why would a company freeze a hiring process?

A reader writes:

I applied for a job at a biotech company and got an interview in early March. The interview went very well, and they were all pleased with me. But then they froze the hiring process. I was in the top couple of candidates, but the hiring process for this position (and others as well) was inexplicably frozen. The in-house recruiter did not say that the opening has been closed, but he doesn’t know when the the hiring process will re-start.

In January and February, this company had been bought by a larger company. I checked the news on this company and the financial report for the first quarter, and this company and the company that bought it were both doing very well. The department I applied to clearly needs someone to fill this position. So why would a company that is doing well and has a good income freeze the hiring process? Should I try to personally contact the CFO and convince him to restart the hiring process for this position?


Contacting the CFO and trying to convince him that you know better than he does what his company needs will accomplish the exact opposite of what you want: It’ll ensure you never get hired at this company.

Seriously, think that idea through for a minute. It’s a little bit crazy to think that you’re better positioned to judge this than the people who intimately know this company’s business and who probably know all kinds of relevant information that you don’t.

There are tons of reasons that a company might freeze a hiring process:  They’ve reallocated the money for that position to something else, or they’re thinking about doing that … or they’re thinking about restructuring the position or the department … or the position is on hold while they decide if they even need/want the position, because they’ve just killed its largest project, or outsourced most of its work, or any of innumerable other reasons that might call the role into question … or someone in the department just announced they’re leaving, which is causing them to reshuffle a number of people, which may or may not end up impacting this position … or the position’s manager is leaving, and they want to bring in a new manager before hiring her staff for her … or tons of other things. This list could go on and on. And with this company having recently been bought by another company, it’s easy to assume that some kind of restructuring is likely happening.

Be patient and wait for this to play out, and meanwhile keep applying for other jobs. And don’t make any calls to enlighten them about why they should move forward with this position, unless you want to instantly go from “top couple of candidates” to “naive, overstepping, and presumptuous” — and not hireable.

{ 30 comments… read them below }

  1. K.*

    This has happened to me several times (both before and after an interview took place) and it sucks but you really do just have to move on. Who knows, maybe they’ll call you down the line and things will work out, but if the position is frozen, there’s nothing you can do about it. You don’t know what the reason is for them freezing it – it may well be that after the dust settles, they DON’T need someone in that job after all.

  2. Anonymous*

    I interviewed for a company (was rejected) that had to lay-off the new person within 6 months after hiring. I think I’d rather have this OP’s position than what that poor guy went through back then. Just move on, and if they come back to you later and you still don’t have a job, call it fate.

  3. Nyxalinth*

    I’ve had times where I got jerked around for weeks, only to find out the position had been frozen. I’d rather have this than be hired by people who can’t make up their minds about a start date, only to finally bring me on then dismiss me a month later!

  4. Piper*

    This has happened to me, too. I was verbally offered a job and a day later (before official paperwork was signed and before I had given notice at my current job), they froze hiring and rescinded the offer. Seriously, you just have to move on. Contacting the CFO will accomplish nothing (at least nothing positive).

  5. moe*

    OP, weird things often happen with hiring (and firing) during and immediately after acquisitions. There are all sorts of considerations about admin overhead, culture, politics, direction… nothing that can be accurately represented in a news story blurb, and certainly a financial report is not going to tell you any of the “softer” considerations that go into the decision-making process.

    Walking into a situation like this can be a great opportunity or incredibly stressful/doom you to failure–without background in either company, you don’t even know the minefields you’re walking through. Agree with the earlier comments that you may well have dodged a bullet here.

  6. Anonymous*

    Hey, I work for a large Biotech company that likes to aquire other companies… and also instated a hiring freeze in March.

    The reason my company is in a hiring freeze is because some other departments in various locations over hired. All the open positions at the location I work at are now frozen even though we need the people. I’m not sure if they are waiting for a specific company wide head count number or if they’re investigating how the surplus of hiring occurred.

  7. Anonymous*

    Another possible reason: if it’s a biotech company (or companies in this case) that are involved in human or even animal drug/device R&D then they may have just had something rejected – having something approved isn’t the end of the process for those kind of companies, there is a lot more work that could come out of that. If the position was for that project, they went from having millions/billions in potential profit to nothing.

    1. KayDay*

      ^very good possibility (this is actually true of any organization that applies for and receives grants/contracts).

  8. Dan*

    Keep applying other places. Keep this in the back of your head, but don’t hold up other stuff waiting.

    I made that mistake (’cause they kept telling me it was coming through, really, for sure) with a dream job, waited 8 months (government, wasn’t as ridiculous a wait as it sounds), then they decided to redesign the dept and poof the job I’d been midprocess of hiring for… dissapeared.

    Stupid mistake. So, don’t do that.

  9. Sandrine*

    Well, hmm, as someone reading AAM enough to be able to send a letter, OP, you should know a few things…

    1) The job market sucks.
    2) The job market sucks enough that sometimes, you have awesome interviews and still don’t get hired.
    3) That sometimes, you are thisclose to an offer and still don’t get hired.
    4) That sometimes, you could have two kids between the interview and the next call…
    5) That you NEVER EVER challenge a decision, and try to “force” your way into a job :) .

  10. Jen*

    I was part of the hiring process for a new teammate. We really, really needed to hire someone, since we had been understaffed for 3-4 months and a big release was coming up. We found the perfect person… and the next day the company froze hiring. There’s nothing we can do to help it, but we’re hoping our perfect person is still available when the position opens again. Who knows, maybe your hiring manager is doing the same…

    1. Jamie*

      I was on the other side of this once as well. We had been interviewing for a position we needed to fill, but things changed and they needed to hire a couple of new positions in a different department immediately…so we needed to wait until the next fiscal year. In some companies the labor budget isn’t split departmentally – and there are only so many dollars in the labor bucket to go around so things get re prioritized.

  11. Ry*

    Something similar happened to me when I was trying to go from temp to perm in the same role. I had to weather two sudden (and unannounced-to-the-public, so luckily my manager was telling me what was going on) hiring freezes in the middle of being hired. It was a job that clearly needed to be done, because I was already doing it every day, and it couldn’t be outsourced or restructured away. The parent company simply said that no hiring could be done during those periods. Luckily, I was in a position in which I could wait it out as a temp, and finally I got my job.

    For now, keep looking elsewhere. If you get a similarly-good offer, take it. If the company un-freezes itself before you take a different job, go for it. Definitely, definitely do not contact the CFO, especially if s/he hasn’t been directly involved in your hiring process already. There’s advocating for yourself, and then there’s job-preventingly pushy behavior, and choosing to ask the CFO for a job would be the latter.

    Crossing my fingers for you!

  12. Janet*

    I currently work for a tech company that was purchased by a larger company. We’re doing well, they’re doing well but as a part of the sale the larger company agreed to cut a huge amount of money in order for this sale to make any sense to stakeholders. This means layoffs. Most of the time when a company acquires another company there are layoffs. To call up a company where everyone is terrified of losing their job and complain about your offer being frozen will put you on a Do Not Call list without a doubt.

  13. Charles*

    Contacting the CFO makes about as much sense as me personally calling Bill Gates to complain about Office 2010.

  14. Anonymous*

    This hiring freeze is not “inexplicable”. In fact, before you even mentioned that there was a merger, my immediate assumption was that there would be some sort of aquisition going on. When two companies merge, there are always a bunch of redundancies that need to be sorted out, as well as some cultural/organizational changes that generally are desired. No one wants to hire someone, only to have to lay them off a month later when they realize that they don’t actually need three people assigned to chocolate teapots, because they are going to be reducing their focus on teapots moving forward or because they have 2 teapot specialists that have been underused at the other company.

    The important thing to keep in mind is that the hiring manager is not an enemy. You are both on the same side, since you both want the same thing–to fill a need at the company with the best candidate. I guarantee you that if the position is still needed, that hiring manager is pushing as much as possible to cut through the red tape, and arguing their case to anyone who might be able to help. The last thing you want to do is to go way above the hiring manager’s head right now–even if you were successful in getting the CFO to reconsider this particular position (which is unlikely since you don’t have all of the internal information at hand to make a convincing argument), you would basically be telling the hiring manager that you felt you would be more effective at getting things done than the hiring manager is. If you were in a position where you had to choose an underling to help you out, would you pick the person who listened to what you said and waited patiently for you to get back to them, or would you pick the person who ran off to complain to senior management when you told them something they didn’t like?

  15. Corey Feldman*

    I agree. It happens all the time and the reasons can be very complex and not related to the companies overall performance. You would shoot yourself in the foot reaching out to them to tell them you know better….

  16. Interviewer*

    Publicly-available financial statements show a profit in the last quarter for everyone involved, and yet there’s a hiring freeze? Red flag.

    It could be totally unrelated to your department or your project or your office – then again, it might not.

    I think you should keep looking. Seriously, I would not call anyone to convince them you know more about the company’s future than they do. Look at it this way – they’re sending mixed signals. There’s an opening, they’re interviewing – and suddenly, they’re not hiring. This is not the time to pull out your award-winning skills at persuasion. Consider it a sign that your hot prospect could very well be a house of cards.

    If they do reopen the process with you, I’d be very wary and ask some hard questions about the company, and listen closely to the answers you’re given.

    1. Kelly O*

      I’d disagree that it’s an automatic red flag. Having been part of companies during acquisitions and restructurings, sometimes a decision is made to re-evaluate open positions, especially if they realize there will be overlap.

      I’ve seen internal candidates from redundant groups shifted into roles that were previously being interviewed for – it allows that existing employee to keep a job, seniority and benefits and cuts out a lot of the tangible and intangible costs of bringing in someone new.

      Just another scenario to consider. These were two successful companies that on paper looked good. There are things you can’t possibly know unless you’re there, in the company every day.

  17. Thebe*

    We’re on the other side of this right now. I gave my notice last year so I could stay home with my daughter. They convinced me to stay until March so I could do one more project. Now I work half-time, waiting for them to replace me. My manager lost at least two candidates because the search has been so drawn-out and then she had to freeze hiring again. My manager is beside herself. So I’m probably going to work half-time a few more months to help out, which is great for me and my daughter but very bad for my coworkers.

    I like my workplace generally and they treat me fine, but there’s no room for advancement and as you can see, they’re a little screwy.

  18. Lexy*

    So many completely valid reasons they would freeze hiring in the midst of an acquisition, nothing you can do and you definitely don’t know enough about the situation to make a strong case for why they shouldn’t freeze YOUR position (I have a strong desire to insert a Condescending Wonka meme in here “You know how I should structure these two large companies merging together despite the fact that you are not an M&A expert? DO GO ON”)

    So… yeah listen to Alison, sit tight, tell all your friends about how stupid they are being by not hiring you right now. Then keep looking. :( Sorry

  19. Anonymous*

    I’m kinda torn between…

    a) glad the OP wrote to AAM before he/she wrote to the CFO


    b) scared the OP had the idea after reading AAM for any length of time.

    I’ve been a hiring manager, and have had to freeze hiring in mid process several times, and an acquisition was one of the reasons we had to do so.

    1. PCB*

      This, honestly.

      OP, I will give you an example of at least one reason why hiring freezes are logical, even for a company that is doing very well:

      A year ago, I started working for company A, which went through an acquisition a year before I started. The company I work for is small (<100 employees), but they had already been acquired by company B previously (like 10 years ago), which is much, much bigger.

      So, Company C comes along, and decides company B is pretty awesome…and when they realized they'd get company A, too?! BONUS POINTS! Everyone wins.

      The acquisition process delay had to do with the size of company B, the job titles and pay rates for all of those employees, as well as us at company A. So, the reason our acquisition took over 2 years to complete was because of all of those logistical issues.

      They weren't hiring once they thought they had it figured out, so we didn't have any new people for about 4 months.

      TL;DR – acquisitions are chaotic for HR departments, and having to deal with new hires in the midst of all that can be unfeasible (and unfair to the new hires, as their duties may be impacted, before they are comfortable).

  20. Wilton Businessman*

    Yes, please do contact the CFO and report back his/her response. I have a feeling I will need a good laugh tomorrow.

  21. Just Me*

    I am looking at the OP’s post this way:

    For whatever reasons the position is on hold. It doesn’t matter why and for no one to second guess.

    This type of “wondering what is going on” no different then why it takes so long to even get an interview, why a company has procedure ” x” instead of procedure ” y” and so on. It is basic company buisness. Happens all the time. My company has changed directions umpteenth times over a year. Not saying it is right, just the way it is.

    I agree with AAM and it concerns me a little that the OP would even think it of contacting the CFO to try to convince him to take the job off hold. I hope the OP doesn’t take that frame of mind when employed at any job and starts telling managers, exec’s and so on how to run the department. All due repect meant here, just saying.

  22. Paul*

    Life Sucks and uncertainity is certain… move on folks rock your life. you got hell a lot of options not one …. do you follow me?

  23. Jenn*

    I am currently in a situation were I had a great interview and they liked me but they put the position that I applied for on hold. The only explanation was that they were restructuring the department and that they were trying to figure out ‘some things’ before hiring me. The best advice is to keep looking for employment. You don’t know how long or even if they will hire you when the decision to un-hold the job or when the hiring freeze is over. Do not contact anyone other then HR! Fate has a way of fixing things for the best. Just wait it out and keep looking for a job while you wait.

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