4 Reasons a Hiring Manager Doesn’t Extend a Job Offer

Key questions that impact hiring decisions

May 1 · 3 min read

We’ve all lost out on jobs. It’s soul crushing, especially if you had your heart set on a particular company. As a candidate, it can feel like the hiring manager is rejecting everything about you. While it may feel that way, it’s not true.

As a hiring manager, I want to shed light on the other side of hiring decisions. It’s my responsibility to strengthen our design team’s capacity to make great products that our customers love to use. That means I have to decide if I think a candidate will thrive on a specific team for our company’s types of projects. It’s important that I make this a successful, positive working relationship for everyone involved. The reality is that hiring someone that’s not a good fit can have a huge, negative impact on them and our team. And hiring someone that’s a great fit can bring out the best in our team and boost our collective skillsets.

Here are four questions I grapple with when I make hiring decisions:

Am I able to support their growth?

I think a lot about whether a candidate needs more experience and if I can set them up for success with the support they need. If I don’t have the right mentors, partners, and environment for them, then I have to say no. There have been many times I’ve turned down a well-liked, high potential candidate because the team and I can’t give them enough bandwidth to support their growth.

Will they thrive on the product development team they join?

Every team has different OKRs, approaches to problem-solving, and communication styles. Some have challenging stakeholders, others are tackling complex problems, and a few have team members with strong personalities. Alternatively, there may not be enough big challenges at the moment for a more senior designer to take on. A designer may be a great candidate in many ways but if I think that they won’t feel satisfied, engaged or successful in these team environments, I will have to say no.

Is their past work relevant for our projects?

I work closely with our recruiters to find designers whose work includes similar challenges and problems our teams are tackling. Depending on the role and team, it varies if it is important that they’ve worked on similar problems. Even if a designer is high potential, if they haven’t tackled similar kinds of work and don’t have a clear process to quickly tackle new problem spaces, then I will likely say no.

Will they add new or bolster skills and experiences on our team?

Each design team is like a sports team with different strengths and areas of expertise. Together, we’re greater than the sum of our individual efforts. I’m constantly looking for candidates that bolster skills and bring fresh perspectives and life experiences. If the designer has a decent skillset but they’re not bringing experiences that expand the makeup of our current team, then I will likely say no.

Final thoughts

I write all this to say that there are many deciding factors outside of a candidate’s control. It’s a hard decision and a much harder experience to receive a “no.” I deeply empathize with feeling disappointed. I’ve felt it too.

Also, it’s possible that a “no” today may not be a “no” tomorrow. Team makeup and project types change over time and perhaps someone who wasn’t a fit for the team could become a good fit later. It doesn’t hurt a candidate’s chances to reach out again the following year with new work, experiences, and processes to share.

My hope for everyone I interview is that they find a place where they thrive.

What are your lessons learned about the hiring process as either a candidate or hiring manager?

Big thanks to Rachel Kroft, Michele Tepper, Allison Shaw, Elizabeth Goodman, and Mariesa Dale for their feedback.

Leslie Yang

Written by

Design manager @OpenTable, previously @PivotalLabs. Writing about working better together on teams. We’re hiring product and brand designers.

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