how should I handle this unprofessional interviewer?

A reader writes:

I just turned down a job due to an incredibly unprofessional hiring process, and the company has requested more info and a phone call to discuss my decision. I’m not sure how to handle this.

First, some background with names changed. I applied in March when I saw the position posted. I quickly had a phone interview with Jane (the hiring manager) and Bob (her boss). I then had a lunch interview with Jane and a fellow team member. All of these went pretty well, and at the end of the lunch they invited me back to the office and showed me what would be my office and introduced me to some people. I got the impression at the time that I was Jane’s first choice but that Bob had some reservations and that Jane may not have been able to make her own decision. Then I heard nothing for 3 weeks. That was followed up by an email saying I was a finalist and a decision would be made at the end of the week. I replied to that email to ask a few questions about the position and the process and didn’t get a reply. Six weeks later, they invited me back in to meet with Bob. This was early June. I went through that meeting and a phone interview with a woman in a different department who hadn’t seen my resume. Then I went through weeks of “we’re going to make you an offer but we don’t have the details yet.” At one point, they said they were looking over the offer letter “as we speak” and I still didn’t see it for another week.

Salary discussions were the old school style that your blog criticizes. Bob asked me (in person) to email him a number. I told him a range then and there (because I was prepared) and I asked if that was within their range. He declined to answer and never named a number until I got the offer letter in my email. The offer was $5k below the bottom of the range I’d asked for.

Even after the slow hiring process, the interviewer who hadn’t seen my resume, lack of communication, signs that Bob was micromanaging Jane’s hiring process, and some annoying salary tactics, the real unprofessionalism was still to come. Bob wanted to discuss the offer over the phone and asked me to call him. He kept me on hold for 10 minutes to start the conversation, while I was taking a break at my current position. He then tried to convince me that this position was worth $25k more than the offer due to insurance, 401k match and PTO. The problem was that their benefits are worse than my current ones in all aspects, so they take away from the offer, not add to it. I felt like I was dealing with a used car salesman convincing me to buy a car because it had a full tank of gas that’s worth an extra $50. Then the REALLY bad part happened. I noticed that the offer letter had me reporting to Bob, instead of Jane. I asked if there was some restructuring and if that would explain the delay in hiring. He then told me that Jane would be leaving the company due to personal reasons and went into detail about Jane’s medical condition and some problems she was having as a parent. These were not run of the mill excuses for leaving a job; these were seriously personal details about someone else’s private life. This was one of the most unprofessional things I’ve ever encountered, and possibly illegal under HIPAA.

I declined the position, saying that I was declining in order to continue to look for something that’s a better fit for me. Today I got a fairly long email expressing their disappointment and requesting another call with Bob to explain my decision. I really don’t want to talk to this guy as he makes me feel like I need to take a shower after talking to him. I really don’t know how to handle this. I want to continue to be professional, but don’t want to have this conversation with Bob. Any advice?

You’re certainly not obligated to talk to Bob again. You can simply decline that request. I’d say something like, “While I appreciate your interest, I don’t think another phone call to talk it over makes sense, but I wish you the best of luck in filling the position.” Or, if you’re not comfortable with such a direct no, you could say, “Unfortunately, my schedule this week means it would be hard to schedule a call, but I wish you the best in filling the job.”

That said, I think you might be bristling more than is warranted at some of what transpired. A lot of this is awfully typical for hiring processes. Hiring processes often do take a while — applying in March and getting an offer in June isn’t outrageously long. Neither is three weeks of silence after an interview. Someone interviewing you without having had time to look at your resume isn’t ideal, but that happens sometimes too — sometimes people are pulled into the process at the last minute. It’s not ideal, but it’s not an outrage either. And offers can take a while to pull together too, particularly in larger companies where there are often multiple sign-offs needed, so it’s not crazy that it took them a week to get the offer letter to you.

I agree with you that Bob shouldn’t have shared personal details of Jane’s — there’s no question that that was inappropriate. (Although we don’t know how open Jane is being about her situation; it’s possible that she’s completely open about it, and Bob’s error was in not realizing that you wouldn’t realize that … or need to hear those details regardless.) But it’s not a HIPAA violation; HIPAA restricts the release of information by Jane’s medical team, not by her employer.

In any case, it’s totally legitimate for you to decide you don’t want this job because of the salary or benefits or Bob or anything else. I think you probably should recalibrate your expectations around the hiring process itself, simply because much of what you described is so typical, but there’s no need for you to have to justify your decision to them. Politely decline the follow-up call, wish them the best of luck, and move on.

{ 144 comments… read them below }

  1. BOMA*

    I’d be weirded out by someone sharing another person’s personal information as well. It may not be a HIPAA violation, but even if Jane is completely open about her issues, sharing that information with someone they’re clearly trying to impress (professionally, anyway) suggests a pretty serious lack of judgement. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with listening to your gut. You got a bad feeling about Bob, and I’m a big believer in trusting your instincts, so I think you made the right call.

    1. Kelly O*

      It would make me wonder what Bob would say to someone about me, if I’m being totally honest.

    2. Angora998*

      If you are totally turned off by Bob and have no desire to work this country in the next year or so you could just block their phone number on your cell. If it’s verizon, the block will last for 90 days and drop. He’ll just assume you’ve changed your phone number.

      1. Angora998*

        typo .. work for this particular company …

        tired, dealing with a head cold and want to go home.

    3. Letter Writer*

      The lack of judgement was probably the tipping point for me on accept/decline.

  2. Mena*

    Sharing personal details aside (unacceptable), the other aspects of the process are not entirely out of line. In my current position, I applied in January and never heard a word. Job was re-posted in June; I applied again. Phone screens, two rounds of in-person interviews plus a third visit to meet a senior executive that was previously unavailable took 8 weeks. I started at the end of August (remember, I originally applied in January! Someone needed to be fired in the interim before they were ready to reorganize and proceed with hiring)

    No, the process you experienced isn’t entirely unprofessional although Bob shouldn’t discuss other peoples’ details.

    As for them wanting a follow-up conversation, this might be another effort to ‘sell’ the position to you. I suggest saying “I’m focused on my current role and simply don’t have the time. Best of luck with the position.”

    1. Mike B.*

      I can understand trying to negotiate when the candidate you want turns you down, but doing so after you lowballed her on the offer and when you aren’t prepared to raise it? Genuinely weird, and the biggest of the red flags to my mind.

      OP might be excellent at what she does, but a healthy company can either come up with the extra money or find a candidate willing to work for less. Are those options not open to Bob, or does he just think he can get what he wants by wearing down a person’s resistance?

      1. Nancie*

        That’s the thing that stood out to me as well. It also sounds as if the offer letter didn’t include any acknowledgment that the offer was below her requested range, which makes me think Bob was just hoping the OP is desperate.

        1. Angora998*

          Bob could operate on the premise that if he keeps asking for something he’ll wear the listener down and they’ll agree to just shut him up. Or it could be he screwed up, the company may really want her but he’s not willing to admit to the lowball offer.

          I also wonder if Jane left because of Bob. When people feel the need to trash or share too much info about other’s details, it’s a red flag. He’s covering for the real reason, when the answer should be “left for personal reasons.” When people lie, they add too many details.

          1. Toothless*

            > Bob could operate on the premise that if he keeps asking for something he’ll wear the listener down and they’ll agree to just shut him up.

            Yes, and it’s reasonable to assume that this is the kind of boss he is, too.

            1. Letter Writer*

              I sent this in a week ago and I did end up replying to the email. One of the things I said was that I try to evaluate management style and personal fit during the hiring process and that I felt I would be a good fit with Jane and am very disappointed that she is leaving.

        2. ClaireS*

          The other thing to consider is that the low ball number may be as high as they can go. Bob was desperate to sell her on it because he knows he has no more budget.

          For the record, Bob still sounds like someone I would avoid working for.

          1. Mike B.*

            If they’re 5K short of being able to get a needed staff member in place and can’t get it, something’s awry in my book. There isn’t that much wiggle room in the budget? The Finance department has that much power? If Bob’s just trying to get the hire he needs by any means necessary, then it sounds likely that this isn’t a functional or financially healthy organization.

            1. Cindi*

              5k from the bottom of her salary range. With benefits that aren’t as good as what she currently has. Add in Bob the used car salesman and there’s no reason for her to take the job.

          2. MK*

            Then the sensible thing to do is to advertise again, clearly stating the salary they are prepared to offer, so that they will only get candidates prepared to accept it.

            Even if Bob has no room to raise the salary, I don’t see why that would make him so desperate that he would try to agressively sell the job to a particular candidate; no matter how brilliant the OP is, there must be others who can fill the position, even if they are not as great. Of course, if the company is not offering a competitive salary, they should also be prepared to have a less qualified or expierienced employee.

            I think it’s more likely that Bob didn’t take the OP’s stated range at face value; maybe he didn’t take the lower end of the range to mean “the minumum salary the OP will accept” and thought it was negaotiable.

        3. Letter Writer*

          They never did acknowledge that it was out of the range, but I think the phone call about benefits was his subtle way of trying to say “well our benefits are so good that it shouldnt matter.” But he never bothered figuring out if his benefits were better or worse than my current ones. In the end I think their benefits were about $5000 worse.

      2. Episkey*

        I agree. This factor + the sharing of personal details of Jane’s life are the 2 biggest red flags to me.

      3. Letter Writer*

        I don’t know if they were prepared to raise it. They may have been, but I didn’t give them the opportunity because I already had enough info to make my decision. Bob did say in his reply “is there anything that would change your mind?”

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yes, Bob, there is, basically you would need to not work there anymore since having you as a boss would be a nightmare from hell. Thanks for asking.

          Seriously, this guy just sounds obtuse at best. He lowballed you and he’s offering benefits that are less than what you have now, plus he disclosed personal details about his subordinate? Any one of those would be enough to say no thanks, but all three is the World Conference of Red Flags.

  3. GrumpyBoss*

    OP – Just curious, if after the offer came in at $5k below what you had requested, did you counter? If they came back with the 401k/benefit value, that’s actually a pretty common selling point that companies use after they’ve hit a wall in terms of what they are willing to offer. As AAM points out, you are well within your right to accept this as value or not.

    Regardless, I think that the only issue here that matters is that you do not feel as if you can work for Bob. The rest of this is all noise – no salary, benefits, or even time to make a decision are going to make you comfortable with this guy. I always consider it a great gift when your would-be-boss acts like a jerk in the interview process. That saves you months/years of torment. Follow Alison’s script to decline the meeting and move on.

    1. Colette*

      There’s something disconcerting about asking for someone’s expected salary, getting a range, and then months later making an offer that’s less than the lower end of that range. The time to say “oh, our range is lower” is after you ask for – and receive information about what they’re looking for.

      I had that happen to me, and the benefits would have had to be stellar (in a “much more vacation than usual” way) for me to take that job.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I’ve worked in places like this where this approach is not unusual and ranges are just not discussed. For all we know, the length of time that elapsed from request to the offer could have been Bob trying to wrangle another $5k. Having been in this position as a hiring manager where I know I am very close to getting the candidate I want, I’m certainly not willing to scare that candidate off by saying, “You are outside our range”. I’d take my chances trying to negotiate another $5k with finance/HR.

        1. Colette*

          I still think it’s important to at least acknowledge that that is outside of the range the potential employee gave – i.e. “I know you stated that your range is $X – $Y, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get our budget increased. The most I can offer is $X- $5000, but the benefits are A, B, and C.”

          1. fposte*

            Agreed. Otherwise you’re endangering that same promising candidate by making her think you knowingly wasted her time.

            1. Colette*

              That’s pretty much exactly how I felt – they asked what salary I wanted (three times) before they said “Oh, our range is significantly less than the market rate/the salary you asked for”.

              I do not work there, primarily because of the weird games they were playing around salary.

          2. LBK*

            Agreed. A good boss accepts that sometimes the answer to things is no and is able to do it in a way that’s apologetic but firm. You don’t just pretend like the question was even asked.

      2. Cautionary tail*

        At a prior employer this was standard practice. Ask for a number or a range, look only at the bottom number then counter with $5k less and make it non-negotiable.

        1. anon123*

          I wonder what the rate of acceptance was? That seems like a virtually guaranteed way to deter top talent.

        2. Betsy*

          Wow. That’s… appalling. Were they looking for people who were desperate and/or doormats? Because unless one is trying to hire people who will let themselves be abused by management, I cannot understand the point of that strategy.

          1. Cautionary tail*

            You nailed it. This was during the recession when people would do almost anything for a job so this company made life miserable for them knowing that there were 10 or more people waiting to take your job if you wanted more. I was one of those people who took a job with them for a pittance because I had been looking for many months and not found anything. Almost everyone who was there was constantly looking for another job, but there were none to be had. People were working 18 hours a day and calculated their equivalent hourly pay to be less than minimum wage.

      3. Toothless*

        My experience on my most recent job hint is that this is totally normal. Maybe they’re all taking their cue from car dealers, who hear “I’d like to look at models in the $X range” as “Please show me everything you have that costs $X + 5%.”

    2. Various Assumed Names*

      Totally agree. I have a feeling that many of these things would have gone unnoticed if she wasn’t put off by Bob on some unconscious level. Trust your instincts! (I just started reading Blink so maybe this is just on my mind, but seriously, I wish that I had latched onto some unconscious red flag when I interviewed for my current job.)

    3. Anon Accounant*

      This is probably 1 of the best things that can happen during an interview process- that a person that would be your boss acts like a jerk during the interview process. It gives such valuable insight as to what working directly with that person for 40+ hours a week would be like.

    4. Letter Writer*

      I didn’t counter, because I’d already learned enough about Bob to know that declining would “save me months/years of torment.”

      By the time this was posted I actually replied and told them that I was declining and explained it was for three reasons…
      -I value communication in a work place and the lack of communication was a red flag
      -I evaluate fit and was disappointed that Jane was leaving.
      -I was bothered by the disclosure of Jane’s personal info

      1. smilingswan*

        I’m glad you told him you were put off by the third thing especially. Hopefully he’ll get his act together for the future in that regard at least.

  4. LBAI*

    AAM is right. A lot of these tactics are, unfortunately, typical in a hiring process. But, if in your conversations with Bob, your gut is telling you that the fit isn’t right, listen.

  5. ami*

    I thought that if an employer provided health insurance policies for their employees, they were subject to HIPPA rules.

    Regardless, I agree with other posters. Bob is just an ass and you don’t want to work for him.

    1. Juli G.*

      That’s only if Bob is administrating Jane’s benefits himself, which is pretty unlikely. He’s likely either 1) passing along info he got from Jane or 2) someone that administers those benefits violated HIPPA and told him in which case, he’s still not the one in violation.

      Most likely, Jane told him. To be honest, the privacy that people on this blog like to maintain is WAY more than the employees I encounter. I typically get much more medical info then I need or want.

      1. Rachel - HR*

        Your statement about the person administering benefits is only correct if the company has a self-insured benefit plan. Regular administering of a plan does not qualify HR staff under HIPAA.

        1. Juli G.*

          Correct. I posted between HR issues so I didn’t clarify enough. :)

          I was just trying to demonstrate that HIPAA comes up a lot in the comments and it’s rare that it’s actually violated in your workplace. I think if may be the new “is this legal?”

          1. Rachel - HR*

            Haha. I completely agree! I had to explain to someone the other day that if you’re trying to get out of jury duty with a doctor’s note, it’s not a HIPAA violation for the jury duty people to ask you to provide more medical information.

            1. Letter Writer*

              I’m kind of embarrassed if I pulled a “is this legal.” Started reading this blog recently and am stunned by how many people ask that.

              1. LJL*

                No need to be embarrassed. It’s a common misconception that HIPAA applies to any discussion of medical information. I’m with you that it does not bode well for future boundaries if Bob is sharing chapter and verse of Jane’s health and personal problems.

    2. fposte*

      No, that’s not enough to mean everybody at an employer is bound by HIPAA. What it does mean is really complicated and situational, from what I can see (whether HIPAA applies at all and how are dependent on how it’s all contracted and other factors), but it’s likely to mean things only to the people who handle the records containing personal health information.

      Health care professionals will be able to say more, but my impression is even in health care there’s no HIPAA violation in saying “My colleague’s really sick with measles and will be out for the week” as long as you’re not the institution treating the colleague–it’s not the details but why you have access to them that matters.

      1. LBK*

        Yes, that’s my understanding of it as well – it applies to people who receive details of a person’s health because they are involved in care, whether that be the doctor administering it or the receptionist setting up the appointment. It doesn’t apply to your boss that you told about your health issue willingly.

  6. AMD*

    HIPAA only applies to certain “covered entities” – basically people who deal with health information in the course of business, like pharmacies and health insurance providers. Folks unconnected with people’s health insurance or provision are free to share what they learn, and I think even health care providers can talk about details they don’t acquire through the course of their job. (For example, if Jane talks about her colitis at the lunch table, people privy to that conversation can talk about it to others.mlater, even if one of them is a nurse. If one of them is Jane’s nurse providing care for that particular condition, she would probably be breaking HIPAA by talking about it at all though, because it’d be hard to determine if she was speaking based on privileged information rather than what Jane had already shared publically.)

    Unless Bob got his information about Jane’s situation through providing medical care or coverage to her, he has not broken HIPAA by sharing because he is not a covered entity, any more than Jane’s mom or best friend is.

    1. LBK*

      If one of them is Jane’s nurse providing care for that particular condition, she would probably be breaking HIPAA by talking about it at all though, because it’d be hard to determine if she was speaking based on privileged information rather than what Jane had already shared publically.

      This is the one part I wasn’t sure about – if you know about someone’s health both because you’re their doctor and because they’re your personal friend, does discussing it violate HIPPA? I imagine the answer is yes.

      1. Simonthegrey*

        I have a close friend who is a nurse, and my husband graduated with an AA for medical office administration assistant. HIPAA is pretty clear about who can and can’t say anything, and so my nurse friend may make reference to (for example) someone our group knows who has been in hospital, that she saw him or something, but she won’t disclose anything even if he has already told us what is going on.

  7. Amy B.*

    Though some of these tactics may be viewed as “typical”, I would also see them as red flags. If someone tells me he will be getting back to me at the end of the week, I fully expect some type of response by the end of the week, if nothing but to say, “things are being held up.” People that do not keep their word on something as simple as a communication timeline are not people for which I would want to work.

    Right now, it is an employer’s market; but this is all cyclical and will change in time. Employers who believe it is acceptable to typically treat people this way will lose some very good people.

    Courtesy is paramount in my relationships; and it is not guided by who I feel I have power over due to economic circumstances.

    1. Colette*

      Is it your experience that people always get back to you when they say they will, either in hiring or in normal day to day life?

      Where I work, we’re all busy, and not always in predictable ways. If you ruled out working for anyone who missed a self-imposed deadline, you wouldn’t be able to work here.

      (If they miss a deadline and are rude or unresponsive when you follow up, that’s a little different, but everyone in my industry is balancing a lot of priorities at any one time.)

      1. Amy B.*

        Touching base with base with someone take no more than a few minutes. I seldom use or buy the excuse that someone was too busy. Self imposed deadlines are even more important to make because the imposer is the one that made the promise. It is about respect and keeping one’s word. It wouldn’t bother me that I could not work somewhere where courtesy and professionalism are not at the top of the value list.

        1. Colette*

          I think we define courtesy and professionalism differently.

          It’s easy to say that it just takes a few minutes, but providing a meaningful update doesn’t take a few minutes – you might have to track down three people or wait for a budget to be finalized or a million other things that aren’t visible from the outside – and as soon as you end up in the bucket of “things that take time”, it can easily slip. And that’s assuming there’s no major system outage or urgent budget issue or other item that takes priority over emailing someone to say “no news yet”.

          You absolutely can decide that you won’t work anywhere where people don’t get back to you when they say they will, but I’m not sure how many options that leaves you.

          1. amaranth16*

            But that response doesn’t have to be meaningful – it can just be “sorry, I said I’d have an answer for you by the end of the week but it’s taking a little longer – will get back to you [by X date]/[as soon as possible].” Not even taking the time to send that, in my book, is uncourteous.

            1. Colette*

              That’s fine, it’s a perfectly valid point of view. Personally, I don’t value an update that boils down to “no news yet, but I said I’d get back to you”, so I don’t care whether it happens – I’ve mentally moved on either way.

              1. Laura*

                If they don’t get back to me when they said they would, I know they don’t always keep their schedules. That’s pretty common.

                If they miss by more than small percentage (calling Friday when they said Thursday, for example, is usually small – unless they said it on Thursday), and they don’t reach out or apologize or acknowledge it at any point?

                Then I also know they don’t value my time and are thoughtless about missing schedules, taking it for granted. That’s a much bigger red flag.

                Either way, if I were job hunting, I wouldn’t count on anything that wasn’t a physical offer letter, and I would be aware of schedule slips.

                But reaching out and acknowledging the delay is, IMO, slightly better than not. Or at least apologizing for it when they do get back to you (though that works best for a small delay, before it becomes ridiculous).

                None of the individual items listed in this letter, other than the medical info being shared, is a deal-breaker in itself. But taken all together?

                Massive red flag territory. IMO.

              2. Aunt Vixen*

                Oh, I do. With job searching I know it’s unlikely to happen, but with e.g. the people at the shop when my dress was scheduled to arrive two days before my wedding and everyone was trying to see if it could be expedited, or with my real estate agent keeping an eye on a place we were thinking of bidding on – for people who can be described as working for me, in a way, that is – I have specifically asked for updates at reasonable intervals *even if* the update is to tell me there’s no new information. I find that tremendously calming.

        2. Christine*

          I get the impression that some of you have never had a job where it’s 11 am, you’ve been trying to get to the ladies’ room for an hour, your desk phone and your cell phone are both ringing, three instant messages are blinking at you from your desktop, your inbox has 342 unread emails, and a person is waiting at your desk to talk to you.

          If you can’t be flexible about an arbritrary response deadline on something that isn’t business critical, my field is definitely the wrong field for you.

          1. girlonfire*

            Sure, but there’s being flexible about a deadline you were told someone would meet, and then there’s having to wait 5x longer than you were told. If you tell that person at your desk that you’ll be with them in 5 minutes, and then return a half hour later, they’re going to be justifiably upset.

          2. Laura*

            Also, if your market runs like that, why are you making promises that are predictably going to fail?

            “I’ll try to get back to you within a week, but it may take longer.” (Although five times as long is still a bit ridiculous.)

          3. Anonymous Educator*

            Think about the context, though.

            If you’re in that situation, then you don’t make false promises about “I’ll get back to you by the end of the week.”

            If you’re that swamped, you know you won’t get back to that person at the end of the week. Instead, you say, “I would love to give you an answer by the end of the week, but I’m honestly so swamped. If you don’t hear from me by the end of the week, please shoot me an email on Tuesday to check in.”

          4. Christine*

            Sure, I’m reluctant to make timing commitments, because it’s hard to reliably keep promises, and keeping my promises matters to me a lot. But I have people who will press for them, and I’ll try to word them as estimates rather than commitments if I’m not sure when I’ll get to it. And I have people who will try to impose arbitrary deadlines on me for noncritical work just because they think it’ll make me prioritize it differently. I’m not always great about providing proactive updates when those things slip.

            I’m not justifying the lack of communication the LW experienced. There’s no reason the company coiuldn’t be more communicative soooner about what was going on. But losing interest in working somewhere because “by the end of the week” on a job offer crept into “early next week” is unrealistic in my opinion.

            1. Letter Writer*

              I would like to clarify that a decision coming “at the end of the week,” was delayed by six weeks without replying to a single email for a status update. Then the pending offer was delayed by two weeks from its original date and one week from “this afternoon.”

    2. Waiting Patiently*

      I agree. While employers have the upper hand in this market, I think common courtesy should be used. This type of unresponsive behavior wouldn’t be acceptable in most companies. I’m sure there are the exceptions and it could be a lot, all I know is my own work experiences–and being unresponsive or not keeping your word doesn’t fly.

    3. Cajun2Core*

      I agree fully with Amy B. I used to work in tech support. If a person was having trouble with their computer and I had to do some research and I told them I would get back to them with an update by 3:00, I got back to them by 3:00 even if it was to tell them that I was still looking into it. That is just basic customer service.

    4. MR*

      Always remember…if a HM says they will get back to you by Friday at 5, and they don’t get back to you until three weeks later…what do you think they are doing to their current employees right now?

      I can promise that at least one of them is either waiting to hear back from said manager and/or having to pester them for something.

      1. Tina*

        A friend of mine once stewed over an employer not answering her when they said they would. I can’t remember whether it was a few more days or a few weeks. But it turned out that the pipes in their office burst, they were flooded, forced to relocate, computers damaged, etc. 5 minutes or not, updating a candidate wasn’t a priority, and I can’t say I blame them.

        Granted, that’s an extreme situation. But sometimes things happen and it’s not necessarily a personal insult or intentionally lacking courtesy. Stuff happens.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That feels like a pretty extreme point of view to me! I’ve been a loud critic of employers who don’t get back to candidates when they say they will, but I’d never suggest writing off an employer for missing a single self-imposed deadline. Shit happens. People make mistakes. Other stuff gets in the way. That happens to great managers as well as bad ones. It’s when it’s a pattern that it’s an issue.

      1. One of the Annes*

        I totally understand that shit happens and one’s “job” as as job applicant is to deal, but saying that you’ll get back to a candidate, who you’ve identified as a top candidate, by the end of the week and then not getting back to that person for six weeks? That’s pretty bad. And when that’s one of only a couple data points that the candidate has about the employer, I can totally see how it would be a red flag. We’re currently in the hiring process, and I’m extremely busy, but I really try to bend over backwards to be responsive to potential hirees. It’s just common courtesy–you treat people the way you expect to be treated.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I totally agree when we’re talking about six weeks. I was responding to Amy’s comment that she wouldn’t work to work for them if they didn’t get back to her by the end of the week when they said they would.

          1. Toothless*

            I think there are two issues here.

            Not getting back to someone for a long time = unfortunately pretty normal.

            Saying you will get back to someone quickly and then not doing it = more of a problem. I mean, if you don’t know when you’ll be back in touch, just say that.

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              Yeah, it seems a lot of people are focusing on how it can be difficult to get back to someone within a week (or a specified time frame) instead of focusing on the fact that you don’t have to even say you’ll get back to someone within that time frame in the first place!

              If you know the process is unpredictable and can take up to six weeks, don’t give a time frame at all. Just say, “You’re definitely one of our top candidates, and we’ll give you an update when we can. We want to move things along as quickly as possible, of course, but we don’t know the exact timeline.”

              I recently went through a hiring process that took a long time, and I got impatient about it, but I couldn’t fault my future employer, because he never made false promises to me about how long it would take. I really appreciated that.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, but sometimes you genuinely think you’ll be back to someone by a certain date and then get caught up with higher priorities. I’m neurotic about getting back to people by when I say will and take it extremely seriously, but I actually did this to a job candidate this week. I had intended to get back to her within a week and told her that, and I’ve had an incredibly hectic last two weeks and it got away from me. I emailed her once I realized it. I think it would be craziness for her to decide she didn’t want the job because of that.

              1. Letter Writer*

                There has been a lot of discussion of whether its an issue that they don’t communicate when they say they will, but they also didn’t even acknowledge the delay. I don’t value bullshit excuses but at least it shows that they are aware of the error and acknowledge they screwed up, even if they have to make something up to do it. In my opinion if you say end of the week here is the order of best outcomes:
                1) End of the week
                2) Early next week (totally understandable)
                3) Weeks later with an apology and an explanation explaining the delay
                4) Weeks later without an acknowledgement, and pretending that there isn’t even an issue, which is what I experienced.

      2. Sarahnova*

        I expect the occasional “we’ll get back to you by next Friday”/[crickets] the next Friday from an employer, but if I then send a polite “Any news?” message, which I’m fully prepared to do, I’d hope to at least get an acknowledgement within a few days of “Sorry, X is still in progress, but here’s an update/here’s when we’ll have one”.

        I wouldn’t blow off an employer for missing a self-imposed deadline, but if they repeatedly bust them AND don’t respond to polite reminders, I would take that as a sign of either a) internal chaos or b) a disregard for my time.

      3. Amy B.*

        Perhaps my comments indicated otherwise, but I did not write that I would write off a possible employer for missing a single self-imposed deadline. What I take issue with is this being “typical” behavior. The more we just throw up our hands and say, “Oh well, that’s what I should expect as typical” the more we allow that behavior to become acceptable. Missing a deadline and following up with a mea culpa is different than treating people as if they are not a priority.

        High standards and expectations have served me well in the job market. Others may have different experiences.

    6. Kacie*

      During one search, there were deaths in the family of two different high-level administrators. This was obviously unforeseen, and we couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. It did slow down the process, and we tried to ask for understanding from the candidates that our schedule was going to be less structured than we hoped.

      1. One of the Annes*

        That’s the key–you communicated with the candidates that there would be a delay. Stuff happens, and people do understand that. It’s when no one bothers to even reach out to briefly say, “Hey, the process is going to be slow because of some unforeseen circumstances” that red flags to go up.

  8. Anonicorn*

    I really don’t want to talk to this guy as he makes me feel like I need to take a shower after talking to him.

    Hiring tactics aside, it seems like you made the right decision not to work there if talking to your would-be boss makes you feel icky.

    1. Leah*

      Ugh. I’ve met people in hiring positions that were like that. I almost wanted to take a shower thinking about them when reading the letter.

    2. MK*

      I have to say that this sentence is why I think the OP shouldn’t take the job no matter what they offer her. Objectively, I don’t think anything that Bob did, as mentioned in the letter, justifies this level of disgust, but the OP obviously had a very negative reaction to him.

  9. James M*

    In regard to what you told me about Jane’s personal information: I have to assume that the courtesy and respect you show towards previous employees predicates your behavior towards current and future employees. In light of this, I would not be a good fit for at your company.

    ¡Warning! this is not likely to be received gracefully.

    1. fposte*

      Agreed, but I can’t see where you’re quoting this from. Is this a communication you hypothesized, or has the internet eaten something?

      1. James M*

        It’s just a style choice to imply the context of a quotation. The words are not LW’s, but you (AAM readers at large) may imagine they might be.

        Or imagine yourself in LW’s shoes giving that reply to Bob. Or imagine that I’m just a blithering idiot. Either way, I won’t mind.

        *there should be a “<Job>” between “for at”.

        1. LBK*

          I don’t get the sense that the OP is tactless enough to have turned down the offer that way…not sure what your point is?

          1. HigherEd Admin*

            Yeah, I’m a little confused; are you suggesting this as language for the OP to use in responding? The blockquote is confusing, as it’s typically used to pull quote from the original post or from a comment upthread.

            1. Jamie*

              Yes – Alison even describes block quoting in the how to comment sidebar as quoting someone else so it will be confusing.

  10. Robin*

    It sounded to me like Bob didn’t want her to think Jane was leaving because of anything bad about the company, or him. So he came up with the medical excuse.

  11. Ann O'Nemity*

    Although a lot of the hiring tactics aren’t that abnormal, when you add them up cumulatively I can see where the LW feels like it’s been an unprofessional hiring process. Plus, who wants to work for someone who makes them feel like they need a shower?

  12. Waiting Patiently*

    Call him back 2 weeks later, put him on hold for 10 minutes then come back to line and say you’re not interested. I’m in a mood.

    Seriously you don’t owe him anything especially since he’s a slime ball.

  13. Steve G*

    Doesn’t sound like a hiring issue, but that you just don’t like or wanna work for Bob!

  14. HigherEd Admin*

    He then tried to convince me that this position was worth $25k more than the offer due to insurance, 401k match and PTO.

    I hate this tactic. Unless I can say “no” to the benefits and you’ll give me that extra $25K in my paycheck, it is not the same.

    1. Dan*

      You get to do that if you offer above average benefits. My employer does a 10% 401k match, which is way above average. I’d be an idiot not to consider that on a $ for $ basis.

      My employer also starts everyone off with 4 weeks PTO every year. Standard I guess is 3 weeks. (Beats one job I looked at where they give you 2 weeks to start but say “oh you can buy a week if you want.” I get it — I can take unpaid time off if I want, and only a week? Great benefit!)

      OP said that her benefits at her current job are better than this other place, so she’s right, that counts *against* them, not for them.

      1. One of the Annes*

        Wow–those are really stellar benefits. I’ve had jobs that offered a week of vacation and a week of sick leave, and those didn’t increase until after you’d been with the company two years.

    2. Artemesia*

      And besides — EVERY similar job also has benefits plus apparently a higher pay range — so this is nothing special. If one is unemployed, this argument barely washes, but if one is already employed then it makes no sense at all.

      The OP should simply not be available for the follow up especially since it is with Bob who should know that he lowballed her if nothing else. Why would he expect a yes, when he neither explained the financial offer or met her low end range.

      1. HigherEd Admin*

        Exactly. I imagine that OP gave the salary range with the assumption that there would be an average benefits package, so to present a lowball salary with the attitude that the OP should be grateful for it because of the addition of a lousy benefits package feels very “ick” to me.

        This guy sounds like an infomercial, “This job is normally , but during this special offer, we are offering it for , plus if you accept NOW, we’ll throw in $25k in lame benefits!”

        1. HigherEd Admin*

          Bah. Bracket formatting. Should read:

          This guy sounds like an infomercial, “This job is normally desired salary range , but during this special offer, we are offering it for desired salary range, less $5k, plus if you accept NOW, we’ll throw in $25k in lame benefits!”

          1. Letter Writer*

            Do you have access to the NSA phone tapping info? It seems like you must have been on the call with Bob and I. That’s exactly how he sounded… minus the Billy Mays enthusiasm.

  15. Dan*

    I turned down a job that was at the very bottom of my range. After I did so, the company had the CEO (it was about ~100ish people) call me at the “11th hour.”

    At that point, I didn’t return his call. The company had plenty of time and notice as to what was going on. (HINT: If you’re coming in at the very bottom of or below someone’s range, you get them to call you back by saying that you’re prepared to up the offer. If you don’t say that, you’re rolling the dice. “Call me back so we can talk about things” isn’t going to cut it.)

    A few people here asked me why I didn’t call back, because maybe he was prepared to up the offer. I called an old mentor of mine and asked him if I was supposed to return the call. Old mentor asked if I had clearly declined the offer, and if so, then make the guy sweat a bit.

    Bottom line: You’re under no more obligation to continue discussions with this guy; no more so than an employer is obligated to tell you what you can do to improve your candidacy once they’ve rejected you. (For a business relationship that is supposed to be mutually beneficial, man, have employers gotten away with acting like they hold all the cards.)

    1. Militant Intelligent*

      Actually, that’s pretty cool that the CEO phoned you. It says a lot about him. I would have found a way to acknowledge the call, even if I didn’t accept the offer. I loathe being played around with, so I’m not sure how I’d feel if I were trying to display serious interest in a candidate and on the receiving end of someone trying to “make me sweat.”

    2. MK*

      I agree that if a company offers a salary below the candidate’s range they shouldn’t expect him/her to keep talking to them unless they are willing to offer more. But the “very bottom” of your range is still within your range, which means you had already told them that you were willing to accept the salary they offered you. If you then decided that it wasn’t enough or if you didn’t mean to accept the lowest salary of your range in the first place, I ‘d say it was you who dropped the ball, not them. If you were willing to accept this salary, but only under certain conditions that were not met, that’s fine, but I still don’t see why you think they treated you badly.

    3. Red Librarian*

      Well, if you weren’t willing to take the number at the very bottom of the range you should have put a higher number as the low end.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Not necessarily. I might take something at the very low end up of range if other things about the job are outstanding (benefits, commute, opportunity for growth, etc.). If that wasn’t the case here, they needed to up the salary for the job to be a good choice for Dan.

  16. Militant Intelligent*

    OP. In the best possible way.I think you need to realign your expectations and toughen up. Not saying that your concerns aren’t legit, but in today’s economy, this kind of stuff his is par for the course.

    You seem extremely fortunate in your ability to be selective (you can decline the offer because of a personality conflict, amidst other perceived issues). A lot of people would just choose to deal with it for lack of better/other options or financial stresses. Count your blessings and just move on to something better. You do not have to do anything other than politely decline another conversation with the man.

    Good luck.

    1. Susan*

      Honestly, I would have taken the offer because that’s the financial position I’m in. But if you’re lucky enough to be able to be selective, maybe within reason, you should be. If something happened where she quit down the line, it might have been better to stay on the hunt because it looks really bad to leave a job after a month or two. I feel like accepting a job is committing to at least a year unless something really egregious happens, so maybe if her gut tells her “no” and she can afford it, this is the best recourse.

      1. Deedee*

        Also, by turning them down she is actually doing you a favor (and all the other people who are in a financial position to have to accept a sub-par offer). Maybe they will treat the next candidate with a little more respect? The more job candidates who are able to say no to a less desirable situation improve the chances that the employers will make their job offers more desirable.

  17. Mike C.*

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel like that timeline is really long, especially with no contact after stated time tables were blown. I work for a very large, bureaucratic company, and hiring only takes around 2-3 months.

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, I agree. I was really surprised to see Alison say it was normal. 4 months seems very long to me, and I agree that it’s only made longer by the multiple breaches of the expectations that had been set. Even my department’s most painfully drawn out hiring process was only 2.5 months.

    2. HigherEd Admin*

      I agree. If I had gone six weeks without being in touch at all, I would have assumed I was no longer in the running, and would have been blown away to hear back from them again.

      1. De Minimis*

        The only hiring processes I’ve seen that have been that long have involved mass hiring by government agencies where multiple interviews/offers have to be coordinated nationwide.

      2. Tina*

        I work in higher ed too, and unless it’s summer, the likelihood of us calling any candidate within 6 weeks is slim to none. I work in student facing offices where other people have had to pick up appts and workshops assigned to the departing person, which means they have no time to do the search process. It’s one of those catch 22 situations – no time to interview cause you’re so busy, but if you don’t find time to interview, then it’s never going to end.

        1. Tina*

          Then again, I just realized you meant 6 weeks after having already been in touch, not the initial contact. Yeah that’s annoying.

    3. Lizzy*

      I also found the timeline quite daunting. I know in cases of executive searches that it generally takes much longer, but this seemed to have dragged on longer than it should have. I’ll exclude the application process, but once you get the ball rolling for the interview process and hone in on your top candidates, I think there is a window of opportunity to keep them engaged. I have seen too many cases of organizations losing the interest of their top candidates or losing them to other organizations who snatched them up much quicker.

    4. Biff*

      I agree. It’s not so much the long time, but the weekly assurance of “we’re almost there” followed by six weeks of silence. That would also pop my red flags up.

  18. Letter Writer*

    I’m away from my computer today which is why I haven’t been able to comment and am keeping it short while typing on my phone. After reading through comments I wanted to reiterate a few points.

    One thing about the process that was more bothersome than the delays was being told “this week” and not hearing ANYTHING for 6 weeks. Being told “today” and not hearing nothing for a week. I understand delays if they include communication. There was very little communication.

    1. Waiting Patiently*

      See that’s a problem! I think you dodge a bullet-consider yourself lucky. Either they don’t know what they want and cant agree upon what they want. Or there is some inter office turmoil going on..

      Years ago, I was pretty much hired on the spot by a controller as her assistant little did I realize the internal struggle between the accounting and sales dept during the time of my hiring. I guess sales initially wanted my office for another sales rep and when I came aboard I got caught in the nasty rift…
      Sales eventually got approval from the GM to claim the space but boy was that weird experience for me.

    2. Lizzy*

      I definitely understand your point. Six weeks is fine timeline between submitting your application and getting a callback for an interview. But once you have already been in talks with the potential employer and haven’t been told an outright “no”, 6 weeks is too long in between communication time. Good candidates can potentially get swept up by another opportunity in that period of time. You also can cause a sense of alienation by doing this too.

  19. girlonfire*

    I agree that some of this is normal in an interview process, but there are enough red flags here for the OP to have been concerned:

    1. Getting the feeling that Jane was being micromanaged in her decisions.
    2. Replying to the email letting OP know she was a finalist and not getting a reply.
    3. Being told that a decision would be made by the end of the week and not hearing anything for six weeks.
    4. Being asked to come in for another interview after two phone interviews and a lunch interview + being told they were a finalist.
    5. A phone interview with someone who hadn’t seen their resume.
    6. Sketchy salary evasion in person.

    And that’s all *before* a low offer was made, not to mention Bob never mentioned to the OP that Jane was leaving and would no longer be his direct manager. I don’t think OP has an unrealistic view of what a hiring process looks like; I think they were rightly turned off by numerous red flags during the process.

    1. stellanor*

      I had a similar experience — after a phone interview and an in-person interview I was told I was one of two finalists and I’d hear back from them by the end of the week. The end of the week rolls around and they ask me to come back for yet another interview, this time with the CEO.

      So I go in and the CEO hasn’t read my resume. She doesn’t have a copy of my resume. So I give her one. She looks at it. Says, “You don’t have startup experience?” I did not. So she ended the interview on the spot and I never heard from that company again.

      In retrospect I’m glad they didn’t make me an offer.

      1. James M*

        Wow! So the CEO only wants someone with experience at a failed startup (assuming that people who help make a successful startup are almost certainly not looking for a job)? I’m having trouble understanding that rationale.

        1. CC*

          Not necessarily looking for somebody who has started up a startup, but maybe looking for somebody who has worked for a startup. The environment is rather different compared to an established company. (I’ve worked for two startups so far. In neither case did I create the startup, I was just one of the very small engineering team.)

    2. One of the Annes*

      Great synopsis of the red flags. I was really surprised by Alison’s response that very little of this hiring process was not normal. It seemed extremely botched.

      1. One of the Annes*

        Just to be clear–the “it” that I referred to being botched is the hiring process.

  20. Audiophile*

    I have to say, OP, you have to follow your gut.

    I just accepted a job, that came in below the range I had put on their application sheet. 5k below exactly. BUT my reason for accepting, was the benefits were truly amazing and I couldn’t pass up the benefits package. If the benefits weren’t great, I would have declined and kept looking or at least tried to negotiate up a little, to make up for it.

  21. MissDisplaced*

    OMG! Run!
    I think you need to follow your gut on this one and I see a lot of red flags with Bob and this company. Plus, you’ve stated the salary and benefits are not up to what you have now.
    Just Run!

  22. ProcReg*

    Bob sounds pretty terrible, but this hiring process sounds pretty unorganized. I’ve had job offers on the afternoon of my interview, i’ve had offers after two weeks, and I’ve had job offers take three months. Not a blanket statement, but I noticed the hiring process is a sample of the company as a whole.

    I just left a company where the hiring process was marred with miscommunication. Guess what?

  23. Zak*

    Do NOT give them any more info. IGNORE them. Job seekers are becoming way too passive this is asking to be treated like dirt. Think of dating somebody who shows from the start they couldn’t care less. If you pull the carpet from beneath them they won’t get it. That is the point. Turn the tables around make employers accountable for their lousy behaviour. Forget all this professional reputation BS. They don’t give a continental f*** about how their treatment of you may affect your offer decision. Huge red flags this is a sign of a bad employer with almost zilch respect for candidates applying which means they will be disrespectful to you as an employee. Think if you as an applicant are unprofessional what does that say? It works both ways.

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