company decided they couldn’t afford to hire me after a lengthy interview process

A reader writes:

At the end of last year, I applied for a decently paid job at an interesting, profitable, and seemingly sensible start-up.

I went through all the stages of their recruiting process, which was difficult and time-consuming. To give you an idea: in addition to a resume and a cover letter, I had to submit answers to nine complex questions in order to apply. Then, after being selected, I had to undergo a lengthy interview process in which I was asked questions (online) by several of the company’s employees. Finally, I had a phone interview with the founder.

This all happened during the busiest time of the year, with the online interviews occurring in the last days of December (and during my much awaited vacation).

Publicly outlining my strategies for increasing user engagement while on the beach with my family who I hadn’t seen in almost a year was tough, but this was a great position that I was really interested in.

My hard work paid off, and at the end, I was chosen. I didn’t get hired, though.

Instead, I was told that the company was waiting on a large sale to come through in order to hire me. Then, two weeks later, I was told the sale ended up not happening and was given an apology.

I was frustrated, of course, but accepted the apology gracefully. Later, I remembered that this wasn’t my first time being chosen, then dropped — years ago, a small but well-known international nonprofit organization ended the recruiting process at its last stage due to “structural changes.” This after having me complete a written test and go through two Skype interviews.

What both processes had in common is that they were for remote positions in small U.S.-based organizations.

My question is, is it okay for organizations to do this? Is it common? Is it legal? Is there any way I can avoid falling into these traps? Do I have any rights?

Yes, this is legal, and you don’t have legal rights that would prevent this from happening. No law requires employers to hire someone at the end of a hiring process.

Of course, most employers won’t go through all of this if they don’t intend to make a hire; it’s a lot of time and energy on their end too. But in theory, someone who just wanted to waste candidates’ time could do it.

But the thing is, that’s rarely why this happens. Sometimes sales or funding do fall through. Sometimes a particular source of funding was never a sure thing, but the employer has to have all the groundwork done to be ready to hire quickly if it does happen. Sometimes restructures happen, and there may be candidates mid-process when they do; if so, the timing sucks but it’s far better than if they hired you on and then had to lay you off in a couple of months.

If they were operating in bad faith — wasting your time interviewing when they knew all along that there was no position — then of course that wouldn’t be okay. But it’s far more likely that they hoped they’d be able to hire and had reasonable grounds for believing they could, but it just didn’t work out.

It happens. The only thing you can do on your end is to choose not to invest time in a hiring process if you know you’ll be bitter if you don’t get the job at the end of it. But since that’s a possibility with every hiring process, it really just leaves you needing to accept going in that none of this is ever guaranteed to pan out.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. Not Karen*

    From what I’m reading, it sounds like in both cases you basically had two interviews and one assessment. This does not sound like a particularly lengthy interview process to me. Still frustrating that they didn’t wait until they had guaranteed funding to use up your time, but in general I wouldn’t consider the interview process itself particularly “lengthy.”

    1. jess*

      I agree with this. A friend of mine recently went through six interviews for one job, which included having to make presentations, do some play-acting of scenarios (for a project management job — scenarios of talking to clients, I guess), etc etc. It was weeks and weeks of work and in the end she wasn’t hired. I would say THAT was especially lengthy. This seems pretty standard. For my own job I had an application, resume and cover letter, followed by seven essay questions (to narrow down the applicants), followed by an interview with a panel, followed by a 2-hour test, THEN an interview with HR, before finally being hired four months after I applied. Even that felt like probably the amount of work they needed to put in to hire the right person (it’s a weird specialized field).

      1. Maggielle*

        Your lengthy interview process sounds like one I went through for a job as a paralegal for the City and County of Big City. When they announced the opening, we were required to pick up the application packet in person. I got there at 7:30 am for an 8:00 am start and was already about 25th in line.

        So the initial application packet was lengthy and detailed, but I got it in and made it to the next level. (It’s been a few years, so I’m hazy on the process.) There was an in-person written test, essays right and left, and eventually an interview by a panel. This all occurred over several months, and naturally I took unpaid time off from my current job to jump through the hoops.

        Finally the list of the top thirty candidates came out (the top thirty were the ones the various department heads had to interview), and I swear this is totally true: I was Number One on the list. I thought I had it made.

        Weeks went by and then months, and I got called in for interview at three different departments. One was routine. Another department head treated me impatiently and rudely. Finally the third interviewer had the grace to spell it out for me: no one wanted to hire from the list. Everyone already had their favorite paralegals in place, but county requirements meant that for those paralegals to be designated as “permanent”, they all had to go through the hiring process. Unfortunately none of them did very well. But each manager was required to interview people on the list, and that’s really the only reason I ever got three calls at all. “We have to interview these people, why not see Number One, just out of curiosity.”

        I’ll alway be grateful to that guy for ‘splaining it all to me. That way it wasn’t so much o a surprise when a few months later, the City Attorney called me (and apparently the other nine people who were in the top ten) into her office (more unpaid time off, plus parking fees, etc.) to thank me for participating in this big recruitment project, and to let me know that a hiring freeze was being instituted across the board. No job, recruitment over, that was the end of it. The world will little note nor long remember, but I really did come in first. I was at the top of the list.

        Fast forward many years, and now I am happily walking dogs.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq*

      It sounds like that assessment was pretty detailed, though: nine complex questions before even passing the resume screen? And it sounds like the first round was multiple online “interviews,” not just one.

      1. Rebeck*

        That’s standard in a lot of industries in Australia: I was working on an application a few weeks ago that had 11.

      2. MsSolo*

        In the UK that’s increasingly standard too – so many people have great CVs and can write a cover letter, but that doesn’t tell you how they’d actually approach the tasks likely to come up in the role. Being asked to provide an example of a performance management issue, how it arouse, how I tackled it, and what the outcome was, was one of only fifteen questions on my last job app.

        (or rather, that was the level of detail required to get through to interview – the question was just about my understanding of performance management, but the applications are scored anonymously and the scores dictate whether you get an interview)

      3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        In OP’s case, though, the online interviews probably make a lot of sense, given that it’s a remote position. It’s a great way to see if the candidate gets along with others and communicates well in a remote situation, which would be essential and otherwise probably hard to screen for.

    3. Hired and unemployed*

      Both processes consisted of 4 phases. For the startup recruiting process, the phases were: 1) resume, cover letter, written assessment; 2) week-long asynchronous interview with all the company’s employees through online-chat; 3) phone interview with two company employees; 4) phone interview with company founder. The phases of the other process were: 1) resume and cover letter review; 2) live written test; 3) Skype interview with international office employees; 4) Skype interview with regional manager. Maybe it wasn’t very lengthy! But it was time-consuming, for me.

        1. ImagineThat!*

          It sounds lengthy to me, but that’s because I’ve never gotten a job where I’ve needed to do more than one interview. I’ve had two jobs where I needed to do a proofreading test, but for the most part, it’s a 30-minute conversation and that’s that.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I’ve now had more interviews than I can count, but of the three jobs I’ve held as an adult, I had one interview for each. That, however, seems to be unusual. It seems like two to three rounds is much more typical, including an initial phone screen.

          2. Jesmlet*

            Am I crazy to think that hiring someone based on a singular interaction (albeit probably an hour long one) is just a tad irresponsible? Unless you’re meeting multiple people and there are different stages all in one day, I can’t imagine being confident in a decision like that.

              1. Cookie*

                If you think that’s bad, there’s a medium-sized county near me hiring magistrates after only a half hour interview.

                1. Whit T*

                  One 30 minute interview is standard when hiring nursing assistants. Hiring a magistrate judge after such a pufunctory process seems shockingly lax.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              Like anything, I suppose it depends on the role. When I was interviewing for retail positions in and just out of college I never had more than one interview and it was fairly quick, which makes sense if you think about it – you’re hiring a high turnover position that mainly needs to be polite to strangers for a short period of time and pass a background check. Interviewing for entry level office jobs usually had two interviews lasting 30 minutes to an hour each. And interviews for legal positions often involve an initial interview (often by phone), followed by one or two on-site interviews, one of which is often a half day and a meal. Government jobs skip the meal but often include a writing exercise.

              1. ImagineThat!*

                Most of my positions have been entry-level (I’ve been through a few different “careers”) and I’ve never had a second interview for any of them. At most it’s been a 45-minute conversation with two people. I imagine once you move up the ladder, there might be more interviews, but for me at least, it’s only ever been the one.

                1. ImagineThat!*

                  A few of them, in fact, have been like, 15-minute conversations because they were desperate to hire and I was desperate for work. One of them was for a company a relative was working at, and I’m pretty sure the interview consisted of “When can you start?”

              2. Zombii*

                Definitely depends on the role. I’ve worked retail, call centers and food service. Only one of those had a second interview (RIP Borders!) but it was also the one that didn’t have excessively high turnover and only one had an interview that was longer than 45 minutes (Payless Shoes—the hiring manager had me scheduled for a “quick” interview but kept me in the back room “chatting for 2 hours, mostly about all the problems she was having running the store. I turned the offer down for obvious reasons).

              3. Elizabeth West*

                Entry-level admin positions I’ve done typically only had one interview and maybe some clerical testing on one of those programs. For the specialized administrative assistant position at Exjob, I had first an editing test because of the document work, then an hour-long interview with the hiring manager (by phone because she was in a different state), then a quick face-to-face with the team lead and the other primary consultant. After that, I cooled my heels for a few weeks until I was hired. I would not expect more than one interview for an entry-level position, and I would probably withdraw from the process if it were too lengthy.

            2. Fisherman2*

              If I believed there was any criterion validity to the standard interview process – I might agree.

              …but I suspect it’s a lot like arranged marriages vs. self chosen – pretty much equal success rates.

              In fact – I wouldn’t be surprised with equal success rates from randomly picking among resumes that are qualified.

          3. JamieS*

            Pretty much the same for me. The most I’ve ever had was two but they were the same day and both were preliminary interviews for different departments so I think of it more as a one interview hiring process since both departments hire independently of each other.

        2. nonegiven*

          Idk what the phone and other non face to face interviews consisted of but, my son was once flown to New York where he was led up to a locked floor and spent the morning in teleconference interviews with people in London, then a lunch break and back for in person interviews in the afternoon.

  2. Cobol*

    This happens all the time with start-ups and small companies because they can’t be staffed for ebbs and flows, so when it looks like something big is going to happen they have to get ready.

    Even if you (hypothetical you not OP) do get hired that’s the way the businesses tend to run, so it’s worth considering if that’s the environment you want to work in.

    1. H.C.*

      Ditto for nonprofits and government agencies/contractors, where positions may be contingent on funding coming through.

      1. Jaydee*

        That and funding is often very specific and time-dependent. Rarely is it a matter of getting $150,000 in unrestricted funds to use at our leisure. More often it is a matter of getting $150,000 for the period from July 1 to June 30 for a program to train disadvantaged teens and young adults to manufacture white chocolate teapots. If we get the grant, we want to have people ready to start planning and implementing the program ASAP. If we don’t get the grant, we won’t need to hire someone to run the program and the two existing staff members who we identified to work on that project half-time will go back to their regularly scheduled duties.

        1. MeaganH*

          That is a fabulous summation of how grants work (I work in the nonprofit sector at the moment, so I hear this). Made me laugh, as well, which is always a plus!

      2. Gov Worker*

        Federal agencies must have the money before hiring, for the career civil service.

        1. H.C.*

          Ah, I’m at the local level, where sometimes funding falls through or gets reallocated elsewhere while the position is still “open”.

      3. CM*

        Yes, I was thinking that this sounds like bad luck, not a pattern; but if the OP is applying to small organizations that are not very stable, it’s more likely to happen. During the interview process, you could ask about that — for instance, you could get a sense of how dependent they are on a small number of large contracts versus having a steady workflow and diversified client pool.

      4. AnotherAlison*

        And for any project-based work. . . like engineering and construction in the energy industry. At times, we’ve been “days” away from signing half-billion dollar contracts for 10 months. You can hire people and work at risk to get ready, but if you hire early, but then the owner cancels the project due to market conditions (or you don’t get the contract signed for other reasons), you could have to lay them off.

        When I joined my company 12 years ago, the project I was hired for actually got delayed for a couple years, but another one popped up within a month so I kept busy and never worked on the original job.

      5. Whit T*

        Churches, which are a subset of nonprofits, follow this pattern. In a past life I was offered an internship at a Methodist church. At first it was an unpaid internship, but I got a stipend after a very wealthy and elderly parishioner passed away, and left the church her entire estate.

    2. The Optimizer*

      Yep. I work for a small company just past the start up stage. Just a month ago, we interviewed for 1 FT and 1 PT position. If an account had come through, it would be both. If it didn’t, we would just need the PT. We settled on two people and were set to make the decision when the account fell through and an existing FT staff member needed to go to PT. Unfortunately, the better candidate wasn’t available FT so we had to go with our 2nd choice.

    3. Mike C.*

      That’s a fair point, but I think if that’s the case the employer should mention it during the interview.

  3. Amtelope*

    We’ve done the “hire someone, then lay them off almost immediately” thing in the past. It was really unfortunate, but the project that was paying the salary for their position abruptly fell through without warning. Everyone had expected that funding to be secure for the next three years, right up until it wasn’t. Dealing with that required massive belt-tightening as a company, and we couldn’t come up with the money to keep the person who we’d just hired to work 100% on that project.

    All of which is to say, at least you didn’t get hired, quit your previous job, and then have the funding for the position fall through. That would have been worse! Small comfort, I know, but this stuff happens.

    1. Hired and unemployed*

      Right – I didn’t quit my other job, so it could’ve been worse.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      When I was little my best friend moved many states away because her father got transferred to a new location in his company. Shortly after they moved up there, that location was shut down! They ended up moving back to my state, but of course they had already sold their house. They ended up only 15-20 minutes away but of course when you are a small child anything more than across the street is basically on the other side of the world and we never got our friendship back.

  4. Ann*

    Do you think it would be possible for the OP at some point during discussion about what the job entails to ask something that would help her figure out if the position is being created or is already in place? That might help her be able to steer herself away from situations where this is likely to happen.

    1. Callalily*

      That is the PERFECT question during the first interview when they ask if you have any questions. I’ve asked before HOW the opening came available (to see if it is a new position) and that could be easily followed up by asking if the position is contingent on a grant or funding.

      1. NW Mossy*

        I once asked this question and learned that it was vacant because the previous employee (a young woman in her 20s) passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Certainly not the answer I was expecting, and it ultimately did become a factor in why I didn’t take the job. It was a small firm and it was clear that her colleagues and boss hadn’t yet processed their grief enough to be able to embrace someone new, especially when I was told more than once that I reminded them very much of the deceased.

        1. Anon for this one*


          I had a coworker that passed away suddenly right before annual training. An alternate on the waitlist was offered the position (a local) and they didn’t tell her how that position become available!

          I thought that was so weird. She was shocked when she realized what had happened. Mind you, this was a job I had in college and we weren’t all just coworkers but many of us were very close and lived, ate, and worked together.

      2. Koko*

        Yes, I always ask why the role is vacant. It’s one of the most important pieces of context of how you would fit into the organization. Just knowing if you’re replacing a rock star who moved on, replacing a problem employee with performance issues, replacing a beloved coworker who left the workforce to stay at home parent, or in a brand new role created to expand the team’s capabilities, already tells you so much about what to expect and what they’ll expect from you.

    2. Brett*

      Asking about funding and funding stages is also a legitimate question when interviewing at a startup.
      Most founders and other high equity employees will be more than happy to discuss this in an interview. (If they are not willing to discuss that, take that as a pretty significant red flag.)

  5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    I would say the only thing I would be concerned about in this scenario would be if they were really plumbing you for user engagement strategies, only to turn around and decide they weren’t hiring you — was that possibly indicative that they were just trying to get free work out of you? But that determination would be heavily based on how much value you gave them in those strategies — was it customized and actionable, or your general thoughts and philosophy on how to approach the subject?

    1. Hired and unemployed*

      Countess, I don’t think they were trying to get free work from me. What I did wonder about, and I think this is a long shot, is whether startups create job openings for show, or as a way to portray themselves as healthy and growing to investors.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        No. I mean, it’s not impossible, but the main thing about start ups is they are notoriously flaky because, too often, no one there knows what they are doing.

        1. Koko*

          As the saying goes, never assign malice to something that can be explained by incompetence.

      2. hbc*

        Startups are usually showing alllll of their financial details to potential investors, so they don’t gain anything by showing off job ads but not having money to actually hire. But they do get “credit” if what they can present to potential customers and investors is “We’ve got Hired and Jane and Wakeen ready to hit the ground running in X and Y roles once your check clears” versus “Well, we can start looking for some X’s and Y’s, I’m sure we’ll have them within a few months.” It’s just a fact of startups that the money supply is unstable compared to more established companies.

        If it was all for show, they wouldn’t be investing nearly so much time. People putting on an act will just pull the top five resumes from the job posting and wave them at whoever they’re trying to impress. They wouldn’t waste an engineer’s time getting to know a person he’s never going to be working with.

        1. Brett*

          Another dumb startup trick is to line up Jane and Wakeen, and then add their names to the company’s Angel List or Crunchbase alumni.

      3. NW Mossy*

        It likely matters a lot whether or not the founder/principals have started companies before, or if not, if they’re being advised by outsiders who have experience in helping startups grow. Being able to start a business and expanding its operations are very different skillsets, and while some people can do both well, that’s not a given. Without past experience or the guidance of skilled others, it may simply be that they don’t have a good understanding of how to expand healthily yet, and you were unfortunately caught in the crossfire of that.

      4. MsSolo*

        Hiring processes are surprisingly expensive – if a start up thinks deliberately wasting money on recruitment is going to attract investors they may get a nasty shock!

  6. StartUpCOO*

    I work at a start up and I will agree that we are notoriously slow at hiring and we have interviewed people and then decided that we did not have a place for them. We aren’t being unethical but the landscape at a startup changes quickly and we are always reliant on a new round of funding or a new customer.

    I don’t think that the process you described is unreasonable even for a startup. I do understand being frustrated that you weren’t hired. It doesn’t feel good even when you have every reason to believe (as you do) that the reason you weren’t hired has nothing to do with you. I am sorry.

  7. ArtK*

    Sorry to hear that OP. I can imagine that it hurts right now.

    I will say that it’s almost certainly not anything unethical on the company’s part. Remember that they invested time in your interviews (and probably those of others) for this posting. Nobody’s going to go through that just to get their jollies by pulling the offer. “Psych!” (And if that’s why they did it, you certainly dodged a bullet!) As PP have said, fluctuations in funding/sales are particular problems with startups and smaller companies. Right now, I’ve got some open requisitions that I can’t fill because we’re waiting on some investment. If I felt more confident about the investment, I might start interviewing, but since it’s really iffy right now, I’m not. In your case, the sale might have felt like a “sure thing” to the people there, but turned out not to be.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Yeah, I wanted to pop in and say, as frustrating as it is to be the candidate in that situation (and it is frustrating!) it maybe is comforting to know that, as much time as you invested in their process, they invested that time too, and probably not only with you but with 2 or 5 or 10 other candidates as well. So much energy from so many people in a company goes into hiring, and for it to end with the company not being able to hire _anyone_ is a big deal for a small company. So yeah, ultimately, it sucks enough for everyone involved that its almost certainly not something they would do if they could avoid it. :(

  8. Shadow*

    even if they expected it to happen it’s wrong to offer the position without the funding secured

  9. AdAgencyChick*

    This is so annoying, and unfortunately so common in my industry.

    From the hiring manager’s perspective, this is why they do it: Hiring someone good takes time. So once they identify a potential need for a new hire, they start the process, because if you wait until all the dotted lines have been signed on by the client, then the client is going to want to start work immediately and there won’t be anyone to work on the business.

    But on the other hand, the clients may change their mind, or finally agree on a smaller amount of work than the hiring company originally thought they would get, and then the work ends up not being enough to justify hiring someone. So the company doesn’t want to be on the hook for your salary if there’s not enough work for you to do.

    Good companies deal with this by a) being transparent during the hiring process and communicating updates; and b) not requiring candidates to do an unreasonable amount of work to justify their hiring. I’m not sure how much writing OP’s application involved, but the answering nine complex questions sounds like it might have been more than they should have asked for. (Heck, that sounds like too much to ask of any candidate before she’s even spoken to someone at the company — so many people get rejected at the resume/cover letter stage that I don’t think it’s fair to ask for a significant amount of work at that point even if it’s set in stone that someone is going to get hired at the end of the process.)

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      PS, OP — if they were ready to make you an offer and were just waiting on this one client’s money, don’t be surprised if they call you up in a few months saying, “we might land this other client! Want to apply again?” If this happens and you’re still interested in the job, I’d tell them that you’re interested in working with them, and would it be possible to skip steps X, Y, and Z since you’ve already done that? If they insist on you doing things over again, I’d politely pass.

      1. Hired and unemployed*

        That’d be great, AdAgencyChick. And thanks for the advice – I hope I get to use it! :)

  10. Connie*

    Had this happen to me with an unpaid internship in college. Sent resume/cover letter, completed lengthy questionnaire, sent samples of my work, and went to the in-person interviews at the office twice. It seemed like a lot for an internship, but I did it all and was offered the internship. Two weeks after I got it and had applied for funding through my university and was making housing plans for the summer they said they could no longer offer an internship. It made zero sense to me because it was unpaid, so budget issues really couldn’t have come into play, and at that point, I couldn’t get funding for a different internship because I had already submitted the application for that one. This was several years ago, but it made me very wary when I started my real job search.

  11. Antilles*

    One major thing you can do for these sorts of lengthy interview processes is to simply ask what the future steps are in their hiring process and what their timetable for making a decision is. This helps alleviate the stress since you already have some idea what you’re getting yourself into.
    It’s also a perfectly normal thing to ask, so it won’t raise any flags in the company’s mind.

  12. Tiny Orchid*

    I have been in a situation where, after a lengthy interview process, an organization didn’t have funding come through and didn’t hire me (or anyone, I believe)–but they ghosted on me instead of giving me an update.

    Fast forward a few years, and that same organization was soliciting business from my current employer and I had the final decision power over who we engaged. I recommended we go with a different organization, in part because of this (but for other reasons too!)

    There may be another person who went through a lengthy interview process, only not to get hired because the contract didn’t come through.

    1. Hired and unemployed*

      “Fast forward a few years, and that same organization was soliciting business from my current employer and I had the final decision power over who we engaged.” >> Amazing!

  13. AnxiouslyAnon*

    This sounds semi-similar to what happened with me back in January, though the interview process wasn’t nearly as long. I had the resume, the (fairly long) phone screen call, then an invite in which required several in depth questions to test my ability (an odd step in my interview experience), then the 4 hour onsite interview which included ANOTHER testing session. Then I had to wait 2 months.

    And in the end? The job position vanished, was replaced with three positions about two levels lower. I mean, yes, I was offered the job, for about $20-30,000 less than I was looking for/am valued at in the market. And was almost $10,000 less than I made coming directly out of graduate school in 2012.

    So yea. Hard pass from me despite loving them because situations change. Pretty sure everyone had a broken heart in that scenario except the Financial officer. But surprisingly, I can’t eat a good culture and interesting research. Would if I could.

  14. Tuxedo Cat*

    In my field (research in academia), many of the positions are grant-dependent so I have seen things fall through and have had that happen to me too. It sucks, but from what I gather, they are doing this in good faith. No one really likes going through the hiring process.

  15. LAI*

    I’ve been on the hiring side of this. I was the chair of the hiring committee and devoted hours to reviewing resumes, coordinating with the committee, actually interviewing candidates, etc. After the second round, we were told that the funding was on hold until the end of the fiscal year. We told the candidates we’d get back to them as soon as we knew more. It’s now been 5 months and it’s still “on hold”. I’m sure the candidates are frustrated but if it helps, all of us who wasted our time serving on the hiring committee and getting excited about our new potential coworker are also really annoyed.

    1. Castaspella*

      I feel so much better reading these after going through something similar myself. I’ve been with my current company for more than 12 years, and owing to changes to our business have ended up in a position I would never have applied for in the interests of remaining employed. It’s been two years now so I think that I’ve given it a fair shake, it’s just not what I want to be doing. Last year I was approached by a former customer to see if I would be open to moving over to his new company, in a position much more suited to my strengths and goals. For one reason or another it didn’t happen and I wasn’t expecting to hear from them.
      In January I was contacted again, asking me to apply for the position that had been floated last year, which I did, and I was asked to interview. I interviewed in February, with my ex-customer and his manager, and thought it went really well. And then came several weeks of being told it was mine, only to have their business come back and say there was a recruitment freeze, going back and forth with a business case trying to get it signed off. It’s been utterly infuriating; while I’ve obviously not done anything as rash as give notice to my current employer (they’ve no idea I’m even looking for another job), I had mentally crafted my resignation and was working out when I could be starting my new role. I’d given up, but then this week it’s finally been signed off. I will still believe it when I have the offer letter in front of me in black and white, but it’s the most positive step yet. I’d started to think I was letting my desire to leave my current job, in the house of evil bees (thank you, whoever came up with this phrase!!), cloud my judgement and a move to this new business, who’ve messed me about a bit, would be an error. Now reading these comments it has made me realise that’s it’s more common than I was aware of.
      Some may suggest holding out for something else but I’ve been looking with varying degrees of urgency for the last two years. Because of my length of service, I’ve built up a salary and benefits that are unusual for what I do, I’m actually pretty well paid. A move to maintain my salary means progressing more into the field I’m trying to get away from. This job is much more suited to me personally, and I think it’s something I can really excel in, given half the chance.
      Fingers crossed that my patience is finally paying off!!

  16. A Bridge to Die On*

    This is nothing. My partner was just ambushed with a 6-hour long marathon interview at a large corporation (no indication whatsoever as to the burdensome time commitment). During this time frame she was given 3 assessments and had 9 separate interviews, followed by a saliva swab drug test and extensive background check. Mind you, this was for a CS manager position so I don’t understand such a grueling ordeal to begin with. They then disappeared for three weeks and ultimately sent her a rejection letter, but would not discuss what disqualified her. Needless to say, I told her to give them a piece of her mind for such predatory hiring practices, but she erred on the side of not burning bridges. I wouldn’t have been so kind as I wouldn’t ever want to work for such a company.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      The only abnormal part from your description is not warning her it would be 6 hours (and even that isn’t that rare, if you listen to stories here, even though it’s bad practice!) and doing the drug test before they are sure she’s their final candidate. An all day interview with multiple people/teams and assessments (because even at manager level, people lie, omg, how they lie about their skills!) is really normal for a CS position. And they never tell you why they went with someone else. The only surprise is the drug test because those aren’t cheap, and normally they don’t waste their money on that until they have made an offer- normally an offer contingent on the drug test and background check.

      If she had thrown a fit over it, not only would she have burned bridges at that company, but potentially for other corporations. You never know who is going to move and be the person interviewing you again in 5 years. I’d also bet that your partner knows that process wasn’t out of line for her position and industry.

  17. TC*

    This happened to my husband, and it happened in a fairly large multi-national organisation. He was verbally offered the job, but in between that and any sort of letter of offer being produced, someone in that department resigned, so they had to spend the money assigned to hiring my husband on replacing that person. It was tough — my husband didn’t resign from his job or anything (he’s The Sensible One), but the potential job was going to require an overseas move, so we had started to tell people what we were up to.

    We did end up moving overseas for his work about a year later, and we were so worried things were going to fall through that we didn’t tell anyone until our visas were in our hot little hands. That made telling everyone hard because we had about a month to do it in. The emotion involved in these things was the most difficult part I believe.

  18. Jane Eyre*

    I’m sorry this happened. So frustrating to go through. But I’m concerned about the free consultation you provided while on the beach: “Publicly outlining my strategies for increasing user engagement.” Had the company implemented these?

  19. FCJ*

    A little less than a year ago I interviewed for a full-time position in the department where I work part-time. It wasn’t a particularly lengthy interview process, but I went all the way through it and was straight-up told that I was on the short list with two other people. The day (THE DAY) they were planning to announce their decision, word came from the higher-ups that the department was no longer going to be allowed the budget for another full-time position. It sucked for everyone, including the head of the department, who (still) really needs someone in that position and hated that he had to say no to any of the finalists, let alone all of all of us. This sounds a lot like your position–they thought they were getting the budget to hire, and something went screwy at the last minute. In fact, it’s possible that without that large sale providing the budget for another employee, they’re having to continue working understaffed, so I bet they’re not any happier with the outcome than you are.

  20. Kelli*

    I saw similar things happen multiple times at my last job (I was there for a long time) it wasn’t malicious but a couple of times it was overly hopeful thinking on my boss’ part ….I am always honest warning people if funding wasn’t a sure thing. It sucked for us too, I had to interview multiple candidates without knowing exactly what the job was or what they had been told.

    We would have a dozen interviews and then never hear anything….neither would the candidates.

  21. Biff*

    While this doesn’t sound like an especially lengthy screening process to me, at least not in terms of time spent in conversation with coworkers and supervisors, I’ll admit that it sounds like you did quite a bit of ‘homework’ as well. That may have very well doubled your time commitment to their screening process, and that does sound excessive. More importantly to me, though is that some of the homework sounds like it was custom developed for this company. To me, that sounds much more like a bid for work than a job interview. (My favorite sibling is a freelancer.) I wonder if they are more accustomed to using freelancers and put you through a bid-like process because that is what they know. if so, that probably is too excessive for a regular, full-time employee.

    If freelancers are common in your field, you might try setting up expectations sooner in the process. Perhaps in the initial phone screen you can ask if they use a lot of freelancers, and what the interview process entails. It sounds like you should also ask if this is a new position, a backfill, or a position that is dependent on funding/a particular product. I feel that the answers they give you will help you understand if it is worth your time to do the whole song and dance.

  22. MommyMD*

    That’s so disappointing. I’m sorry. I just read an article today in the WSJ that remote positions are seriously on the down swing.

  23. Jerry Vandesic*

    Chalk it up to a learning experience, and leave an honest review on GlassDoor.

  24. You never know!*

    This happened to me recently. I got rejected for a job in February, after loooooong application/test and video interview. Then in March they reached out to me again and I had to go through 3 more interviews and a written thingy, but….I got the job!

    So hey, you never know!

  25. Johnny T.*

    This kind of thing happens even with established companies. I had a pretty well known, well established nearly 40 year old company interview me twice and then cancel the position, a nearly 100 year old company did the same thing. I felt as though my time was completely wasted, but it’s fairly common place. I have also been interviewed by companies who knowingly were going out of business in a few weeks-months and were interviewing people and supposedly attempting to fill positions anyway. I suppose there is more risk and less stability when it comes to a start up, but the same sort of thing can happen with established companies as well.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      With the established companies, it’s usually around the budget. One earnings call could postpone needed positions and things change on a day’s notice. It happens in my company all the time! I’m not always a fan of HR, but they truly don’t always have a way of knowing this.

  26. Johnny T.*

    I also felt misled at the end of second interviews in 2 out of 3 interview situations where it was clearly stated that I “should be contacted soon regarding my third interview and possible offer.” But not only was I never contacted, and not only did they completely ghost me, but I was also either ultimately rejected and/or the position was cancelled. There are thousands of articles about how employees-potential employees “waste the time” of employers-potential employers but a lot of time it works the other way as well employers-potential employers do a lot of bizarre things that ultimately make the job seeker wish they would have invested their efforts to find a job somewhere that was a little more serious about actually hiring them.

  27. MissDisplaced*

    Yeah, I mean, at some point you have to decide what a “reasonable” interview process is and how much time to invest. For me, this is typically: 1. application packet, 2. phone screen, 3. interview round one (2-5 hours), and 4. interview round two (2-4 hours). If they want more after two interviews, I’d be seriously reconsidering unless there was an extremely good plausible reason for it. Also, in my field, a ‘test’ is not an unusual request (taking 1-2 hours) on the first interview so those can go longer. Rarely have I had an interview that lasted all day, but of course, the higher you go, the more interviewing is required.

    OP’s two interviews and one assessment don’t sound particularly unusual to me… but maybe there was a lot more to them than what OP stated above? It sounded like it anyway.

    I admit that with my current job I also had a lot of follow up, AFTER the hiring but before my start date (so, unpaid): background checks and education verification, benefits & onboarding calls, plus a full physical and health screening done by the company at a company site. It did take up a lot of time!

  28. Johnny T.*

    I’m not really sure what changed. I remember being a teenager-young adult and walking into Supermarkets and Retail Stores among other places that were or might be hiring-could use some extra help when I was looking for work, I’d fill out an application talk to the manager and I was in. These days it seems a though you need to complete lengthily applications, and 2-3 screening interviews before you even get to a person capable of making a hiring decision (assuming you even make it that far) for entry level positions. Life seems like it’s gotten a lot more complicated for people to find work.

  29. MCMonkeyBean*

    When I was in grad school for accounting, I had my sights set on one smaller public accounting firm that was based in the city I wanted to live in. I had two interview which I thought went really well and was very disappointed when they didn’t end up sending me an offer. I followed up with them and was told that they really liked me but were actually only hiring interns right now and didn’t have any full-time positions open.

    It was so frustrating and I felt like they had wasted a lot of my time! I felt like they just went through the recruiting motions because they didn’t want to lose the relationship they had with my graduate program but in my opinion going through the motions if you have no positions to fill is much worse for the relationship then skipping out on the recruitment process for a year.

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