is my friend being blackballed?

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.

{ 83 comments… read them below }

  1. SnookiePower*

    My opinion is yes! HR people have egos too. ;-) After weeks/months of finally getting to the big day after all the interviews, negotiating and paperwork…the person at the 11th hour says “thanks but no thanks”.

    What does this say about a person? Integrity? authenticity? Stands by what they say?

    I am sorry this person feels hard done by. Leaders and rising stars do not behave this way.

    You get one shot at life. So why should the chapters of life be any different?

    Please send me this person’s CV, so I can spare our HR department the pain and put it in the dimwit basket.

    1. Anonymous*

      Please send me this person’s CV, so I can spare our HR department the pain and put it in the dimwit basket.

      If this isn’t mean-spirited, then I don’t know what is.

      Some people jumped on the woman’s case last week who wrote to the HR rep after interrogating another employee about her credentials. She made a mistake, and most other people told her that she would be better off to move on. The same goes here. This friend of the OP’s made a mistake, and she is kicking herself for it now. The same advice – to move on and look for other companies – still applies. It might have been her dream job, but since we don’t know, we can still easily say that she could have regretted going there too. Consider it a lesson learned and start applying elsewhere.

    2. March Bereavement OP*

      I don’t read that the potential employee did any negotiating. It sounds more like HR thought that she sounded happy and excited and started processes without clarifying. Yes, it might have been a rejection “at the 11th hour” but the OP doesn’t say she ever said “yes” or “could you give me $xk more?”.

      1. Jamie*

        I assumed she had accepted the job, since they sent her contracts and the timeline for the move.

        The contracts seem indicative that the offer was accepted, but I could be mistaken.

    3. Piper*

      If she hadn’t already accepted the job, she had every right to turn it down at the “11th hour.” Job seeker, despite what some HR reps may think, have every right to turn down a position after being offered it, no matter how many interviews they’ve been on and no matter how much negotiating has happened.

      However, if someone already accepts a job, then yes, it’s pretty crappy to back out at the last minute. Once you’ve accepted, it’s a done deal. Unless of course, HR takes away the job offer at the last minute. Because that has never happened before. Respect is a two-way street.

      1. K Too*

        +1 on this. OP, it’s time for your friend to move on and you should tell her.

        It definitely sounds like the friend accepted the offer. I highly doubt a company would send over contracts to be signed if she had not given them a firm yes.

        It’s not the company holding a allegedly holding a grudge, it’s the HR rep. Since there are no details on the backstory, I’ll assume that your friend must have signed some papers and made it seem like she was ready to leave for her new job.

        Also, it sounds like you are the one more disappointed (as you state) about her career choice. Is she venting to you about her displeasure with the current job? If she mentions applying to the company again, give her your honest advice and tell her that it’s time to move on from “dream” company.

        1. Emily*

          To play devil’s advocate and maybe split hairs a little bit: we all know not to assume a job offer is official until we get it in writing—in this case, contracts. Should the employer follow the same rule? That is, don’t assume an acceptance is official until you get in writing—in this case, a signed and returned contract.

  2. AD*

    What do you do when, in the interview process, they continually ask you how interested you are in the job? I’ve always tried to phrase things as like “I’m interesting in learning more” so I can make it to the next step, but leave myself an out, but it’s such a fine balance between enthusiasm and leading them on.

    I had a manager ask me to rate my interest on a scale of 1 – 10. I never went higher than 8, because I think that an enthusiastic 10 leaves no room for negotiation, but after I started there, I found out that most candidates give at least a 9.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      I think you are doing yourself a major disservice by answering “8”. I want you to show me you are interested and excited about the job.

      After all, “The Job” and “The Money” are two separate things. In fact, if you love “The Job” but “The Money” is not there, you have perfect leverage to say “I’d take it today if the money was right.”

      If you love what you do and are good at what you do, the money will come. It may not be immediate, but over the long haul it pays off.

      1. AD*

        Right, but you risk putting yourself in the same situation as the OP’s friend. If someone told me, knowing the salary range, that they were 10/10 excited about a job, and then turned it down, I wouldn’t be interested in speaking with them again.

      2. class factotum*

        If you love what you do and are good at what you do, the money will come.

        That is not necessarily true. There is just not a big market for basket weaving majors.

        1. Wilton Businessman*

          I disagree. If you love basket weaving and are a good basket weaver, you will eventually be one of the best paid basket weavers out there. Passion breeds success.

          1. Anonymous*

            Not always. In many artistic fields, the criteria that makes a “good” artisan are totally unappreciated by most (non-artistic) managerial types. Since there are plenty of “okay” artists willing to take jobs for far less money than a “good” artist should be paid, the good artists often find that their higher level of skills not only doesn’t result in a premium paycheck, but often works against them. (Many managers assume that the good artists will be pickier about the quality of their work, and end up purposely avoiding them)

          2. Long Time Admin*

            If there’s not a market for baskets, the money will not come no matter how good you are at it, or how passionate you are about it.

            1. Jamie*

              This. You may be the best paid basket weaver going, but that doesn’t mean top of market = good money.

              And I would also argue that while it’s great to do what you love, it’s not a requirement to make decent money. I am really good at cost accounting and inventory control. I like it, but I wouldn’t use words like love or passion…the way I would for IT. But if I decided to leave IT I could make a decent living crunching numbers.

              Put it this way, if I suddenly became independently wealthy and never had to work again I wouldn’t find volunteer work to run inventory breakdowns as a hobby. I would find some tech related project to do, because I’d be lost without that.

              That said, I’m fairly certain I’m more valuable to my employer for the accounting than the tech end. Not sure I love that thought, but it’s probably pretty accurate.

              Outside of the arts you don’t have to love something to excel at it. You can make money from excellence without passion, but you won’t from passion without excellence.

              1. Jael*

                I know exactly what you mean about volunteering on some tech-related project! (Few people in my world understand that passion when they learn what I do in my spare time.)

  3. Wilton Businessman*

    Things change in 18 months. They were probably hot and heavy on “your friend” for the first 6 months, but as time goes by it’s more and more unlikely that “your friend” is going to be interested in them and they’re not going to spend a lot of time wooing “your friend”.

    Still, it’s a different job market now. I don’t think they’re necessarily blackballing “your friend”, it’s just she lost her advantage over other candidates and maybe carries a little baggage.

  4. SnookiePower*

    AD, have you tried honesty? Maybe you co- workers are a 9 while you grade yourself a “political 8”.

    If you go for an interview and some asks you how “interested you are” I tell them what is attracting me and what my concerns are. If the really want me my attractions get better and my concerns vanish.

    I also grade me self fairly. Why? Because when I say I need training in a particular area I get it.

    Win. Win.

    1. AD*

      Well, I was offered the position, having given my honest answer of 8/10. My surprise is at everyone else saying 10, pretty much unconditionally.

      1. Kimberlee*

        This whole scale of 1-10 question seems silly to me. You’re just ASKING for everyone to say 10, because that’s the “right” answer, so people like you who answer honestly are at a disadvantage. Plus, I mean, what information does that question really give the interviewer anyway? You know how I figure out if people are interested in the job? If they apply, and come in to interview, and accept an offer.

        1. AD*

          Ha, great point! As I said, though, I don’t think “10” is the right answer; I think it doesn’t really give you enough of a way out if you change your mind. At least in my own experience, how I feel right after an interview may not be how I feel after I’ve had a few hours to think things over or talk them through with a friend.

          (and next time I cross paths with her, I will have to ask the hiring manager in question about why she finds this question valuable)

        2. Emily*

          I agree—I call for a moratorium on “scale of 1-10” interview questions. Once, I was asked to rate myself on a number of skills. The first was writing, which I believe is my best asset. I pitch myself as a writer, first and foremost. Without hesitation, I gave myself a “10.” The interviewer was openly put-off by my confidence but he went on to ask me to rate myself in some other areas. I couldn’t and wouldn’t have given myself a “10” in every “event” because it would sound conceited, not to mention implausible, and it would devalue my writing “score.” That kind of a gimmicky interview question is as bad as gimmicky job seeking tactics.

  5. CollegeCareerServicesThatDoNotSuck*

    She wasn’t blackballed. To me that indicates she is being shunned for some shallow reason. It seems she acted unprofessionally and created a reputation for herself. A bad one.

    As someone who has dealt with candidates that have done similar things–I would suggest she moves on. In the incidents where I have offered a job, the candidate accepted then pulled out in the 11th hour, I don’t think there is ANYTHING they could do where I would hire them again. I can think of one specific case where I offered a graduate assistant to someone who did that and they came back years later “But I have my PhD now.” That’s nice. Take it elsewhere.

    Certainly there would be exceptions. “Can’t take the job, Mom was diagnosed with terminal caner this week, cannot not relocate.” is one thing. Outside of extraordinary circumstances, forget it.

    1. Andrea_C*

      As someone who also works in career services at a university, I had to say that I love the name you chose!

    2. just another hiring manager...*

      She wasn’t blackballed. To me that indicates she is being shunned for some shallow reason.

      How is being shunned–for whatever reason, no matter how shallow or off-base–not the same thing as being blackballed in this case?

      1. fposte*

        I think people just use the term to mean slightly different things; one is the surreptitious poisoning of a candidacy, and the other is just a negative on admission. (I also think that the “blacklist” overtones can make the word sounds like it means something bigger.)

      2. CollegeCareerServicesThatDoNotSuck*

        I use the word blackballed when people are shunned for reasons beyond their control—because they don’t like the fact you came from a union shop, or dislike an associate of yours, or you are blonde–whatever. To me the word has nuances that suggest it was not what you did or your qualifications—but some force beyond your control is removing you from consideration. I don’t think that was the case here. She shut herself out.

  6. CatB (Europe)*

    they sent her contracts, broke down a timeline for her to move cross-country and start work

    For me, that sounds like OP’s friend did accept somehow. If the original recruiter is still there, I see a good chance OP’s friend is blackballed. Perhaps not officially, but in the recruiter’s head I’d give a 90% probability she is. Beyond HR people having egos (that’s true!), no sane recruiter wants to work with people they see as unreliable. And even if OP’s friend didn’t accept formally, letting the employer send papers and drawing a timeline without immediately reacting (as the OP indicates by “a week of beating around the bush”) is usually regarded as acceptance. Candidates that get cold feet is not someting I’d accept when recruiting and neither would my clients. In fact, I’d have my contract terminated on the spot.

    On a side note, I learned to beware of “dream jobs” and “dream companies”. From the outside you see a picture, from the inside you might discover it was airbrushed (as we say here “don’t get into the situation of a stray dog that cases a car and catches it”).

  7. SnookiePower*

    Clearly circumstances come not play. If this was a person to come and stack the shelves and make sure the labels were facing the right way I may “take pity” on them and give a second chance.

    In a company and job where.. I am paying 100k + for some with brilliant analysis skills and critical thinking…

    Then the ability to choose a job and get through the front door is the first challenge. Failed to do that and forget it – ever!

    I had the same choice and I asked a wise friend, his response was “quit wasting my time and yours and get on your horse.”

    Do you want an ambulance attendant to be that in decisive? “mmm, maybe he will come around on his own.”

    At the end of the day he did them a favor and stopped them from making a mistake and now they need to suck it up and move on.

      1. Anonymous*

        +1, plus I like to add that the person’s name doesn’t really allow me to take anything written seriously.

  8. Anonymous*

    We have a friend who totally did something similar over a decade ago to a company where my husband used to work. This was long before computers tracking systems were the norm for HR departments, and there’s been enough turnover that honestly, the odds that anyone there is still holding a grudge over his past flakiness are slim to none. But, he’s convinced he must be blackballed because they won’t even talk to him about his applications.

    The thing is that he’s got really poor self-reflection skills (as evidenced by his flakiness over the offer so long ago). He applies for some jobs that are well below his level of experience, with no explanation to the HR person of why he’d ever be satisfied taking a role that he could do in his sleep, and he applies to other ones that require a knowledge of internal systems that he simply doesn’t possess. And through his job search, he continues to waffle back and forth over what he really wants to be doing so he’s not always approaching his job search diligently.

    The OP’s friend may have burnt some bridges there at her “dream company” or she might just be approaching them at a really bad time for her particular set of skills. Personally I have a hard time believing that the company truly was a “dream company” for her, simply because offers from “dream companies” aren’t the sort of thing that most people can be talked out of. But it really doesn’t matter one way or another whether it was or wasn’t her dream. The point is that she has to be crystal clear on her entire message, not just her skills and experience. If she’s talking to the dream company, she should be entirely prepared to address the last situation and why things are different now, and if she’s talking to other employers, she needs to be prepared to discuss why leaving is the right step for her at this point. What’s she going to say if a potential employer asks what she’s done/said with her current employer to try and salvage her current job?

    1. Jamie*

      “Personally I have a hard time believing that the company truly was a “dream company” for her, simply because offers from “dream companies” aren’t the sort of thing that most people can be talked out of”

      This is a great observation. It could be kind of like an old boyfriend, with whom you broke up because he wasn’t “the one” can start to seem much better in hindsight when you’re lonely down the road. Then he goes from ‘nice guy I used to date’ to ‘the one who got away.’

      1. moe*

        Well, if she had to move cross-country to take the job–I can see how that’s something she could be talked out of. That’s a scary life change.

  9. ES*

    I agree with other commenters that the distinction between whether or not she formally accepted the offer is super-important.

    Right before I finished at my last place of work, HR tried to convince me to stay by offering me more money. This was literally three days before I was supposed to start my new job (offer letter had been signed, I had given them over two weeks notice…). As nice as more money would have been, and as much as I had enjoyed working there, I knew it would have been a horrible move to back out of a job that I had accepted and would probably never have been offered a job there in the future. The HR lady told me that people do that “all the time” but I don’t care what other people do – barring extreme circumstances, that seemed really inconsiderate to me.

    1. Heather*

      this may just be me but if my company valued me so much that they panic when I tell them I’ve found another job and throw more money at me – why didn’t they give me more money in the first place? that would leave a bad taste in my mouth.

      1. jmkenrick*

        Evil HR Lady has made some good arguements about why you should never accept a counter-offer.

      2. Ellen M.*

        ^This! They’ll only treat you with respect as you’re walking out the door? I’d keep walking!

  10. K.*

    I agree, if she accepted the offer (and it sounds to me like she did if they were sending contracts) and then reneged, she probably is being blackballed, and I think it’s justified. Especially if she was moving across the country – were they paying for that?

  11. fposte*

    Is she really any readier to move on now anyway? What’s changed from the last time, when she was miserable enough to hunt but change-averse enough to stay where she is? If she’s that miserable, why isn’t she applying to other places?

    It sounds to me like she really is very likely to do the same thing again, and she’s focusing on the company instead of herself.

    1. Anonymouse*

      I agree. To me it doesn’t matter if she formally accepted the job or not; she’s earned herself a reputation.

      If you refer someone for a job, and they completely drop the ball, it reflects poorly on you, and you are unlikely to ever refer them again. I have a great friend and colleague who did this to me. She’s fantastic at her job, and we are still good friends, but I’ve told her unequivocally that I cannot recommend her anymore because I’ve be burned once and it came bad to reflect on me.

      From the HR rep’s point of view – she put this candidate forward once before, and was badly burned. What would her explanation to her superiors and hiring managers be, if she once again put forth a candidate that suddenly cleared out of Dodge?

      1. A Bug!*

        Which, incidentally, is a more accurate use of the word “blackball”, in respect of the term’s origin!

  12. Anonymous*

    Switching jobs is really scary because so much of your satisfaction in life centers on your job. It’s the whole “the evil you know…” thing. I know so many people that are miserable in their jobs but stay put anyway. I was laid off a few years ago and it was the best thing to ever happen to me (aside from the financial aspects). It allowed me to separate my identity and self-worth from my job title. Now I ask myself if I like what I’m doing at work every so often to gauge whether I should stay put.

    Unless you’re playing games to get more money, I think it’s always a bad idea to accept a counter offer from your company. I did this a couple of times in my early 20’s and it never paid off. Your boss resents you essentially blackmailing them with the threat of leaving. You’re gambling that the cost and hassle of replacing you outweighs giving you more money. But it’s like telling your spouse you need to take a break for a while because you’re just not sure about the relationship. You may get back together a month later and everything seems great but you’ve permanently planted doubt in their mind.

    I agree with the first comment about HR reps having egos too. Once you’ve told someone they are not number one on your list, there’s no taking that back. You need to be very careful in turning down the offer to make them think it’s your current situation and not the company. Staying at your current job is probably the hardest choice to defend. You are basically saying your company isn’t even appealing enough to get me to leave a job I dislike.

    Things generally work out for the best. I’ve flaked out or screwed up job offers at good companies and landed on my feet. If nothing else, your friend learned a valuable lesson about following her dreams.

    1. Anonymous*

      +1 From a staffing perspective I would wonder if the candidate ever really intended to leave or if the goal was a counter-offer to begin with.

  13. Anonymous*

    I always considered black-balling to be larger in scope than just one company. This situation seems to be something one can reasonably expect.

  14. Student*

    A lot of this is really stepping around the actual issue at hand. The person who declined a job at the 11th hour didn’t write in. Her friend did.

    Friend, don’t get overly invested in other people’s job searches. Be an honest friend to her, and try to give her the best feedback you can when she wants it. That last part is key. You already know she’s screwed this up, and you are debating over being honest with her or protecting her feelings – if the tables were turned, what would you want from her? Go with that option.

    But, don’t just suddenly come up to her and say “Oh you messed up with that job, move on to another company already.” Wait until she actually brings it up to you and asks you, otherwise it’s just unsolicited advice that she will inevitably ignore (it’s human, and we all do this).

    If she doesn’t ever ask you about it, then you have to just accept that she’s got to make this mistake on her own and leave her to it, no matter how good a friend she is. I have sympathy for you here – my brother just graduated, and he’s living with my parents and not even applying for jobs. No matter what I say, my little brother will never learn from me that he won’t get a job unless he applies for them – he has to learn on his own, as much as it devastates me to see him moping around his childhood bedroom continually trying to make his application “stronger” but never sending it in anywhere. Your friend will figure it out eventually, one way or another (and I hope that my brother will, too).

    1. Anonymous*

      However, maybe the OP needs to run it past someone with expertise in the field and someone who has absolutely no knowledge of the friend and how the friend is to get an unbiased answer.

  15. An IT Manager*

    OP as a friend you should tell your friend that whether she actually accepted the offer, tried and failed to be non-committal, or there was a big miscommunication, the company obviously believed she had accepted the offer. Frankly if as her supporter, you’re saying “must have indicated in some manner that she planned to accept” tells me that you and she both know that she accepted the offer in no uncertain terms before flaking out and backing out of her agreement after a week. That’s how the dream company sees it anyway. So there’s a good chance that she’s blacked listed there at least in the mind’s of the people who were involved in her application.

    I don’t work in HR so I have no idea if company database have the capability for blacklisting potential candidates. But it may be kind if you can help your friend manage her expectations and not get her hopes up every time. I can see an optimist saying they picked me once, they might pick me again. But what happened is that they picked her and she proved unreliable so why would they risk the same thing happening again especially when people all around the world want to work for them? It would best for her to move on and if you can help her do so that would be being a friend.

  16. Elizabeth*

    Because I’m a vocabulary nerd, this thread made me wonder about the difference between blackballing and blacklisting. (Note that I’m not trying to put down anyone’s grammar here; I didn’t know the difference until just now myself. I’ve seen this crowd of commenters be interested in other grammatical fun facts before, so thought I’d share.)

    From Wikipedia, I learned that blackballing describes a situation where one person’s negative vote excludes a candidate from entry into some organization, whereas blacklisting is where the candidate winds up on a list (physical or imaginary) of people who will not be considered for entry. I think the second is closer to what happened here, as it doesn’t sound like it’s just one person at the dream company blocking the friend’s application – rather, that the friend’s past behavior has made her wind up on a “not interested” list. The term “blacklisting” often does have negative connotations, implying that the reason for the people being on the list is petty or sketchy – which might not be the case here, depending on just how much the friend had promised the dream company before changing her mind.

  17. Susanna- From fair chance post*

    I hope your friend does decide to move on. I have done so many things wrong with a company I really wanted to work for. Someone I know that works for HR (another company) told me when you are in the system they attach notes to you. I can only imagine what notes are attached to me. I have been my worst enemy in more ways than one. I have been approached by my dream company three times. The first time right after I applied there and I told the HR lady the hours would not work for me. That was true. I did not get an interview that time. So, a year later another HR lady at this company gave me an interview for another position. I blew the interview, I know so many things now I did not know then. I would interview completely different now. I then decided to go back to school. I volunteered with my dream company, passed their background check and tried my hardest to get my foot back in the door. Well, they cut hours with many employees in this particular department and so that was out of the question. This fall I was lucky enough to get a phone call with another HR lady at this company to follow up on some positions I had applied for. Again, I did not have sense to realize this was probably a phone interview. I was so nervous I know I sounded stupid. I have tried and tried since then and have had no luck. I made so many mistakes. I am sure I will probably never get a job there. It is my own fault. I really appreciate being given a chance to work there even though I messed the whole thing up. I think the best advice your friend could receive from you is to move on. I have realized a lot of things I do the wrong way job seeking this week. I am coming across different than I am. I hope your friend doesn’t waste her time and end up making things worst for herself like I have.

    1. Diane*

      It sounds like you were honest with them and at worst unpolished. It’s not like you deceived them about your qualifications or interest, strung them along while waiting for another offer, or committed some other list of sins. BTW, this might be the makings of a good AAM post: top 10 ways to get blacklisted by your dream company.

  18. Corey Feldman*

    I agree, if she accepted and backed out, she won’t get a second chance, unless there is a lot of turnover. If it was still in the negotiation stage, well that is what it is. She could be getting cooler, because she is busy and the person keeps calling back. The HR person should have said I’ll me in touch if I have a similar opening….

  19. Anth*

    Huh. I was offered a job and they immediately sent a packet with benefits, supervisor information, and contract for me to sign and send back if I was accepting the job. I had a follow up call with HR to discuss compensation, told her I’d think about it, then got a follow up email that they considered me a verbal yes. I have no idea how they got that idea – the closest being when HR said they would send me an updated offer letter with higher compensation and asked me to get back to them by x date and I said ok. I would hope I haven’t been blacklisted there in the future, but I sent a follow up email with some indication of why I chose not to make a switch at that point.

    I would guess, actually, that she’s being a little blacklisted because she’s not local which was her reason for turning down the position the first time. Move to the area, let them know you’re there, and see if they get a little warmer…

  20. Ponies!*

    OP, I think your friend is making a mistake by continuing to reach out to the same HR contact. She should just apply for any new jobs she sees on the company’s careers site as though it was the first time. At this point, it sounds like only the original HR contact (and potentially a few people she works closely with) know about this issue. Unless this is a small company (which it isn’t, right?) there are probably hundreds of recruiters, so there’s a good chance your resume will land in the lap of a recruiter who has no idea about the last-minute offer-ditch. And even if you end up applying for a job the original recruiter is working, she’s probably more likely to put you up for an interview if you just apply the regular way, as opposed to contacting her directly for assistance.

    I worked in staffing at one point in my career, and something like this (while it would probably piss off the recruiter involved) wouldn’t have been enough for the entire organization to blackball your friend. I recall one candidate that went bonkers in an interview, starting yelling and swearing and stormed out, for no apparent reason…even HE wasn’t blackballed in any official way (though we certainly spread the word).

  21. RatherNotSay*

    It’s so interesting/timely to see this question on the site today. I’m dealing with a potentially similar situation, except I’m the jackass that may want to go back on my “yes” to an organization. My intention certainly isn’t to hijack this thread with a question about my situation, but I’m honestly trying to decide right now how terrible it would be for me to back out of my acceptance.

    My situation is different because neither company involved is my “dream” company nor my dream job, but both are good organizations, (one is a for-profit, the other a non-profit… so different in many ways).

    Last week I verbally accepted a 20 hour a week position with the non-profit in an “assistant” role. It’s a fine position, with a perfectly fine hourly wage, with the possibility for some growth. I took it because I’ve been struggling with finding anything for awhile now and I saw growth potential. The position wouldn’t be able to start until they did testing, a background check, etc. on me, which wouldn’t even start until next Thursday when I am scheduled to go into their offices and give my authorization.

    However, I recently got called in to interview for a full-time “coordinator” position at a for-profit. After much hesitation, I went to the interview because I was curious and also because I am still worried about something falling through with the part-time position that I had accepted. Well… I like the place more than I thought I would and they like me more than I thought they would… and as it turns out, they pay and benefits are OUTSTANDING. And they’ve already invited me in for a second interview on Tuesday, (and the interviewer asked me to let her knew immediately if I get any offers elsewhere – I obviously didn’t mention the part-time job I’d already accepted). I’m single and live in a major, crazy-expensive US city. With the part-time position, I would HAVE to take on a second part-time job, which may be hard to get since I know employers hate working with employees who have time constrants and a commitment to another company. Taking a full-time, good paying position would remove massive how-to-make-sure-the-bills-are-paid stress from my life.

    I’m freakin’ out because I know I’m flirting with danger here. Someone is probably going to end up pissed at me. I’m a bit of a people-pleaser, so I hate to disappoint anyway, but really… I know there are ethical issues at play here as well. Is my situation the same as the person in the letter or am I playing by a different set of rules here? Both are wonderful organizations who are capible of attracting great employees and I would be proud to work for either of them. This comes down to a money/benefits/schedule issue.

    1. Elizabeth*

      Sometimes it’s worth the risk of burning a bridge, and it sounds like it might be for you. If you go with the second company, the first one might have no interest in hiring you again if you go back on the job market in a year or two. I don’t work in the world of non-profits so I have no idea if this effect would trickle over to other organizations as well, or just the one.

      If you do go with the second company, I think that a bit of mortification is in order when you explain to the first company. Don’t be cavalier about it, but show that you understand this is a major inconvenience for them and that you are sincerely sorry. Also, you should back out as soon as possible if you’re going to, or they get more and more invested in you.

    2. saro*

      I would accept the position and let the part-time people know as quickly as possible about taking the other position. Give a decent notice and apologize. Most people in that situation would understand…

  22. Susanna- From fair chance post*

    You probably know deep down which job you really want or need. I would go with that. I would however, contact the company that you do not choose and let them know how much you appreciate their offer. I would be completely honest that in my situation at this time this works best for me . I would take the full-time job if I really needed the money. Good luck I am sure either company would be very lucky to get you.

  23. Henning Makholm*

    Why are everybody assuming that she accepted simply because she was sent contracts?

    When I started in my current job, the employer’s initial offer to me consisted of “we’d like to offer you the job, and here is the contract we imagine you signing”. There followed a couple of weeks of negotiating certain terms in the contract before I actually accepted.

    How could she possibly have accepted the job before they had sent her the contract?

    1. Anonymous*

      In my office, we make a verbal offer and do any needed negotiating to come to an agreement on the terms and then we put the terms in writing and send to the candidate. The candidate is still allowed to decline, but in this situation the fact that they were talking about a timeline sounds like she may have had a start date and had given the company the impression that she was coming onboard. Again it’s within her rights to withdraw, but it’s also within the company’s rights to be hesitant to engage again with someone who unexpectedly pulled out late in the process just to stay at their current company. Especially if they turned away other candidates/removed other candidates from the process based on their belief that she was joining. She may have better luck with this company if she wasn’t still at her current employer, because if I was the staffing person I would wonder if you wouldn’t leave your company for us before then why would you leave them for us now?

    2. fposte*

      We have a viable commitment well before paper is involved, and that’s not uncommon.

      However, it’s pretty clear everybody *isn’t* assuming that she officially accepted; it’s just that her not having officially accepted wouldn’t solve the problem here.

      1. Henning Makholm*

        Everybody does seem to be assuming that she unofficially accepted. Which doesn’t make sense to me — if merely receiving a proposed contract and timeline counts as unofficially accepting, how on earth should she have gone about preserving her right to think further about it? Getting about a week of deliberation time to figure out whether it’s the job for you seems to be otherwise unremarkable — why should the employer’s unilateral mailing of a proposed contract with the offer suddenly make the recipient the villain?

        1. Anonymous*

          No one is saying that sending the contract constitutes an accept. What we are saying is from the context we were given it sounds like she in some way indicated to them that she was accepting and then waiting until beyond the point that she knew was acceptable to notify them. Obviously we don’t know exactly what happened, but based on what the friend says it sounds like she knew that she was declined 1. after she accepted in some form and 2. after a long enough time period passed that she thinks it could be a reason for this company to be blackballing her. Note the OP says that all the candidate had left to do was to notify her coworkers which, to me, indicates that she was deliberately giving the company the idea that and that she believed that she would be starting with the new company.

    3. Charles*

      “Why are everybody assuming that she accepted . . . ?”

      Well, because . . . “all she had left to do was break the news to her coworkers.”

  24. Anonymous*

    I, am a professional individual that needs your help, I really do not know what to do. I worked for a major financial company whose name I can not divulge now along with other pertinent information about my case.
    In 2006 I created a project that was a fantastic idea and a a financial institution in Central America was involved in this project. The result was chaotic, another major financial institution in the region did not want this project to succed. I lost over $120,000 of traveling expenses and legal fees used towards this project. My enemies were to big and powerful to fight them, so I accepted my loss and backed out. The following year I created a company to assist exsporters in the US to expand their exports to new markets in Latin America. Certain individuals located in the South Florida branch of this financial institution found out about my company and started blackballing me with all of my prospects and contacts. All the work that I did for almost 18 months and the investment put into this company were lost. All of my prospects all of a sudden did not want to talk to me or respond my calls. I realized what was happening and again packed up my project and backed out. there was nothing I could do, fighting the creation of negative image against you is difficult to prove.
    In 2010 I stareted my insurance agency and the whole thing has started all over again. I have not been able to obtain the necessary insurance appointments to adequately administer and insurance agency. You must have various insurance carriers in personal lines as well as commercial lines to properly service your clients. In South Florida we have a very powerful insurance assocuiation by the name of Latin American Association of Insurance Agents. One individual in this organizartion has taken it upon himself to create a very negative image about my person by saying that I am an individual that can not be trusted. One thing is certain in an industry where trust is a key factor, creating this negative image about myself has actually blocked me in obtaining the necessary appointments that I require. This time what I have done is that I have followed alll these silence negative opinions by saving emails fromn everybody I have been in touch with.
    I really do not want to continue writing because I do not want to bore my reader.
    I need assistance in stopping all these negative rumors, even though at this time is too late. I am an individual who has never brken the law. I have lived in my community for over 50 years. I have been licensed by the State oif Florida since3 1981, and all this time I have never been sued by any insurance company and for that fact none of my customers or the public at large.
    What can I do, this situation is affecting me financially and morally and I must do something, but what?
    I am filing this week a complaint with the Insurance commissioner of the State of Florida. I know that when it comes to blackballing is very dcifficult to prove but again I must fight this situation.
    Any comments will be greatly appreciated.

    1. hive cult*

      have you sold your soul to work? That is the common practice now. Its hard to even work fast food unless you get your mind shattered and become part of the hive mind collective..where your bosses know everything you do and say and can even see through your eyes… look into gang stalking on youtube… try to pick legit longer youtube videos that offer an explanation

  25. hive cult*

    The “stay in touch” comment means to the person recieving it…that..she or he is not connected to the hive mind collective….meaning your friend has not sold her soul to work… this is becoming very common in america..especially in cities.

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