Should You Keep a Database of Job Candidates You Almost Hired?

A little over a year ago I had a disheartening experience. After a prolonged process, I came this close to getting a job I wanted at a start-up, only to discover that the offer couldn’t be made because the partners of the start-up were not in agreement about providing the salary I requested.

I got a nice e-mail from the hiring manager telling me I was a “great candidate,” and that the company had determined it needed to rethink its hiring needs, and do some additional budgeting and restructuring, and so could not offer me the position at that time.

Fast-forward to now, and the situation for this former start-up has changed, as a major publishing company acquired it. I didn’t know about this acquisition until I happened to get a text from a close friend, who also is an editor, raving about an exciting job prospect that had fallen in her lap—to be a managing editor at the very company I had come close to landing a similar job with last year! A Human Resources executive for the company, a LinkedIn contact of my friend, had sent her a message asking if she knew of anyone who would be a good fit for the position, and my friend, understandably, had leaped at the opportunity herself.

I knew it was too late, and out of loyalty to my friend, I couldn’t apply to the same job and compete with her, but I was frustrated and angry that the company hadn’t thought to contact me when its situation changed. My suspicion is, despite being acquired by a larger company, there still is not enough money to pay me, but it would have been nice to have been asked, and to have had an exploratory conversation. My friend has no specific experience in the job role of managing editor, which she has applied for, and I’ve been doing that job for eight years. And now, out of loyalty to my friend, I have to sit on my hands. My friend told me that during her interview, the company said that even though it’s been acquired, it is still trying to adhere to start-up mentality—i.e., it still doesn’t plan on paying at senior editorial levels, I’m guessing. I’m hanging onto that likelihood as consolation—that the company still couldn’t afford to pay me anyway.

But it would have been nice not to have to speculate about the salary requirements and the parameters of the job that has opened up. As a candidate who got to the salary negotiation point of the process only a little over a year ago, I would have thought it would have made sense to get in touch with me, right?

I got the sense the company was so disorganized it hadn’t bothered to keep a record of my job application and interviews. Thus, I didn’t exist to the hiring managers when it came time to look for applicants for the position my friend applied for.

This bring me to my key question: What kind of record do you keep of people who went through your hiring process into the final rounds but did not receive an offer or decline an offer due to unsatisfactory salary? When hiring managers at your company tell candidates they will keep their resume on file in case another role that would fit their skills opens up, do they mean it? Are your files of past, nearly successful candidates frequently tapped to make sure the opportunity to finally add a person to your company, who you were not able to add previously, is not missed?

I also wonder whether, psychologically, hiring managers like to make a fresh start when hiring for a newly opened position, so that even almost-closed-the-deal candidates are like day-old bread. Why rehash an old candidate—even one everyone really liked—when you could start with a fresh batch? Do you think there’s a psychological hindrance, in addition to the lack of organization, that sometimes prevents hiring managers from following up, as they said they would, when a new position becomes available or the company’s situation changes?

The hiring process is grueling for both candidate and company, so when you come very close, isn’t worth giving that candidate you almost hired a call or e-mail when new opportunities arise?