does employer realize I declined their offer last year?

A reader writes:

I recently applied, interviewed for and accepted a job at a company that I interviewed with 20 months ago.

20 months ago, I was offered the job but had to decline (I couldn’t wrap up my job at the time and move cities quickly enough for them).

In my cover letter and during the interview process this time, I did not disclose that I had previously interviewed, nor did they indicate that they recognized me.

I am not the same candidate I was 20 months ago (better experience, fully established in the city the job is located in, etc…), and the job has changed somewhat (same people but different reporting structure). I don’t feel that I’ve done anything unethical, but am concerned how about how it might be perceived.

I have resigned my current job and am very excited about the new one which starts soon, but am a bit anxious about the omission, despite being fine with it during the process.

Two questions:

1) Would you as a manager fire me or rescind the (signed) offer if I disclosed this now?

2) Any advice on how to bring this up with my new manager?

How strange.

I would simply proceed on the assumption that they know you applied previously, and not give it too much more thought. If in two months they suddenly look shocked and say, “Hey, didn’t we offer you this a job a year ago,” then just say, “Yes — I thought we all knew I was reapplying after the first offer didn’t work out.” I can’t see any reason why someone would fire you over this, assuming there was no deliberate deception (which there wasn’t).

Because really, if they didn’t know — and it’s the same people — that’s really weird. They should know. You should be able to safely assume they know. It’s odd that it didn’t come up in the interview at all (even just a “hey, nice to see you again” from either of you), but I wouldn’t stress out too much about it.

People re-apply for jobs all the time. Your situation is only different in that you got an offer last time. Your reason for declining then made sense. There isn’t anything to hide here.

Really, this isn’t a big deal. Just go about your job.

{ 4 comments… read them below }

  1. Christine*

    Why didn't the reader let them know he/she was reapplying for a job with this company? It would be strange if they didn't know but the fact that neither of them brought it up is even stranger. I personally get very annoyed when people who I've already interviewed send me a resume with no mention of their previous interaction with me and/or the company. If I offered a job to someone and they never talked about it upon reapplying I'd find it very strange. Not a reason to renege on the offer or fire someone but definitely questionable judgment as far as I'm concerned.

  2. Anonymous*

    If you decided to bring it up, what could happen?

    1. They say they remembered you but didn't see the need to bring it up.

    2. They are shocked and decide to fire you?!?! You really think that is going to happen?

  3. Jonathan*

    Christine has a point. Generally, I prefer it if a candidate reminds me of past contact we had (especially after 20 months – if you do a lot of hiring, it's easy to forget).

    However, I wouldn't worry about it, and I wouldn't bother mentioning it now. In my industry, we regularly work with candidates on multiple occasions, and, regularly, they apply, get the offer and turn it down. Assuming they're not jerks about it, that's fine. I always have the attitude of, "maybe next time".

    Still, I agree with our blogger – don't mention it. If it comes up, be nonchalant about it.

  4. Richard*

    Personally, I might have mentioned it in the cover letter, and also mentioned that despite being unable to leave my previous job and move cities quickly enough to accommodate the company's needs upon their offer, I was now in a position where such a move would be possible, and noticed that they were readvertising the role as available.

    This puts across an important point to them: You were previously accepted for the same role, and likely as a higher choice than the person that they decided to take on, and so this may improve your chance of being hired from the point of application. It also shows that this time around, you will be more likely to accept an offer and be able to join their company within whatever odd time limitations that they imposed on you previously.

    Additionally, if the person they picked the last time around didn't live up to their needs, and required the job to be readvertised, they may be willing to be a little more patient this time around, as rushing the process and picking a second choice over you has ultimately cost them time and money, although I wouldn't count on this as being definite: There could simply be another opening in the same position, or the previous employee they took on may have moved on for other reasons.

    Also, not related to this particular case, but as a general note – Reapplying for jobs you were previously declined for is also acceptable if they're being readvertised, and it's not breaking any rules that they've set up regarding previous applications (for example, Accenture will not accept an application if you've applied for ANY other role within their organisation in the past 12 months). It's possible that they were unable to find a suitable candidate, or dismissed your application because you didn't fit their 'requirements' perfectly, and are more willing to loosen these requirements a second time around in order to get a candidate who is a close match and capable of learning any missing skills. This seems to happen a fair amount in IT in particular, and as such it's often a good idea to apply for such roles if you're a close match; if your application passes HR and manages to reach someone in a technical role, they can then determine if you're a close enough match for interviewing.

    And if you get declined, all you've lost is time, after all!

    Good luck, and stay safe!

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