did I lead my interviewer on?

A reader:

I have been working for a company (Company A) for six months now, on a temporary contract. The pay is good and the hours are flexible, and as I would like to start studying part time soon this arrangement suits me. I don’t see a lot of potential for growth in this company, and doubt they will offer me a permanent contract.

However, I recently came across an opportunity at Company B that sounded like an exciting new opportunity. They loved my CV, and I expressed to them via email that I was a fan of their work and excited at the prospect of contributing to it. I went to an interview, and a few details made it clear that this position wouldn’t be as ideal as I imagined. The pay is significantly less than I am earning now, and the commute would be very long and impractical, additionally, I got the feeling that the culture would not suit me either. However, the interviewer was so enthusiastic about my work, and I didn’t want to say no to this opportunity too quickly. I made it clear in the interview that I would like to discuss the details with my spouse and consider if the position would be best for me.

This morning, I received a written offer via email, and the salary is even less than what was discussed during the interview. I plan on taking a day or two to think it over, but likely will decline the offer, as I don’t feel it’s best for me. However, when I thanked the interviewer for sending the offer and expressed (again) that I would discuss it with my spouse and let them know my decision, the interviewer’s response was, “Haha, what decision? We’re just ironing out details.”

This makes me very uncomfortable, as I believe I made it clear I still needed to think it over. However, I worry that I have led the interviewer on by expressing my excitement about their work. I am very concerned that if I decline this offer, the interviewer will feel angry and deceived, and that I may burn a bridge.

What is the polite and professional thing to do in this situation?

Whoa, no, unless you said the words “I am accepting the job” or something close to that, you didn’t lead your interviewer on.

It’s implicit in the hiring process that either side may sound excited and enthusiastic, but that there’s no job offer until the employer explicitly makes one, and there’s no acceptance of a job offer until the candidate explicitly accepts.

This employer is being weird.

You didn’t lead them on. You’re allowed to express interest and enthusiasm without committing yourself to accepting the job. (And really, how could you commit without knowing the salary? That they think you would says something really odd about their thinking.)

Flip this around: It’s not uncommon for candidates to (wrongly) think they have a job in the bag because the interviewer seems enthusiastic about them. But imagine an employer saying to a candidate, “We’ll be in touch later this week with our decision,” and that candidate replying “”Haha, what decision? We’re just ironing out details.”

Ridiculous, right? It’s ridiculous here too.

This employer is acting as if candidates are just waiting to be picked, rather than doing their own picking too. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what hiring is about.

You could proceed two different ways here: You could just ignore the interviewer’s comment and trust that they’ll figure it out soon enough if you end up declining the offer. Or, if they seemed really serious — if it definitely wasn’t a joke and it’s clear to you that they genuinely think you’re already on board — you could respond with, “Before I can accept the offer, I need to think it over and talk with my spouse. But I’ll be back to you no later than X.” Hell, if you want to drive the point home, you could add, “The offer is for a lower salary than we’d discussed in the interview, and is significantly less than I’m earning now.” (But they may take that as you opening negotiations, so if you know you’re not going to accept the offer, it might not make sense to open that up. Although when you decline, you can certainly cite that as a reason.)

{ 104 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Liz T

    Could the interviewer have meant, “This isn’t necessarily a final offer, so don’t decide without negotiating?”

    Reply
    1. Judy

      That’s what I took it to mean. Especially since he threw out a lowball salary offer I would think that he was expecting to negotiate.

      Reply
      1. Aurion

        Even if he meant it in the “I expect you to negotiate” way the “haha, what decision?” is incredibly condescending. “What decision” implies that the decision has already been made, but the details make or break the acceptance. Come now, interviewer.

        Reply
        1. Anonymoose

          I agree with the condescending response. Especially since the offer is so much lower than what was discussed during the interview. It’s like the interviewer expects OPW to thank them for lowballing her. Ridiculous.

          OP, I would trust your instincts and quickly nip this one in the bud.

          Reply
    2. Important Moi

      Am I wrong to think that’s insulting and/or wrong because the OP said the salary in the offer was even less than what was discussed at the interview?

      Reply
    3. OP

      I did consider this as a possibility, but the tone of the response made me really uncomfortable, as I had made efforts to say I would still need to think the job over. Even if the interviewer did mean this as an opening for negotiation, the tone wasn’t really encouraging at all.

      Reply
      1. Liz T

        Oh, totally agreed. I just find it such a bizarre thing to stay I was trying to figure out an even SLIGHTLY more reasonable explanation.

        Reply
      2. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)

        I don’t feel that “haha” is ever really good to use in correspondence regarding job negotiations. I would feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable too. This could be an indicator that your senses were right about culture fit as well.

        Reply
      3. Catalin

        OP, you sound like a delightful, kind, thoughtful person. This interviewer sounds like a hard-seller, determined to fill the position. Unfortunately, aggressive sellers often make the other party feel obligated, even forced to align and agree.
        I would turn down the offer now. It’s not a good fit when you already have a higher-paying position that doesn’t make you miserable. It’s not a good fit when they pitch one salary and offer a lesser one that YOU KNOW doesn’t match your value. It’s not a good fit when hard-sellers meet kind-conflict avoidant. Tell them no, thank them for their time, hang up.

        Reply
        1. Cobol

          This. You don’t owe anything. Interviewer is just hard-selling. Turn the offer down and go on with your life without a second chance.

          Reply
        2. RVA Cat

          The fact he’s making you uncomfortable now is useful information – especially since an interviewer is supposed to be on their best behavior. This employer is shady with this whole bait-and-switch. Move on without a second thought.

          Reply
  2. Mike C.

    The fact that the offer was even lower than what was discussed makes me wonder if the hiring manager isn’t trying some sort of hard sales technique. Combined with the assumption that “you’ve already accepted the job”, the whole thing reeks of the sort of thing you’d see at a used car lot.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      This. I would turn it down firmly adding, the offer was not only well below what I am making now but below what we discussed in the interview. Of course don’t do that as if negotiating but the fact that it is so suggests a place most people would not be comfortable working for if they had a choice. The interviewer apparently thinks you are desperate and will take anything.

      Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Yeah, that was my first reaction as well—it sounds like a hard sales tactic. OP should not feel bad about saying no. OP repeatedly noted the need to discuss the offer with their spouse, their was no salary negotiation (and the amount offered was below the range provided during the interview), and from what I can tell, OP never indicated that this was “in the bag” for Company B.

      OP, feel comfortable saying no and walking away. You have not burned a bridge or led anyone on, and if they suggest otherwise, be glad that you’ll have ducked a bizarre company with problematic practices/norms.

      Reply
    3. Statler von Waldorf

      I got the exact same vibe as Mike C did. I’d decline the job based on this alone. Great jobs don’t need hard sell techniques.

      Reply
    4. Antilles

      That was my thought too – it’s a gambit. By framing it as “you’ve already accepted, this is just details”, it minimizes the odds of OP actually saying no.
      Also, listing the lower number in the formal offer sheet, makes it seem like that’s now the baseline. If OP calls out “wait, I thought we discussed $X during the interview”, the manager can ‘graciously’ increase the offer back to the number it was originally…so now it looks like she’s already negotiated upwards and OP isn’t likely to try to negotiate further because OP has already “won” something.

      Reply
      1. OP

        Yes! I am starting to believe more and more that this is what was going on.
        I have since declined, so I feel like I dodged a bullet here.

        Reply
    5. Snarkus Aurelius

      Seriously, who interviews a candidate, likes her work, sees her (initial) enthusiasm, offers her the job, and says, “I really want to hire this person so I’ll offer her even less than what I originally said!”

      Reply
      1. Noobtastic

        Someone untrustworthy. Don’t take the job with them, OP. You’d only get screwed over multiple times before you quit.

        Reply
      2. OP

        Yeah, after I got over the initial concern that I’d led the interviewer on, this was my thinking as well.

        I think they were maybe taking advantage of my enthusiasm, assuming that since I admired their work, I would take the job regardless of the less-than-ideal logistics. If they really did want me to work there, I believe they would have been more open to offering me a better package.

        Reply
        1. Shadow

          Hope you told them that- that their offer was too low. I wouldn’t have even brought up your current salary because that’s the equivalent of a sales person asking how much you can afford to spend.

          Reply
    6. Gazebo Slayer

      Yeah, I’ve gotten “oops, the pay rate is much lower than we’d discussed” – after I’d already *accepted the offer*. There are a lot of shady people out there.

      Reply
  3. Hannah

    Ugh! This is one of my pet peeves–people who think their assessment is the only one that matters. You see it everywhere–from employers like this, to guys who think that “I find you attractive” is a great reason all by itself for you to keep on dating them. For me, that attitude is a dealbreaker!

    I once was interviewing people for roommates, and turned someone down specifically because she followed up a few hours later with “Let me know when I can move in!” I’m just so turned off by that that I didn’t want her in the running anymore! (I wasn’t finished interviewing people yet, either.)

    Reply
    1. Hannah

      Also, I want to add that I don’t think there is any such thing as leading on an employer. Until an offer is extended and accepted, each party is free to decide it isn’t going to work out. It is the normal thing to say positive things about the work as you move forward in the processes, regardless of whether or not you end up taking the job. You’re allowed to use the interview process as a time to think about and assess whether this is a move for you while at the same time showing interest and enthusiasm. You’re not obligated to give off “not interested” signals to show there’s a chance you may not accept the job. Just like employers aren’t obligated to say “Well, we’ve narrowed it down to three candidates now, and you’re our third choice, so good job but don’t get your hopes up!”

      Reply
      1. Greg

        This. When I saw the headline, I thought it might be referring to a female candidate whose interviewer expressed a romantic interest in her. Even there, it’s unlikely she would have any reason to feel guilty for “leading him on”, but in the case of a job seeker, there are very few things you should ever have to apologize for.

        Reply
      2. hbc

        I think you can probably lead people on either direction in the hiring process, but 1) it’s pretty much impossible to prove from the other side and 2) this is nowhere near it. Like, if you’re 99.9% sure you’re not going to move to Florida, do not allow the University of Central Florida fly you in for an interview on their dime so you can do Disney on the side. But if you’re willing to move for a perfect job (salary, benefits, boss, responsibilities, etc.) and you reasonably believe that possibility is there, sure. Maybe it’s a long shot, maybe standing there in July changes you from “maybe for the right job” to “dear god no not even for six figures as Professional Chinchilla Cuddler,” but you can shake Mickey’s hand without shame.

        Just don’t share a reason that *sounds* like something you already knew early on in the process. “I can’t live in Florida” will rub someone the wrong way for sure. Something more vague is your friend here.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          It’s definitely possible to lead people on – at my org, we have a member of the executive team who we cannot let interview people on his own, because he always – inevitably – makes candidates feel like they’ve got the job, it’s just a matter of formalities to get them approved and ready to onboard. Even with candidates he knows he’s not going to hire. We think he thinks he’s being kind by not rejecting them immediately, but it’s just kind of a pain for everyone else because he has to be “chaperoned” by someone who can rein in his usual overenthusiastic closings.

          That said, this is not “leading anyone on” in either direction.

          Reply
  4. Noah

    This sounds like a sales technique to me. Like the interviewer is saying, “We’re so awesome, we know you’re going to take the job,” then unspoken [“but we understand you haven’t actually accepted”].

    Reply
  5. Antilles

    This morning, I received a written offer via email, and the salary is even less than what was discussed during the interview.
    If they’d mentioned this low salary during the interview phase, you probably would have shut it down right then, right? So frankly, if anything, *they’re* the ones doing the “leading on” by not telling you their real salary up front.

    Reply
  6. LBK

    Uhhh, yeah, this is weird. It really sounds to me like they’re under the impression that you’ve already accepted, or that they just assumed because you were so excited from the start that you were already implicitly accepting. If I imagine a candidate who’s already accepted the job telling me they’ll “let me know their decision” when I believe they’ve already told me their decision, then I can understand the response as a way of saying “Um, what?” to an awkward situation.

    Reply
  7. bridget (better screen name to follow)

    Sounds like a poorly-executed joke to me (with a rough translation of “we really want you, I hope you think we’re awesome and it’s an easy choice for you!”), since it was prefaced with a “haha.” At the very least, the weird comment was in response to you explicitly saying you would think about it, so the interviewer has really no basis to feel deceived.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Yeah, I think the comment was inept but not particularly meaningful, and I wouldn’t worry about it. There’s no leading on here.

      Reply
    2. Aurion

      I say haha and whatnot via email/IM to my coworkers all the time, but that’s after we’ve established a level of familiarity by actually being coworkers. In between interviewer and interviewee, the haha/jokey tone just feels…very unprofessional to me.

      Though given the rest of the sentence, “haha” is the least of the problems…

      Reply
  8. Snarkus Aurelius

    The low and subsequently lower salary mentions are probably what’s fueling the enthusiasm here. And, yes, the interviewer is being ridiculous.

    Years ago, I applied and interviewed for an Assistant Director type position. However during the interview, the job duties in the ad, which were close to what I currently did, were later mentioned as, “When you get all your admin work done maybe you can take a crack at those.” The job they actually wanted me for was an entry-level job: part personal assistant, part receptionist. They were also impressed with my graduate degree and work history, which shouldn’t have been impressive as I’d been out of school and working for a decade. Nowhere did they make the connection or understand this job was a step down. When I withdrew from the selection process, they were generally surprised and pursued me one more time after that.

    Someone on AAM explained to me that many employers amp up job descriptions and interviews to get that unicorn of a candidate rather a lesser qualified person who would be adequately paid on that low salary. You are that unicorn to them right now. They’re hoping to take advantage of your original enthusiasm and interest and get you emotionally invested so that the ever-declining salary won’t be a factor.

    So, no, you didn’t lead them on any more than an interviewer would by saying, “We’ll be in touch.” Nothing is set in stone so don’t sweat it.

    P.S. If I were truly snarky, I’d joke to the interviewer, “I’m afraid to keep talking about salary with you because it keeps declining whenever you mention it!”

    Reply
    1. OP

      “They’re hoping to take advantage of your original enthusiasm and interest and get you emotionally invested so that the ever-declining salary won’t be a factor.”

      I think this is very true and relevant here. Thank you for the response.

      Reply
    2. Greg

      Love the joke idea! I’m all in favor of trying stuff like that in situations where I know I’m not going to work for them. It’s like the campfire rule: Leave a better situation for the person who comes next. Maybe it will help them realize they screwed up. And if they get offended, who cares?

      Not nearly as creative, but I occasionally send rejection letters to employers that mimic candidate rejections: “While your company is impressive, I’ve decided to pursue opportunities that more closely match my career objectives.” It just feels good to stand up for myself, and hopefully reminds them of what should be the appropriate balance in the employer-candidate relationship.

      Reply
  9. OP

    Hi, OP here. Thank you so much for the advice and comments.

    Since reading through the responses and more helpful advice on this website, I do believe that the interviewer’s response was probably a sales tactic (making me feel like it was a done deal even though it wasn’t, so that I felt like I didn’t have the room to say no). I also think they took my enthusiasm for their work as an opportunity to lowball the salary, as they thought I would be so excited to join their team that I wouldn’t care about the less-than-ideal logistics.

    Regardless, I declined the offer, and while they were a little upset and offended, they were not open to negotiating a higher salary (not that this was the only unappealing factor), so I feel that I dodged a bullet.

    Thank you again for the comments and advice.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Poster

      Wow, not even open to the negotiation? The only kinds of jobs where I’ve seen that are entry-level kinds. I was going to offer that I see this as a negotiation tactic, and suggest internally laughing at the ridiculous offer and say the number you’re looking for plus some percentage, since they think it’s a game.

      Good luck! Weird that they were upset and offended… it’s a job and associated negotiation. It’s so normal. Sounds like you definitely dodged a bullet, and I hope you land somewhere better.

      Reply
    2. Aurion

      Not open to negotiation? When the offer was lower than the number mentioned at the interview?

      Wow, definitely a dodged bullet. Maybe a dodged cannonball.

      Reply
    3. Anonymous Educator

      I also think they took my enthusiasm for their work as an opportunity to lowball the salary

      They very well might have done that, but that’s not normal or desirable in an employer. I’ve been enthusiastic for many (most) jobs I’ve applied for. None of the employers I ended up working for took that to mean “We can thus lowball you on salary.”

      Reply
    4. mcr-red

      Anytime you decline an offer and someone gets upset and offended, I think you’ve dodged a major bullet.

      I had a similar situation in which I had interviewed with a couple of different companies, and got an email offer from Business 1. I didn’t reply right away and instead I notified Business 2, the company I really wanted to work for and they immediately came back with a better offer. So I told Business 1, sorry I’m going to turn it down, I got a better offer from Business 2. Business 1 was livid I had dared interview with someone else and told me they wouldn’t have wasted their time with me had they known that.

      Reply
      1. Cassandra

        Oooooof. Just me, or does that betray a whiff of Business 2 not being any candidate’s first choice?

        Reply
        1. Chriama

          Haha I would have loved to respond with something like that! “I’m sorry you feel you wasted your time interviewing me. I was excited to talk with your company, even knowing that you would be interviewing other candidates. I hope one of your other applicants is as excited to work for you as I am to work for company 2. All the best with your search!”

          Reply
      2. RVA Cat

        Wow, that is weird. It makes me wonder if the person from Business 1 is some kind of PUA-type creep in his personal life and it’s bleeding over into work, because of course it does.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          I actually think this is less uncommon than you might think – not pervasive, but there’s definitely a myopic, self-centered strain of manager out there who gets tunnel vision about their work and loses sight of the fact that not everything revolves around them being able to get things done. To them, someone turning down a job offer isn’t a person making a career choice, it’s someone screwing them by wasting time when they need a butt in a seat to do work for them. It’s the same kind of person who gets angry when people quit, because they lose sight of the fact that it’s a job and people leave jobs – all they know is that it creates more work for them, so it must have been a personal slight.

          Reply
          1. Working Hypothesis

            Yup. And all of that tends to play into the mindset that Alison mentioned, of thinking, “the purpose of job interviews is so that *I* can figure out which candidate best suits *my* needs,” instead of “the purpose of job interviews is so that the candidates and I can discuss whether we best fit *each other’s* needs.”

            It’s been a horrible sign every time I’ve seen it. It often leads to managers who not only get offended when you move on, but have zero regard for your personal life, professional development, or need for decent working conditions while you’re working there. Because, hey, it’s all about them, right?

            Reply
        2. Greg

          I suspect in many of those situations, the reaction tells you more about the hiring manager/HR rep than about the company itself (although the latter is certainly possible as well).

          When I was in grad school, one of my classmates, a real superstar, got multiple offers from companies during on-campus recruiting. One of the companies she turned down got weirdly hostile with her, which is a particularly strange thing to do with on-campus recruiting (it would be like getting mad at someone for turning you down at a speed-dating event).

          I told her, “Not that this justifies their response, but I bet the company rep had to fight hard to come recruit at our school, and is now embarrassed that she wasn’t able to bring in the candidates she had promised her bosses she would get.”

          Reply
      3. Anon Anon

        Agreed. The few times I’ve turned down a job offer, I usually get radio silence. That doesn’t make me feel great, but at least i’m not getting a guilt trip.

        Reply
      4. Gazebo Slayer

        …what?? They actually think job applicants only ever put in for one job at a time and wait until they have a definite yes or no on that one job before moving on to the next?

        I would say “haven’t they searched themselves and realized how long it would take and that you often never hear back at all?” But maybe they’re owners who started the business with family money or by charming some VC investor in college and they’ve always been the ones in charge…

        Reply
    5. hbc

      “Offended.” Geez, that’s unprofessional. I know a couple of people who come off kinda nice who take offense to candidates declining offers, and you don’t want to work with any of them.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yeah, that’s crazy. Offense is not in the range of normal, professional reactions to being turned down!

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          Disappointment, sure. But that’s “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. But I wish you the best in your job search/other new job/whatever!”, not “How dare you decline when I have deigned to offer you a job?”

          Reply
    6. AndersonDarling

      It’s unfortunate that you invested so much time interviewing with this company. Hopefully you feel good knowing that you are better than their goofball tactics and their lowball offer. At least you gained a good story to tell.

      Reply
    7. Printer's Devil

      The sales tactic thing was my reading too- I thought they were trying to make you seem like you had no choice in the matter.

      Reply
  10. Liz

    I thought I was the only one! I received an offer letter that started out “Thank you for accepting the position” and revealed the salary, hours, reporting structure, etc. for the first time. It was one of several red flags, but I kept wondering if I’d been *too* enthusiastic in the interview or made some verbal slip that they could have construed as me accepting, and it was maddening.

    Reply
    1. OP

      It was a relief reading through some advice on this website, and the specific responses on this post, and realising that I’m under no obligation to commit if a job offer is sent through! I was so concerned that I’d lead on my interviewer. AAM’s advice here: “You’re allowed to express interest and enthusiasm without committing yourself to accepting the job” was very helpful.

      Reply
      1. Karen D

        Exactly. If you were inclined to be kind, providing that feedback to them – that you saw through their obvious attempt to arm-twist you into taking a position that was even less lucrative than you thought – would be valuable to them, but honestly? They know what they are doing. I don’t even think this qualifies as a bullet dodged, OP – you saw them reaching for their holster in slow-mo and hauled butt right out of that corral :)

        Reply
      2. Is it Friday Yet?

        FWIW, I’d be tempted to reply with “Well for one, my wife and I need to decide if we can live off of this salary which would be much lower than my current one.”

        Reply
        1. Anon for this

          That’s the wrong approach. It implies that you WOULD accept the lower salary if you could live off of it. (It also implies you can’t make important business decisions without consulting your spouse. Consulting your spouse may be appropriate in this context, but it’s not the message to broadcast to an employer.)

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Not sure I agree re: the “important business decisions” part of the comment. Ostensibly, it is normal to want to discuss household economics with members of the household.

            Reply
            1. Jadelyn

              I’m with you, PCBH – I’m not going to consult my partner on how to handle situations that come up when I’m at work, but a decision that affects our household finances – like whether to accept a job offer that includes a reduction in pay and thus means I’m not contributing the same amount to our shared coffers – is definitely something I owe them a chance to weigh in on. “Let me talk to my spouse and get back to you” is entirely normal for a job offer situation, because that’s not a regular everyday “business decision”, and I think worrying about the optics of that is reading a little too far into things.

              Reply
            2. Anon for this

              My point is that from the employer’s point of view it’s a business decision. From the employee’s point of view, it is a decision that pertains to household economics. This is why I said it us appropriate to consult with your spouse, but you don’t want to tell the potential employer you’re doing so.

              Reply
              1. Audiophile

                I understand where Anon for this is coming from. It’s makes sense to take time to think of important decisions and to involve a spouse or partner. However, at the the same time, I don’t think I’d say to a potential employer anything more than “I need time to think this over. Can I call you on Monday with my decision?”

                Any time I had a job offer to consider, I consulted friends or a family member, but I never said “let me talk this over with my mom and I’ll get back to you.” Obviously, I know a relationship with a parent is different and carries a different weight than with a spouse, but you get the idea.

                Reply
    2. Noobtastic

      “Thank you for accepting the position”?! Wow, they’re in for a shock when you don’t show up for work the first day. Or week. Or month. I wonder how long it would take them to catch on.

      Reply
    3. JulieBulie

      I am amazed that people do this! I guess it’s possible to read that as “Thank you in advance for accepting the position,” but I wouldn’t read it that way, and I would be very alarmed to see it – and feel like I was being pressured for no good reason.

      Because if I had been about to accept the position, there’d be no need to pressure me. And if I’d been considering turning it down, the pressuring tactics would be a sign that I absolutely should turn it down.

      I don’t want to deal with people who pressure me for no good reason.

      So… I assume you turned it down? How did they react?

      Reply
      1. Liz

        I turned it down by email, and when the hiring manager left me a voicemail I just didn’t return it — I admit I didn’t want to deal with the whole thing. But I was pretty explicit in the email that I was alarmed/put off by the approach, so hopefully they’ll take that into account for the next person.

        Reply
        1. Vaca

          In my experience, people who do crap like this aren’t the most adept at taking anything into approach other than their own sense of moral superiority.

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          1. Working Hypothesis

            True about the individual. But sometimes if you give that kind of feedback, it gets back to their boss or someone else in the company who realizes that this kind of attitude is NOT going to get them the best employees, and therefore deals with the matter by dealing with the person worth the overwhelmed sense of moral superiority. Either by coaching them heavily, or by taking them out of the hiring process.

            Reply
    4. Kate

      Definitely not the only one! I once declined an offer, but after never hearing back from the hiring manager about it (email was our primary form of communication), I got an email from HR telling me where to report on my first day. It had me questioning every interaction we had. I’m pretty sure I didn’t *accidentally* accept (especially since the offer letter was also the first time I saw the salary, benefits, etc.). And I’m definitely sure I did decline.

      Reply
      1. HollyTree

        Can I ask what happened after that? It really weirds me out that there are hiring/HR people that are likes this. So bizarre.

        Reply
        1. Kate

          The hiring manager was a college professor (the job was a postdoc), and I always feel like academia operates a little by its own rules, which might explain the weird behavior. But anyway, I wrote back to the HR person and said, “I’m sorry. There seems to be some confusion. I actually declined this offer.” And they wrote back, also apologizing for the confusion. Being a little older/more experienced now, I realize I should have called him to confirm he got my email, but since he was so prompt about responding to my other emails, it never occurred to me that he might not have gotten that one.

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    5. Zinnia

      In the offer letter, I wouldn’t read too much into that language. Offer letters are usually written from a template, and since so many people give at least a provisional acceptance before getting the written offer, the template is written accordingly. Proofreaders are focused on the numbers, not necessarily whether the language reflects exactly how the discussion with the candidate left off.

      Reply
  11. Noobtastic

    When I saw that their written offer was even less than the offer in the interview, I thought, “If they don’t want OP to take the job, why even make the offer?”

    Then OP updated with the fact that they were upset and offending that she did not take the job AND that they were not open to negotiation on the salary, after they already lowered it once. I felt like those androids on Start Trek. “Illogical. Illogical. Does not compute. Norman coordinate.”

    Reply
    1. Greg

      “Would you take this job for $50K a year?”
      “I’m sorry, that salary doesn’t work for me.”
      “OK, fine. We can go down to $40K.”

      (I know that’s not actually how it played out, but that does seem to be the company’s attitude.)

      Reply
  12. Aunt Vixen

    PS Even if you have led someone on (an interviewer, a social acquaintance, whomever), you are always allowed to change your mind and say no.

    I sort of want to stand on something and shout this.

    Reply
      1. Anon for this

        Um, no. Legally this is very bad advice in many situations (although yes, in the at-will employment context you’re correct). But there are many other contexts where consent is irrevocable.

        Reply
          1. Aunt Vixen

            I suppose e.g. if you terminate your parental rights & responsibilities, the kid stays adopted and you cannot legally revoke that consent after whatever the period of time is. So I shouldn’t have said you can always change your mind.

            Signing away a child to be adopted is several miles past “leading someone on,” though. I still maintain that you are always within your rights to revoke implied consent, which is what we were talking about.

            Reply
            1. Jessesgirl72

              Even in your example, it’s not universally true, and parents who fully revoke their parental rights are at least being given visitation after the fact!

              But in business, which is what we’re talking about here, you can, actually, always revoke consent. There are penalties for breaking a contract, but we don’t have indentured servitude anymore, and contracts can always be broken. So to object to you having said so is really nit picking, for no reason.

              Reply
              1. Anon for this

                “But in business, which is what we’re talking about here, you can, actually, always revoke consent.”
                As general legal advice concerning business , that is simply not true. I’ll leave it at that, since a broader discussion veers away from the context of this thread, which concerns accepting a job offer, where yes, you can change your mind. But in many contexts, you’ll be in a world of hurt if you consent to something and blithely assume you can change your mind after the fact.

                Reply
                1. Aunt Vixen

                  But. Not. If. Your. Consent. Was. Only. Implied. Which. Is. What. “Leading. Someone. On.” Means.

        1. Jadelyn

          Nobody was offering legal advice, though. This is talking about the general principle that people are free to withdraw consent for various things, regardless of what weird social hangups we’ve developed around that concept.

          Reply
          1. PlainJane

            Yeah, this. My blanket statement above wasn’t intended as legal advice but, as you say here, to express the more general principle that it’s OK to change your mind about most things.

            Reply
  13. Jessesgirl72

    Sometimes, OP, doing something perfectly reasonable burns bridges with unreasonable people.

    This is not a bad thing.

    Reply
    1. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)

      doing something perfectly reasonable burns bridges with unreasonable people

      I want to put this on a t-shirt.

      Reply
  14. jv

    You obviously don’t want the job. So pull the bandage off nice and quickly for them. Thank them for meeting with you and discussing the role but advise them that there are a few reasons why you feel you won’t be a great fit for the role. Tell them the salary is too low and tell them the commute would be a nightmare. They need to know that so they don’t continue to waste people’s time. It could be that they are aiming too high for candidates… or that you are aiming too low for jobs!

    Reply
  15. SheLooksFamiliar

    I’m in corporate staffing, and it is AMAZING how many hiring managers handle offers and negotiations. Some of them must think candidates are lining up to work for them, and they’ll accept any offer just to work for the glorious boss they think they are.

    OP, this employer sounds naive and woefully misinformed about the staffing process. Good for you for not caving into their poor tactics, there are better options for you.

    Reply
  16. M-C

    Am I the only one to be a bit disturbed by an admittedly peripheral issue here? OP, when you want to think something over, it’s perfectly OK to just say that. You don’t have to specify who you are going to be consulting with. This repeated referring to your husband doesn’t make you sound like an autonomous, responsible party. It sort of sounds like a teenager involving their mom in hiring as has often been discussed here. It is likely to reinforce sexist assumptions about women working, and may be one reason why they thought you’d go for a lower salary. Next time, try to separate your private life a bit more from negotiations and see whether that helps.
    That said, congratulations on avoiding what sounded like a very bad deal..

    Reply
    1. Working Hypothesis

      Huh? I didn’t see any husband mentioned. The OP said they intended to talk to their *spouse,* who could just as easily be a wife. And every time my husband has applied for jobs while we’ve been married, he’s reasoned to offers by saying that he’ll talk to his wife and get back to them.

      I’m usually pretty sensitive to gendered behavior in the workplace, but talking over offers with one’s partner — no matter what gender either you or the partner may be — is so utterly standard in every business context I’ve seen that it’d be weird to me if I offered somebody a job who has happened to mention a partner, and they *didn’t* do that. I wouldn’t say anything about it; it’s not my business, but I’d be surprised.

      Reply
      1. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)

        Yes. I agree here Working Hypothesis. For whatever reason I thought OP was male, not female, but regardless I think consulting with a partner on these things is so the norm and expected in most circumstances that it wouldn’t lead to any assumptions about gender weakness or dependency. I actually think consulting with a partner makes the candidate seem more responsible, as they are taking their family into consideration not just their own future.

        Reply
    2. The Rat-Catcher

      But what job a teenager takes has little effect on their mother (or it shouldn’t, in a functional situation). But if the teenager needs a ride from the mom, maybe they do need to clear the hours with her.
      By contrast, there are all kinds of ways this could impact the spouse – if they need to take over more childcare or pet care responsibilities due to OP’s increased commute, for example, or if they share a car.
      As an employer, I might even like to see that OP is discussing w/spouse – considering how many people take jobs and then leave because those jobs was incompatible with their home lives in ways they didn’t foresee.

      Reply

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