company made me a tentative offer, then hired someone else

A reader writes:

I have a question about what I should do after, I feel, I have been lied to in my job search.

I applied for and was interviewed at a local university. During the interview I was unable to meet with the head of the department because she was recovering from a surgery. The next day they set up a telephone interview for me to have with her because she was unable to meet in person. At the end of the phone interview, she said: “We are very impressed with you, I would like to tentatively offer you the position providing your references check out” (well that is pretty much what she said). Then she continued to say she would call my first two references that were not my current supervisor, work with the university to put together a job offer, then she would send me the offer, if I accepted she would call my current supervisor and if everything checked out, I would be hired. I was really excited!

I provided her with all my references knowing they would check out. Two days later, a Friday, she emailed me to say she had not gotten a chance to call my references, but would call early next week. Two and a half weeks went by, one of them was during a huge snow storm, and I decided to follow up to see if she was able to contact my references, etc. I know these things take time.

She answered that they had decided to hire someone else who had a different skill set then me. I was angry, I replied and told her I was under the impression I had the position contingent on my references; I asked if she had contacted them and if it was something they said. She replied and said it was not that at all, they were still interviewing when she had talked to me and thought the person they hired was a better fit. She then said everyone really liked me and I should continue to apply to jobs in their department.

I have not followed up yet. I know I should not think I have the job until I have an offer and was prepared for some possibilities, but not that they were interviewing other people still! Should I follow up with her? Is this normal, should I get used to it and I actually have no reason to be angry?

Ugh. It’s true that you shouldn’t count an offer until you have it writing.

She was sloppy in how she handled this though. She was sloppy in her language when she let you think the job was yours, pending a reference check, and I can’t believe that she didn’t apologize profusely to you when she then had to deliver a different message later on. Your account here makes it sound like she was weirdly cavalier, like she thought it was no different from any regular job rejection. I really, really don’t like that.

(Plus, what’s up with her not even bothering to tell you until you called her to check in? I am not a fan of this woman.)

In response to your question of whether you should be angry, I’d say that you don’t get anywhere by being angry in a job search. Take in all the information you’re receiving about an employer treats people, but don’t get angry. Use that information to make good decisions for yourself. Maybe in this case you decide that this woman is flighty and you wouldn’t want to work for her. Or maybe you decide this was bad luck, or even a miscommunication, and that you’re open to future jobs with them.

And always, always assume you don’t have an offer until you’re reading it in writing.

{ 13 comments… read them below }

  1. Sabrina*

    Wow. That's really crappy. On the bright side, though consider it a bullet dodged. Dollars to doughnuts they're posting that same position in a few months when the person that did get leaves the mad house screaming.

  2. Anonymous*

    I would add, "you don't even have an offer WHEN it's in writing. Don't count on an offer until you show up the first day." I was recently the victim of a rescinded written offer.

    1. Sammy*

      I recently drove 6 hours for a job interview on a Friday and all went well. We had determined a starting date and projects that I would be working on. I was given a tour and even saw information that was private to the company. I was even told that everything was good and that the pay offer would be established over the weekend. On the following Monday I received a pay and benefit offer. Two days later, on Wednesday, as I was about to send the acceptance on the pay offer, I noticed that the hiring personnel had emailed me stating that they had already filled the position. This was very disrespectful and unprofessional. Did I wait too long to accept the pay offer? Should this even matter especially after the JOB offer was mine? Good news is that: At least my wife did not put in her 2 week notice at her work…….at least I did not sign a lease contract with an apartment…….at least I did not buy furniture for this apartment

  3. WishIhadJob*

    Yea, you should be angry but then you have to move on because nothing you say or do is going to get you this job.

    Also, if this department head has no problem lying to you before you get the job, just think of how much she would lie to you after you are hired.

    The interview process goes both ways!!

  4. LovesHR*

    How unfortunate but believe me, AAM was spot on. I've had offers where for whatever reason it did not pan out the way I was led to believe it would.

    One exp in particular the offer was tentatively made then all of a sudden they "forgot" my salary requirements. BTW, even after both HR and the hiring mgr verified it more than once.

    They decided to go with someone else, much less salary. Here it is 3 months later (thank God I didn't quit my current job) and guess what…the position is posted again.

    Turns out the other "skill set" (same response given to me) did not have the same level of experience for this (very senior) position and they are back to square 1 recruiting again.

    I wouldn't touch that dept. with a 10 foot pole. I feel sooooo blessed I didn't 1)quit my job or 2) go work for an organization like that.

    OP count your blessings you dodged a bullet with this one!

  5. Unemployed Gal*

    I wonder if your interviewer didn�t have as much hiring power as she thought she did. She declared �her decision,� only to hear that they must interview X number of candidates, the Dean needs to approve, and so forth. They overruled her, and she was too embarrassed to admit it, so she just blew you off.

    It�s also possible that the position�s requirements changed after you interviewed. The Board just approved a system upgrade, so now all new hires must know Novell, or whatever.

    Either way, this woman is a clueless coward for not calling you immediately to apologize for her mistake. The school also has some obvious communication problems. Not good signs. I agree with the others. You dodged a bullet here. Time to move on, and start spreading the word to avoid applying there.

  6. Anonymous*

    I have learned this time and time again with reading AAM's blog – you don't have an offer until something is in front of you in written form. Although as I see on some of the earlier comments, consider yourself employed when the clock starts ticking and you get paid for each "tick tock."

    To take it a step further, that might not even be secure since they might realize after the fact that an internal person might be better there and out you go.

    I think it best to bow out gracefully and begin applying elsewhere. Maybe try back in a couple of years if the crop of staff has changed. Keep your head held high, keep your dignity, take the lessons learned. Take the higher road, thank them for their time, and resume the job search. I do believe, like the rest, this was a bullet dodged.

  7. Anonymous*

    I agree with all the former comments. However, even if you did dodge a bullet, and no matter how angry you are, don't burn your bridges. Still thank them politely and then move on. You never know who you'll be working with or for in the future, whether at this organization or another.

  8. Anonymous*

    I would probably, as politely as possible, express disappointment in their decision and respectfully decline their invitation to pursue future openings, owing to their seeming dishonesty during the hiring process.

  9. Lise F*

    I had an experience like this. I was offered a contract job right off the bat, at the end of the interview. I told the interviewer that I was interviewing with another company, and could I have some time before giving them an answer? I asked for two weeks, and they said that was fine, and even wished me luck.

    About a week later, they sent me a skills test. (Which, btw, was ridiculous… totally inappropriate for the work they were going to hire me for). I asked if this meant they weren't making me an offer, and the interviewer replied with, "No offer yet," telling me that they had a few other candidates now.

    Another week later, on the same day I received a rejection from job #2, they emailed to tell me they had realized they didn't have the budget to hire someone, after all! Geez.

  10. Anonymous*

    My husband was offered a job and signed on to the company. They then had him fill out an application (after they had already agreed to hire) and told him to go ahead and put his two weeks in at his other job. He was truthful and wrote he had a minor misdemeanor back in collage and because of this decided to terminate his position. Is there something we can do about this as he is now jobless because they told him to put his two weeks in and then terminated his position?

  11. private*

    A friend of mine gave me as a reference to her manager to hire me in as a appointment setter..I get a phone call from him saying he sees I have experience and that I also have worked with Mary and he thinks I will be a good fit..
    So he makes a interview appointment with me, I come in and he starts saying he is idealy looking for someone who can do on the road sales.. Not at all the job I was interviewing for. So I tell him I have experience in sales, but mostly phone and local so he says he will start me out as a appointment setter then later on train me for road sales. He says I have the job and to start next week..Then a hour later he leaves a voice message on my phone saying he has to wait two weeks to get my office set up and to come in the first of October.. So I called him today asking if he wanted me to come in on Tuesday because that is the first of October, or to come in Monday to start the week. Then 4 hours later he emails me telling me he hired a road sales person and he cant hire anyone else until spring.. ??? I even called the next day after the interview and talked to my friend who said she talked to the manager and he said I definitely got the job.. So two weeks later I got this email saying he hired someone else? If I had been told on the phone he was looking for a road sales person I wouldn’t have even gone to the interview.. How odd is this? I wont be applying for the appointment setting job or any job with that company next spring. I am completely fed up and feel this manager is a liar.

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