Does anyone know if anybody anywhere does anything with job applicants who get close to getting the offer (even if the candidates don't know that)?
The closest idea I have is that employers might contact these people when another similar opening is available. Otherwise, I have no idea. It just seems a waste to leave aside people who are clamoring to work for you, and could have got the offer. But again, I have no idea, and am perhaps not thinking this out properly.
If there was a candidate who just met the job qualifications and one who exceeded the qualifications, assuming they did equally well on the interview, would a company hire a candidate that just meets qualifications in order to justify paying that person a lower salary?
1) In today's complicated
1) In today's complicated world, it would be very easy to get lost in the shuffle. Just as HR typically can't respond to everyone who applies, the second place candidate is unlikely to come up again in a database for future positions. That's why one's network is CRUCIAL - they're the ones who will know you and help get you into positions where are you are the number 1 candidate.
2) This is backward thinking. An exceptional employee is worth 10x the average employee, so their salary should not be a concern. If you're a high performer, you wouldn't want to work for a company that picked the second place candidate just to save a few bucks. In all honesty, decision is costing them in the long run and most likely a recipe for disaster.
Hope this helps.
Offer them as a referral...
If you have a network within other companies in your industry (or at least at companies that employ similar positions), you could refer that person to those companies if they are hiring. Obviously check with the candidate first before you do this, letting them know that they were an excellent candidate, etc etc. You get to do a solid favor for someone in your network and may also receive dividends in the form of getting "second-best" candidates (which can still be really good candidates) from your network.
Opportunity to build your network
This is a great opportunity to grow your network. In addition to DRD282's suggestion that you refer them to someone else in your network this is an opportunity to build your own network and likely add someone to your bench for future hiring.
In the past I have communicated with the person who did not get the job about them not getting the offer and I immediately offer to help them with their continued job search. I will check in with the person periodically as well to offer help.
Thanks for the replies
Thanks for the replies. I actually did not want to reply at first, because I was not too pleased with the answers (because I was asking in reference to myself, having not received an offer to a job that I had more experience with than the winning candidate). Later, I realized that my frustration was because I didn't provide enough context.
To make a long story short, I was contacted two months later by the company I had interviewed with. They had another opening, and a policy that allowed them to use results from previous interviews (up to 6 months previous) for similar positions. They ended up giving me an offer. I was, in fact, 2nd place!
Thanks again for the replies. I was actually trying to vent my frustrations through questions (without blatently complaining or whining), but replies about benefitting my network (and how the employer can benefit) are much more helpful than running my mouth (or fingers)!