should I tell a small lie to move a job offer along?

A reader writes:

I’ve been offered a job verbally and since then, almost a month now, I’ve been in communication with the HR recruiter. She’s stressed apologies for it taking so long and even articulated the company, a large one, has implemented a new job portal so all data is being processed through the new system.

My question is, since this wait is putting a huge dent on my psyche, would it be strategic to let the recruiter know that my current job has plans to fly me out of country for work related tasks? Of course, this would be a fabrication but my mind is running rampant thinking about why the process is taking forever. Would this increase their sense of urgency? Any other suggestions as to how to approach getting more clarity on the status of their hiring process?

Oh dear god, do not do that. Do not lie to get them to speed up your offer paperwork.

What are you going to do if you tell them that and they say, “Well, we can’t speed this up, so we might need to go with another candidate, but contact us when you’re back and we can see if this position is still open”?

They are moving at the speed they’re moving at. That’s just how it works. If you’d rather forego the offer than wait, you can certainly do that — but I suspect that’s not the choice you want to make. So that leaves you with waiting for their process to move along, even though it might take a while.

Again, in the starkest of terms: You can wait and probably end up with the job in the end, or you can be impatient and risk ending up with no job there.

Like many job seekers, you’re losing sight of something crucial: Your goal isn’t to get this wrapped up as quickly as possible and get closure. Your goal is to get the job. But right now, you’re acting as if speed matters more than the thing you actually care about.

As for why it’s taking so long, there are all kinds of possible reasons: someone key to the process is on vacation, higher-priority work needs to be dealt with first, they’re ironing out a budget issue, they’re waiting to see if Bob is going to be promoted because if he is they need to reconfigure this job description, they’re incredibly bureaucratic and everything takes weeks or months longer than it should, or who knows what else.

If it’s “putting a huge dent in your psyche,” the answer isn’t to try to manipulate them. It’s to stopping letting it affect you like that. Put a note on your calendar to check in with the recruiter in two weeks, and then another two weeks after that, and then put it out of your mind. Apply to other jobs (because this one is not definite at this point), and stop thinking about this one entirely. You will be far, far happier — and their process will move along (however slowly) without your stressing about it, just like it was going to do anyway.

{ 54 comments… read them below }

  1. Loquaciousaych*

    What? Please don’t do this. Ack.

    I do the hiring for my small business. It’s not unheard of for an offer to take a month. It isn’t just “interview folks, decide who we want, and then BAM, hire them”. We have to make sure we have the money to hire, the time available to train them, the shirts for them to wear (seriously, this is a big concern at times) and that we don’t have other stuff (like events) that would get in the way of hiring.

    It took us a YEAR to hire our first employee. Granted, I was in constant contact with him and he was already volunteering at events, so he knew where we were in our process. Why did it take a year? Lawyers. that’s all I have to say. As a small business owner, we wanted to cover every possible base, and lawyers move at the speed of never.

    If my employees had told me they were being flown out of the country for whatever reason while we were in the hiring process, I would have wished them the best and moved on.

    1. Anonymous*

      I totally agree (of course) that the LW shouldn’t lie.

      But regarding the details in your comment: having never been a business owner, why wouldn’t all that stuff be decided/managed/factored in to timelines *before* you made an offer? I understand that you’d probably want hiring to be going on while you deal with budget/uniforms/training schedule/etc., but shouldn’t you at least know what the timeline is going to be, so if your hiring moves faster than the other stuff you can keep your candidates updated.

      1. Gilbey*

        I am understanding that this was the first employee that they hired for the company? So I get why it might have taken a little longer the first time around?

    2. Anonymous*

      Seems odd to me to even start the hiring process if you haven’t worked out basic details like whether you have the money to hire or the time to train them. Even if you don’t know exactly the level of experience of the final candidate so you can’t be 100% certain what you will pay or how much they will need to learn, surely you have a range that you are working within?

      1. MR*

        I was thinking this as well. Seems like a huge waste of time/energy/resources to go through the hiring process – only to then figure out if there is a budget to actually hire the person. It’s a cart before the horse situation here.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Budgets can change. If the hiring process takes 3 months (which it definitely can, especially the higher level the hire) then you’re in a totally different quarter than you were when you started the process.

        A lot can change in a couple months, and the longer the process stretches (for any of the million reasons it can stretch), the more things are going to be different.

        Would you rather they just work off of old budget numbers, give you a start date, and then tell you after you’ve quit your job that they have to rescind the offer because sales were way down last quarter and they can’t bring on this position?

    3. Sunshine DC*

      I agree about the “don’t lie” part, but I am baffled by “Loquaciousaych” saying that a prospective employee flying out of town is a deal breaker. Do you really mean that this person, while at their current job (prior to starting work for you) should tell their current employer that they refuse to go on any business travel? That is riduculous – and certainly might be cause for them to get fired by that employer while your office is taking its time (which is its right, of course.) If they get fired and then you never do end up hiring them, then what? SMH…

      1. Chinook*

        What she is saying is that, if you need the process to move faster because it risks your current job, then maybe you aren’t the best fit and we have candidate Business who may be slightly lacking in something the OP has but it would be offset by their flexibility.

        In a job market with numerous equally qualified candidates, that is the risk you take when you try to push back. If the travel was the truth, then OP would have to consider if the new job was worth the risk.

        1. Loquaciousaych*

          I’ll admit that a lot of the issues on hiring are due to “learning on the job” in my case. Many times we just don’t know that we don’t know “X” issue (let’s say how many hours will it take to train an employee) until we get into the interview process. That can clog things up in our ability to make a decision.

          As far as a candidate flying out of town, I took the OP to imply it was a longer term thing than just a short hop. In MY case, I absolutely require that my candidates be people that will be in the area for a while. If a candidate is moving or will be on the road for a while, we want to focus on someone that meets our requirements. I think that’s reasonable.

          All of my comments regarding what can make things take a while are intended to be implied for the interview process. We have never made an offer without being ready to hire immediately.

          1. Loquaciousaych*

            Apparently, I totally missed the bit about an offer. I thought this was still in interview stages. Sorry for showing my lack of comprehension skills =P

  2. nyxalinth*

    I once received a job offer, and they kept pushing back the start date for six weeks When I finally got in, I lasted for two weeks before being fired. The official reason was that the manager who’d hired me and three others had been fired for I never knew what reason. The Unofficial Reason that I found out later from someone who could be trusted to speak the truth and not blather gossip was that the manager didn’t like or trust introverts, which me and the three other people were.

    So the point here is sometimes stuff like this happens because stuff like this happens, OP, but sometimes it can also be a way of something (or Something) giving you a sign of “Keep looking. This isn’t the One.”

    1. JM in England*

      What I would give for Introvert to be a protected class! :-)

      Many online forums have highlighted the discrimination they experience in the workplace………….

      1. nyxalinth*

        Wow, that’s really a thing? I thought my experience was an isolated thing. That’s scary. Well, one more item on the list of “Stupid but Legal Reasons to Fire People’.

        1. JM in England*

          Have also had interview feedback that essentially said that I was not outgoing enough for the role……….& it wasn’t a customer facing one!!

          1. Jen in RO*

            Well, there *are* roles that are not customer-facing yet would require you to be outgoing. I have to work (talk face-to-face, e-mail, IM) with people as part of my job and I’m sure it would be much easier if I was more extroverted. As it stands – I’m somewhere in the middle, leaning towards introverted – it’s hard sometimes, but doable. This didn’t keep me from getting hired – but as a hiring manager I would reject a person who is extremely introverted because I would worry about their ability to do this particular job.

            1. fposte*

              And I’ve seen it happen the other way–an extrovert doesn’t prosper amid a group of introverts. As an introvert myself, I think this comes under “fit,” and I’m actually okay with it being a consideration.

              1. So Very Anonymous*

                Yes, it can be tough for an extrovert to thrive in a setting of mostly introverts. I’m getting for a flyout interview (yayyy!) and have been wondering how to ask about/assess introvert/extrovert balance. I need a little more extroversion and more collaboration.

            2. Bee*

              What Jen in RO said. I am an introvert by nature, and though my job doesn’t deal with customers at all I am in an HR/admin type role and I deal a lot with outside vendors, new hires, existing employees… I have to put on my ‘work face’ and get it done, but it’s draining and someone who was more introverted than I would have a very tough time with my position, even though on paper it looks like a strictly support/admin/paperwork type role.

    2. Smiles*

      I just had something like this happen. I was hired and my start date was constantly pushed out. In the process I turned down a promotion at my current job because I planned on leaving to take the new position. Lo and behold, the position was put on hold until next year because of budget. I don’t understand why budget isn’t figured out in some capacity before the hiring process. I guess losses come up and the first way to deal with them is to freeze hiring. This situation was devastating for me.

      OP, I agree to stop thinking about it and continue to job search. Treat it as if there is no guarantee, because there isn’t. The end of the year is coming up and it would be nothing for them to look at their timeline and decide that this can wait until next year.

      1. Jessa*

        I get this, but and I know you’ve probably been told this before. But as far as I’m concerned until I have an actual firm offer with a start date and everything, I do nothing in my previous position differently. I presume the offer is going to fall through no matter how many times they say I have the job. In other words I’d have taken the promotion.

        1. Jessa*

          Sorry hit enter too fast – especially when they’re jerking you around about the start date. Once they change the date ONCE, I am going to presume they have no clue what they’re doing.

        2. abby*

          What would you do if you were made a firm offer, in writing and including a start date? Would you then leave your current employer after taking the promotion?

  3. Jacqui*

    Don’t lie, just ask. I work for large software company and OH.EM.GEE they are slow as snails to hire. It literally takes on average 3 months for them to hire someone new. Why? One, It’s a very big company. Two – the approval process takes the US Headquarters and the World Headquarters in Europe to approve the hiring req, even for an entry level position. They are known for being slow to hire and that’s just the way it is.

    1. Jessa*

      Except one expects in a case like this to be TOLD THIS. Seriously if your company takes 3 months to make a decision, that’s great. TELL people this. There’s nothing wrong with taking 3 months. What’s wrong is when people give the interviewee the idea that they’ll hear very soon and it’s NOT very soon. If it’s 2 weeks, say so. If it’s 3 mos, SAY SO.

      Honestly this process shouldn’t be this super secret thing that only the hiring company has a clue about. The people trying to get jobs there should be given the courtesy of knowing whatever the current information is, and if that information changes, they should be told in a timely manner.

  4. AB*

    Yeah. As a consultant in the IT space, I see the hiring process of Fortune 15 companies, middle sized companies, and small companies, and I can say that one month is speed of light for most companies in this space, from the time they decide for a candidate to the time the candidate officially starts.

    In my last full time job (I’m back to being an independent consultant), I was told the department was in a hurry to bring me on board, and the hiring process took about 5 months to be completed (2 months to start as a contractor + 3 months to process the paperwork to make me a full time).

    People need to understand that even when it’s in the best interest of the department / hiring manager, sometimes it’s just not possible to move quicker for reasons beyond their control. Attempting to put pressure in the employer (even when telling the truth, let alone lying) is most likely going to just jeopardize your chances, like AAM said.

    For anyone looking for a new job and having to suffer through a long hiring process, my advice is to prepare for a long wait (if it moves fast, great, you will be pleasantly surprised). If you are unemployed, in addition to continuing job search, see if you can find something you can do during this period to keep earning some money (or even just in a volunteering capacity) and your mind occupied instead of obsessing about the company’s timeline.

  5. Lynne*

    it took 4 months for me to be hired from my first interview-the time between my first and second interview was about 3 months with zero contact. now, once I got the verbal offer I had the official offer in a few days, but just chaining in that companies take forever to do things. and as others said, don’t assume you’ve actually got this job. keep your eyes peeled. and seriously, don’t lie! what good would that do? do you think they’re just screwing with you? if they really want you, they’re going as fast as they can. chill out.

  6. fposte*

    Are you still looking at other jobs? If you’re not, you should be, just on general principle, and that will also give your mind more to focus on. You don’t want to put all your eggs in a basket that somebody else is holding.

  7. QualityControlFreak*

    Hmm. I don’t hire, so I read the letter to my spouse, who used to.

    He said, “I wouldn’t want her working for me.” Upon further questioning, his issue was the willingness to simply lie to get one’s way. His position was that someone with this attitude will continue to lie to get what they want once they are on the job. It speaks to personal integrity.

    Perhaps it was the way it was worded: “Of course this would be a fabrication…” There is, and should be no “of course” about lying to a prospective employer.

    1. Chloe*

      Agree – the ‘of course’ rang my alarm bells. And I don’t really get how this particular lie would even help the situation, if you’re travelling I don’t see why this prevents you receiving and/or accepting a job offer, and then resigning when you get back, unless we’re talking about a long term trip, but it didn’t sound like that.

      Weird idea all the way round.

  8. Ruffingit*

    This story is a good illustration of the fact that candidates often think they have more value to a company than they actually have. Sure, they’ve made a verbal offer, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other candidates they can make the offer to.

    The idea behind lying is to nudge them into action on the basis of being afraid of losing you. What are they losing exactly? They don’t know your work product, your temperament within their environment, etc. They are not losing a known quantity, which might actually engender that fear within them. They would be possibly losing a candidate they like, sure, but there are others they can hire. Don’t assume you have more power than you do in these situations because the reality is that you are not Thomas Edison being hired at the electric company. In other words, 99.9% of us are not stellar enough to warrant thinking our loss would be devastating to the company.

  9. Elizabeth West*

    No. No no no no no.

    If you lie, then you have to live in it. As Judge Judy says, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to keep your story straight.”

    1. Chloe*

      Thats what my mum said to me when I was about 9 and its stuck ever since, lying is so complicated because you always have to remember the lie. So much easier to just remember the truth.

  10. anon-2*

    One thing – is the OP *certain* that he/she had an actual verbal job offer? No salary indication, no start date. Huh?

    Very few companies will extend an actual job offer without following up with the paperwork after a couple of days. If it’s a LARGE company – they usually have policies and procedures as to how they go about filling positions. In my 40 years in the working world, I have never heard of a “verbal offer” not followed up on within a few days with a formal letter of an offer of employment.

    There seems to be something odd here…

  11. Chloe*

    Ha! You’ve never met my current employer. Time between verbal and written offer was over a month…ridiculously long, and as it turned out, symptomatic of their general lack of ability to organise anything, really.

  12. anon-2*

    I don’t disagree with you Chloe , the hiring cycle may be slow.

    But you don’t extend a verbal offer without following through quickly.

    If an employment situation can’t be offered definitively – DON’T OFFER IT VERBALLY.

    1. Chloe*

      Well yes, that would be best practice, I couldn’t agree more. But companies can and do offer verbally without quickly following up with a written contract, and as I’ve learned, its a GIANT red flag.

      And this is a major trans-national organisation, not a one-person band who doesn’t have experience.

      They are just epically, chronically, dismally, depressingly inefficient and disorganised. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

  13. AdAgencyChick*

    It’s not only a bad idea to lie because the offer might get pulled if they decide their timeframe is more important than having you in the position, AND if they later find out you were lying, the offer could get pulled, you could get fired if you’re already there, or at the very least your manager will have doubts in her head going forward about your honesty and integrity.

    It’s also a bad idea to tell THIS lie because honestly, even if it were true, I doubt it would speed up the process one whit. If I were the recruiter, I’d simply respond with, “Oh, thanks for telling me. You can still keep in touch by email while you’re abroad, right?”

  14. MR*

    What I don’t understand is all of these companies who give verbal job offers, then take weeks to send out the paperwork. For every job I’ve had or every job I’ve hired for, I’ve given/received a verbal offer and sent or had sent the paper work the same day. When an offer is ready to be extended, the paperwork should be all set to go as well. It’s really not that complicated.

    If a company goes weeks between a verbal and written offer, consider it a huge red flag as to how they operate and what other issues may be waiting for you upon arrival.

    1. blu*

      At my job, we make the verbal first so that we have a number/compensation package we have agreed on and then we have to send the offer package for approval with the leadership for the organization we are hiring the candidate for and that can take weeks. It’s frustrating for us and the candidate to have the delay, but the alternative is worse: we pick a number send it for approval and then you want to negotiate and we have to start over with the approval process with the new number. However, we do let the candidate know that the offer has to go for approval and try to get a best estimate as to when they can expect a written offer, but we don’t actually have control over how long an org will take to approve an offer.

      1. Chloe*

        See, I don’t get why you wouldn’t get a range agreed upfront, with the delegated authority to enter into an employment agreement with a suitable candidate, anywhere in that range. Why is senior management involved to this extent? It makes no sense to me.

        1. Liz*

          For our company the range is approved in general, but TPTB want to rubberstamp the specific salary for the specific candidate. If they query it, the hiring manager (or new manager) has to provide justification for that salary in writing. Which still needs to be OK’d by someone in HR if not TPTB.

          Everything in Oracle seems to go through 2-3 levels of approval, in short. It’s just how it is. My husband was hired and started within a month and the hiring manager said in 15 years he had *never* seen someone start that quickly before.

          1. blu*

            Yep this is exactly how it is at for us as well. Also consider that ranges can be wide so there is a desire to link a specific dollar amount with a specific candidate isn’t something that is totally unreasonable.

  15. Jen S. 2.0*

    Your dented psyche is not anyone’s problem except yours. Your dented psyche also is not a good enough reason to try to bend them to your will by lying. They are not hurting you by taking longer than you want to finalize things. Inconveniencing you a bit, sure, but that is hardly the end of the world.

    “But my psyche is dented!” And… so what? You are an adult (I presume) and you can deal. No, it’s not fun to wait, but they likely are dealing with HR issues that are bigger than your psyche.

    They don’t have to work on your schedule. If they are moving too slowly for you, your choices are to move forward in your job search, or to suck it up and wait.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Totally agreed! It’s bizarre to me to have a dented psyche over this issue anyway. Dented psyche should be saved for instances of workplace abuse, deaths in the family, etc. Dented psyche does not apply to waiting for an employment process to be completed.

  16. Mena*

    They will move at their own speed, regardless of your attempts to pressure them. I interviewed (three separate rounds) at a company, was very excited about the opporunity and waited and waited. They said they were down to considering me and another candidate; I wasn’t sure I believed this. I waited some more. Two months after my first round of interviews the offer came, in writing, $5K OVER the top of the salary range, and it included stock (not in the original job positing). Yes, they wanted me; it just took them awhile to get their act together.

    I don’t think you can hurry them up. You risk taking yourself out of the running. Be patient.

  17. r*

    Can someone please give me advice!?

    Im currently waiting for a job offer but not too sure if they’re even going to offer me the job.

    I had a phone interview with this company on the 22nd of august with the internal recruitment consultant, it was very successful, she called me 10mins later asking if I could come into one of the branches to meet with the regional manager and the general manager, interview was on the 27th of august, before my interview I noticed that they advertised for the same position but in a branch closer to home so I expressed my interest in the interview, it went really good both managers expressed how good they think ill be for the position and if I can start pretty much straight away. That afternoon the internal recruitment consultant called and advised I had very successful feedback and they would be moving to checking my references and from there they would get approval and make an offer, she also mentioned that they can place me in the branch closer to home. At this stage I thought I had it and was very excited. The next morning (very early) she called me back asking if I could go in the next day to meet with the branch manager at the branch I wanted to be placed in, I thought this was odd as I thought I was already selected. I went in anyway to meet with the acting branch manager, she didn’t ask me alot of questions just about salary and told me a little bit more about the role, she did say that there was only one position at this branch and an internal applicant applied so it would be between us. I expressed that if I wasnt successful here id be happy to go to another branch which I knew had a few of the same roles that needed to be filled. She did say she was happy with what she saw and the internal recruitment consultant would let me know that day or the next. The internal recruiter did call me but It was because she couldn’t get in contact with one of my references, I said ill try to contact her too. The next day, recieved an email saying still no contact with one of my references so I had to chase up another number, I got back to her about 4pm that afternoon and my reference did tell me he was contacted. I didnt expect a call back as it was a friday afternoon so I thought id wait till monday. On monday afternoon after not hearing anything I sent a polite email asking how the progress is, she promptly emailed back saying ‘ we are awaiting approval of your application and should have some feedback for you early this week, ill be intouch no later than friday’. Its Thursday now, im just wondering, will I get an offer??? Why are they taking so long to call back, I mean its not that long but they were moving really quickly at the start and the managers did say they wanted an immediate start even for monday thats just gone passed any advice anyone????
    And what is approval of application?? What do they have to approve???

    1. Heatherbrarian*

      Hi r,

      You’re probably better off sending this directly to Alison or saving it up for an open thread. “Threadjacking” in the comments is usually not done on this blog since each post often has a large number of comments already.

      Best of luck with the offer! I see it’s been a week since you posted – I hope things have turned out well.

  18. ukathleticscoach*

    Would you really want to work for such a company. I would apply for other jobs while you are waiting.

  19. ukathleticscoach*

    ….and one more thing should the budget etc not be agreed before they interview for position. If the budget is not signed the same might apply to your contract

  20. RealHuman*

    Seriously, who’s writing these comments? A bunch of stiff, stuck-in-the-mud, entitled HR people with no grasp on reality and whom have never had to look for a job? I suggest getting that pole un-wedged and coming back down to reality. Take all things into consideration before condemning someone, this person may have been not working for a while, and desperate for answers. I think it’s ridiculous to tell someone to just “get over it” without knowing that person’s situation. In this economy too many great workers at all levels are without jobs, many for long periods of time. So while a “dent psyche” may not be a big deal (apparently) to some people, it’s the sort of thing that drives others to suicide in this economy. Get off your high horse. Sheesh!!

    People lie all the time (don’t act like you never have), and when you are out there in this economy, companies constantly take advantage of those looking for jobs. The point is, if they want you they’ll let you know. If you telling them you’ve received another offer you’re considering makes them jump to the next candidate, I doubt they took you very seriously in the first place. More than that they obviously don’t value finding good candidates (=they prob don’t value their employees). If they found a candidate that’s great for a position (you), and they really want him/her, when that candidate follows up they will provide him/her with accurate information as best they can. If he/she gets another job offer, it’s understandable. If they want that candidate, they know it’s probable someone else will, too. Before desperately resorting to a lie, you should follow up and get specific about the details you’d like to know. Example of specific follow-up: I’d like to know the status of the position, a time table if you have one, what are the next steps, can I follow up at (whatever date they give you) if I haven’t heard anything, etc. If they still leave you hanging, you desperately need to confirm (for whatever reasons are personal to you), and it’s been a reasonable amount of time, then I say do what you have to! Don’t be afraid; be confident. They have absolutely no way of knowing that you’re lying.

    The reality is any of these things can happen, you COULD get another job offer, you COULD have to travel for work, etc. Then what? Now all of these inhuman folks who’ve commented have scared the bejeezus out of you. Are they suggesting you lie if you really do get another job offer or if you really do have to travel?

    Sometimes you have to figure out ways around the system (it’s not like anyone’s REALLY going to suffer from this) because people can be dodgy, careless, inconsiderate, unprofessional, sloppy, forgetful, absentminded, on vacation, fired, or otherwise unconcerned, etc. Regardless, this way you get answers, which results in peace of mind and closure.

    Here’s a secret: at the end of the day, beyond skills and experience, interviewers, and a company in general, WANT to be convinced you can do the job well, which almost always is displayed by confidence. That means if you lie, you better make sure it’s believable. No shaking in your shoes, no faltering, stuttering, changing your story or making it in anyway obvious that you’re lying. Sorry, you saints, but people do it all the time. And it’s a little white lie that in the whole scheme of things, it’s not going to hurt or effect anyone or harm a company in any way. If the company wants you, they will do what it takes to get you.

    Ideally, you would keep looking so that you actually can get another offer and have some choices (you have a certain amount of confidence when you can take something or leave it). Any manager who thinks they’ve only hired employees who have never ever in life told a lie (lies are always self-serving), then they are lying to themselves.

    My whole point, which I’m sure you get by now, is if something like this makes them rescind their consideration, then it wasn’t your job in the first place.

    1. Taylor*

      No…. Just no… So much no on sooo many levels. Never is it acceptable to tell someone that lying and MANIPULATING people is okay. You get off your high horse.

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