, Caroline explained what happened, the lessons she learned, and the potentially life-changing decision she ultimately had to consider as a result of this experience.

Welcome back to the world of work

Caroline, a former bank vice-president turned stay-at-home mom and newcomer to Canada, knew that the job hunt would likely be difficult. Companies aren’t always kind to candidates that don’t have a consistent work history, and there can be issues with discrimination against both new working mothers and newcomers to Canada. However, she wasn’t expecting her interview experience to be too drawn out because she had senior-level work experience in the United States.

In mid-2020, Caroline decided to jump back into the workforce after taking a two-year hiatus to be with her children. In December 2020, Caroline landed an interview for a vice president position at a large Canadian bank, a role she was a perfect fit for based on the job she had before having kids.

Caroline was put through numerous interviews: first with HR, second with the person who would be her direct manager, and third with a panel of other managers who worked for the company. Caroline attended a total of eight interviews spread over 2 months. (December 2020 to February 2021), putting dozens of hours into the process.

Throughout her interview process, Caroline chose to be honest about having kids. She was relieved to find common ground with her interviewers — two of them were also working parents. One element that came up was finding child care. Since Caroline had been a stay-at-home mom for over two years, she’d need to find child care for her kids if she was to return to full-time work. The HR team at the bank assured her the process would go fairly quickly, so she should start looking for child care.

As time went on, Caroline attended more interviews, each time getting encouraging signs that everything was going well. Weeks into her interview process, the hiring manager started discussing salary and doing background checks. In Caroline’s mind, a job offer was right around the corner.

Getting the runaround

Caroline, eager and committed to working for this company, stopped applying to other jobs. Unfortunately, that’s when things started to go downhill. Caroline explained that the conversations drew out to various other hour-long interviews and weeks of the hiring manager deciding “which way to go.”

After two months and eight interviews, the bank told Caroline she didn’t get the job.

“It left me confused and disheartened about getting back to work,” said Caroline.

When asked why she didn’t get the job offer, the hiring manager explained that the candidate they went with had more “network connections.” According to the job description though, being well-connected was not a requirement.

Caroline was left wondering what happened. The positive signs were all there: ongoing interviews, positive feedback at every stage, salary discussions, and even background checks — something banks do not typically do unless they are ready to give a formal job offer. Unable to figure out what happened, Caroline blamed herself, questioning if the time she took away to be at home ended up ruining her career.

Caroline’s interview experience left her with a negative view about the company and what it would potentially be like if she continued her job hunt in Canada. She even momentarily thought about going back to the United States, where her network was stronger.

A painful job interview experience

The working world is difficult to navigate when entering, re-entering or just trying to move up. Unfortunately, interview experiences like Caroline’s don’t help. Despite all the signs pointing in the right direction, the company pulled the rug out from under her at the last minute.

In Caroline’s case, the experience was so jarring that she considered relocating to a place where she felt she had a stronger chance of landing a job she was qualified for. She hasn’t made that move yet — and isn’t sure if she will at all — but she is still figuring out the right next step, so nothing is off the table.

*names changed to protect anonymity.

We help startups and the people who work at them grow.