18-year-old Megan Dixon was excited for her interview at a popular restaurant chain.
Dixon had secured the interview at a Miller & Carter Steakhouse location. The company operates dozens of locations across the United Kingdom, and Dixon was hoping to get a job as a part-time waitress while she attended school.
At the end of the interview, Dixon was told that she'd know whether or not she had the job within the next several days. She wasn't expecting to hear anything right away, but she thought that she was fairly qualified for the position.
"At the end of the interview, I asked when I would hear back," Dixon said. "[The interviewer] told me it was never more than a few days and she had my email."
But Dixon's excitement quickly turned to embarrassment when she looked down at her phone right after leaving the meeting.
The interviewer had sent her a message, mere seconds after she'd left.
The message: "It's a no."
The story might have ended there with the curt (but honest) text. However, Dixon chose to use the rejection as an opportunity to prepare for other interviews; she wanted to avoid the mistakes that had cost her this job. She messaged back, asking why she'd been turned down.
"Okay," Dixon wrote. "How come? X"
"Just not engaging," the reply read. "And answers we're 'like' basic [sic]"
That was followed by a crying laughing emoji—and that's when Dixon was enraged with how she was being treated. In retrospect, she wishes that she'd gone back into the business to give the interviewer a piece of her mind.
"I was so shocked and I wish I'd gone back in there," Dixon said to the Daily Mail. "My mum was so angry—these big companies can't treat people like that. It has definitely put me off the company."
"For people who might not have any self confidence as well, it could really upset them," she added.
The remarks apparently referenced how Dixon had used the word "like" in the interview; the teen admits that she may have been nervous, and may have used the word to break up her sentences. However, Dixon says that the restaurant's interviewer, Shantel Wesson, was far more unprofessional.
"She didn’t even shake my hand, didn’t have my CV out and was just sat drinking a coffee," Dixon told The Sun. "Maybe because I’m 18 she thinks it’s OK not to be professional with me? I don’t know."
This story quickly became a public relations disaster for Miller & Carter.
Dixon's story went viral after she tweeted screenshots of the text exchange to the company's Twitter account. The restaurant chain quickly issued a statement.
"We can't apologize enough to Megan," a spokesperson said. "It was never our intention to be disrespectful or upset her in any way. The texts were sent in error and were intended for our manager, not the candidate."
The chain's story, then, is that the interviewer was simply sending a message out to her manager, explaining that Megan's interview hadn't gone well. The interviewer may have intended to reach out to Megan at a later date, ideally to explain (in less hostile terms) why she wasn't suitable for the position.
The restaurant has also pledged to investigate the error.
"However, we expect our team to act professionally at all times and to give constructive feedback after any interview via email," the spokesperson said. "We are taking this extremely seriously and will be investigating to ensure it never happens again.”
If it's truly an innocent mistake, it's difficult to see how the chain could make that claim. They may be implying that the interviewer won't have those responsibilities in the future—or perhaps that the company will change its policies for notifying rejected candidates.
The public response has been mixed. Some commenters support Dixon, arguing that no job candidate should face that type of rude rejection—regardless of qualifications (or lack thereof).
But others note that if Megan really did give basic answers and use the word "like" throughout her sentences, perhaps she wasn't suited to the job in the first place, as waitressing jobs require frequent, clear communication with customers under high-stress situations. While few commenters defend the content of the Miller & Carter representative's text messages, some believe that Dixon's simply reaching out for 15 minutes of fame.
If that's the case, the ploy worked; the story was quickly picked up by numerous tabloids, and it spread across Twitter within minutes, making Megan into a minor celebrity for several days.
In any case, this is yet another example of how internet exposure can completely change a story. What might have been a small embarrassment for a college student turned into a major embarrassment for a large corporation.
And Megan's apparently not accepting the apology.
"I was shocked. The least she should have given me was some proper feedback," she told The Telegraph. "And the laughing face emoji was so unprofessional. It was a really b***y thing to do."
Managers disagree about the correct process for informing a job candidate that they won't be hired. In a piece for Forbes, writer Liz Ryan suggests that interviewers should be careful not to drop hints that a candidate might be doing well. Saying something like, "You're one of my top candidates" can make rejection much more difficult.
"These are really bad things to say, unless there's a commitment behind the statement," Ryan writes. "What job-seekers go through is bad enough without also having to hear false-hope-raising statements."
Ryan suggests sending a simple email to candidates who don't make it to an interview. Managers should also personally call applicants who appeared in person to let them down gently; empathy is, of course, key (and "crying laughing" emojis are certainly out of the question).
So, did the Miller & Carter representative make the right move by replying to Megan's text—even if the language was a bit rude?
Many managers go out of their way to provide applicants with detailed information about why they weren't selected. This can be problematic, however, as some applicants may react negatively to the feedback, even if it's presented in the best possible way. Furthermore, providing reasoning can open up a legal liability under certain circumstances.
Even in the best of situations, hiring managers may not have the time, patience, or energy to provide advice to rejected applicants. After all, managers only know how their own business works; they're not necessarily qualified to provide advice, and they may not have any interest in doing so.
The interviewer probably didn't have any legal obligation to reply to Megan's inquiry in the first place. In the United States and most other countries, employers generally aren't legally required to tell applicants why they were turned down.
There are exceptions; government agencies may be required to comply with civil service regulations, and may need to note their reasoning for refusing a candidate. Some businesses must also report this information to unions as a condition of employing union workers.
Ultimately, though, managers are expected to give an actual rejection notice, even if they don't provide details. In fact, while Megan's rejection may have been rude, several commenters noted that a more impolite move would have been to simply leave Megan waiting for a response.