A reader writes:
A couple years back, my best friend applied to a position at a very well-known, global company. This is a company that people from all over the world want to work for, and it’s always been her “dream company.” Without getting too far into the backstory, she got the offer and must have indicated in some manner that she planned to accept, because they sent her contracts, broke down a timeline for her to move cross-country and start work, etc. After a week of beating around the bush (all she had left to do was break the news to her coworkers), she let her bosses talk her out of taking the job. I was disappointed that she gave up such an amazing opportunity and thought she probably shot herself in the foot with this company by the way she handled it. (Don’t get me wrong, I know people can turn down offers for a variety of reasons, but she implied that she was ready to make the jump and waited until the 11th hour to say she changed her mind.)
Now she’s miserable again at her job and wants to move on. She keeps applying to the “dream company” because when she turned down the last job, the HR rep told her to “keep in touch.” Each time she contacted this woman (probably three times in the past 18 months), the woman responded in a cooler and cooler fashion. Personally I think the “keep in touch” was a polite HR-style kiss-off, but I don’t know. Part of me thinks my friend is in denial about how poorly she handled things before, and that she’s wasting valuable time and energy by still focusing her search there rather than opening herself up to other opportunities at other companies.
What do you think? Do companies hold a grudge like this when they know there’s a line of thousands behind her who would take a job without hesitation? Can a person be “blacklisted” in their applicant database for something like this? The job search process is hard enough and my friend keeps getting her hopes up each time she applies. I can’t tell if I’m being a good friend by supporting her decisions, or a bad friend by not giving her my honest opinion.
If she indicated that she was accepting their offer and then later changed her mind, then yes: They are probably never going to consider her again. They consider her flaky and unreliable.
She might not actually be flaky and unreliable, but she was in this situation and so she is to them. Prospective employers don’t have all that many data points about you, so they work with what you give them.
Now, if she didn’t actually accept the offer, and she did get back to them in some sort of reasonable agreed-upon timeline, then ignore everything I wrote above. In that case, the vast majority of employers aren’t going to hold a turned-down offer against someone, assuming it doesn’t come after an initial acceptance. However, there’s always the occasional rogue person who doesn’t follow these norms, and it’s possible that this HR woman is one of them.
I’d ask your friend point-blank whether she accepted their earlier offer and point out that if she did, that’s almost certainly why they’re not interested in pursuing her now.